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New Bike Sharing Program Launching In San Diego

A couple of dockless bike-sharing bicycles are parked by the trolley station ...

Photo by Susana Tsutsumi

Above: A couple of dockless bike-sharing bicycles are parked by the trolley station in front of the San Diego Convention Center, March 23, 2018.

Bike sharing company LimeBike is launching operations in the city of San Diego on Thursday, promising to offer San Diegans a cheaper and more convenient option to get around the city on two wheels.

LimeBike is already operating in Imperial Beach and National City. It is a "dockless" bike sharing company, meaning riders can pick up and leave the bikes anywhere that is legal, rather than having to park them at docking stations. Users unlock the bikes and pay for rides — $1 for every half hour — with a smartphone app.

The company's San Diego manager, Zack Bartlett, said 40 percent of trips logged by LimeBike start near a bus stop. This suggests riders are using it for the vexing "first mile, last mile problem" of public transit being difficult to access for people who live or work away far from transit hubs.

"It's a great story to tell as far as solving that last mile problem, and that's our goal," he said.

A memo written by the City Attorney's Office last month found that a city contract with bike sharing company DiscoverBike — formerly called DecoBike — did not preclude rival companies from operating in city limits. The memo said the city could issue regulatory permits to competing companies, but could not actively promote them.

The memo was written at the request of City Councilman David Alvarez, who said he was impressed with how quickly the city worked to permit new bike sharing companies in the city.

"It's not costing us any money, it's good for the community, it gives people options," he said. "It's just a win in general, and again, didn't require a lot of effort or work by the city."

RELATED: San Diego City Attorney Memo Opens Door To 'Dockless' Bike Sharing

Running a bike sharing business now requires only a business tax certificate from the city — a relatively quick and simple permit for businesses to obtain. City spokeswoman Katie Keach said that the city welcomed more transportation choices that would encourage residents to forgo driving.

"More options lead to fewer vehicle miles and less pollution in line with the goals of the city's landmark Climate Action Plan," she said. "While the business tax certificate allows this company to operate within the city, we fully expect them to be good neighbors and respectful of public spaces."

LimeBike said its fleet of a few thousand bicycles in San Diego would include electric assist bikes and electric scooters, which can help riders climb hills more easily.

The bike sharing market is expected to heat up in the coming weeks: Chinese company ofo has also received permission from the city to operate, and a company spokesman said it would be launching on Friday and providing free rides through the end of the month.

Ofo had previously been banished from the UCSD campus for starting operations without the university's permission. UCSD has since started a partnership with another dockless bike sharing firm, Spin.

LimeBike said new users in San Diego can use the code SDLIMEBIKE5 for a $5 credit toward their first rides.

Bike sharing company LimeBike is launching operations in the city of San Diego on Thursday, promising to offer San Diegans a cheaper and more convenient option to get around the city on two wheels.

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