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Not Everyone Is Happy With San Diego’s Bike Share Locations

Angeli Hernandez uses stickers to show DecoBike where she'd like to see bike-...

Photo by Bianca Bruno

Above: Angeli Hernandez uses stickers to show DecoBike where she'd like to see bike-share stations in her neighborhood. She and her peers on the Mid-City CAN Youth Council have been speaking out about the need for better transit in City Heights.

San Diegans recently got a sneak peek at where they'll be able to rent bikes to explore the city or run errands. Not everyone was happy with what they saw.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

San Diego partnered with private bike-share company DecoBike last year. The idea was to encourage the kind of ridership and culture that might make San Diego a bike-rider's paradise. But community advocates say the DecoBike station locations appear to focus on what makes San Diego paradise in the traditional sense: its beaches, downtown and North Park's craft beer corridor.

"I’m happy to see Deco Bikes make an up-front investment of over 175 bike share stations for San Diego, but I’m disappointed that none of those stations are on the mesa east of 30th Street," said Randolph Van Vleck, who advocates for transportation alternatives and bike and pedestrian safety through the City Heights Community Development Corporation.

There’s also concern the program won’t reach south into Golden Hill and north into communities along El Cajon Boulevard. The Mid-City Parking District, which administers parking meter funds in those areas to tackle mobility issues, sent a letter to the city urging it to reconsider.

Samantha Ollinger runs the bike advocacy group BikeSD and lives in City Heights. She said the crux of the issue is whether the program will serve locals.

"We're giving up public space to a private company and I think the public space ought to benefit the residents, in particular City Heights, which has always, it seems, been neglected from an overall city perspective," Ollinger said. DecoBike will cover the cost of the stations, but most will sit on public property.

Ollinger said City Heights should be a prime candidate for the stations, because many in the community lack cars and are more likely to walk, bike or take transit.

At first glance, it looks like San Diego’s bike-share program has made good on that request. The 92101 ZIP code, which encompasses downtown and will have a high concentration of DecoBike stations, has San Diego’s highest percentage of households without vehicles — 23 percent, according to the U.S. Census’ American Communities Survey results from 2008 through 2012.

Photo caption:

Photo by Amy Krone for Voice of San Diego

The DecoBike locations will serve San Diego communities with some of the highest percentages of households without cars. But the program won't reach City Heights, which ranks higher than North Park and the beach communities for households that lack vehicles.

About 14 percent of households in City Heights’ 92105 ZIP code lack cars. But because the area has a higher density than downtown, there are actually more residents there who don’t have a car to drive. And the neighborhood has nearly four times as many carless households as Mission Bay and Pacific Beach, which will see the first rollout of stations along with downtown.

DecoBike met with City Heights residents in September to ask for their input on where stations should go in their community. A company representative did not return calls for comment regarding why none of those spots were ultimately chosen. Bill Harris, spokesman for the city’s stormwater and transportation projects, said DecoBike had the final say on where it would install stations. The company will manage the program and give the city a slice of its profits.

“Deco has to make this program work from the outset,” Harris said. “Deco has to make sure that the critical mass that they’ve identified in these high-population areas is getting served.”

But Harris said residents should speak up, because there could be an expansion down the road.

“As the program gets its legs under it, gets its wheels under it, the firm will be expanding into other areas of the city,” he said.

DecoBike and the city have outlined two phases of installation, which are scheduled to begin in June. The first will open downtown, Old Town and beach locations. Phase two will take the program east to 30th Street and south to San Ysidro. But there are currently no plans to go into City Heights.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser contributed to this report. Voice of San Diego is a Speak City Heights partner.


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