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San Diego City Attorney Memo Opens Door To ‘Dockless’ Bike Sharing

A row of green LimeBikes is seen parked by the Imperial Beach pier, Sept. 12,...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: A row of green LimeBikes is seen parked by the Imperial Beach pier, Sept. 12, 2017.

The San Diego City Attorney's Office released a memo Wednesday that opens to the door to new, cheaper bike sharing companies operating in city limits.

The memo was written at the request of City Councilman David Alvarez, who wanted to know whether the city's contract with bike sharing company DecoBike would prevent other rival companies from doing business in San Diego.

The city's 10-year contract with DecoBike, approved in 2013, designates the company as the city's "exclusive corporate partner as a bike sharing company," the memo reads. This entitles the company to certain benefits, including marketing and maintenance by city departments. But the contract does not prohibit the city from issuing permits to rival bike sharing companies, as long as the city is acting only as a regulator.

"The Deco Bike Agreement does not insulate Deco Bike from competition," the memo concludes.

"Dockless" bike sharing companies like Limebike and Spin have been trying to get off the ground in cities around the country, offering a cheaper and more convenient alternative to station-based bike sharing companies like DecoBike.

Limebike started logging rides in Imperial Beach last September, and Spin started a pilot program on the UCSD campus last month.

Both companies allow cyclists to unlock a bike with a smartphone app, ride it for however long they need, then leave it parked on a sidewalk or somewhere else where bike parking is allowed. They can offer cheaper prices for riding because the company does not need to maintain docking stations.

Nicole Capretz, executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said the memo would give San Diegans more options to get around without a car.

"We are now going to see an exciting array of options for biking around the city with the potential for door-to-door service, and using electric bikes," she said. "This memo is a game changer."

Alvarez expressed his excitement with the memo over Twitter, saying "Who's ready for more bikes?!?!"

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