Like many San Diegans, my eyes popped when dozens of shiny new bikes appeared in my East Village neighborhood. And like many San Diegans, I had questions: How exactly do these work? What will this mean for my morning commute?
I didn’t ask these questions while giving side-eye to the new dockless bikes. Because as a business owner, I know that the best ideas disrupt the norm, and that bumps on the road to progress are common. If you ever laughed at the idea of carpooling with a stranger and now take a Lyft downtown without second thought, you know this, too.
Progress demands that we disrupt business as usual. San Diego residents have grown all too accustomed to sitting in mind-numbing traffic, breathing the pollution our cars create and trekking long distances between gaps in our public transportation system. Dockless bikeshares offer a new option to help people explore sunny San Diego on two (fossil fuel-free) wheels and shortcut commutes for workers who spend their mornings navigating multiple bus stops.
It’s time for San Diego to welcome this disruption with open arms and look for opportunities to make the most of it.
Unfortunately, I’ve heard more complaining than creativity lately. I’ve heard that people experiencing homelessness use them improperly; that people leave the bikes in unsafe or inconvenient spots; that people leave them in the way of our neighbors with disabilities. So, what should we do about these issues? If we immediately seek to eliminate dockless bikes and scooters, we take a step backward. Instead, let’s recognize that these are solvable problems and use our collective energy to overcome them to benefit everyone.
How about improving reporting systems in the bikeshare apps? How about implementing reward and penalty systems to encourage customers to leave bikes in safe, convenient spaces? How about engaging with community leaders to come up with productive solutions? As a member of a group of small businesses driving policy that improves our community, I can tell you that there are plenty of small business owners like me who want to see dockless bikeshares thrive for the sake of our customers and our employees.
Want to join me in the push for better bikeshare? Start by taking a ride. You may see for yourself why PeopleForBikes recently named San Diego among the top 10 cities for bicycling. You might even notice some unexpected friends on the scooters next to you, from bankers in suits to students hauling books. As you enjoy the breeze on your ride, take a moment to appreciate that more bikeshare lovers means less haggling over space on the freeway for those who need to drive.
We need more investment in infrastructure to make the most of new opportunities like dockless bikeshares, and our leaders in San Diego should take this opportunity to develop not only a solid master plan for biking, but an overall plan for transportation improvements that move our entire community forward. We know that investing in healthy infrastructure can pay for itself in the years to come. Business 101 spoiler alert: The “return” part of a return on investment doesn’t happen immediately.
My hope is that as we discuss investment in our shared future, we will take the chance to better educate one another as well. How exactly are drivers required to share the lane with bicycles? What’s the deal with biking on streets versus sidewalks? To safely move our community toward a variety of options to commute to work or head to the beach, everyone must understand the rules of the road.
If we educate our communities on the benefits of bikeshares and invest in solutions to the challenges together, we can take advantage of a rare opportunity to disrupt the Southern California transportation game and change it for the better.