REGION — Come summer, North County residents and visitors may be able to hop on an electric bicycle in Del Mar and pedal all the way to Oceanside.
Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside and Camp Pendleton are pursuing a Bikeshare pilot program, a one-year test run that will help the jurisdictions decide if and how a bikeshare program might best operate long-term in the region.
The cities entered into a memorandum of understanding with the San Diego Association of Governments and the North County Transit District to pursue the program this time last year.
Since then, staff members from the partner cities have been collaborating for a year and a half to develop the program and make it as “seamless between cities as possible,” said Clement Brown, Del Mar’s environmental sustainability and special projects manager.
Now, cities are moving forward with separate ordinances to establish the shared mobility program. Del Mar had its first reading of an ordinance on March 18, and Solana Beach and Encinitas have already passed similar ordinances.
Although a contract has not yet been finalized, the cities are planning to go with a single vendor after releasing a request for information last year and going through a competitive process with prospective vendors.
“Because we wanted to have the connectivity between the cities, we really thought it was important to have a single vendor to avoid confusion,” said Brown at the March 18 meeting.
The vendor will incur the cost of operating the program.
The city has chosen a preferred vendor, and it will likely take its recommendation and a license agreement to the respective councils in May, according to Brown.
Future riders can expect that most of the fleet will be pedal-assist electric bicycles — though perhaps not exclusively. Brown said that going with electric bikes will open up the activity to all ages and fitness levels — making biking a more viable transportation alternative and “getting people out of their cars,” he said.
“We just wanted to make it so everybody could participate,” Brown told The Coast News.
The program will also help Del Mar and other cities meet their climate action plans by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Del Mar’s City Council discussed concerns about users leaving the bicycles scattered across town, particularly in the public right of way. Bicycle and scooter clutter has become a “public nuisance” in cities like Coronado — where visitors often ditch the bikes after traveling from downtown San Diego.
Council discussed ways to mitigate the issue — such as “dinging” a user with a fee when they’ve left a bicycle in a prohibited area.
“We’re going to have very strict requirements on where those bikes can be left,” said Brown.
They are also prohibiting the use of scooters for the duration of the one-year pilot program — though they may be considered down the road if the cities move forward with a more long-term program.
The license agreement will allow cities to finalize details on how many bicycles will be introduced and where exactly bicycles will go. But one thing is clear — bicycles will have a designated home, such as a corral or dock, and not just be lying around.
Solana Beach Assistant Manager Dan King pointed out at a Nov. 28 City Council meeting that the preferred vendor can offer varied options in terms of docking. Individual cities will have some leeway in whether they use docks, go dockless and use geo-fencing, or offer a hybrid of the two options.
Brown said the cost to riders has not been established, but will be cost competitive with other programs in San Diego County.
Del Mar’s City Council passed the ordinance unanimously, as did Solana Beach at its Nov. 28 meeting.
In a phone call with The Coast News, Del Mar Councilman Dwight Worden said he anticipates the program will be popular with residents and tourists alike.
“I think people are going to love it,” he said.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.