Dock Lines

Dockless bikes, scooters offer boaters new transportation options in San Diego

SAN DIEGO — Have you seen the new dockless rental bikes and scooters strewn around San Diego, Los Angeles and many urban areas?

While they have their fans – and many detractors – in affected San Diego neighborhoods, they’re a potential boon to boaters, especially for transients bobbing from port to port without their own wheels. Noting their convenience, Jim Behun, general manager of Sunroad Resort Marina, reports many marina managers generally welcome them.

Inexpensive dockless bikes and scooters have swamped San Diego in recent weeks, apparently dropped en masse in popular coastal zones without notice to city officials, who were caught flat-footed, unable to respond with much-needed regulations. Walking around targeted areas – Downtown, the Embarcadero, Pacific and Ocean Beach, Shelter and Harbor Islands – you’ll see them everywhere, often piled up or abandoned in the public right-of-way, parked blocking the sidewalk or stolen and trashed alongside the road.

To ride a dockless bike/scooter, start by downloading the application (app) and signing up for an account, giving your credit card for billing. Through your smartphone app you can locate the GPS-tracked bike/scooters on a pop-up map and unlock them through the app.

You’ll quickly identify them by color: LimeBike is green and yellow, and comes in three flavors: standard bike, motorized e-bike and electric scooters. Orange Mobike and yellow Ofo offer just standard bikes, while black-and-white Bird currently provides only electric scooters.

Had the companies bothered to introduce their bikes and scooters with a public information and education campaign and consulted community leaders, they might have avoided the many problems and backlash they’ve created. The companies just dumped them on the streets without any advance notice, leaving unsuspecting local citizens to deal with an army of scofflaw riders ignorant about local rules and regulations. Uncaring operators, residents report, breeze through stop signs, ride illegally on sidewalks and boardwalks, park them inappropriately or on private property and couldn’t care less about observing local regulations.

On the other hand, used responsibly, they have enormous potential for liberating people – particularly boaters – to enjoy spontaneous activities, opening doors for new exploration that, in the past, would have required advance planning.

My curiosity aroused after listening to presentations from reps of the four bike/scooter share companies now operating in San Diego, I wanted to know just what the companies tell users about local use requirements.

I downloaded apps for LimeBike, Bird and Mobike; I balked at providing Ofo with access to all the personal information they required just to download their app. I read all the gobbledygook in their terms, conditions and privacy policies, which most people never read.

My advice: read the fine print, always. If people bothered to read it and comply with the terms laid out, riders would prevent most problems.

I learned, as the company reps insisted, they do specify that renters must be 18, except for LimeBike, which permits users over 16, and that only one person can ride a bike or scooter at a time. Initial sign-up instructions detail requirements to obey local rules and regulations.

Although San Diego mandates helmets for scooter riders, everyone ignores the rule. Bird – which also will mail out free helmets on request – has updated its instructions to alert riders to use bike lanes or roads only and not to ride on the boardwalk or sidewalks. LimeBike leaves riders on their own to determine local laws, while Mobike ignores the issue but gives instructions where to park bikes.

Go ahead and experiment by giving these bikes and scooter a try – but please respect local traffic and speed rules – and wear a helmet.

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