San Diego joined a worldwide trend recently when the city's first bike-sharing network began operating in downtown, Hillcrest and nearby communities.
More than 3,000 individual rides have been logged by commuters, tourists and residents running errands in the nearly two weeks since DecoBike began deploying bicycles to 80 rental stations the company installed last fall.
Sixty-one of the 80 stations had been activated with bikes as of Tuesday, with the rest expected to be activated in coming weeks, company officials said.
The city's network is slated to expand eventually to 180 stations, including many planned in San Diego's beach communities.
"People will embrace this and it will become an integral part of our transportation network," said City Councilman Todd Gloria, whose district includes the initial wave of stations. "I've been excited to see people riding these bikes the last two weekends, and I think that will only grow."
People can use their credit or debit card to rent bicycles and drop them off anywhere along the city's network. The cost is $5 per half hour, with discounts available for longer rentals and people who buy memberships.
I think it's great, can't wait to try it
I'm curious, I might check it out
Not going to waste my time with it
26 total votes.
The bikes are expected to reduce congestion and pollution by filling in small gaps in the transportation network, encouraging more people to choose cycling and mass transit over cars.
Tourists staying at downtown hotels also are expected to frequently choose bike sharing over cab rides or long walks. And residents of urban areas can use the bikes for errands.
Candy Miller, who works at a Little Italy law firm, said Tuesday that she plans to use the system in a clever way.
"Sometimes I have to race to the courthouse on a deadline to submit papers and I can't find parking, so I can grab one of these bikes when I'm in a hurry like that and the whole process will be faster," she said. "And I'll be getting exercise at the same time."
The bikes and the conspicuous lime green station caught the eyes of many other potential customers walking on Broadway past San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon. Some stopped to read the instructions, while others used smartphones to access the DecoBike website and its maps and "frequently asked questions" page.
Bike sharing has exploded in popularity in recent years. It's now available in nearly 800 cities worldwide, including about 60 in the United States.
It does have some drawbacks, such as the difficulty of making multiple stops without carrying a personal bike lock with you.
"I think there will be some trial and error with regard to some of these," said Gloria, predicting some may be relocated.
He said the city's Car2Go vehicle-sharing system experienced initial growing pains, and predicted the bike-sharing system would slowly gain acceptance in similar fashion.
David Silverman, a spokesman for DecoBike, said Tuesday that he was confident customers would embrace the system.
"With DecoBike rolling in San Diego, people now have a chance to take advantage of a truly 'green' form of transportation," he said.