SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Crews have begun installing bike docks on State Street as the first step of Santa Barbara's electric bike sharing program rollout.
The docks are empty for now, but electric bikes should be available after the New Year. Riders would rent the bikes via a mobile app on their phone.
The docks are being placed in groups of five or six in areas of the street that are indented, allowing room for pedestrian traffic to pass. About 90 docks have been set up this week.
Rob Dayton, the city's Transportation Planning Manager, says the target is to install 150 docks in the downtown area by mid-January. Half of them will be filled with bikes, so there is always a nearby dock open to drop off a bike.
“The docks are supposed to be discreet, and not, you know, be loud in this beautiful setting,” Dayton said.
City leaders are targeting locals with the program.
“The bike share is for the trip that’s a little bit too far to walk,” said Dayton. “We want Santa Barbarans to be members of the system. Once you’re a member, you get a certain amount of free rides.”
Dayton says the membership is more economical and practical than a one-time rental that tourists may want to explore.
Santa Barbara City Council approved the bike sharing plan as a "temporary" measure in October. After a trial run, the city and the Historic Landmarks Commission can decide whether or not to make the plan permanent.
“To me, having this resource available is a really good thing," said Alan Howard, owner of Antique Alley on State Street. “It reminded me of adding furniture to an empty room. And seeing as State Street wasn’t designed to be a pedestrian mall to begin with, this adds a little bit of vibrancy.”
Howard and other business owners, however, have said they don't want the docks directly in front of their stores. So far, they have been staggered in between storefronts.
There is also concern about potential competition between the bike share program and local bike stores or rental shops.
Dayton believes they can all coexist.
“These [electric bikes] are for people who generally don’t have bicycles, so that they have access to a bike,” he said. “And then they find that they love it, and then they end up buying one.”
The bike share program is yet another change for an evolving State Street, which is set to see upgrades to the pedestrian promenade in the near future. Large, decorative pots will replace the deteriorating wooden planters and green bike lanes will be added to the center of State Street in the coming weeks.
The bike sharing plan was first announced last December, but was delayed due to the pandemic.