Greeting readers! Alex Stowell here.
Today in Venice Paparazzi’s “Sound Off” feature, we will take a look at a seldom mentioned side effect of L.A. METRO Bike Share program.
I am a cyclist myself, and at first glance Metro Bike Share appears to be a fantastic idea, a win win for everybody! Getting people out of cars and onto bikes has so many upsides! Less traffic/pollution, and decreased resource use are both wonderful. As well, a more fit citizenry means people in better moods, less health care costs, and many other positives. So, what could be wrong?
Well, if you are a private citizen in the bike rental business, you might have some beef.
For this article we interviewed several local bike shop owners/managers, including people from Jay’s Rentals, Perry’s Cafe and Beach Rentals, and Helen’s Cycles.
Javier Cernas has owned and operated Jay’s Rentals on Windward and Speedway for 22 years. He rents two properties at the main entrance to the Venice Boardwalk to run his business, employs about 10 people, and reports business to be down about 20% since the “green metro bikes” came into town. He had started renting scooters to supplement the loss in bike rentals, and now finds himself losing customers to Bird Scooters, which has a deal with city where they are allowed to leave their scooters unattended on public sidewalks. So, he competes with two businesses that have no overhead in regards to a brick and mortar storefront.
Eduardo at Perry’s Cafe and Beach Rentals, which has been in business forty years, and several locations on the beach front bike trail in Venice and Santa Monica, estimates a 25% to 30% drop in rental business since the Bike Share rolled out.
So, here are a few of the main questions on this issue:
1. Is it fair that that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in partnership with the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, sets up bike rental stations on public streets, while private bike rental businesses have to find a commercial location and pay rent?
2. How do you compete with someone who does not pay rent? Is this fair?
3. If the Govt. can launch a new business on public property with impunity, shouldn’t citizens be able to do the same? Why should there be one set of rules for those in power and another for a regular citizen who are doing the same thing?
4. Imagine if the City/County started opening up unmanned car rental depots on public streets. How many people would at Enterprise, Hertz etc would eventually be out of job? How many parking spaces would be lost. How would privately owned car rental businesses compete? Most importantly, who would stop them from doing this.
5. Is this starting to look like socialized transportation at the expense of the free market?
6. Or, is this just an innocuous bike share program, no big deal?
What do you think, Venice? Sound off below!