Joshua Cohen is a principal at Fat Pencil Studio
Last week I spent the day in San Diego to speak at a seminar hosted by the Government Defense Attorneys Working Group (GDAWG)– GREAT acronym. On a short cab ride down the sunny waterfront boulevard, I couldn’t help wishing I was making the trip on foot or by bicycle. The airport is just two miles from downtown and I was traveling light.
After spending four hours deep inside a government building, I walked out into a balmy afternoon. With nearly 3 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave, I was in no way excited to take a cab back to the airport. I fired up Google Maps, which gave me an estimate of 50 minutes walking or 19 minutes bicycling.
As I considered my options, I noticed a box truck across the street unloading some brand new yellow bikes. Ofo is one of several new sharing economy companies rolling out fleets of rental bicycles in major cities across the world. Ofo’s bikes, along with competitors such as Limebikeand Mobike, are dockless systems, which means they have an on-board locking system controlled by a mobile phone app.
I asked a guy unloading the bikes if I could ride one to the airport and he said, “Sure! Download the app, scan the bike, and ride it anywhere. Just don’t forget to lock it when you’re done.” I decided to give it a shot, and sure enough the technology was dead simple. Another plus was that because Ofo was new in town, they were promoting the service with free rides for all of March. What a deal!
No doubt designed for mass production, the bike itself left a little something to be desired. The seat was adjustable, but I couldn’t raise it quite high enough. The gear shifting sort of worked, but not consistently. But hey, I made it to the airport quickly, and enjoyed a bit of sightseeing along the way, including an aircraft carrier and cruise ship terminal. On the way, I noticed several other Ofo and Limebikes parked along the sidewalk and I was glad to see I wasn’t the first person to have the idea.
As I reached airport property it became clear that there hadn’t been any serious planning for people arriving by bicycle. No bike lanes or bike parking area. No signage telling passengers that biking is even an option. In many cities that have airports in remote destinations, cycling to your flight will remain unrealistic. But San Diego has an opportunity to move a significant number of visitors to and from the airport by bicycle. Perhaps on a future trip, I’ll be able to pick up a cargo bike at the airport and zip downtown with my baggage in a basket.