South Beach, in Miami Beach, Starts Decobike Bicycle Rentals


Photo by B. Alter

Here's a welcome addition to the achingly trendy South Beach scene: a new bicycle rental scheme. By day there are lots of tourists going to the beach and cruising the streets looking for fun. But there is also a thriving community of hip locals who love the ocean vibe and relative calm compared to Miami.

Called the Decobike, in appreciation of the fabulous art deco buildings everywhere, now everyone will be able to rent bicycles by the hour to get to the beach.
Photo by B. Alter

It's a first for Florida,the land of cars, where you have to drive to buy a newspaper. There will be 1,000 bicycles and 100 docking stations. A station will be located every 2 blocks in the busy downtown beach/shopping areas along a 7 mile stretch. Given that this is the most concentrated area of hotels, it would seem that it is a more tourist-oriented amenity than many of the other schemes in larger, more urban, places.

It will be sponsored by private companies, and since this is not just any beach, the likes of Ralph Lauren, the Shore Club, American Apparel and Benetton have all contributed. The private sponsors will pay $4M start-up for all of the infrastructure and the municipality will provide the street space for free. The city of Miami Beach will get a percentage of the revenue from rentals and from the advertising on the baskets.

They are pricing it a little differently than many other cities. There will be a free first half hour and then the next half hour is $4 or the next full hour is $5. A full day rental is $14. This would seem to encourage longer time periods that people will keep the bicycles. Most other schemes focus on a short-term rental and make a longer one prohibitively expensive. Since there is such a big tourist population, there is no pre-registration, you just swipe a credit card at the docking station (with a refundable pre-authorized hold of $250 which is a security deposit).

However residents are given a special deal: they can get unlimited usage by the month for $15.


Photo by B. Alter

The bicycles have been customized specially for the scheme. They are aluminum with hand brakes, adjustable seats and kick stand. They have electronic tracking technology that tells who the rider is and can even calculate the carbon offset. The baskets are roomy and sturdy and there is a bell.

But this cynical Londoner fears for their longevity; they just seem too light and too easy to kick in. Plus the docking mechanism doesn't seem strong and secure enough, but time will tell.

It is expected that the scheme will be up and running next month. So if you are planning a trip to South Beach, forget about the car rental and go the Decobike way.

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Tags: Bikes | Biking

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