Joven Sibug, bicycle courier and founder of Pedal Pushers, rides his bike at least 60-80 miles a week to make deliveries in the city of San Diego from Mission Valley to the streets of downtown. Pedal Pushers is just one of the latest movements getting more people riding their bikes.
“I think people didn’t see promise in it anymore especially with things like email and cloud servers coming around but I think there’s still a need and there’s still enough work for at least a few companies in town,” Sibug said. “Business has been good. We’re growing. We’re growing faster than I imagined but we’re growing at a rate I like too that I’m comfortable with, especially since there’s not that many of us.”
According to the data gathered by the League of American Bicyclists in Where we ride: An analysis of bicycling in American cities, San Diego ranks third with the largest percentage of bike commuters with a population of more than one million people, just behind Philadelphia and Chicago.
The same analysis shows that while from 2000-2012, there is a 44 percent increase in riders, it is an overall 4.5 percent decrease compared to the 1990s until now, which means there are less cyclists on the streets compared to two decades ago.
Bike couriers are not only fast but eco-friendly too
Pedal Pushers is one of San Diego’s latest courier services that opened in November by Sibug, an eight year veteran to the bicycle courier community.
From legal services to food delivery, Sibug and two partners work to ensure it’s delivered to where it needs to be.
With the service, he aims for it to be not only an efficient service but an environmentally helpful solution primarily utilizing bicycle messengers, unlike other companies that use all types of vehicles for their deliveries.
“It’s so vivid,” said Justin Vorhees, co-owner and bike courier for Pedal Pushers. “There’s so many different interactions, so many different things to see, so many locations, all that stuff. It just makes it for a lot more interesting work day. It’s great.”
MULTIMEDIA: Joven Sibug and Justin Vorhees talk about their experience working as bicycle couriers for Pedal Pushers in San Diego.
Sibug started his courier career in San Diego for Aloha Bicycle Courier before moving out to New York and ultimately back to San Diego to create Pedal Pushers.
“It’s small, it’s mellow,” Sibug said. “When I first started as a messenger in San Diego there were probably about 20 messengers. Now I want to say there’s maybe 12, so it’s been going down but we’re trying to change that. I think that the point of courier collective is we’re trying to change that landscape and be able to provide for more opportunities for courier work, bike courier work specifically in metropolitan San Diego.”
San Diego to make more bike roadways
Unlike the Pedal Pushers, there are others who don’t ride a bike for a living, they use it to get to work or school.
With roughly 1,400 miles of bike facilities, whether it be shared or exclusive, San Diego provides many paths for cyclists to ride on.
Despite that, it doesn’t mean bike travel is efficient on all roads.
“There’s 1,400 miles of bike facilities but it’s actually kind of a lie because if you look at our map, you’d think you can ride everywhere but that’s not true,”said Chris Kluth, San Diego Association of Governments active transportation manager. “Or else you’d see everyone on them.”
SANDAG acts as a forum for San Diego county decision-making such as public transportation and is pushing the San Diego Regional Bike Plan “Riding to 2050.”
The $400 million plan aims to provide a strategy to make cycling a viable option for everyday travel by expanding the number of various paths for cyclists to travel and create programs to keep it sustainable, which would help San Diego achieve its goal to reduce emission of greenhouse gasses, reduce traffic issues and improve public health.
“We need to up our game,” Kluth said. “Our main goal is to make more options for everyday people and everyday trips. The more people you get riding, the more you’ll attract and the more you attract, the safer it is for everybody.”
Bike sharing solution opens up
It can be difficult to persuade people to get on bicycles when cars are a much faster alternative.
Sometimes people only want to ride a few days out of the year or tourists want to take a look around the town they’re visiting. This is where the solution to cater to the masses comes in: DecoBike.
DecoBike is a bike-share program where people can borrow bikes from any of the solar powered docking stations across San Diego. The company currently has 73 stations and aims to have more than 180 stations and 1,700 bicycles that can be accessed 24 hours per day.
Anyone over the age of 18 can rent out a Bike Titan with a debit or credit card starting at $5 for every 30 minutes or can purchase a monthly or annual membership.
DecoBike started in Miami in 2010. For San Diego, the bike-share program was created with an $8 million investment from the company in a partnership with the city in November.
SANDAG’s Kluth believes it makes a good addition to America’s finest city.
“Decobike is a good start and I think it’ll be a good catalyst to get other bike infrastructure going,” Kluth said.
DecoBike customer service representative Levys Martinez said the reception for the bike-share system in San Diego has been positive.
“We’ve gotten pretty good feedback so far since it’s a brand new program to the city and people are liking it,” Martinez said. “It’s a new way of transportation not only to locals but to tourists as well.”
Martinez said he hopes to see DecoBike pick up even more in the future.
“Every time people ride a bike, they always should have a smile on their face,” Martinez said. “We’re just giving nature and life back when we’re not riding our cars. But for the city, I think it’s a great way for transportation, not just DecoBike but any bike. You’ll get there faster and enjoy nature. It’s a great solution.”
Cycling helps you and the future
By using a bicycle, people aren’t only helping sustain the Earth but get the added benefit of exercising for their health.
Jane Hall, professor emeritus and founding director institute for economic and environmental studies at Cal State University Fullerton said pollution is a threat that affects both the world globally and regionally.
“Clearly climate instability is a growing threat,” Hall said. “The pollution is global but the impacts are local. At ground level, many heavily-populated urban areas suffer fine particulate pollution that shortens lives and increases illnesses and medical costs.”
Paula Morreale, the sustainability coordinator at the University of San Diego, has followed the principle of leaving no trace, reducing waste, increasing conservation efforts and preserving natural resources.
And although Morreale said she believes San Diego has taken a good first step in creating the infrastructure for alternative transportation solutions, she thinks there is still more to be done.
“I think San Diego county is taking a good first step in creating the infrastructure and resources for alternative transportation solutions,” Morreale said. “A lot more needs to be done for bicycle commuting and better road infrastructure to encourage biking and walking.”