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Deco Bike Rentals: Good For Locals, Not So Much For Visitors

August 29, 2011 By Jess in Miami: Travel NewsMiami: Things to Do  | 16 Comments

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Following the success of bike sharing programs in other cities such as Washington D.C. and Chicago, Miami Beach launched their own version in March 2011. Aimed at visitors and residents alike, the bike sharing scheme prides itself on being a green way to get around the city.
The benefits are many: you can burn calories, stay in shape, avoid traffic and parking tickets whilst all the time keeping healthy, but is the new program all it seems? Residents seem to love it, making up for over half of the riders, but tourists who have used the program seem not as enamored. With reviews about high charges and returning to unexpected bills on credit card statements, not all feedback has been good. So before you decide to rent a Deco Bike, here is the inside scoop.

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The City of Chicago’s bike sharing program

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The City of Miami Beach’s program: Deco Bikes

DECO BIKES 101

Deco Bikes operates two different payment systems depending on whether you are a resident or tourist. The residents get a far better deal, with monthly membership starting at $15 a month for unlimited 30 minute bike rides, or $25 a month for unlimited 60 minute rides. This does mean however, that you must dock the bike back into a station in the allotted time, or you get charged an extra $4 for every 30 minutes.
The hourly scheme used by visitors costs $4 for every 30 minutes but you can pay for more from the start of your ride, with the longest time available being 8 hours for $24. The same late charge applies if you do not return the bike on time, $4 for every 30 minutes.

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Bike stations are all over South Beach with a good number in Mid and North Beach and more are being planned for later this year. The station pay points are easy to operate and Deco Bikes makes sure to keep bike racks full, refilling them nightly where needed.

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WHAT’S GREAT ABOUT DECO BIKES

The local residents have welcomed the new bikes to the neighborhood. People enjoy the convenience, the ease of finding a station, and the lack of worry about the bike as if it were their own. Bike theft goes hand in hand with living in South Beach, so a bike sharing scheme has been a hit with local resident Suzette. No need to buy a bike lock, fix a flat tire or worry about the bike being stolen were her main reasons for signing up for the $15 month membership. After having two of her bikes stolen within a year, Deco Bikes is the easiest way for her to get around.
The company also gives back to the community, with their Bike For Life non-profit organization. They offer classes and seminars to underprivileged youths on bike riding, safety, and repair, encouraging them to ride bicycles as an affordable means of transportation, health and fitness. They have partnered with Wal-Mart, who are donating bikes to the kids that take part in the classes.

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Locals enjoy using the Deco Bike program

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South Beach local girl Suzette on her Deco bike

WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT ABOUT DECO BIKES

When Deco Bikes started, the company promised that they would profit on advertising and bike rental alone, sharing their profits with the City of Miami Beach. Now, four months into the scheme, they already have big financial concerns. The company did not make even 20% of its anticipated revenue, and want to change the rules of their contract. Currently their advertising is limited to only the bicycles, but they now want to advertise on the bike stations around the city to generate some much needed cash. The City however is not so keen on the idea. Many of the stations are in quiet residential streets and big advertisements at 7 feet high will be totally out of place in the area. As the original agreement did not allow this, we can only hope the City keeps to its promise.

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Deco Bikes hope to advertise on these large stations all around the city.

Another chief complaint about the bikes comes from the Miami Beach tourists, who don’t fully understand what they are signing up for to have a fun bike ride on their vacation. Bad reviews on various travel sites have sprung up since the scheme began, including complaints of high charges on credit cards, and a much bigger final bill than anticipated. If you go over your time by just a minute, you are charged $4 instantly, and if you don’t dock the bike back in the station every half hour, that incurs charges also. The maximum additional usage fee is $60 a day, but that is still a high amount for one days bike ride. And whatever you do, do not lose the bike! While this has only happened twice according to Deco Bikes, if you fail to return the bike, lose or damage it, there is a very costly fee of $675.

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ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO GET AROUND ON BIKES

It’s always great to support the neighborhood stores, and Miami Beach has local bike shops with affordable alternatives to renting from Deco Bikes. Not everyone wants to worry about incurring extra charges and docking the bike every 30 minutes. Fritzs on Washington Ave and Miami Beach Bicycle on 5th Street both offer rental bikes starting at $8 an hour or $24 for the day, which is a full 24 hour period. There is a bigger choice of bikes with both beach cruisers and mountain bikes. The deposit is also much less, and the bikes come with locks which Deco Bikes do not. With the bike stores offering 24 hours for $24 compared to Deco’s 8 hours for the same price, the stores obviously have the better deal.

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WILL THE SCHEME WORK IN THE LONG RUN?

There is no denying the benefits of Deco Bikes. It is a green way to get about the city, promotes health and well being and they are giving back to the community. But their profits are off target and the extra charges people incur daily are high, along with the company already pushing to change the rules of their contract and get more advertising space. For now, Miami Beach is holding out and saying no. But, as Deco Bikes share their profits with the City, I can’t help but think they will eventually get their own way.

Related Categories: Miami: Travel News, Miami: Things to Do,

A SoBe resident for 5 years, Jess’s writing focuses on healthy living in South Beach with a dose of British humor and a cheerful outlook on life in Miami. She can be found moderating the forum Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Jess.

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16 Comments on

"Deco Bike Rentals: Good For Locals, Not So Much For Visitors"

andrea says:

Unfortunately it’s way to expensive for tourist. My husband and I stayed in Miami for a month and would have loved to use the bykes, but with that tarifs its even cheaper to rent a car at 23 dollars a day or take the bus or even buy a byke. They should lower prices. Monthly tarifs for tourists as well. At south Miami they were not rented much, because most of people over there were tourists. We will stay for a month again and with better tarifs we would surely rent them. thanks

Posted on 08/29/2011 at 1:22 PM

r-k says:

Good article. Did you find out how much they charge in other cities? I think the reason for failure is obvious - trying to gouge the tourists will lead to the program failing long term. They need to lower their prices quite a bit.

Posted on 08/30/2011 at 10:24 AM

Maria de los Angeles says:

Thanks for the informative post, Jess. It seems like this is a much better transportation option for locals to get from point A to point B than a leisurely rental for tourists for tooling around the island.  Not having a lock is a major problem and we know those don’t always work in South Beach.

Posted on 08/30/2011 at 1:43 PM

Michelle says:

Thank you for your insight Jess. I hate to be the one to say it but this sounds like a TOTAL scam! I lived in Miami Beach for 5 years and rode my bike everywhere (to and from work, errands, exercise, etc), and this would have never worked for me, and I can’t imagine how it would be beneficial to any visitor. I had 3 bikes stolen while living there, including one just an hour after I purchased it, and I still don’t think this idea is good.

For locals, the bike rack has to be close to where you live and wherever you are going. Otherwise, you have to walk, as well as ride a bike. I have seen empty racks all over the place. What happens if you need to get somewhere by a certain time and there are no bikes?

For visitors, they have to click it back in the rack every 30 minutes?? That’s ridiculous! Imagine yourself wanting to take an adventure but can’t go more than 30 minutes away from a bike rack? So much for taking a nice ride across the Venetian and getting lunch on the other side.

I would recommend a day rate with a bike shop that provides a lock ~ no hassle, and no worrying about extra charges and clicking it into a bike rack every 30 minutes.

Posted on 09/03/2011 at 9:26 AM

Maria de los Angeles says:

Excellent points, Michelle.

By the way, I once saw a guy riding a Deco Bike like a stationary bike at the gym. Free spinning class!

Posted on 09/03/2011 at 9:30 AM

Michelle says:

That’s funny, Maria! I hadn’t thought of that wink

Posted on 09/03/2011 at 6:02 PM

Jess says:

Deco Bikes are on Groupon today, $29 for a three month membership. It is for the 60 minute ride membership also which is a very good deal. As of 9:30 this morning, over 253 have been bought. This is an interesting way to raise some cash for them.

Posted on 09/06/2011 at 8:33 AM

Christy says:

Well it seems cheaper to just have your own bike stolen..if you loose one of theirs it’s $675? That’s crazy! You could get the new Missoni for Target bike for that price! And then like Michelle said, what’s the point of enjoying a carefree day biking around if it you have to “check it in” every 30 mins. I like my own bike bc I like the seat and handles properly adjusted..plus I’d get a basket for the Gbunny.

The way it works in Amsterdam is, you leave your house, find a bike rack and a bike, take the bike where you’re going..park the bike wherever (unlocked), and let’s say it’s time to bike home. You grab the closest bike and and drive home. Someone else is using the one you parked. That’s a true “share” program. Oh and it’s free and totally unregulated.

Posted on 09/08/2011 at 1:31 PM

T. Wickers says:

Thanks for the insight Jess, 60 minute ride membership also which is a very good deal. Nice article. Cool business. I am looking forward to ride one of these bikes.

Posted on 09/09/2011 at 6:57 AM

Yamile says:

I think this program is a big scam!!! I live in Miami and I’ve rented the bikes 3-4 times and in 2 different times I was double charged for the rental, the same happened to some other friends who rented bikes the same day. I noticed the double charge in my credit card statement and called them and got a refund, but one of my friends didn’t notice until I asked him to check his bill and just like him, I’m sure a lot of people are charge $5-$10 more than they were supposed to everyday and that can add up to thousands of dollars…

Posted on 11/16/2011 at 9:56 PM

Dan Murray says:

We used deco bikes first time yesterday. $5 each. We first hit the problem
Of defective bikes - chains off, seat adjusters broken, handlebars loose, but okay, we can manage with that. Second, at around 5pm the solar powered charging stations were running out of juice and wouldn’t print a receipt. For us, it was cheaper to get the bus. Riding in Miami was fun but it needs to be 20 to 40% cheaper.

Posted on 12/25/2011 at 3:17 PM

Just says:

I was surprised to find a 26 dollar fee on my card after I used the bike for 30 minutes. Apparently the docking station wasn’t working and the employee who helped me return the bike didn’t lock it well. BEWARE of the very loose business practices here. CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD statements and feel free to call them for a refund. I’ll never use this again

Posted on 07/16/2012 at 5:08 PM

Miami Resident says:

Massive complaining - and no one has a better alternative.  So lame.  Appreciate the monumental effort that went into setting this up.  And no - I have no idea who the company is, where from - and not in city gov. 

Just observing the fact that people are incredibly unappreciative.

Posted on 09/19/2012 at 8:05 PM

just sayin says:

Asian girl in the yoga pants it hott

Posted on 09/19/2012 at 8:06 PM

Dan says:

I’d say having a guy go round and service each bike would be a start, second, stick some mains power into the charging stations so they work after sunset.

Posted on 09/20/2012 at 9:46 AM

Keith says:

I rode a bike for one hour and just got my card statement with an additional $34 charge.  This is ridiculous.

Posted on 04/07/2013 at 3:33 PM

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