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