By Chris Jennewein
Downtown San Diego is awash in green, yellow and orange rental bicycles. It’s the latest wave in the Internet-fueled sharing economy that is giving a new generation unprecedented independence.
With a few clicks on a smartphone, you can locate a bike, unlock it and ride it to your destination, leaving it on the sidewalk for the next customer.
A naysayer — especially from the older generation — might complain that the rental bicycles are only popular because the elitist global economy has made it impossible Millennials to own cars. But the truth is many Millennials don’t want cars because they’re too much work.
The bicycles, along with Uber, Amazon, iPhones, Starbucks and a host of other Internet economy brands are examples of how the latest generation is trading ownership of things for seamless access to services.
Consider a car. It is first and foremost transportation. But it comes with a need for insurance, taxes, gasoline, oil changes, repairs and parking. Renting a bicycle or calling Uber achieves the same result without all the headaches.
Now think about shopping. You get in a car and go store to store to compare prices and buy what you need. You can spend a whole day buying groceries at one store, parts to fix a faucet at another, clothing at a third and gas for your car at a fourth.
Amazon, eBay and even Walmart online make this schlepping from store to store unnecessary, giving you the freedom of time.
Then there’s Starbucks. The legendary chain is not so much about the coffee as about the shared working space. Whether you’re a student, an entrepreneur or an employee in the field, you can sit down, log in and get to work virtually anywhere in the world.
Lastly, think how many different things have been replaced by your smartphone and laptop. You don’t need a television, a radio, a stereo, a clock or a land-line phone. And those two devices have also replaced services, substituting TurboTax for a CPA, Nexflix for a trip to the movie theater and sometimes WebMD for your doctor.
So far the sharing economy hasn’t replaced a home or apartment, and you still have to cook sometimes, but the Internet-fueled sharing economy has led to a broad sense of freedom for many.
Here’s hoping those colorful bicycles aren’t the end of the story.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.
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