Will the streets of the Bay Area soon be full with a sea of bike-share commuters cycling that last mile from BART to the workplace? Only time will tell. Photo credit: Richard Masoner
The Bay Area is not new to transportation innovations. Last year, we celebrated four successful decades of the visionary commuter rail known as BART, which stills sees climbing ridership and continues be seen as a model of sustainable transportation for the rest of the nation. Coincidentally, last year also marked the 75th anniversary of another incredible Bay Area infrastructural transportation monument, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Today, the Bay Area is leading the way in California again*, albeit with a subtler and humbler infrastructural feature, but one that nonetheless has the potential to hugely impact the way we move– Bay Area Bike Share. Bay Area Bike Share just launched Thursday, August 29th, so the system is merely in its infancy, but similar systems have been around Europe for a while in cities such as Paris and London, and New York City was recently graced with its own iconic bike share earlier this year. Stateside, bike-share programs so far has proven to be surprisingly successful, especially in New York and D.C. Here in the Bay Area, bike share seems to have great potential to compliment our existing excellent regional public transport system, which is perhaps why Bay Area Bike Share is initially launching in Downtown San Francisco and along the Caltrain corridor in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.
Here’s how the system works:
- Get a Bay Area Bike Share Membership (or pay for a single day use, but longer membership quickly pay off).
- Use Annual Member key or enter your Ride Code (provided to 24-Hour and 3-Day Members) to unlock a bicycle from any station.
- RIDE – Run errands, ride to and/or from your BART station, commute to work, or just go for a spin and use it as a gym membership of sorts!
- Return the bike to the nearest station.
- Repeat steps 2 through 4. Remember, any trip under 30 minutes is free– and yes you can simply dock a bike and check out a new one for another 30 minutes of charge-free cycling.
Bike-share bikes are NOT intended for long trips and the pricing system reflects this. For example, using a Bay Area Bike Share bike for an hour and a half before returning it to a station, will cost you $12 in addition to your membership fee. Any trip under 30 minutes, however, is completely free after membership fee is paid.
So what are bike share bikes good for? Going to meetings or grabbing a bite to eat on your lunch break; cycling from a BART station to your office (at the moment, most downtown San Francisco BART stations have bike share stations nearby); replacing bus trips under three miles with a bike ride; avoiding having to bring your own bike on BART; the infamous last-mile… The possibilities are many, and as long as your journey takes less than 30 minutes (keep in mind, at a “no sweat” pace, one can easily cover at least three miles on a bicycle), using a Bay Area Bike Share bicycle is free. Because of this structuring, getting an annual membership is particularly enticing as it can save you money, especially if you use it to replace short bus trips and cab rides when getting around congested parts of San Francisco.
So what do you think– are you ready to take a Bay Area Bike Share bicycle for a spin?
For additional information, check out Bay Area Bike Share’s Frequently Asked Questions or Contact page. And if you are on social media, feel free to check out Bay Area Bike Share on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram.
*While Bay Area Bike Share is not the first bike share system to launch in California, it is by far the largest and is also distinguished in that it is regional and not confined to a single city, integrating the system well with our existing public transportation network and commuter routes.
A fleet of bike-share bikes in D.C.v Photo credit: DDOTDC
It seems like not a week goes by without a U.S. city announcing plans for a bike-sharing program, a system which allows the public to rent bikes for utilitarian trips around urban cores – instead of waiting for a bus, walking, paying for taxi or driving in congestion and looking for parking. From New York City to Portland, bike-sharing fever is sweeping the nation, coast to coast.
Here in California, however, it wasn’t bike friendly San Francisco that was first to receive bike-share– it was rather the unlikely Southern California city Anaheim, home of Disneyland. As bike-share systems are planned in many cities and regions throughout California, the California Bicycle Coalition has offered three ideas on how to make the system work the best it possibly can here in the Golden State.
1. Bike share systems must be compatible on a statewide level
“Bike share systems must stress compatibility on all levels, starting with transit passes such as the Clipper Card used by transit agencies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Californians with a bike share account should be able to universally undock a bicycle, no matter the city or the vendor. Similarly, cities considering a bike share system should be free to select the vendor that works best for them – and not feel pressure to select the bike share vendor in an adjacent city because the systems may not match.”
2. Bike share must be ridership-driven, not advertiser-driven
“Many vendors make bike share pencil out by utilizing the ability of bicycles and docking stations to double as advertising space. While there is nothing wrong with that, bike share vendors in the past have been more interested in maximizing advertising dollars than ridership. Bike share will be sustainable only if ridership takes precedent.”
3. Vendors must adopt an open data format
Bike share bikes are all outfitted with a GPS unit or radio-frequency identification chips called RFIDs, which gather user data. Useful data about bicyclist travel patterns are few and far between; information gathered from bike share systems represent a quantum leap forward for bicycle planners and decision makers.
Are you excited about bike-sharing opportunities coming to the Bay Area? Have you tried bike-share systems elsewhere that worked well?
Good news! San Jose will be getting a bikeshare program as part of a larger, Bay Area wide bikeshare launch this Fall! The timing couldn’t be better, now that San Jose is finally getting more bike lanes.
Bikeshare dock in D.C. Photo credit: Trinity Quirk
Of 1,000 rental bikes to be placed across the Bay area, about 400 will be shared among San Jose, Mountain View and Palo Alto in Santa Clara County. The bikeshare program will also be part of a newer generation of bikeshare, offering cool features such as wireless internet solar powered stations and GPS technology.
The Bay Area bikeshare program is expected to make bicycling a viable option for shorter trips around downtowns and close to transit, reducing car use, parking and pollution. This allows the program to be funded by various local and regional grants, including a 4.3 million dollar grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Climate Initiatives Grant program.
So where will you be able to get your hands (and feet) on these bikes? Currently there are no specific locations picked out but Aiko Cuenco, the Santa Clara County project manager for the bikeshare wants the program to be accessible, as she notes in this San Jose article:
“We’re really going to push to make the pilot program really marketable and accessible to people, so that everybody knows the program is out there and try it out and see if it works as part of their daily way of getting around town”
Read more about the bikeshare program over sanjose.com, and check out San Francisco Examiner for an update on bikeshare in The City
Public bikesharing programs are sweeping cities coast to coast as part of the growing revival of bicycling for transportation in the U.S. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, cities like San Francisco are pushing for these kind of popular programs and there is even talk of a Bay Area wide bikeshare program to make the service more accessible and seamless to the public for their daily needs, whether it be to get to a meeting, a doctor’s appointment, the bank or cafe’.
A DC Capital Bikeshare station in Arlington Virginia. Photo credit: James D. Schwartz
Bikeshare is also a great service for those that might just need a bike for a short period like visitors and tourists. Oftentimes when we travel great distances we do so by plane or train which means we arrive at our destinations without a ready way to get around the city we’re visiting. Bikeshare provides a cheap, accessible way to get around.
So what if you’re curious to get a taste of a bikeshare experience but can’t wait for a city sanctioned program to get off the ground here in the Bay? Well, lucky you– the New York City based website Spinlister that helps coordinate peer to peer bikesharing just arrived in the Bay Area!
Maybe you have a bike, or several bikes that you’d be willing to loan for a day, or week? Much like peer to peer carsharing, Spinlister offers an opportunity for you to make money off your spare or seldom used bike(s) when you don’t need or use it.
Sounds like a win-win doesn’t it? If you feel like you could benefit from a peer to peer bike share, check out Spinlister or read more about Spinlister in this recent a 7×7 SF article.
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