SF to roll out bike share system

People ride their bikes through Golden Gate Park on Sunday, March 24, 2013. Photo by Andy Sweet / Xpress
People ride their bikes through Golden Gate Park on Sunday, March 24, 2013. Photo by Andy Sweet / Xpress

Commuting through San Francisco usually entails searching for parking or waiting long hours for a bus, but those looking for a quick and healthy way to get around the city may have found their solution.

San Francisco is ready to join many international cities in offering more accessible and healthier transportation to its residents and visitors this summer by launching a bike-sharing program, along with Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose and Redwood City. The pilot program is a partnership between the cities and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and will launch this August, allocating 700 bicycles at 70 stations throughout San Francisco and the peninsula. 

Rental rates for the bikes have not yet been determined, but the BAAQ said they will resemble Boston’s and New York’s system, which is about $100 for a yearly membership, with the first 30 minutes being free, and an hourly fee thereafter.

The 350 bicycles slated for San Francisco will be spread out in 35 stations in the city’s Financial District, Market Street and the South of Market areas, connecting public transit systems such as Caltrain and the Transbay Terminal. According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the areas were chosen because they contain the densest bikeway network in the city.

“Our overall goal is to increase bike ridership in San Francisco,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA. “As we enter this first phase of the program, we hope to identify plans for the second part.”

The second phase of the program will expand into other neighborhoods like the Castro and Mission Districts and increase the number of bikes to 1,000, with 100 stations. Rose said that will happen once funding is secured for the program.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a local bicycling advocacy group, is an adamant supporter and contributor to the project, pushing for that expansion.

“Bike share is a natural fit for San Francisco. We’re a small, dense city and bikes are a great way to get around,” SFBC’s Communications Director Kristin Smith said. “To be really successful, we’re pushing for a much bigger launch. Three hundred bikes is too small to meet the needs of our large city.”

According to the SFMTA’s Bicycle Count Report released earlier this year, bike ridership increased 71 percent in five years. The city is pushing for 20 percent of trips to be done by bicycle by 2020. Smith said the bike share will help reach that goal.

Jimmy Yarbro, 28, is a cook who lives in SOMA and works in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. He says he is looking forward to the program because it will make his commute easier and more enjoyable.

“I would prefer to ride a bike instead of waiting for the bus all the time anyways. Even running simple errands will be easier,” Yarbro said. “The only reason I don’t have a bike right now is because I have no where to keep it.”

Cities throughout the country like Miami Beach and Boston already have bike share programs, and others are being planned in Los Angeles and New York. The San Francisco program will resemble the country’s largest bike share system located in Washington D.C., dubbed Capital Bikeshare. With a fleet of more than 1670 bicycles, the program increased daily bike ridership in one year from 6,313 to 7,805, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

Alta Bicycle Share, the company that started Capital Bikeshare, will be running San Francisco’s program. Its stations will be solar powered and rental rates include hourly, daily and monthly passes.