Photo originally from June 2013

If your bike has ever been stolen near Mission Street, raise your hand. If you have ever realized you can’t take BART because you have a bicycle and it’s rush hour, raise your hand. If you have ever received a parking ticket in the Mission, raise your hand. Now leave it up.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and partner agencies will introduce 700 rental bikes throughout the greater San Francisco area, beginning in August. The system is similar to bike-sharing programs in other U.S. cities. A user can buy a pass, unlock a bike from one of several designated stations, ride it to another station, and lock it up there.

The stations will integrate with mass transit infrastructure, allowing users to commute long distances, hop on bikes and ride the rest of the way to their destinations. All four downtown BART stops and the Caltrain line in South San Francisco will have stations nearby.

Is your hand raised? Then you may be disappointed; there are no firm plans to build stations in the Mission at this point. SOMA, the Financial District and Embarcadero will share 35 stations with 350 bikes during the first stage of the pilot, which ends in early 2014. Other regional partners will divvy up the remaining bikes between San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City. A second stage, to be determined, will expand the service by up to 1,000 bikes.

View Bike Share Service Area in San Francisco in a larger map

“We want to expand the system soon,” SFMTA transportation planner Matt Lasky said. “The Mission District could be captured when we achieve a 1,000-bike system.”

In an online map that allows users to pin locations and comments about where they want to see bike rental service, many location requests are for the Mission District. Contributors pinned nearly every block of Valencia, Mission and 24th streets.

Steve Fiduccia, general manager of the Mission-based nonprofit Pedal Revolution, has researched bike-sharing programs in other cities. He said he believes the system will prove popular. “There is definitely a lot of low-income people who could use them,” Fiduccia said.

However, it is unclear whether the demand for stations in the Mission comes from residents or business patrons who live elsewhere. Erma Kyriakos , one resident, said, “It’s a great idea, they do it all over Europe.” But then Kyriakos added, “I like to have my own bike.”

Resident Oarly Canant’s bicycle was stolen recently, so she is borrowing one from a friend. Even so, she said she probably wouldn’t use the sharing service. “My bike is my own transportation and I want to know I have it,” Canant said.

Other residents were concerned over design, security and logistics. What if a rental bike is stolen? What should you do if you get a flat tire? Is it reasonable to traverse the city’s steep hills by bike?

Ralph Borrmann, spokesperson for the partner agency Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said these issues are being addressed. All bike stations will be equipped with tracking devices, and workers will move bikes between stations to keep them all stocked. Users can request maintenance directly from the rental stations. And, unlike programs in Washington, D.C., and New York, bicycles in San Francisco will be geared for seven speeds, due to the terrain.

Bike-sharing has been successful in other cities. According to data gathered by the SFMTA, 43 percent of users surveyed in Denver said they replaced driving with riding bikes. In Minneapolis, 50 percent of members reported choosing public transit or bike-sharing over driving. In Washington, D.C., total driving miles were reportedly reduced by 4.4 million per year, or 198 miles per member.

However, affordability may be an issue for some. Three payment options are currently being discussed, with passes priced between $7-$10 for one day, $20-$25 for three days, or $75-$100 for a one-year membership, with unlimited 30-minutes rides. Extra fees may apply to rides longer than 30 minutes.

The regional bike-share pilot will cost $7 million to implement. Major funders include: The Bay Area Climate Initiative Program, the Transportation Fund for Clean Air and the Proposition K Local Transportation Sales Tax. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District provides $1.4 million, and $1.3 million comes from several other partner agencies.

“The SFMTA is striving to achieve a 2,500-plus bike system in the future,” Lasky said. The agency will seek additional grants and possibly sponsorship to assist with the expansion.

Will this lead to a future in which Missionites can order a drink and a burrito without worrying about their bikes being stolen? We will have to wait to see that.

Follow Us

Marta came from Zaragoza, Spain to master her English but everyone she speaks to wants to practice Spanish. After just a few months in the Mission, she already feels at home. In her free time she can be found reading books, watching movies, roller skating or just enjoying a good meal, an interesting conversation or a sunny walk around the neighborhood.

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s clear that this program is designed for people who do not live in San Francisco, whether they are tourists or commuters from across the Bay.

    I know that many San Franciscans have their own bikes, but it’s incredible convenient to not have to worry about getting it stolen or having to worry about biking back after a night of drinking.

    I’m writing this comment from Tel Aviv, which has an incredible bike share program (Tel O Fun) aimed at locals. It’s is heavily used and greatly simplifies getting around this city. An annual pass costs about $70, at which point all trips under 30 minutes are absolutely free (and only $1.50 for up to an hour).

    I wish San Francisco would follow TLV’s model and install locations in places like the Mission, Hayes Valley, The Haight, and the Marina. Obviously, it’d be great to have this in other places like Nob Hill / North Beach as well, but those may be a little too congested to accommodate it.

    Where is the SF Bike coalition on this one?

    1. Hello,
      The system is actually very similar to the one in Tel Aviv. $75-$100 for a one-year membership, with unlimited 30-minutes rides. Extra fees may apply, but just to rides longer than 30 minutes.
      Thank you very much for your comment!

      1. Even if the bike share program is aimed at tourists, which I don’t think it is, I would rather visitors bike around SF than drive. I would rather anyone bike anywhere than drive. I also wish there was more of a bike basket on the front and a rack for a basket on the back. It would encourage people to use the bikes for errands where you have to pick stuff up and bike it around. Also, I am visiting Barcelona now and their bike share program is fantastic- however I can’t use it because I am not a resident. I think that is a shame and I hope SF’s program is tourist friendly.

  2. They have a program like this in Paris called Velib and it’s free for up to one hour when you register with your credit card. If you take it for longer, the charge goes on the card. (Unfortunately, a card with a magnetic strip doesn’t work–they have chips in their credit cards, so I had to get a friend to help me register and get a code.)
    Too bad they’re going to charge that much here, but not surprising. The logistics can be complicated too–a number of times when I got a bike to go to a crowded neighborhood, I couldn’t find a place to return the bike ’cause all the stations were full. I had to ride all around trying to get rid of the bike…

    1. Yes — Ralph Borrmann, spokesperson for the partner agency Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said that there will be a team working in the background to balance the system and take bikes from one station to another to make sure there are bikes available everywhere.
      Let’s hope it works!

    2. I have just returned from the Paris and used Velib bikes during 1 week stay. While it is true that they don’t accept regular/US credit cards at stations, I was able to register online and use Velib bikes/stations across the Paris.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *