Neighbors Discuss Bike Share Program’s Expansion to SF Mission

A Bay Area Bike Share staff member explains the program. Photo by Aria Killough-Miller

Cyclist hopefuls and other interested parties bent thoughtfully over maps last Thursday night, placing stickers on potential locations for new bicycle sharing stations.

Bay Area Bike Share is planning an expansion to new locations throughout San Francisco and held a meeting at the Mission Neighborhood Centers to explain its program and get feedback.

Residents and visitors can currently sign up for one-day, three-day, or annual memberships that unlock access to 700 bicycles at 70 stations in cities along the Peninsula and in San Francisco. Members of the bike sharing program can pick up a bike at any station, ride it for as long as they’d like, and drop it off at any other station.

After launching two years ago, Bay Area Bike Share is now planning a ten-fold expansion in San Jose, Emeryville, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco

“I like the density of stations that are being [considered],” said Romel Jacinto. “I’m excited about it, I’m a current bike share user.”

Across the Bay Area, the growth from 700 to 7,000 bikes means the program will be one of the largest and densest bike shares in North America.

“I think that the idea is great,” said Fran Taylor, a cyclist and transit advocate. Nonetheless, she said, “I’m a little leery about some of the details.”

Concerns raised at the meeting included the expansion’s funding structure, inadequate outreach, and the cost of membership.

The program itself is private-public partnership — operated day-to-day by a private firm but supported by public investment — but presenters explained that because the program’s intended expansion is so rapid, private funding would be necessary.

“Why does it have to be a corporate sponsor?” asked one attendee.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to be riding around on a bike that says Google or Airbnb,” said Taylor. Jessie Fernandez, another attendee, felt that the expansion would privatize a supposedly public form of transportation.

Still others were concerned about the distribution of stations. Hillary Ronen, a candidate for District 9 supervisor who lives in the Portola, said the neighborhood’s complete exclusion was a let-down.

“It was so disappointed that the Portola wasn’t even on the map,” she said, emphasizing that the Portola is 60 percent Chinese and has “buses packed to the gills.”

Presenters responded that this is only the first phase of the expansion and that neighborhoods like Portola will be included later, but Ronen left the workshop unsure her concern would be addressed.

“It doesn’t appear that there’s been outreach,” she said.

Another attendee reflected a similar concern, commenting on the lack of diversity and wondering whether any monolingual Spanish speakers were included in the feedback.

“I don’t think you’re getting the word out to them,” he said. “It’s not just valuable, it’s required,” he responded to a presenter’s claim that diverse feedback is valuable to the program and will be considered.

Attendee Fernandez felt that the program was “disingenuous about community outreach.” He claimed that those who came to the workshop did not reflect those who will use this system, particularly low-income people.

“I’m surprised more members didn’t show up,” said Jacinto, a user of the program. Staff said their two previous San Francisco workshops have been similarly attended, bringing 20 to 40 people out each time.

Taylor, the cyclist, worried the program would not be accessible to low-income people, pointing out that kiosks operate on credit cards.

A problem Bay Area Bike Share is already considering, stating on its website that it will work on options for people who don’t have bank accounts.

Memberships cost $88 for a year, $23 for three days, or $9 for a day — though these prices are expected to rise with the expansion. A presenter said that community was important to Bay Area Bike Share and that the program may offer discounts for low-income residents, public agencies, and nonprofits.

“It just sounds a little strict,” Taylor commented on the qualifications for low-income discounts.

There will be further opportunities for community feedback on the expansion at future meetings, staff said.

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