Cycling enthusiasts and regional leaders gathered in anticipation outside the San Francisco Caltrain station last week to watch the Bay Area’s first bike sharing initiative hit the road. Mayor Ed Lee cut the Bay Area Bike Share ribbon with MTC Commissioners Amy Worth and Scott Weiner to a chorus of cheers – and hopped on one of the signature turquoise bikes himself shortly after.
The pilot program is now live in San Francisco and four other cities along the Peninsula corridor: San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City.
The seven-gear bicycles, manufactured by Public Bike Systems Company, were on display at the sunny launch event on August 29, and available for commuters who wanted to speed up the trip between Caltrain and the office. The 70 bike kiosks are all strategically located near transit hubs, high-density residential areas and key destination points such as employment centers and universities, with about half the kiosks stationed in San Francisco.
Designed to demonstrate how regional bike sharing can improve air quality and reduce our carbon footprint, the initiative is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 450 tons during the first year.
Lee said he is eager to expand the initiative beyond the pilot program, which he called an important effort to improve the region’s environmental sustainability.
Worth took BART to the Bike Share launch and said she saw several passengers cramming bikes into the train cars. “It just illustrated the tremendous potential that this program has for the entire Bay Area,” she said. “Now commuters can get their exercise and get to work at the same time.”
Worth is a cyclist herself, but said she often has difficulty finding a place to park her bike. “Cities have been investing in bike paths and bike awareness education, so this is a wonderful next step — to create the opportunity for people to easily and casually hop on a bike and go somewhere, and not worry about what to do with it. It’s been successful all around the world,” she said.
Bay Area Bike Share membership — available online or at any station kiosk — costs $88 for an annual pass, $22 for a three-day pass and $9 for a daily pass. Already, over 1,000 residents have signed up. The bikes are designed for short-term use, so all customers get unlimited 30-minute trips at no additional cost. The bikes are electronically locked to station kiosks and can be unlocked 24 hours a day using a registered customer’s electronic key fob or a numeric code.
Mike Baehr, a Western Addition resident who works in downtown San Francisco, grabbed a membership as soon as he heard about the program. An avid cyclist, Baehr bikes to work and parks in his office’s garage, but hesitates to leave his bike unattended in public. As one of the first 1,000 people to sign up for Bike Share, Baehr got a limited edition Founding Member key.
“This is going to make all sorts of things possible that are a huge pain right now,” he said. “When my friends want to grab lunch somewhere, this is perfect for that. I can just drop off the bike when I get there and it’s no longer my responsibility.”
The initiative’s second phase will introduce 300 additional bikes and 30 additional kiosks by early 2014.
The $11.2 million bike sharing pilot is part of MTC’s Climate Initiatives Program and is managed in partnership with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and other local agencies including the City and County of San Francisco, SamTrans, Caltrain, the County of San Mateo, the City of Redwood City and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.