No one’s debating whether the Bay Area should have a bike sharing program. They’re just arguing over whether it will be pretty successful -- or super-wildly successful.
As the program edges closer to launching in August, bicycling advocates say the program’s initial launch of 700 bikes just won’t cut it.
“When you look at Washington D.C.’s experience,” said Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, “they started too small and it really hindered the program.”
The prime movers of the $7 million project, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, plan to spread 70 kiosks from San Jose to San Francisco, with the bulk in San Francisco.
People will pay an annual membership fee to “check-out” the bikes. They’ll have 30 minutes to ride the bike to another kiosk, or pay an hourly fee after 30 minutes. They’ll have the option to check out another bike.
“The idea is to help folks to be able to connect from one place to another,” said Karen Schkolnick, of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, “like say from a transit stop to their home, to their work.”
The bicycle advocates want the program to begin with 3,000 bikes and then expand. On Tuesday, San Francisco’s Board Of Supervisors passed a resolution calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to launch a full program with 3,000 bikes by 2014.
Schkolnick said the air district wants to see how the program fares before expanding. She said the initial offering is limited by funding.
“So far there’s about seven million dollars that are going into this program,” Schkolnick said. “To expand we’re going to need some additional funding.”
Schkolnick said her agency estimates the program could eventually expand to between six to ten thousand bicycles. The agency hasn’t yet determined the annual fees, but she expected it to be similar to New York’s bike share program, which runs about a $100 a year.
Bike Share programs are already popular in Washington D.C., Minneapolis and Miami. Unlike bike rentals, bike sharing is aimed at short trips.
“This is really being seen as a great extension of the Caltrain service in particular,” said Shahum. “For people that maybe take Caltrain but need their bike for an extra mile or two, it’s a great option.”
Bicyclist and Peninsula-based Caltrain commuter Ryan Berggren imagined the program coming in handy on days when he didn’t have his bike with him.
“I don’t like taking cabs and sometimes walking’s rough,” Berggren said. “So if there’s drop off points, U-Haul-like thing… could be cool.”
Organizers of the program are hoping people will get a taste of bicycling, and go on to buy their own bikes. In San Francisco, the bikes will include GPS, so the program can follow how people use the bikes.