Bike share program: What about the Castro?

Bay Area Bike Share bicycle

Two weeks ago the city went live with its bike share program. The program is part of Bay Area Bike Share which is a pilot project partnership of local government agencies including the Air District, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Sam-Trans, Caltrain and other regional agencies. Riders can grab a bike from a bike share corral and return it to another corral near their final destination. “Grabbing” a bike includes paying a 24-hour or three-day rental fee of $9 or $22 respectively, or paying an annual membership fee of $88. Details on pricing and how it works are available on the Bay Area Bike Share website. Needless to say, it’s a great way to get from point A to point B without having to rely on erratic Muni schedules or trying to hail an expensive or snippy cabby (who probably won’t take your credit card anyway).

So pretty cool, right? But what about the Castro? Many people are naturally wondering about the rest of the city. Why didn’t the Castro get one of these bike share corrals, we wondered? We reached out to Supervisor Scott Wiener to get some answers. According to Supervisor Wiener, the regional program that was just implemented is a pilot program that allotted only 1000 bikes for the entire San Francisco Bay area. San Francisco’s share was about half at around 500 bikes. In order for the program to be successful and since most trips made are generally short in distance, the corrals needed to be placed fairly close to each other. The city decided to place most of the corrals near the tourist heavy and dense areas in Downtown San Francisco including up and down Market from the Ferry Building to Van Ness, the Financial District, Union Square, Civic Center, the Tenderloin (uhm, ok), South Beach near the Ball Park, Rincon Hill and Telegraph Hill.

Bay Area Bike Share corral map

Bay Area Bike Share corral map

From my perspective, I think they will pick up some good transient 24-hour and 3-day rental business down there from tourists. I see the bike corrals mostly empty when I head down there so it seems as though it’s been pretty successful so far. However, I would say some of the best biking in the city with regards to infrastructure and bicyclist safety including destinations for “real San Franciscans” is in Golden Gate Park, Mission Dolores, Lower Haight, and parts of SOMA (in that order-ish). What’s in the middle of most of these areas? The Castro *snaps*. The thousands of us living the SF dream who need a bike for a quick trip to the store, the pharmacy, to a party, or just for a leisurely bike date with our honey won’t be heading into the downtown area.

Sup. Scott Wiener at Bike to Work event, 2011. Photo: Dyami Serna

Sup. Scott Wiener at Bike to Work event, 2011. Photo: Dyami Serna

We asked Supervisor Wiener how the bike share program could be expanded to the rest of the city including the Castro. “To expand the program to the entire city – a very high priority for me and for many others – it will probably take another 2,000 bikes (i.e., 2,500 total), costing over $20 million,” Wiener said. Supervisor Wiener mentioned he is working closely with the Mayor’s Office and the Bike Coalition to come up with a plan for funding and also the appropriate governance model for the system. An expanded bike program would need to be compatible with the current system and would likely be funded, organized, and under the control of the city itself. “We have the option of pursuing a public-private partnership, through a sponsorship and/or through a nonprofit model like City Car Share. At this point, various options are on the table.”

To help things get moving along in City Hall, the San Francisco Bike coalition has put together an online petition asking all San Franciscans to let the mayor know that an expansion of the bike share program should be a priority for the city.

Roy McKenzie

Roy has been a Castro resident since 2010 and is passionate about politics, camping, and food. Follow his babbling on Twitter.

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10 Responses

  1. wylen vanyel says:

    It’s a good idea, but if this is the pilot testing period still it seems to me that it would have made sense to put at least one group of bikes in a neighborhood where people actually live, not just tourist areas to prove itself as a useful alternative to other transportations for actual residences of the city.

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  2. sjg says:

    According to the info in an article I read online, the bike share program has had a rather bumpy start. That might put up a roadblock to expansion into other areas of the City

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  3. Peter says:

    Per the @SFPDBikeTheft Twitter account, at least one of the bikes has already shown up in a bike chop shop. Color me totally, utterly unsurprised.

    Re: expansion, since the maximum length of a free trip is 30 minutes, that might preclude some trips from the Castro to, say, the Financial District. Yes, it’s only 3 miles but there are lots of traffic lights and other impediments.

    In the meantime, those wishing to use the service and who live in the eastern portions of the neighborhood could walk to Civic Center and bike from there.

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    • rblack says:

      Regarding theft – I don’t think anyone expected that bikes wouldn’t be stolen and vandalized.

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      • Waiyde Palmer says:

        No need to go all the way to Civic Center-there is a bike rental station at VanNess & Market near the MUNI offices in front of the BofA-but-as Roy noted in the post from anecdotal observation-stations have been empty due to popularity. If this continues to be the trend expansion must be addressed sooner than later.

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    • wylen says:

      I remember reading in gothamist that New York’s version purposely did 30 minutes when they researched that most people would typically need the bikes for 40-45 minutes so that there would be the additional minute charge.

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  4. Peter says:

    On another note, how fabulous is it that the name of the service is “Babs”?

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  5. David says:

    2000 bikes cost $20 Million?!? That’s $10,000 per bike! Now I realize the lock station has a cost and construction costs, but sounds like someone is getting a sweet deal at the city’s expense!

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  6. Great inquiry. They should definitely have a pod of bikes in the Castro. I look forward to using this program when friends from out-of-town visit, we can all hop on a bike.

    Regarding that picture of our supe, why does Wiener go around town in a mountain bike? Amateur! ;-)

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  1. September 16, 2013

    […] Continued Calls for Bike-Share Expansion in Other Neighborhoods (SFGate), Including the Castro (CB) […]

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