Expanded bike share program launches, mom & pop safe for now

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU/BCN)-- Transit officials and other regional leaders marked the launch of an expanded regional bike share program during a news conference at San Francisco's Harry Bridges Plaza this morning.

Ford GoBike is an expanded, re-branded version of the Bay Area Bike Share program, which had just 700 bikes to offer. They're slated to offer 3,500 bicycles at 322 stations by early September and 7,000 bikes at 546 stations in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville and San Jose by the end of 2018.

Bay Area Bike Share customer accounts will automatically transfer over to Ford GoBike, and those customers will be given 60 minutes of free riding time, according to www.fordgobike.com.

New annual memberships include unlimited 45-minute trips for $149 per year. There are also 24-hour passes for $9.95 that include unlimited 30-minute trips. A single ride can be purchased for $3 per trip until Sept. 30.

The introductory cost of an annual membership in the Bike Share for All program is just $5 for low-income residents.

Ford GoBike will accept Clipper cards as a form of payment, and is ostensibly intended to facilitate easier access to public transit.

 "We will be creating a regional bike infrastructure with the integration of Clipper," Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said.

"People can go from point to point and use biking as a primary means of transportation," Arreguin said. "That will go a long way not only in increasing access to biking but reducing carbon emissions and helping improve
our planet."

Referencing what he called the "very modest but successful" Bay Area Bike Share program already in place, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director of transportation Ed Reiskin said "today marks
the day we build on that success and blow it out of the water, increasing bike share in the region by tenfold."

"By the end of this year, we'll have five times as many bike share bikes in the city, ultimately going from 350 to 4,500 bikes," Reiskin said.

San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim joined the Ford GoBike program two weeks ago, referring to herself as a founding member.

"We live in an increasingly congested region due to a lot of our successes," Kim said.

"We are growing jobs, we are growing economically, but that also means we have more cars on the road," she said.

Bike share programs like this one can reduce congestion while also fighting climate change, according to Kim.

Questions remain, however, about how the bike share program will affect the bicycle rental industry, which caters mostly to tourists.

Blazing Saddles, a bike rental service with nine locations in the city, includes one just 150 yards from the scene of this morning's news conference.

"We were initially told the bike share service was to supplement public transportation and it was for the last mile of transportation, to help people connect to existing public transit with a bicycle that would help them finish up their trip," said Jeff Sears, president and CEO of Blazing Saddles.

"We really feel they did a 180 on what they had been telling us for years," Sears said.

"About a month ago, right before Memorial Day weekend, the website changed," Sears said. "The pricing structure changed, and it was very clear that in addition to transportation, Ford GoBike was looking to capture the recreation market. That was a real surprise to us."

But he doesn't want to give the impression that they've given up, or reached an impasse. With the help of Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Aaron Peskin, they've made some progress.

In response to concerns from the bike rental industry, Ford GoBike permanently removed their option for a three-hour pass available at $15, according to Dani Simons, a spokeswoman who added that bike shares are
primarily intended for short trips from Point A to Point B, rather than longer recreational rides.

"There was question about a product called a GoPass that would have allowed for longer trips.. we've taken that off," said Jay Walder, Motivate's CEO and President. "It's not being offered, it's not on our website, it's not on the kiosk, it's not on our app. We don't want this to be a conflict in any way," 

The three-hour pass would have "put a dent in" the bike rental business, according to Sears.

"It would be impossible to compete with that," he said.

Sears called it "beneficial" that Ford GoBike started marketing toward recreational customers prior to this morning's launch.

"In some ways I'm glad we can take care of this now before it's too late," he said.

"The first couple of weeks were not marked by a lot of warm and fuzziness," said Supervisor Peskin and Chairman of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board. The Board voted Tuesday to put a halt to $255,000 on researching future sites for the GoBike.

"I'm hopeful that they will speak and that they will actually enter into an agreement that protects our mom and pop bicycle rental companies that really have been working the tourist industry and providing local jobs for decades.," said Peskin. "And once I see it and it's all in writing, we'll release the $255,000."

The new project is a collaboration of Motivate, a bike share company with programs in Portland, Chicago, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency that oversees Bay Area transportation planning and financing.

The program will generate an estimated 200 jobs with full benefits and living wages, according to Walder.

"It will feel like a part of the public transit system and that's what we really want it to be," said Walder.