Will San Francisco adopt a bike-sharing program?

Zoe Pleasure, Staff writer

Think about two-wheeled contraptions gliding down the street, like an eco-friendly parade: With San Francisco considering a bicycle-sharing program, to begin at the end of 2011, more bikes may take to the streets. New bike lanes would open up, making the city even more accessible for citizens without cars.

San Francisco has already led test runs to assess the regional bike program that would span 50 miles from San Jose to San Francisco. Throughout San Francisco and the Peninsula bike stations would be loaded with bikes that could be rented for 30-minute periods or longer. The bikes could be returned to any bike docking station.

Each rider would need a credit card or bike sharing membership card in order to rent a bike. There would be no charge for short trips under 30 minutes.

In a phone interview with the Legend, Johanna Partin, director of climate protection initiatives for Mayor Edwin Lee, said that “the city (has) just received a large grant to do a regional bike program,” with San Francisco as the first city in which the bikes will be deployed.

“(They) don’t know if (they) will actually have them implemented and people able to ride them by the end of this year, but that’s what (they’re) shooting for,” said Partin.

She expects the program to “open up opportunities for people to bike more and take vehicles less.”

San Francisco is not the first city to endorse a bicycle-sharing program. Bike sharing programs have sprung up all around the world, from Paris’s Vélib’ (short for “vélo libre”) to new programs in Washington D.C., Denver and Minneapolis. The trend seems perfect for the eco-friendly city of San Francisco.

Some say the city is already behind the times. Renee Rivera of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition told the San Francisco Chronicle that “we love to be on the cutting edge in terms of being green, but we’ve got to move a little faster to keep up with this trend.”

In the first step of the program, 1,000 bikes will be available at about 100 kiosks around the city, and then more bikes will be added if the program is well-received. The bike-sharing program is projected to increase ridership throughout the city.

Other bike-sharing programs have experienced problems with theft and damage. These problems may drive up costs.  Bike-sharing proponents also worry that participation will be too low, putting the program in jeopardy.

Urban students have multiple opinions about the possibility of a bike-sharing program in San Francisco. Virgil Taylor (’11) says that because he lives in Marin, “there are a lot of situations where I am in the city and would totally use a bike.” The bike-sharing program would allow him to get around San Francisco with more ease. “Right now riding my bike in the city requires lots of planning (and) thinking ahead,” said Taylor.

Similarly, Kendra Bradanini (’12) thinks the bike-sharing program would be beneficial, “because living in Marin, I don’t want to carry my bike to the city.”

Ella McLeod (’14) questioned the bike program’s safety. “I probably wouldn’t (bike),” she said. “I don’t really trust the streets.”

For further reading about bicycles in city environments, check out Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne of Talking Heads fame.