The Impending Failure of San Francisco’s Pilot Bike Share Program

Flat_tire_velib.jpgWhich will San Francisco’s bike-share program resemble?

Lest it appear that Streetsblog doesn’t support bike-sharing in San Francisco, I should say from the outset that I love the successful bike-sharing programs that I’ve used, believe they are one of the more innovative new transit models available, and know that San Francisco is ripe for the roll-out of a large-scale program of its own.  But I am also among the large majority of Americans that Republican Pollster Frank Luntz found support infrastructure improvements and believe getting the job done right is more important than ribbon cutting and shovel readying.

Consider that a bicycle sharing program’s greatest assets are ubiquity and ease of use.  In Paris, Velib started with 10,000 bicycles at 750 stations, shortly thereafter jumped to 20,000 bicycles at 1450 stations, and is poised to add an additional 3,300 bikes at 300 new stations in the Parisian suburbs.  The city of Paris keeps all the revenue from the small annual fees for membership to the program and daily use fees paid by tourists and those who don’t join annually and the advertising firm JC Decaux operates the system and pays out an additional $4.3 million.

When I rode Velib for the first time in Paris shortly after its launch in 2007, the system was intuitive and the bicycle stations were everywhere (approximately 300 meters between each).  As a tourist with minimal French, I had no problem activating the system with my credit card and pedaling my way through the lovely streets of that fair city.  Over the course of three days I never went underground, never took a taxi and got some good exercise in the process.

My hopes were high when Mayor Newsom announced that San Francisco would
join the nearly 100 cities around the world that have started bike
sharing.  But now they are dashed. 

How grand a system will San Francisco have?  50 bikes.  To the tune of $1 million for start up and $500,000 annually for upkeep!

The Mayor made his announcement, from the heart of Paris no less, that San Francisco is in negotiations with Clear Channel to roll-out a mere 50 bicycles at five racks in the downtown area.

Do you hear my teeth gnashing?  

When Washington DC debuted their system last year with 120 bikes, their department of transportation immediately regretted that they had not added many more.  As Alice Kelly of the District DOT said to Streetfilms when they interviewed her, "Knowing what we know now, we would’ve launched it bigger."

Mayor Newsom has been accused of press-releasing and grandstanding before, but this has to be among his most exquisite offerings.  He’s embracing a transit trend that all “green” mayors must, but he’s implementing it in such paltry fashion that at best it will be inconsequential at replacing short car trips with bike trips; at worst it will create a bunch more enemies of bicycles in a city that already boasts its fair share.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the last time San Francisco failed its due diligence on a bicycle project, a court slapped the city with an onerous injunction that generated no bicycle projects for three years.

The SFBC is being political and not taking a hard stand on the program, as indicated by Leah Shahum’s statement:

Given that half of all trips are two miles or less, this bike share program — along with completing the citywide Bike Network — are ideal ways to help more people make more trips by bikes.  While we do support the Mayor’s pilot bike share program, we have reservations about how such a small-scale program can prove itself properly. Plans to create a dense, citywide Bike Share program should not rest solely on the workings of this small-scale pilot program.

MTA spokesman Judson True attempted to mollify my skepticism by arguing that the $1 million price tag would be paid by Clear Channel, or another bidder should they exercise their right to first-refusal, and that the announcement was only the beginning, that the low numbers were in part due to the injunction. 

“We will not be satisfied by 50 bikes in a city where interest in bicycling is skyrocketing. Our goal is to have thousands,” he said.

Still, I have to wonder how this program meets any transit effectiveness criteria, especially at a time when the MTA is projecting a shortfall of $100 million over the next 18 months (PDF).  With a state budget in freefall and funding in limbo for big-ticket projects like the Central Subway and TEP, the last thing the MTA needs is for window dressing to add to the cannibalization of vital system operations.  

If the Mayor is serious about his commitment to increasing the number of trips that are taken on bicycles, to reducing vehicle miles traveled, to improving the health of San Franciscans, he should marshal his forces for the looming battle over the top 60 projects in the Bicycle Plan when the injunction is lifted.  Stripe lanes, install racks, be innovative with bike boxes, colored lanes, and protected rights-of-way.

Then, when there is money and political capital to spend on a bike-share program and the city is in a position to capitalize on the transit benefits of bike share, let’s talk about rolling out a fleet of thousands of new bicycles.  

Flickr photo: manrocker

  • Enacting a project that is doomed to failure will set back the possibility of ever doing it right. People will say “we tried that and it was a failure” and it will be almost impossible to ever try again. A bike program with only 50 bikes simply cannot work. For a program to work the bikes need to be ubiquitous. They have to get you from where you are to where you need to go.

    The only thing the 50 bikes will do is create another fake green washing bullet point for the Mayor’s run for Governor.

    I hope that the SFBC not just treat the proposal as pathetic pandering, but instead treat it as a setback for those who want to create a successful program.

  • Peter

    As far as I know, Clear Channel has no incentive to do the program right or even at all. In fact, it seems they have a tremendous incentive to spend as little money as possible on the bike-share program. I could definitely use more info on how the money is supposed to flow, though.

    I’m hoping Clear Channel refuses the offer. Or maybe some good citizens will sue the city to stop Clear Channel – the media giant who suppressed dissent in the run-up to the Iraq Slaughter – from running the program. I really don’t want some criminal corporation running our public transit system. The bike share program should be publicly-controlled, so we can hold some people accountable.

  • Beautifully written and searingly correct. This distracts from solid bike policy going forward; the fact that the injunction hasn’t been struck down with the city’s full force makes any “green” efforts ring hollow.

    Newsom’s disingenuous greenwashing and pandering is no surprise to anyone who knew him at the BOS; funny that now the city is waking up to it as he alienates even important supporters.

  • Shemp

    Why is SFBC so timid about a step that at best is a total waste of everyone’s time and at worst will discredit a workable urban transportation system?

  • Zig

    I imagine this is partly a function of density and projected ridership. The private interests aren’t going to support this idea here. Consider why there so much more private interest in Europe and why our 50 bikes are going to cost so much to keep up.

    Also we live among savages so the upkeep will be expensive

  • Hold the presses! Mayor Green Gavin is showboating on transit issues? Shocking.

    BTW, to those worried about clear channel…the bike program was supposed to be part of any winning bid to rebuild all the MUNI bus shelters. Clear Channel won the bid for whatever reason, and will pay for the rebuilding of all MUNI bus shelters and a bike program. I don’t know that the bid said how many bikes they had to provide, and different vendors offered different ideas about what that would look like.

    However what we’re seeing here is clearly just a showy thing Green Gavin can talk about in Paris on the way to Davros to hang out with the financial sector boys, but not really DO anything that would benefit the average citizen. Shocking, I know. If he wants to run for governor, fine. But he should step down as Mayor so someone who wants to do the hard work of running City government can step in and make some tough choices.

  • Thanks Greg… I was beginning to feel like the only person who read about this over and over again during the competition for the Muni shelter deal!

  • 50 bikes?? In Boulder, Colorado ONE real estate company alone donated about that many for the city’s residents and visitors to use….

  • It is true that dealing with bike sharing through these kinds of contractual methods is problematic, because expansion is at the mercy of the contractor.

    DC has a small, non-Velib like system, and it remains to be seen how and when it will be expanded. On the other hand, the relatively small system is a start. And for risk averse American cities, doing something that can be expanded is likely better than doing nothing. The key is plans for expansion must be built into the contract.

    And you need to provide other ways for being able to have membership within the system (such as institutional membership) and the institutions buy in by adding bicycles-bike stations.

    The other problem with Velib like systems is that they are very expensive to launch and support. Paul DeMaio of the bike sharing blog is fond of the German call-a-bike system, because it is 1/4 of the cost of the Velib system.

    And the Montreal transit organization has produced an alternative to the Velib system as one, one that doesn’t require advertising contractors to support it. But then you have to create and support the infrastructure. The one advantage of the contractor form is that the city doesn’t have to deal with it, except for a couple people for oversight. Unless you are Paris and the volume of use makes it a real revenue center…

  • I wasn’t clear. DC’s system is like Velib. But it differs from Velib in that there are 10-15 stations and 150 bicycles, not 1450 stations and 20,000 bicycles like there are in Paris.

  • This is helpful information, especially the facts e.g. the numbers of bikes needed to get to “critical mass” in Paris. It is easy to be cynical towards the Mayor and his proposal of 50 bikes. This would be like starting a new bus transit system with one bus. But what would be the right number of bikes and support infrastructure for SF, and more importantly, what group has these data? I’m more interested in what we need to make this work in SF and who has the credibility to make it happen. I agree that there seem to be other basic more deserving bike projects that should be prioritized. But having a cogent plan for this type of program would be smart. These “public” systems in Europe have done huge things to increase awareness and support for bikes in general.

  • Shemp

    Rob, more to the point, Velib has taken bike mode share of all trips from less than 1% to over 4% in one year (that system is up around 30,000 bikes now and is covering areas outside the Paris municipality. Cycling by people on their own bikes is up significantly since Velib added some many public bikes to the traffic mix.

    For comparison, you could take Velib’s first 2 phases of 20,600 bikes (entirely within the city) and do a bikes per capita comparison to SF’s vs Paris population (Paris is about 2.2 million). Or take Velib’s density of station locations of 28 per square mile, with the size of each somewhat dependent on the land use, and figure out how many stations a system would need to cover SF using that rate.

  • Hi Rob,
    Thanks for asking that question. While there is no hard and fast number necessary for a successful program, you certainly want as many bikes as the city can afford. When I rode the Bicing network in Barcelona last year, which consists of just over 3,000 bikes in a city of 1.6M inhabitants, it was noticeably harder to navigate than Velib. There were numerous occasions where I had to ask locals where the nearest station was to return a bike, and they don’t have a way to rent the bikes if you don’t have an annual membership. Fortunately I used my friend’s card and over all had a great experience.

    As soon as DC opened their system their transportation department said they wished they had done a geometrically larger number of bikes.

    Check out Clarence’s wonderful Streetfilm on DC’s system:
    http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/dc-launches-bike-sharing-program/

    So in answer to how many SF should have, I agree with Judson True at MTA that we shouldn’t be content with a system that doesn’t boast “thousands.”

  • It would be nice to have that much money to throw at such a project. We’re getting by with less than 5% of this amount and will have just 200 bikes by mid summer. Check out the Fort Collins Bike Library at fcbikelibrary.org. We are planning the second year of our project and couldn’t be happier with last year’s results… except we kept running out of bikes to check out. Must be because the program was free and hugely popular. We are a city of about 130,000, and we’re thinking that 200 bikes won’t be enough to satisfy demand.
    You may have heard about the Fort Collins Bike Library from Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) who said in December that our program is one of the biggest waste of taxpayer’s money. Tell that to our satisfied customers, and to the homeless man who borrowed a bike so he could get to a job interview. He now has a job and able to buy his own bike. His is just one example of our success.

  • Lee

    So the program costs $400,000. At $200 per bike + $200 for a fancy metering device, one could buy 1,000 bikes. Why is SF talking about getting 50 bikes?

    And why oh why do the French bikes cost $1,300 apiece?

  • The French bikes are bomb-proof, heavy duty. They have made them as durable as they can without driving the cost up more, but they are definitely not cheap, as you noted Lee.

  • Really well put. I agree that putting the bike-system improvements that have been delayed by the EIR process on the front burner is essential. 50 bikes is not going to have much of any impact. Better to use that money to stripe a few more feet of bike lanes or add a few more bike racks. God knows we’re in need of both.

  • While in New York for the premiere of the e2 documentary, Deputy Mayor Baupin, who oversaw the implementation of the Paris program, said that if you don’t do it on a large scale, you’re wasting your time.

  • Jam

    Lee….each bike costs about $900 and each stations (for 10 bikes) costs around $30,000.

    Please don’t talk about what should be done without any idea of the capital costs involved.

    However, 50 is inexcusable. For a successful bike share system you need a full network. 50 bikes is like having a bus that only makes one stop.

    500 is the minimum amount needed to start a successful system. Any less and you risk ruining the brands image because people associate bike share with failure.

  • (50 bikes * $900/bike) + (10 stations * $30,000/station) = $345,000

    Where is the $1,000,000 figure coming from? A million for 50 bikes? $500,000 per year? $20,000 per bike plus $10,000 maintenance per bike per year. How can this be? Even cars don’t cost that much!

  • Matt, you’ve written a smart piece here. Now I’m divided in my own thinking: do we encourage latest-design small scale installations to get the ball rolling (which is what I would call a 50 bike program…but those SF numbers seem high for only 50) OR do we wait until we can, as one French tourist remarked to me in DC about the Velib vs. Smartbike, build out at a quote/unquote PROFOUND level? “But the Velib is more profound,” he pointed out to me. I nodded. It’s not even a fair comparison.

    BTW, the current fleet size of Smartbike DC is 100 per their office. My complete photo tour of that system is at:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedal_power_pete/sets/72157607487366006/

    I’ve tried the Velib, the Homeport/Oybike (in Prague), and the Smartbike DC. You get on a Velib bike and you have this fuzzy/guilty-pleasure sensation that you’re being given the keys to that gorgeous city and you have no curfew. It’s true, they are everywhere being ridden by everyone, and now it’s expanding to the first ring of the suburbs. Thanks, Mayor Delanoe!

    But…it’s also not easy to compare European bikeshare models to the U.S. because of the difference in insurance liability laws and the public space mentality. That is to say, I can see it from a mayor’s point of view.

    As Matt will agree, the way we allocate space in our shiny American cities is unlike that in Europe, where the idea of the plaza, the piazza, the place, is home-grown and unshakeable. Thus, Paris had the physical space (and the public space mentality) available to slot in bikeshares. If there’s no space to hold a public free speech event in NYC or SF that isn’t under some jurisdiction of the Parks Dept. or D.O.T. or the PD, where are the bikeshares to go? We don’t even have enough bike racks; less so with the automated parking meters replacing many parking meters/bike racks…but I digress. The public space vocabularly is much more developed outside the U.S. I guess we have parking garages as an untapped resource, but decidedly less sexy.

    And users of bikeshares on European soil are charged with greater responsibility for determining the fitness of themselves and their bikes prior to setting out. In the U.S., the insurance model for renting bikes (and pedicabs) does not lend itself to automated service (i.e., coverage models assume there’s an attendant checking each returned unit). And even the notion of automated helmet dispensing is being floated, an additional challenge not present elsewhere. So, unless you’re a major health benefits player like Humana or a media giant like Clear Channel who can write their own tickets, where are you going to get your coverage? A lot of that cost in SF could be for liability coverage. Which returns me to my question to Matt.

    Will cash-hungry cities accept additional liability exposure by extending coverage to bikeshare programs? If so, how to pay for it? That would open up the door to more players, more variety. The technology to make it all work is not the most complicated aspect. It’s space set-asides and insurance. If we accept limited advertising on docking kiosks, user cards and fender ad panels, in conjunction with modest user fees, then additional revenue can help make these systems pay for themselves. And the mayors look good.

    One alternative: I checked with the League of American Bicyclist’s member insurance provider (American Specialty). They’ve had a few inquiries but not enough (yet) to warrant developing a bikeshare product to their insurance coverage for League members. Okay, so pick up the phone you activists and city planners: 260-672-8800 and ask for the member insurance coordinator.

    Closer to home, Cemusa, which won the NYC street furniture contract (which didn’t include a bikeshare component), does have a bikeshare program in Pamplona called Nbici (though small)…see http://www.c-cycles.es/principal.htm. If NYC can rewrite term limits, can’t it rewrite a street furniture contract?

    That’s the Q: Where are our U.S. mayors to turn to, with every step scrutinized and intense budget cutbacks? Wouldn’t smaller scale happen sooner? Otherwise, I think large scale U.S. build-out is 5-10 years away.

  • Colin

    The factor that determines the success (in terms of usage per bicycle and per capita) of a public-use bicycle system is the density of the bicycle stations throughout the city and the number of bicycles available poer capita. Statistics from similar projects around the world illustrate this perfectly. These systems only work well for communities and replace car and transit trips if people know they can count on a bicycle being available near their origin and they can find a station to return the bicycle near their destination.

    50 bikes at a couple stations is not a public-use bicycle transit system, it’s a public relations gimmick.

  • Matt

    Many good points were made but the major one was missed: You don’t want your sister getting married to the billboard industry. Smaller projects that identify local needs more clearly and most importantly, leave the door open to the evolution of the common bicycle into the fully-utilitarian human-powered, electric-assisted vehicle of the future, can be helpful. We need to generate the maximum amount of feedback from users and buy-in by every element of the society, private sector, transit system etc. Spending a million bucks for 50 bikes is total lunacy of course.

    Please look at Lightwheels.com for a look at our presentation to NYC in response to their Request for Expressions of Interest in their upcoming bike share program. We favor a bottom-up approach with the maximum variety of vehicle designs, recumbent tricycles and all, the ability to leave vehicles all over not just in special places, the rapid evolution of weather-protected, multi-passenger and creatively-inspired designs, re-allocation of road space and the end of voluntary duty as second or third-class citizens. We do not need to let the same folks who rent our eyeballs out rent our bikes back to us,(all identical of course, just unlike us) and we’ll be mighty sorry if we do.

  • Benben

    I love the ladies comment “Knowing what we know now, we would’ve launched it bigger.” Well duh. I have not seen a single serious attempt at bike sharing in this country, everything is just a pilot project and thats all they will ever be. Montreal will be our closest real bike share with 2400 bicycles at its launch. Maybe the US can learn from its neighbor and start expanding its bike share to usable levels.

  • Frederick Gault

    It is not just the number of bicycles, although that is important. The success of the system will depend upon a safe network of bike lanes (not just lines painted in the street) – as well as infrastructure to keep the bicycles in good repair.

  • More on Velib comparisions…etc. from the Bike Europe electronic newsletter. Might Decaux then be reconsidering its second venture in London?

    ——————————–
    http://www.bike-eu.com/news/3261/paris-vlib-crushed-by-vandalism%3F.html

    Paris Velib Crushed by Vandalism?

    PARIS, France – From the start of the bike rental program in Paris in July 2007 Vélib has set an example of the possibilities of urban bike mobility to the rest of the world. However it was no secret from the beginning that Vélib was suffering under vandalism.

    JCDecaux, who maintains the fleet of 15,000 Vélibs recently sounded the alarm as it can no longer afford the repair and maintenance bill. The outdoor advertising company has pleaded with Paris Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë to provide financial support.

    According to JCDecaux 7,800 of the original 15,000 bikes have disappeared or stolen and 11,600 have been vandalised. Since the start of the program the bikes have been used 42 million times, or an average every bike 2,800 times!

    In exchange for running the scheme, the Paris town hall gave JCDecaux a ten-year licence to run 1,600 of the capital’s billboards. [at projected revenues of 60 million euros per year – pm]

    Rémi Pheulpin, JCDecaux’s director general, said that he was losing out on the deal as “the extent of the vandalism could not have been foreseen. The costs are so high that a private business cannot handle it alone, especially as it’s a problem of public order. If we want the Vélib’ keep on going, we will have to change the business model.”

    The Paris city council, which makes € 20 million per year from the Vélib’ bike hire scheme, has refused to bail out JCDecaux. But it is considering launching an anti-vandalism public awareness operation.

    …..and from August 8, 2008:
    http://www.bike-eu.com/news/2957/success-velib-tempered-by-costs-of-breakdowns.html

    Success Velib Tempered by Costs of Breakdowns

    PARIS, France – Since the introduction of the bike rental system last year in the French capital the Vélib’s have made 26 million trips. In their fight against traffic congestion and air-pollution the Paris city council and outdoor advertiser JCDecaux created a successful rental system that is regarded as the showcase to get more people biking.

    In its first year Vélib had 198,913 annual subscribers, 277,193 seven days subscribers and a stunning 3,683,714 one day subscribers. All together they rented the bikes 26 million times and made an average trip of 18 minutes.

    Currently there are 16,000 Vélib’s in circulation while there will be 20,600 bikes by the end of 2008. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of bikers in Paris has increased by 94% while car traffic has dropped 20% since then. Today the bike accounts for 2 to 3% of all traffic in Paris.

    The down site of Vélib’s success is the huge cost as a result of vandalism and spare parts. In the first half year JCDecaux already spent € 20.6 million to keep the bikes on the road.

    At the presentation of annual results over 2007, JCDecaux reported an overall fall in earning, partly caused the high costs of Vélib. Jean François Decaux said that: “The 20 other schemes the company runs are profitable, but the Paris Vélib is having a negative impact on margins even though group revenues were in line.”

    The cost of running 16,000 bikes is higher than expected. On the other hand bike rental schemes have become a competitive tool to win new contracts or renew contracts for outdoor advertisers. The bicycle has become part of the contracts in most European tenders.

    Despite the high financial costs the French are still very active on the market of bike rental systems. JCDecaux expects that a similar scheme in London could provide up to 8,000 bikes in inner-city boroughs such as Westminster and Camden by 2010, although Transport for London has not yet put such a project out to tender. The newly elected London mayor Boris Johnson is actively biking and appears to be even more pro-bike than his well known predecessor Ken Livingston.

    ….and this from a Jan 11 2008 item (obviously pre-recession):
    http://www.bike-eu.com/news/2642/public-bike-systems-turning-into-big-business.html

    News
    Public Bike Systems Turning into Big Business
    MAARSSEN, The Netherlands – Banks and private equity firms are eyeing a growth market for the bike industry: the public bike systems. London, Geneva, Barcelona, Roma, Chicago, Moscow, Washington, Beijing, Sidney are all showing interest in installing such systems.

    Final decisions on implementing rental bikes have recently been made by the cities of San Francisco, Caen and Dijon. As Bike Europe reported on the cover of its December edition; San Francisco has entered into a € 200 million contract with Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. for a bike rental system in the city.

    € 600 million in Advertisement Turnover
    The money involved in such systems is huge. In return for the Paris Vélib system with its 1451 rental stations and 20,600 bikes, JCDecaux obtained the rights to exploit 1,628 billboards in Paris. The company expects to realize € 600 million in advertisement turnover over the course of the 10-year contract. [assuming 60 million euros per year over ten years – pm]

    With such amounts public bike systems are turning into big business and with that attracting attention of banks and other financial institutions. London is said to be planning to roll out a scheme twice the size of Vélib in Paris; if that’s the benchmark for what’s about to happen with other major Capitals, it’s no wonder that even private equity companies are now said to be getting involved.

  • Decaux is now trying to beg off of Velib, citing massive systemwide theft.

  • Further research has uncovered these two articles, one from Montreal’s “The Gazette” late last year, and the other from Toronto’s “Spacing Toronto.” Those of you who are against the big media companies running bike shares would be very much encouraged by these. The Toronto piece has a wonderful historical snapshot of bikeshares, partly reprinted by the Montreal piece.

    The interesting thing is, Clear Channel won round 1 in Paris, before Decaux focused its legal resources and strategy on overturning that on technical and promotional angles. (Later, Decaux would lose out in NYC to Cemusa on technical grounds.) In short, Decaux desperately wanted the Paris program. So understandably, the city of Paris is not taking the claims of pending doom at face value.

    http://communities.canada.com/montrealgazette/blogs/ontwowheels/archive/2008/11/14/behind-bikeshare-mania-clear-channel.aspx

    http://spacing.ca/wire/2008/11/05/bike-share-programs-community-or-commercial/#comment-287396

    If not for Matt’s article, where would the community dialogue be on bikeshares? There’s another National Bike Summit coming up in DC next month

    http://www.bikeleague.org/conferences/summit09/index.php

    …and not a single workshop is devoted to the topic. Last year, even though the opening night festivities of the 08 Summit featured a presentation by David Jones, Jr., Chairman of Humana’s Board of Directors, on its Freewheelin’ bike share program (recall they took it to both conventions), there wasn’t a topic devoted to it either.

    SF activists find themselves in an interesting spot asking for more of Clear Channel’s involvement, if the terms are negotiated successfully, because a little bikeshare is not enough.

  • Peter

    good pickup on those articles, Peter Meitzler — those are informative.

    BikePortland has another couple of posts up on the topic, one where I was happy to continue my tirade against Clear Channel. 🙂

    as far as corporations go, they will act how they are structured to act, but Clear Channel has shown itself to be particularly anti-democratic.

    Montreal’s Bixi program might be better – we’ll see.

    A privately-controlled corporation running SF’s bike-sharing program? It’s outrageous on its face. How did that happen?

    I guess, as those articles pointed out, bike sharing was thought of as only a gimmick – not to be taken seriously. But then JCDucky overpromised in order to win the Paris contract from Clear Channel. That overpromise unintentionally put bike-sharing on the map as a serious transportation option.

    So we should revise ClearChannelRush’s contract with the City (SF) and have the bike-sharing portions stripped from the contract. We’ll open up bike-sharing to a full field of potential contractors. All proposals will submitted for review to the public for scrutiny, and eventually voted on by the Board of Supes.

    None of this will happen if we don’t start talking about how we’re going to do bike sharing, here. That means we need to organize a big meetup. That means we need to lobby The City to revise that damn contract. We’re not going to be first in bike-sharing, so we might as well learn from others, and be creative. But an ill-structured plan – namely, corporate ownership and control of the program – will virtually guarantee that SF’s bike sharing program does not reach its full potential.

    Bidders would be wise to:
    – organize as a non-profit
    – guarantee proportional employment from all geographic areas of the city for all service employees – guaranteeing some level of employment fairness, and keeping vandalism down
    – guarantee open financial books on all revenues, expenses, etc.
    – be creative in proposing incentive structures for service levels and sustainability.

    OK – who wants to do this? C’mon – I know half y’all aren’t working anyways. 😉

    Yeah – not funny, I know.

    P.S. – F**k you, ClearChannelRush.

  • Erica

    I have done quite a bit of bicycling in San Francisco and in Paris.

    There is one major difference: Paris is relatively flat, and SF is incredibly hilly.

    It seems to me that the three-speed bicycles such as the Velib will not cut it in San Francisco.

    I agree with comments above that fifty bicycles is ludicrous. Why are we willing to spend billions on huge highways but a few million for a bicycle project is too much? It’s nuts.

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