Clear Channel Drops SF Bike Share, Mayor Newsom Pledges Larger Pilot

At a press conference this afternoon to celebrate the city’s first new bike lane in three years, Mayor Gavin Newsom and MTA Chief Nat Ford learned that Clear Channel had backed out of its option to implement a public-use bike share program in San Francisco. Ironically, just as Mayor Newsom was answering a question from Streetsblog about the future of bike share in San Francisco, Ford approached him with the news, which he had just found out about.

velib_shot1_small.jpgPhoto: HeyNix

Newsom raised his voice as Ford approached, saying, "I want to do the Velib program here in
San Francisco. Nat Ford
said, and he knows this, he will not be here if he does not get that
bike sharing program done."

When Newsom learned that Clear Channel had walked away from the advertising contract option for bike share, he said he was "furious about it." 

"You can express publicly my disappointment with Clear Channel,
C-H-A-N-N-E-L, who we’ve been working with, for not following through
with the commitments they’ve made," said Newsom.

With Clear Channel out of the picture, the MTA will release an RFP for new proposals, one Ford indicated they had already prepared for precisely this scenario. "We are free to scour the world now," said Ford.

Mayor Newsom also revealed that his "internal goal" for the bike share pilot was 2700 bikes across the city, not the previously reported 50. He said that between his office and the MTA, there were two people working full-time on the pilot. Ford would not guess on a timeline for releasing the RFP, but said it would be soon.

"Candidly we should be further along," said Newsom. "The injunction was a partial issue, we never could have
implemented it anyway."

"I’m not
going to leave this office without getting something substantive done," he said.

  • This is fantastic news for San Francisco. Clear Channel USA has no interest in bike share and only had the San Francisco and DC contract because they threw it in there to sweeten the deal and beat CEMUSA and JCDecaux.

    Getting a dedicated bike share provider is much much better

  • What… the… heck…

    How can he get so furious over this but does not seem to give a rat’s ass about MUNI service cuts. Even the pittance that will be spent putting out a RFP is money we could use for existing MUNI. Now is not the time for pie in the sky initiatives.

  • John Murphy, bike share in many cities act as an extension of mass transit services. Instead of riding two buses and waiting for transfers, a bike might get you to your location faster.

  • I’m totally behind the idea of a bike-sharing system, but I’m also extremely skeptical of its being viable in San Francisco. The original Paris Velib program reportedly* needed to replace 80% of its comparatively enormous 20,000-bike fleet due to vandalism and theft.

    San Francisco isn’t exactly swimming in cash, and if enough bikes are taken out of commission that they become difficult to find, the whole program will become useless, since it’s predicated on the idea of ubiquitous bikes everywhere. And while we may be short on cash, bike thieves is one natural resource that we’ve got in abundance.

    * cf

  • Whir, San Francisco is not Paris. There are no monthly riots. Burning cars are not an average sight. Culture plays a huge difference. ALSO, all those news reports of theft and such were simply a product of the JCDecaux PR machine. Their contract renewal was coming up, and they wanted more revenue. It worked.

    Also, if structured like montreal or boston, the city wouldnt pay a dime. These things are run by private companies.

  • Well, fair point, and thanks for the pointer to Montreal’s Bixi program, which looks pretty interesting. In fact I did find a newspaper article in which a Bixi spokesperson claims they have not seen the problems that Paris has. From what I’ve been able to tell, that looks like a public program, though, not a private one.

  • Susan King

    There was an update on the Clear Channel bike share proposal presented at a Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting earlier this year. Many found the proposal to cluster ALL of the bike share pods downtown and in the Fisherman’s Wharf area a little disappointing. Like the Clear Channel funded bus shelters and public toilets, these would be installed in locations that Clear Channel wanted with the aim of generating greater ad sales opportunities, NOT accounting for where they are most needed or wanted.

    This is actually good news to know we can find a vendor who is invested in creating better transportation solutions through bike sharing, and one who will consider user needs over advertising client’s marketing benefits.

    By the way, BAC meets tonight (Thurs, 12/3), City Hall, room 416 (Date and room changed due to Thursday holidays in Nov and Dec).

  • whir, Bixi is owned by the montreal parking authority, but they operate as a private business. I submitted an RFP to Boston for bike share, the city was actually looking to make money off a bike share program, not subsidize it. I;m sure san francisco will be similar.

  • this is excellent news! goodbye, Clear Channel!

    i hope we can put together a local consortium to run the program — maybe Bike and Roll and others, who can do local hiring, be guaranteed some decent, but not exorbitant profit, who have experience with bikes taking a beating, who are local (with all the advantages that brings), who can guarantee work to poorer communities (because we San Franciscans will demand it), etc.

  • How will this lovely idea be funded, now that progressives pushed through a measure blocking advertising on city property? My understanding is that tomorrow we’re going to have a lot of cuts to service (sold to us as “improvements” by Mayor Football Bat and Muni boss Ford), so I’m curious as to how this is going to be paid for…I know bikes are God’s One True Way of getting around, and people here sure like ’em, but I also see a lot of vandalism and theft, and I’m wondering how we get around that so this actually helps out.

  • Joel Pomerantz

    I’m suffering from the very last part of the article:

    “I’m not going to leave this office without getting something substantive done,” he said.

    Does this mean Gav is going to refuse to step down when his term ends!?

  • Joel, oh no! We are going to be stuck with him for eternity!

  • Joel, it was pretty funny, because several of the reporters present made reference to Bloomberg and said there was no guarantee Gavin wouldn’t stay. To which he chuckled and said he was definitely not going to stay longer.

  • Greg, bike share programs are funded one of three ways:

    – Direct subsidy by the transit authority or city (such as Barcelona)
    – Advertising (such as Velib in paris)
    – User fees (such as Bixi in Montreal).

    San Francisco will probably mean the third. The downside is youll probably pay 50% more to use the service (90$ instead of $40 per year)

  • jass, now that Clear Channel backed out, does that mean we can’t do a mix of #2 & #3? I’d think that we should find some advertiser willing to put their name on there without the help of Clear Channel.

  • Mike, that really depends on what outdoor advertising laws exist in SF and if the clear channel contract has a non compete clause. I am very familiar with the ins and outs of bike share, but not well versed on the Sf situation, as each city is unique.

    Ads could be placed at stations, away from stations, or on the bikes themselves. What is possible in SF depends on local ordinance, existing contracts and laws governing advertisements on vehicles.

  • Hi there. I’d say it’s indeed a very good news for SF.

    I agree that whereas bikes haring wouldn’t be where it stands now without Decaux and ClearChannel, advertisement has nothing to do with bikes and is more of a pollution than a solution.

    Therefore linking it to a global answer to transportation (solution #1) makes much more sense (just look at the price of a bus!). It’s done in cities like Berlin and Munich in Germany, or Avignon and Montpellier in France, a mass transportation company, like the Deutsch Bahn for callABike or the local city transportation company, deals with the bike sharing system, coupled with buses and trolleys: hop out of a bus and take a bike then a trolley with the same pass. Very convenient.

    But I guess solutions #2 and #3 are possible as well: make money out of it, whether through ads or directly from the customer. #2 means, whether Decaux replaces ClearChannel or bundling together another ad company and a bike sharing solution.

    The solution I am talking about in Berlin or Avignon are different from Decaux/ClearChannel as well because the bike stands themselves are passive or inexistent; in Avignon it needs just a few bolts and screws in concrete, no electrical network, the bike itself is doing the talking with the customer and locks itself up. That means you can have very large stations, or even no stations at all, just bike stands here and there.

    I have seen one or 2 bikes thrashed on bicycle stands during the Avignon theater festival but still secured to it and none littering the streets like Velib’s in Paris. And of course none in the very civilized Berlin. One of the reasons is that, unlike all other solutions I know, they can not be used when not properly unlocked, because the wheel (CallABike) or direction (Smoove) is jammed with the lock, while for bixi or velib or Spanish bicing, if a hooligan succeeds in freeing the bike from its lock (just break it free), it is still in pretty good shape. And I am not sure, as Susan King is suggesting that vandalism is not much, I have the feeling that it is taxing them heavily.

    I don’t know which solution is going to be put forward in SF, if any, but it certainly opens up the debate to have ClearChannel out of the game. I wish you guys good luck from France.

  • Anonymous

    Yes! 6 years later and we now have a 300 bike pilot! So glad this fell through.

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