Sausalito remains a free city today, at least when it comes to parking for tourist rental bikes. Instead of adding fees for tourist bike parking, the city will add racks to accommodate 300 more bikes for the expected crush of two-wheeled summer tourists.
The public outcry that followed published reports on Streetsblog and in other news outlets that some on the city council were pondering a parking fee on rental bikes prompted Mayor Jonathan Leone to announce to a crowd at the council meeting April 6 that "bike fees… are not on the agenda. They have not even gone before a committee of the council."
This picturesque city north of the Golden Gate Bridge has been jammed each summer season by a growing number of tourists who rent bicycles in San Francisco, ride across the bridge to shop and eat, then return to San Francisco by ferry. The numbers are estimated to run as high as 2,500 a day during the peak season, causing lines at the ferries, riding on sidewalks and clogging areas with bikes leaned against meters or left in parks while visitors meander the shops and restaurants.
"Bike rentals doubled a few years ago and caught us unaware and that was the year we hit a 10-year high in bike accidents,” said city Police Chief Scott Paulin. The city has responded by increasing bike parking for the tourists – many of the racks donated by private bike rental companies – and adding controversial directional signs.
Instead of adding fees, the 2010 bike parking plan calls for 400 bike parking spots, up from the current 105, which will require the removal five auto parking spaces near the ferry dock. The city will also reconfigure bike racks to move them away from the pedestrian promenade at the water’s edge.
The plan is temporary and could be changed if it isn’t working, Chief Paulin said. The added racks and traffic reconfiguration will cost the city about $8,000 and will be completed by May.
"If we are adding enough racks for 300 more bikes, can we reduce racks in other areas?" asked Linda Pfeifer, a councilwoman who expressed concerns about encouraging more bike parking downtown.
"Where are we going with this,” she asked of parking numbers. "We had 50 one year, then 100 and now 400. Where is this going, to 1,000?"
Councilman Mike Kelly argued that the additional parking, "is a great interim step. This is a really good thing. People are getting out of their cars and riding bikes. We’ve got to remind them that in Sausalito we are not decrying that but welcoming it."
And if the numbers of peddling tourists continue to clog the streets, can the bike rental companies be encouraged to bring trucks to pick up the bikes and drive them back to San Francisco, asked Councilwoman Carolyn Ford.
Jeff Sears, owner of Blazing Saddles bike rentals said that the trucks wouldn’t be "the greenest thing to do.," but he said the companies are considering a service to truck bikes back to San Francisco.
Herb Weiner, a councilman who supports the increased bike racks, said the Golden Gate Ferry will add one more evening ferry April 7 between Sausalito and San Francisco to handle the growing crowds of bike riders waiting to head back by boat.
In the end, the increased number of racks prompted Ford and Pfeifer, who oppose bike parking in a nearby plaza, to ask that existing racks be removed from the Bank of America plaza, offsetting some of the additions near the ferry dock. But the effort failed on a 3-2 vote.
Outside the meeting, Yoshi Tome, owner of Sushi Ran, shook his head over Ford and Pfeifer’s votes. "They just don’t get it. This is a new era," he said. "Bikes are the way to go. More and more people want to ride."