Rec and Parks Department Launches Park-to-Park Bike Rental System

Phil Ginsburg and Mayor Lee lead a convoy of Parkwide bicycles. Photo: Aaron Bialick

San Franciscans hungry for the arrival of a public bike-share system next spring can now get an appetizer with the launch of a new park-to-park bike rental concession linking popular recreational destinations throughout the city.

“Parkwide,” a new bike rental company developed in collaboration with the Recreation and Parks Department, today announced the launch of five sites throughout the city where users can pick up and drop off rented bicycles.

“This is the launch of what will eventually blossom into a park-to-park, and maybe someday a street-corner-to-street-corner network of bike rentals,” said SF Recreation and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg.

The service may be most suited to the needs of tourists, but it is expected to provide easy access to bicycle rentals for residents and visitors alike without the need to return the bikes to their original location. Parkwide is not bike-share by any stretch, but the multiple pick-up and drop-off locations lend it a bike-share-esque quality.

Parkwide bikes at the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“You can just drop it off and not worry about it, everything is taken care of,” said Mayor Ed Lee. ”You have today the first semblance of bike sharing in the city.”

“If you have a bicycle in a park, you can easily get across the whole park in one day and even continue on to the next park,” said Parkwide’s Jeanne Orellana. ”You can ride from Golden Gate Park to the Marina Green and still go to the museums.”

Three Parkwide locations opened for business on September 24: Justin “Pee Wee” Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street, the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse (behind the bandshell), and the nearby intersection of John F. Kennedy Drive and Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive on the weekends. Two more locations at the Marina Green and Union Square are expected to open in November and December, respectively.

The program is a collaboration between the Rec and Parks Department and San Francisco bike rental companies Bay City Bike, Blazing Saddles, and Bike and Roll — normally competitors.

Orellana, who also manages Bay City Bike, said the idea was proposed by the Recreation and Parks Department as a way to promote biking in and between the city’s parks.

“It was a big deal, because until then, we were just competitors,” she said. “We said, we’re either going to compete and no one’s going to get it because we’re not going to be happy, or we address it together.”

“We’ve been working so long on it that we’ve all gotten to be really good friends,” Orellana added.

Parkwide’s park-centric locale is its main distinction from the more traditional bike rental companies run by the owners, explained Orellana.

A bike share demo station in Golden Gate Park in 2009. Photo: Bryan Goebel

“In that sector, we’re all focusing on getting people over the Golden Gate Bridge,” she said. “[The goal of] the Parkwide platform is to promote the parks and the San Francisco neighborhoods.”

The Rec and Parks Department is expected to collect over $1 million in revenue over the next five years from the program, said Ginsburg.

In spring 2012, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency expects to launch a public bike-share pilot program featuring 500 bikes at 50 stations throughout the city’s downtown core. The system will also launch in cities along the Caltrain corridor: Mountain View, Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Jose.