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 ##http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/08/03/bixi-bicycle-share-demonstration-in-golden-gate-park/##bike share demo station## in Golden Gate Park in 2009. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/velobry/sets/72157621805030839/##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.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting idea, but $9/hour is kind of pricey for other than one-time tourist use. If you want people to use these for regular transportation, the price has to be competitive with taxis or public transit.

  • A positive development, but let’s be nice to our tourists and give them:

    1. Lights on the front and back of the bike.
    2. A basket to carry their coats/sweaters/bags.
    3. A decent bike map that clearly shows them routes that even a beginning bicyclist could ride safely (so they don’t end up cluelessly riding down 35mph Fulton when lovely, calm GG park is literally at their elbow.)
    4. A city that actually offers safe, easy-to-follow bike routes between major destinations.

    So say we wanted to provide routes safe and easy enough for families and clueless tourists to ride bicycles on. And say we did actually want to connect a basic loop of Ferry Building, Japanese Tea Garden, Marina Green, Union Square and back to the Ferry Building (with the huge benefit that someone could drop off their bike at any of these points if they were so inclined.)

    If I were to send unsuspecting tourists to these spots, beginning with the Ferry Building, I would have them first head up Market Street which at least it has improved to the point it’s no longer terrifying but still fails the clueless tourist/child-friendly test. At the Safeway, I think most tourists would be confused about how to veer off behind the store to get to the Wiggle, and then they would have trouble staying on the Wiggle once they found it. Then they must confront the Three Blocks of Terror on Fell between Scott and Baker, which I gulp whenever I subject my children to it. The Panhandle is lovely, but getting across Stanyan into the park can be dicey and confusing. 

    Once in the park one hopes they could find the Academy of Sciences, the De Young and the Tea Garden. Next stop, Marina Green. I would route them down 8th to Lake and then to Arguello, up the hill, into the Presidio and down the big hill even though there is no bike lane and it makes the cars absolutely crazy to deal with slow bikes on that winding road. (Shame on the Presidio for not providing safe bikeways from either the Presidio or Arguello gates. I have written them about it, and they absolutely expect cars and bicyclists of all abilities to just duke it out down those hills.) Down all the way to Crissy Field (where there are excellent bike lanes) and on to the Marina Green. Bike ways on the Marina Green stretch are not as good as Crissy Field, but at least you can generally manage to stay out of traffic. 

    Marina Green to Union Street? I’m less familiar with this stretch.  The last time I did it I remember pushing my bike up the hill next to Fort Mason and then being confused how to get through the Aquatic Park area.  And then how to route them–North Point to Polk to Post? Polk isn’t too bad, but would it be cruel to send a tourist down Post to Union Square on a bike? Obviously from Fort Mason directly to the Ferry Building, North Point to the Embarcadero is the way to go, but even this route is not yet really safe enough for children.

    San Francisco could be for bicycle tourism, but right now I could not in good conscience send my out of town guests off to bicycle around this city by themselves.

  • Mike F

    Looks pretty pricey. 

    I’m also disappointed to see that the San
    Francisco’s official bike share program is run by a private company
    located in Marin.

  • pretty cool.

  • Aaron Bialick

    Apologies if it’s misleading, but this is not the city’s bike share program. Bike share will launch, completely separately, in spring of next year. Indeed, a private contractor will install, operate, and manage the system, but I don’t think that’s unusual.

  • Kevin

    It’s sad to see the continual privatization of the SF park system. If this continues we might be charged an entrance fee just to get in.

  • EL

    I agree.  At $9/hour, wasn’t the ill-fated Muni “Culture Bus” cheaper?

  • EL

    I agree.  At $9/hour, wasn’t the ill-fated Muni “Culture Bus” cheaper?

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