Bay Area Bike Share Off to Underwhelming Start, Early Usage Data Shows

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Some of the first usage data is in from Bay Area Bike Share. The data is rough, but the number of trips in the first 12 days is underwhelming compared to bike-share launches in New York or Washington, DC.

The Bay Area Quality Management District is still working on getting a real-time data platform set up, but it “will likely not be available in the short term,” said agency spokesperson Ralph Borrmann.

Here are the data points they provided from August 28 (launch day) to September 8:

  • 1790 = Total Registered Annual Members
  • 2128 = Total Casual (1 and 3 day) Members
  • 7691 = Total Trips Taken (system wide)

Divided by the 12 days in the data set, this works out to about 0.92 trips per bike per day. It doesn’t quite stack up to NYC’s Citi Bike, which hit 1.24 trips in the first two days, or DC’s Capital Bikeshare, which had 1.05 trips in its first 10 days. Of course, it’s still very early, and these usage numbers will change. On peak days, Citi Bike now hits seven trips per bike and on routine days averages between five and six trips per bike.

BABS’ results aren’t surprising, either, since bike-share proponents have warned that the small initial size of the system will limit its usefulness.

Even with the relatively low level of usage, there have still been anecdotal reports of stations reaching capacity, suggesting the system may have trouble maintaining balance. SF Weekly featured an interview with Mike Sonn last week (many of our readers may know him from the comments section), who uses BABS to commute from North Beach to Redwood City via Caltrain. Sonn said he’s arrived at a full dock at the 4th and King Station, forcing him to find another dock with a free space and walk back.

Major rail hubs in New York and London have been the hardest places for bike-share managers to maintain balanced stations with both bikes and docks available. Borrmann told SF weekly they’re “still learning the movement patterns for the bikes.”

  • PlanStudent

    I wonder if it would be more popular in other locations in sf that connects local people in outlying neighborhoods like Protrero Hill or the sunset to transportation or the city center vs. tourist areas.

  • mikesonn

    I haven’t had an issue since that first day. My wife loves it and just became a yearly member as well.

    As for usage, it really close to DC (.95:1.02), but really this is an issue of rollout size. Mission, Hayes Valley, Upper/Lower Haight, etc. Not to mention the tiny rollouts in RWC & PA that are also more than likely significantly dropping those usage numbers.

  • The anti-bikeshare hysteria that surrounded the Citibike launch was great publicity that ensured everyone in New York was aware of the system and ready to try it out. And the New York system is incredibly dense and covers a sizable area (although by no means a sizable percentage of New York.) BABS needs to expand to the Mission and more of SOMA as soon as possible.

    I signed up for a yearly membership, and as many Streetsblog commenters did, I tried out the system the first week it was open. I like the bikes–they are in many ways nicer than my personal bike. (Internal gear hub! Disc brakes! Built in lights!) But I had to take Muni to Van Ness and Market in order to use BABS, which took $4 and 40 minutes of my time (getting there and back home at the end.) The system won’t be useful to me and I probably won’t use it much until there is a dock no further than a half mile walk from my house. Then I could see using it to get downtown or to the MIssion to avoid my bike getting vandalized while parked in those locations.

    But the real potential demand isn’t from people who already own and ride bikes. The real potential demand 1) from people coming into the city on BART/Caltrain who can take BABS the last mile to their destination, 2) people taking Muni underground to downtown who can take BABS the last mile, 3) people in SOMA, the MIssion and MIssion Bay who don’t own bikes and who may have nowhere to store a bike safely who can try out bikes as a way to get around. I think given the paucity of docking stations, the usage data isn’t all that bad.

  • Adrienne Johnson

    I would use it frequently if I could get one in Glen Park and leave it Downtown so that I do not have to risk losing my own bike parking it at 4th and Mission when I take night classes at CCSF or go to the movies. The fact that it does not extend into the Mission is just silly and prevents all kinds of people from finding the program useful.

  • Gilbert Osmond

    Yep, the system is too small. Stations needed in all flat neighborhoods in SF, from SFSU/Ingleside to the Marina to the Mission to Hayes Valley to Haight & more. And, make “long-hauler” memberships available with a 1-hour time limit so people can ride from the Sunset to downtown without rushing.

  • DJ

    Blame BAAQMD for limiting the size and visibility of the launch and diluting it across multiple cities. Remove the bureaucratic handcuffs, get serious about a private sector sponsor, and let Alta do their thing so we can have a real launch.

  • Moon

    I’m using the bikes twice a day 5 days a week and loving it! Lots of people I talk to are interested but hadn’t heard about it. I don’t think there is enough publicity.

  • Andy Chow

    If you want to blame San Jose and other cities, we have to remember that the other cities/counties provided matching funds that otherwise won’t be available to a San Francisco only program. We could easily have gone in the direction where each city/county having separate and incompatible systems. I don’t think that there’s any other bike sharing program to have such a broad geographic reach as this one.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the system is too limited. Even in the cities that support it, most of the city areas are off limits due to too few bike share stations and the 30 minute time limit. I really want to use bike share, but the sparse stations make it really really difficult. I’m guessing that the vast majority of current users have a station within a block of their home or work and anyone living or working outside of the downtown area is really out of luck. You’re not going to be able to increase the usage much without adding more stations in more areas.

  • Mark Dreger

    Of course the system should expand as soon as possible so more people can reach more places – as the system gets larger, its usefulness becomes exponentially greater. But even given its small size and that it’s only been a couple weeks, I think the program is off to a great start. The stats are really not much lower than much larger and more established systems. Already, downtown SF’s public transport options (BART, Caltrain, Muni, and transbay buses) are better connected. I’ve been using BABS to reach the Transbay Terminal a few times each week – the less time in the tunnel the better!

  • Anonymous

    I blame San Jose and other cities for not getting their shite together and working with the Googles and Facebooks and Stanfords of the world to have stations at those campuses.

    Relying on Alta of BAAQMD to get that lift done is lazy. I blame the Liccardos and Guardinos of the world with their posturing.

  • Name

    The difference between the Bay and NYC/DC seems negligible. Underwhelming seems to be an overstatement. Instead, maybe the article should say, “Bay Area Bike Share’s first two weeks of use is near that of NYC and DC.” We don’t need to give skeptics any more fuel. Also, it’s way too earlier to for analysis. Data a few months from now will give a much better picture of how the system is being used.

  • Name

    I use Bike Share in San Jose multiple times throughout the day, nearly every day since it launched. It’s awesome!

  • Name

    None of the companies you mentioned nor Stanford are anywhere close to San Jose. Also, San Jose had its “shit together” long before the other cities did, which is why the first stations to be installed were in San Jose. When BAAQMD or Alta eventually releases data, I believe the results will show San Jose’s portion of this as a success.

  • Bike Guy

    We’re all in this together. That’s why its ‘bay area bike share,’ not SF and friends. Stop the hate.

  • DJ

    The more that want bike share, the better. But a regional agency working on a fixed modest budget not going to get us the aggressive rollout needed to make this thing successful. Bike share works best as a public private partnership–there’s no way to get the level of service and coverage needed without maximizing sponsorship opportunities. I don’t doubt that one day we’ll get there, but it’s going to take us an extra 10 years at the program’s current pace.

  • Anonymous

    “and other cities”. I will admit that San Jose is sort of a black hole of sprawl to me. I did once try to ride from Diridon to somewhere else and crawled back to the train station in fear for my life due to the poor conditions surrounding the station

  • Mike

    I’ve used it tons since it launched. I’ll use it more once it expands out of downtown. And so will everyone else.

    Let’s not (under) count our eggs until they’ve hatched…

  • Hrishi

    When are we getting it in Fremont and other cities?

  • Anonymous

    In a few months, the rainy season starts. Guess what the numbers will look like then! These ought to be made more tourist/visitor friendly like the ones in France. It is free if you return it within 20 or thirty minutes (at least that is how it worked 2 years ago), and you don’t have to be a member, just use your credit card as a deposit.

  • Anonymous

    There is a huge difference between Potrero Hill and the Sunset, both in terms of proximity, density, and geography.

  • If your trip will (eventually) be more than an hour by BABS, then you can dock your bike at an intermediate station, wait a few seconds, then check it out again. That will reset the timer.

  • Tell your local congestion management agency or city council to find the money or a sponsor. Marin’s CMA, TAM, is studying whether bike share would work for that county on their own dime. Fremont could do the same.

  • Pv

    I use it a lot. Its great. Lets find a way to get more stations and get the caltrain station balanced.

  • Anonymous

    “rainy season,” we should be so lucky

  • mikesonn

    “Poor conditions”? But ALL that parking!

  • Anonymous

    I hope we have a rainy season. Last year we basically had one flood followed by a drought

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Hrmm, this data surprises me. I took 5 trips on 9/9, and the trip # shown in my statement ranged from 15329 in the morning to 15678 in the afternoon. That’s 350 in the space of 7 hours and of course almost 16k total.

  • Jamison Wieser

    For changes to traffic flow it takes about three weeks for car drivers to try different routes as they adjust and settle into a new routine.

    We’re only two weeks into a completely new transportation option that not even all its members, like me, have even had a chance to try out.

  • Anonymous

    The big problem is that it’s only useful for going to work, and only if you live or arrive in SF around the downtown corridor. Wanna grab a drink in the Mission, or dinner in Hayes Valley, or go shopping in the Haight? Too bad so sad. They need more stands in areas that actual San Franciscans actually go.

  • Anonymous

    I would consider enroll when the network expands beyond downtown.

    With current car share model, when you reserve a car for a few hour, travel and park at your destination, then come back. In contrast, the bike share model are for one way trip under 1/2 hour and you generally are expect to drop off the bike at destinated racks. So your destinations are largely limited by sites of racks. Think of them as stations. Small number of stations mean limited usefulness.

  • mikesonn

    I’m not an “actual San Franciscan”? *sad face*

  • Anonymous

    If you never go to the Mission, Hayes Valley, or Haight, you’re either not an “actual San Franciscan,” or you’re one with real responsibilities, like kids. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Aren’t the Mission, Hayes Valley, and Haight ground 0 for outsiders and gentrification?

  • PepeSF

    I would absolutely use this if there were bikes on the “home” end of my commute. There are plenty by my office near the ballpark, but nothing in Mission/Castro.

  • Upright Biker

    Because I spent so much of my Streetsblog political capital in a failed attempt to have them choose International Orange over Celeste, I’m going to use this opportunity to blame any ridership deficit on the color choice.


  • Jamison Wieser

    You’ve got a good point about awareness. Those of us who read and comment here knew it was coming, but how many bay area residents only learned about it when the bikes showed up?

    I cannot find a news or press release for the first two week usage data and I’m interested in how many of those sign ups were before and after it launched?

    Without more details, it looks like Aaron just divided the ridership data evenly over 12 days, but has it been usage been accelerating? Was day 12 ridership up from day 2?

  • Anonymous

    Why are those neighborhoods any more real than the Marina, Russian Hill, North Beach, the Richmond?

  • Anonymous

    Obviously my attempt to be facetious is falling flat. Dear Easily Offended San Franciscans: I consider your neighborhood as real as every other neighborhood.

  • mikesonn

    *happy face*

  • mikesonn

    I still get odd looks all around Redwood City and usually have a conversation about BABS at checkout and check in. I don’t mind, the more folks know the better.

    I did find that my BABS forcefield wore off yesterday in SF, drivers are back to treating me like scum.

  • I’ve been trying to drum up interest in BABS by telling my friends and co-workers about it. Seems like very few of them knew much about it, or even knew that it was already available.

    Clearly, more marketing is needed in addition to more bikes.

  • I’ve been trying to drum up interest in BABS by telling my friends and co-workers about it. Seems like very few of them knew much about it, or even knew that it was already available.

    Clearly, more marketing is needed in addition to more bikes.

  • I’ve been trying to drum up interest in BABS by telling my friends and co-workers about it. Seems like very few of them knew much about it, or even knew that it was already available.

    Clearly, more marketing is needed in addition to more bikes.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a lot better now in San Jose. The secret to getting out of Diridon comfortably is San Fernando to go downtown or cutting behind the SAP arena to the Guadalupe Trail to go to airport/North San Jose.

  • nadia

    Totally untrue that people who already own bikes won’t generate real demand for BABS. MikeSonn is a great example of such a person. I own multiple bikes and ride nearly daily and I would *love* to be able to hop onto a bike share to ride to local destinations, such as going out to eat or going shopping. I do this very rarely now by bike because of the lack of secure bike parking in SF.

  • Anonymous

    I signed up for BABS and should be an ideal rider. There’s a station right outside my BART stop and 1 block away from where I work in SOMA. I like the bikes and rode them a couple of times. The trouble for me is that I’m too intimidated to bike in SOMA. The streets feel like freeways, drivers are rude, and there are too few other cyclists around to make for a critical mass of safety. I would probably use the bikes everyday if conditions were a bit better.

  • Luke

    I agree. It would actually really surprise me if San Jose’s component of the system, however small, wasn’t a success. There’s another issue, easy to overlook, which is that bicycling conditions between downtown Mountain View and the shoreline area are downright awful. Taking a heavy, not-super-maneuverable bike down Shoreline or Moffett Blvd, getting across Central Expressway and 101? Not fun, and surprisingly distant, especially if you’re not an experienced cyclist. Hence, focusing stations closer to downtown. PA/Stanford does seem like more of a missed opportunity.

  • Anonymous


    There is a fully grade separated path from downtown Mountain View to Shoreline, and another one that goes from just the other side of Central (which is not any more horrible to cross at Castro than all number of intersections in the area).

  • Anonymous

    Clearly San Francisco needs it’s own Dorothy Rabinowitz to go off on Bike Share on the TV news. I nominate Willie Brown.