Shifting Direction, SFMTA Brings Bay Area Bike Share to New Neighborhoods

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Image: SFMTA/Bay Area Bike Share, photo by Frank Chan

The next 15 Bay Area Bike Share stations to be rolled out in San Francisco won’t fill in the system’s existing downtown footprint as originally planned — instead, planners have decided it’s time to bring the system out to neighborhoods like the Mission, the Castro, Hayes Valley, and Mission Bay sooner than expected.

Although the existing 35 stations were rolled out primarily in SoMa and the Financial District with the thinking that a bike-share system has to be dense enough to be usable, SFMTA bike-share program manager Heath Maddox said the agency has seen high demand for an expansion to other neighborhoods from many San Franciscans who say the limited range of the system renders it unusable. Since then, the SFMTA has since re-considered its approach.

“We got a lot of feedback from people saying, gosh, if [bike-share] went to the Mission, I’d be on it like that,” said Maddox, snapping his fingers. “It’s not quite the original density we’d originally planned on, but I think that’s okay. The use will be higher, and the Mission and Upper Market are more pleasant places to ride than much of SoMa.”

With initial data on the five-city system showing an underwhelming amount usage compared to bike-share launches elsewhere in the U.S., the expanded range should make the system attractive to more residents. “We want people to love it,” said Maddox.

The SFMTA held an open house meeting yesterday to field input on the specific locations for SF’s next 15 stations and 150 bikes, which were originally planned to be installed an initial 50-station roll-out, but were postponed after the Bay Area Air Quality Management District found it would need to secure more funding.

SF will receive the next wave of bike stations along with four other cities down the Peninsula early next year, altogether expanding the existing Bay Area Bike Share system from 70 stations and 700 bikes to 100 stations and 1,000 bikes.

Bike-share proponents calling for the rapid expansion of the system have urged the BAAQMD to find a corporate sponsor to underwrite it, but progress towards that end seems sluggish. The agency yesterday released a request for proposals to hire a consultant to evaluate the value of the bike-share system, according to Maddox, which is a step towards seeking a sponsor. “The first step is to find out how much it’s worth,” he said.