Bike-Share Plans Irk Oakland Disabilities Commissioners

The Oakland Mayor's Commission on Persons with Disabilities is pretty dissatisfied with Bay  Area Bike Share plans that don't include provisions for adaptive bikes. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The Oakland Mayor's Commission on Persons with Disabilities is pretty dissatisfied with Bay Area Bike Share plans that don't include provisions for adaptive bikes. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Members of Oakland’s “Mayor’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities” (MCPD) are miffed at Motivate and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) for planning Bay Area Bike Share without including bikes for disabled users. “I hate to quote Cool Hand Luke but what we have got here is a failure to communicate,” complained Frank Sperling, Chair of the MCPD, to bike-share representatives last night at Oakland City Hall. “Someone chose to exclude people with disabilities.”

Aaron Zisser, another commissioner and an attorney, argued that Bay Area Bike Share can’t legally launch without bikes for the disabled.  “Disability rights advocates in Berkeley sued Uber, Lyft, and the NY taxi cabs, all successfully–strong legal advocacy is a compelling feature of this community,” he said. He added that he would be “shocked if there was a rollout without getting adaptive bikes.”

Several commissioners cited Title II, the Nondiscrimination Mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which they said could be applied to bike-share. Title II says: “No qualified individual with a disability shall be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, program, or activities of a public entity.”

As Streetsblog readers are surely aware, the Bay Area Bike Share system, which currently has some 700 bikes in San Francisco and San Jose, is poised to start a ten-fold expansion across the entire Bay Area, including Oakland. “The city of Oakland will get approximately 70 stations with 850 bikes,” explained Carlos Hernandez, Bike Share Coordinator for the city, in a presentation to the MCPD. “Berkeley and Emeryville will be part of it too, so it’s a pretty robust bike-share system for the East Bay.”

Sperling explained that Sarah Garner, another of the MCPD commissioners, first asked how Oakland can include the disabled in bike-share a few months ago. Per her request, Hernandez studied the question, and at last night’s meeting he cited Zagster, a bike-share company with offices in San Francisco. It operates share bike systems for universities, corporations, hotels, and a couple of small municipalities. They offer hand-cranked bicycles, adult tricycles, and a few other forms of adaptive bikes for people who cannot use their legs or lack the balance to use a standard bicycle.

A "hand cycle" provided by Zagster. Photo: Zagster's web page
A “hand cycle” provided by Zagster. Photo: Zagster’s web page

In addition, Portland, OR., explained Hernandez, provides adaptive bikes to bike-share users via local bike shops, rather than the normal bike-share racks. The commissioners asked Hernandez to research more options for Motivate to provide adaptive bikes to the disabled in Oakland.

Daryl Meshack, a member of the audience, spoke about his own use of a hand-cranked, adaptive bike (Meshack lost the use of his legs in a vehicle crash while in the army). “Mine comes from the VA. I own it,” he said of his bike. “People ask me if it’s something with the city because they want to be a part of it.” He stressed that an adaptive-recumbent bike needs to have lights up high to remain visible to motorists.

Daryl Meshack uses a hand-crank bike and he wants them to be part of Bay Area Bikeshare. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Daryl Meshack uses a hand-crank bike and he wants them to be part of Bay Area Bike Share. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Motivate and Oakland, meanwhile, are working on a pilot project, including outreach meetings, to figure out the best way to provide adaptive bikes. “We are excited about exploring a pilot that is responsive to the needs of the disabled and older community,” said Emily Stapleton, manager of Bay Area Bike Share, to the MCPD. But several of the commissioners still expressed disbelief that this issue wasn’t dealt with sooner. “I am really surprised among the eight agencies involved, nobody said ‘let’s put the brakes on this,'” said Zisser.

Jeff Tumlin, Oakland’s interim director of transportation, mentioned that his mother was disabled, and that “Social equity is paramount and we pay attention to people who have suffered historic disparities.”

“This is a complicated topic and many other cities are struggling with it, since there is no single, universal adaptive bike that is accessible to the full array of disabilities,” added Tumlin. He asked the commissioners for patience while MTC, Motivate, and Oakland figure out solutions that are best suited to Oakland and the Bay Area.

But the commissioners remained perturbed that Bay Area Bike Share is only now trying to figure this out. “I don’t know who messed up, but… somebody messed up,” said Sperling. “What’s done is done… But persons with disabilities need to have a loud voice in the solution.”

The commissioners agreed to revisit the issue in two months.




  • Flatlander

    Civilized countries provide for the disabled without that necessarily meaning that they have access to every single good or service that able-bodied people have.

  • SF_Abe

    Got any specifics for us?

    I’d love to know how they do it, given that I’ve never been to a country with better access than the U.S.

  • bobfuss

    No country does that, unless you know of a nation where stairs don’t exist, only elevators.

  • DrunkEngineer

    For many disabled persons, the ordinary bicycle is already considered a mobility device, I’ve encountered many bicyclists (and e-bicyclists) who would bike because they had pain and difficulty with walking long distances. As such, I would think the disabled community would welcome bike-share, because of the increased access it offers to many persons with mobility issues.

  • murphstahoe

    There isn’t really very good wheelchair access to Half-Dome, which is a public park and national treasure.

  • murphstahoe

    It’s an interesting issue, but I view the City as being in the transportation business, not the bike share business. The requirement shouldn’t be that every mode of transport be accessible to everyone, it should be that any person can get reasonable accommodation of transportation that they need.

    So perhaps a disabled person may not be able to access bike share, but could access public transit, including paratransit.

    One would think that the argument advanced here wouldn’t extend to say, the blind, but they deserve access to transportation.

    If bike share were being introuduced at the expense of being able to provide public mass transit and paratransit, that would be more of an issue.

    I don’t dismiss the concerns, but bike share for the disabled doesn’t scale and introduces costs into the system that could result in the failure of this piece of the overall transportation puzzle, which serves no one, and that can have the largest impact on the marginalized.

  • A lawsuit over this issue has been hanging just over the horizon for many years – at least five years ago I chatted about it with a attorney from the USDOT — off the record. The key issue is reasonable accommodation and as we can see ridehailing and similar companies have not prevailed in being discriminatory!

    I totally reject what murphstahoe says about reasonable accommodation via adaptive bikes being a possible reason for failure. It’s something Trump would say, right?

    OK, MTC has continuously screwed up bike share for the Bay Area since things got started seven years ago, with no pre-tender imagining process, absurd non-recognition of the quite varied needs of bike share users in the area regarding topography and journey distance, ordering an off-the-shelf design which WAS established then – okay – but is a dinosaur now, so much so that Palo Alto is using the next generation SoBi bikes within Ford GoBike and San Mateo has completely opted out. To add, bike share bike that cannot carry a single standard shopping bag – the SoBi can but the Bixi-type cannot – is ridiculous.

    Then while MTC and their municipal partners apparently had the ability to expand without a corporate sponsor, Ford was allowed to step in and re-brand the Commons: Turning a people’s bike into not only a unique advertising tool for one of the most destructive companies in history, but worse than that, the CEO of Ford says what they’re most interested is collecting data to facilitate the expansion and optimization of its lying, pilfering, fake last mile Chariot service, acquired around the same time as BABS.

    So now, just like in NYC with Citicorp & Chicago and Philadelphia among many others with Blue Cross Blue Shield, bike share users are digging their own graves:

    Citicorp branding of the bike sharing system in NYC which followed neatly after its government bailout helps create more displacement due to its real estate activities – also using bike share as an amenity – than the bike share mitgates by decreasing transport costs.

    The intention of Blue Cross-Blue Shield(-affiliates) bikeshare branding is improving their image for normal advertising reasons but as part of that to help reduce support of a single-payer or more holistic state- or country-wide health care programs, which would not benefit them. They’re bikewashing for-profit medicine, just like Citicorp in NYC is bikewashing displacement.

    And then here we have Ford, supposedly starting some kind of 2.0 mobility thing, but we already know what the CEO thinks. The MTC has allowed the entry of a corporate sponsor that promotes a vehicle that can be used by people 16 and up using a vehicle that cannot be used until the 18th year — 18 is the min. age for use Ford GoBike. Hardly anyone seemed to notice this, and apparently not the dinosaur bike problem either as I’d be surprised if anyone asked Ford to up-generation the bike fleet, given how they – leaders of all the progressive mobility organizations in the Bay Area – fell over themselves in praising Ford when its coup was announced.

    Ford could EASILY not only update the type of fully-abled bikes used in the system but supply a lot of adaptive ones, too. But they’ve apparently not been asked, nor offered anything. If they were asked to support both or either and refused, or are cynically waiting to appear to be the savior when someone is short of funds, they are worthy of nothing but being the target of righteous prejudice.

  • I am sure we get a grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center to go inside your head and see what makes you say things that.

  • Frank Kotter

    From my experience the USA is far and away the leader in building access for the disabled. However, the public infrastructure is so poor that unless the disabled are being driven around to strip malls, the benefit is null.

  • Not A Native

    Your mention of the blind was creative. How about the deaf? The legal standard “reasonable accommodation” isn’t exact(as it shouldn’t be). I just wish it was also tied to a standard of “reasonable expectation”. Everyone is dismayed when they see handicapped accessible accommodations provided at some expense that are never used because actual handicapped people don’t want them.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Mathematics essentially rules out the possibility of these hand-crank bikes working. They will never have the density needed to make any kind of vehicle share operate. We will either barely have, or not have, sufficient density of the ordinary kind of bike. If you made 1 in 20 of these bikes be hand crank tricycles or other wierd rigs, finding one will be like finding a Sasquatch.

  • Corvus Corax

    Shhhh! There is a particularly on obnoxious commenter here who calls himself Sasquatch: be careful lest you summon him.


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