Advocates Want Bike Share Caps Removed

Caps and neighborhood resistance are limiting the availability of new mobility choices

A Ford GoBike Station.
A Ford GoBike Station.

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Free Our Bikes, a group of bike-share advocates, has launched an online petition to end caps on the number of shared bikes in San Francisco and to resist push-back from neighbors to the placement of bike-share stations. “Bike-share is being stalled in SF,” said Brad Williford, who, along with his bike-advocate partner Patrick Traughber, launched the petition. It has garnered almost 500 signatures after only a week. Williford told Streetsblog he lives in the Mission and commutes daily, by bike, to a software job downtown. He became acutely aware of the push-back against bike-share after reading a story in the SF Examiner.

From the story:

From Glen Park to the Haight, the Mission District and most recently, the Marina, residents are pushing back against the rental bike docks, which are usually placed in parking spaces meant for cars.

The Examiner explains how, neighborhood by neighborhood, local residents are delaying or preventing a bike-share station here or there, which is collectively hamstringing Motivate’s planned roll-out of 7,000 bikes citywide. “That was a real wake-up call to me and some of my friends who really rely on bike-share,” said Williford.

He got his first taste of bike-share blow-back when his neighbors in the Mission gathered 200 signatures to ask that a Ford GoBike station be moved up the hill and away from a retail area, rendering it far less useful to bike-share users. Williford said the data showed that the station was heavily used; in his view, that should have been sufficient to keep it where it was, but local politics were winning out. “So we got about 200 petitions too, saying we wanted it to stay. Through that process we were able to keep it where it was,” he explained.

But no sooner is one anti-bike-share push headed off when another one appears. Keep Alta Plaza Park Commerce Free is currently lobbying District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani to keep bike-share stations away from the park (and, according to the Examiner story, it seems most of her district is already more or less off limits). It’s worth noting that Keep Alta Plaza Park Commerce Free also reached out to District 2 candidate Nick Josefowitz, who replied that bike-share stations should be placed according to community engagement. However, he said, he is “on a different page” than Stefani, “who seems to not want any docks anywhere.”

All of which motivated Williford and Traughber to start the petition as a tool to help protect and expand bike-sharing city wide. They met today with Supervisor Stefani, petition in hand, to see if they could get her on their side about the Alta Vista Bike Share station as well as other locations. “Supervisor Stefani’s office told us that they and Ford GoBike are exploring eight potential stations in D2,” Williford told Streetsblog, via email, after the meeting. “They are working together to conduct additional community outreach over the coming months and hope to get a few stations approved by the end of the year.”

The petition is addressed to Mayor Breed, SFMTA head Ed Reiskin, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Steve Heminger, and reminds leaders of the city’s voter-mandated Transit-First policy, which states that “Decisions regarding the use of limited public street and sidewalk space shall encourage the use of public rights of way by pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, and shall strive to reduce traffic and improve public health and safety.”

Obviously–or at least it should be obvious–removing bike-share stations to restore car parking spots is a violation of that mandate.

What about dockless bike-share, notably JUMP e-bikes? When Streetsblog last reported on JUMP’s roll-out, SFMTA had given JUMP permission to deploy 250 bikes, which are currently in circulation. Depending on approval, another 250 bikes may be deployed by this Fall, for a total of 500 bikes.

Williford wants that regulatory cap lifted too. He believes that more bikes on the road, whether they be a cyclist’s own bike, a Ford GoBike, a JUMP e-bike, or some other type of rental bike, make it the safer for everyone who cycles. “Do I support having the expansion of both? Yes, in every way possible.”

On a related note, there’s a rumor that long-delayed permits for e-scooters may be issued soon, perhaps as early as this Friday, although that’s still unconfirmed. All SFMTA’s spokesman would say is: “Not yet. Still possible for this month.” Another source close to the SFMTA said the agency had originally planned to notify companies that they would be permitted back into the city by the end of August, but the schedule may slip into September.

Williford said his petition is only about bikes, but he doesn’t see why scooter fans shouldn’t start their own petition, since he thinks scooter users can be close allies in pushing for more protected bike lanes and safe infrastructure. “People using the bike lanes with scooters is great. I want those lanes to be used and I want them to grow.”

  • mx

    SFMTA originally planned to have scooters back by the end of August? Back in May, they were promising the end of June.

    I’m also curious why SFMTA’s spokesman isn’t identified by name. Surely a city agency commenting on a months-long inability to do their jobs should have someone willing to sign their name to this failure.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    We have a cap on the number of shared bicycles greatly limiting its usefulness, yet there are no caps at all on Uber or Lyft drivers who driver around in circles in our city each day.

  • thielges

    Hopefully the scooters return before it gets cold and wet. While the business practices of the scooter companies leave something to be desired there’s no doubt that they are a game changer in getting people out of their cars. At a minimum they will put the idea in people’s heads to go out and buy their own scooter.

  • p_chazz

    I’ve been following the brouhaha over the bike share station at Chenery and Randall. There has been a lot of push back from neighbors who feel the end of the world is nigh if this station goes in. This reminds me of when SFMTA extended the route of the 35 Eureka to Glen Park which also caused some push back. Chenery wouldn’t be able to handle two bus lines. Miguel was too steep for buses. But the route change went through, and the world didn’t end, just as I’m sure it won’t end if the bike station at Chenery & Randall goes in.

  • Todd Edelman

    Bike share stations are so last century… dock-optional systems are ideal BUT only if lots and lots of dumb racks are installed in very high density and in certain areas in the non-obstructive part of the public ROW – i.e. in the tree or bench zone on a sidewalk – bikes can be locked to themselves.

    So this is partly the fault of the MTC – it’s been almost ten years since the first Bay Area bike share process was launched, and really the only thing that’s happened is that its lapels and tie have been widened a bit. It’s really unfortunate that they keep on expanding what’s now Ford GoBike.

  • crazyvag

    There shouldn’t be caps, but rather targets for level of service. Bridge tolls are still too low given how many find the order worth it over Bart or bus.

  • Stuart

    parking spaces meant for cars

    Citation needed.

    The fact that the Examiner states this as if it were an objective fact in their intro pretty much sums up the whole problem.

  • Joss

    You call yourself an advocacy group? How many homeless people were swept aside for the Ford dockless bikes? Last I checked Ford wasn’t even a bicycle company. If you were really Advocates you’d notice that bicycle shops that have been in San Francisco for decades are being systematically shut down. You should advocate for more bike racks. Since everybody that’s lived here for decades ridng their own bicycles can’t park anymore because jump bikes are now taking all of them. Why don’t you advocate against corporate interest not sucking up public utility? Oh yeah you want less regulations against rapid capitalism , so overpaid and inexperience middle Americans that have completely diluted this city can safely get a quarter-mile because they don’t want to walk through human feces . Electric scooters? What are you 13 years old? #eletricassistedamericants . I can’t wait to see the lawsuits when an Uber Eats delivery kid rents an Uber / jump bike then gets run down in the streets by an inexperienced Uber driver. Hahaha, this blog is a joke. And so are all of your responses. San Francisco is dead. You people killed it. At the very least make sure to advocate for the dozens of Couriers and avid cyclist that got killed by bad sfmta policy and pay respects to the ones that did something about it in the eighties and nineties and started critical mass in San Francisco to give you your bike lanes. Two wheels with a motor of any kind in between is a motorcycle or a moped. Stay out of the bicycle lane. And if you don’t like it move back to your own town and start your share programs Grassroots not astroturfed

  • p_chazz

    Unless there are signs or curb painting indicating some special use (no parking, handicapped parking, drop off zone, loading zone) then it is a parking space meant for cars.

  • mx

    No. None. Ford is just a sponsor. Yes that’s sad. I’ve specifically written my supervisor to ask for more bike racks before. They’re useful. They’re useful. Yes. No. Sounds like a good argument for everyone working together for safer streets. No. Whatever. No. Fine. I bow down to bike forefathers, sure. e-bikes are great; I try pretty hard not to be a jerk if I ride one. No. SF is my own town.

  • Stuart

    By that logic, no docks are ever placed in parking spaces meant for cars, because as soon as they have special use they don’t meet your definition. Problem solved!

    I’m not sure why you’re trying to play weird semantic games here. The bottom line is that curb space is a public good that can be allocated to many uses. The skewed mentality that parking spaces for cars are the legitimate use, and everything else is stealing people’s God-given parking spaces as part of a war on cars, is what fuels a lot of the opposition to bike share expansion.

  • Stuart

    there’s no doubt that they are a game changer in getting people out of their cars

    Really? I have nothing against scooters, and I’m happy to see more options out there that don’t have the huge negative externalities of private automobile trips, but I’m not aware of any research (or even persuasive anecdata) that indicates that they are substantially reshaping the transportation landscape.

    Are there any indications that scooters are reaching a dramatically different audience of people currently driving than, say, the existing combination of bikes and e-bikes?

  • Robin

    But this is a start. Clinging to the REAL last century transit mode – private vehicles – and claiming that docked bikes are bad will just flip progress and start going backwards. Let’s put in docks, get more people on bikes, get more people out of their cars, and if dockless takes over we can replace the space that docks occupy with bicycle(/scooter) parking racks. Because then they will be needed.

  • Roger R.
  • Todd Edelman

    MTC is locked in because they started it this way. It’s inflexible, which has also had huge negative knock on effects on bike + Caltrain (people are somewhat justified in their demands to take bikes on board because long distances and hills in the Peninsula were not taken into account when they started the system.)
    It’s (obviously) not easy to remove docks etc when so much money and grief has done into installing them. But 3rd Generation bikeshare is not appropriate for the Caltrain corridor. Its expansion needs to stop.

  • thielges

    Just anecdotal but the demographic mix I see on scooters matches the demographic of drivers closer than the demographic of bicyclists. In particular the male/female ratio is closer to 50:50 (though still leans towards male).

  • Jared R

    Move somewhere and make it less “dead.” There are many dozens of cities in America on life support that can use your passion. The big metros don’t need it.

  • p_chazz

    No weird semantic games here. Just pointing out that no citation is needed. The Examiner article is correct on face. It is an objective fact that parking spaces meant for cars are being removed for bike share stations. Now maybe you think that is a good thing, but there is no sense in trying to sugar coat it or pretend it’s not happening. Nor is it surprising that when parking spaces are being taken away that motorists should complain about it. After all, it’s their ox that is being gored.

  • xplosneer

    There was some Uber thing where they saw people taking less ridehails as they started taking scooters.

  • Stuart

    There’s a difference between saying that car parking spaces are being removed for bike share stations, and saying that the bike share stations are being placed in space that is meant for cars. The former is an objective fact, and the latter is a value judgement about what the correct use of the space is.

    Maybe you’d argue that I’m over-reading their phrasing, but I don’t think so; the sentence is unambiguous without the “meant for cars” part (nobody calls bike racks “parking spaces”), and if they were really afraid it could be, “car parking spaces” is simpler and more natural.

  • John French

    Ford doesn’t run the GoBike system. They have a deal where they provide some funding in exchange for the system bearing their brand (and, I believe, they also get access to data from the system).

    The system is run under contract by Motivate, which runs a lot of bike-share systems including New York’s. Motivate was recently purchased by Lyft, but that occurred long after they got the contract to operate GoBike (then known as Bay Area Bike Share prior to finding a sponsor in Ford).

    Bike share docks don’t displace homeless people. If they did you wouldn’t see all this community backlash. They displace parking, which is far more dear to many San Franciscans than their homeless neighbors.

  • John French

    The article’s not about the Caltrain corridor, it’s about neighborhoods like the Mission and the Marina in San Francisco. Dock-based systems can work very well in cities, where usage levels justify sufficient density of docks that you’re never more than a few minutes’ walk from one.

    GoBike should absolutely be expanded to cover the city of San Francisco. The peninsula will need a different technological solution (dock-optional bikes, like the Bay Bikes system which briefly operated in San Mateo [the operator rebranded as Jump], seem like a good fit there).

  • John French

    SFMTA would cap Uber and Lyft if they had the power to do so. CPUC preempts that power.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Then someone in the SFMTA needs to grow a set, establish a limit on the number of Uber/Lyfts in this city, enforce that limit and tell the CPUC where to shove it! They should make a PR case that it doesn’t make any sense regulating the number of bike shares in this city but not being allowed to regulate the number of Uber/Lyfts. Like all things that ever change, it requires someone with actual leadership which is alarmingly absent in this city.

  • John French

    What would that actually look like I wonder? How would SFMTA go about it?

    IIRC the dockless bikeshare and scooter limits started with the Board of Supervisors passing a law which set up licensing programs for operators, so I guess any Uber/Lyft limits would happen the same way.