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Bike Sharing Coming to S.F. and Southward

Come August, commuters in San Francisco and San Jose and up and down the Peninsula won’t need to own bikes to pedal to many destinations. They’ll be able to borrow and return hundreds of bicycles at dozens of kiosks.

Bike sharing, an idea that’s been popular in Europe for decades and coveted by San Francisco for years, is finally arriving in the Bay Area – or at least the part of the region served by Caltrain.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District plans to roll out a $7 million test program in August, just in time for the America’s Cup and the region’s busy season of fall festivals and events.

“This is an important step in expanding bicycle use in San Francisco and the region,” said Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “We’re looking forward to moving ahead and expanding the program.”

So is the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which has championed bike sharing. However, it fears that the test program is too modest a start, with too few bikes at not enough locations.

“We’re really happy the Bay Area is catching up to the rest of the American cities that have bike sharing programs,” said Leah Shahum, the coalition’s executive director. “But we think the system is starting too small. The density of the system is critical to its success.”

700 bikes, 70 stations

The program, which has not yet been named, will feature 700 bikes at 70 stations, with exactly half of the network in San Francisco. The rest will be scattered among the four other participating cities: Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose. Originally, the system planned for 1,000 bikes, with 500 in San Francisco.

Those wanting to borrow bikes must sign up for memberships, which will likely be offered in one-day, three-day, monthly and annual passes, said Karen Schkolnick, grants program manager for the air district.

Prices have not yet been set, but Boston’s Hubway bike sharing program, which is similar to what’s planned in the Bay Area, charges $5 for 24 hours, $12 for three days and $85 for an annual pass.

Members can take a bike from an automated station for up to 30 minutes and return it to any other station with no additional charge. After that, hourly rates kick in. In Boston, they vary from $2 for the first additional half hour to $100 for 24 hours.

A Capital Bikeshare participant on the move between kiosks in Washington, D.C., where nearly 1,700 bikes are available. Photo: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg
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