Bike sharing steers toward massive expansion

A plan to increase the number of bicycles in the Bay Area Bike Share system tenfold by the end of 2017 at no cost to taxpayers was announced by area government officials Thursday.

The plan would bring the number of bike share cycles in the Bay Area from 700 to 7,000 over the next two years and expand the program into the East Bay cities of Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville for the first time.

The Bike Share system was launched in 2013 with 700 bikes at 70 docking stations in San Francisco, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose. While the pilot program has been successful, the bankruptcy of bicycle manufacturer Bixi has stalled its expansion. But last October Alta, the company contracted to operate the bike share, was reorganized into Motivate International Inc.

Now based in New York City, Motivate has created its own supply chain for producing bikes and is ready to bring a significant expansion to the Bay Area, Metropolitan Transportation Commission Officials said.

For the pilot program, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and other local governments allocated $11.4 million for the bike sharing pilot program. However, New York has been successful in funding the program through corporate sponsorship and Motivate has offered to add 6,300 bikes using that model at no cost to taxpayers.

The addition would significantly expand the existing programs in San Francisco and San Jose while also finally bringing bike sharing to the East Bay. There are no current plans to expand bike sharing on the Peninsula, where the pilot did not perform at expectations.

San Francisco, however, has exceeded expectations and accounted for 90 percent of rides taken during the pilot program. Motivate would add the most bikes there, bringing the total to 4,500. San Jose’s total would jump to 1,000 bikes, Oakland will get 850 bikes, Berkeley will get 400 and Emeryville will get 100, MTC officials said.

City leaders praised the proposal today, commending the bike share program for offering a first- and last-mile option to public transit riders, improving the environment by relieving congestion on city streets and improving public health through exercise.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement:

“I can’t wait to jump on a bike when we bring this program to Oakland next year. … Active transportation improves public health, promotes economic development, helps the environment and is fun and affordable.”

Motivate has also committed to offering reduced cost options for low-income residents and will put 20 percent of the new bike share stations in underserved communities — particularly making sure there are stations beyond Oakland’s downtown corridor in East and West Oakland, according to the MTC.

MTC chair and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese said in a statement:

“I’m encouraged by the efforts of Motivate and the cities to put equity concerns front and center. … I think my colleagues will give the proposal very serious consideration.”

The MTC Administration Committee will consider the proposal on Wednesday and the proposal is expected to go before the full board later in the month. The bike share program allows members to pick up bikes at a station and ride them to another station at their destination. Membership in the program costs $88 per year, $22 for a three-day membership or $9 for a 24-hour membership.

Trips of 30 minutes or less are free for members, 30-60 minute trips cost $4, and each additional 30 minutes costs $7.