Huge expansion approved for Bay Area bike sharing

A tenfold expansion of the Bay Area Bike Share program was unanimously approved Wednesday morning by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The expansion to more than 7,000 bicycles, set to be completed by 2017, would introduce the popular program in the East Bay for the first time and come at no cost to taxpayers, MTC officials said.

Bike sharing, a subscription service where bikes are available at docking stations for short rides, was first introduced in the Bay Area in 2013 with 700 bikes at 70 docking stations in San Francisco, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.

The program has proven successful, particularly in San Francisco, and an expansion of the system has been planned since shortly after its inception. However, planned expansions were stalled when bicycle manufacturer Bixi went bankrupt last year.

But the company that operates the system has since reorganized its supply chain and is ready to expand it significantly over the next two years.

Now called Motivate International Inc., the company operates similar systems in Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, and other cities in the U.S. and Canada. The company says it can expand the program at no cost to taxpayers by funding it through corporate sponsorship, a model that has already proven successful in other urban areas.

Motivate CEO Jay Walder said at today’s MTC meeting that bike share bicycles are used in numerous different ways, including connecting to BART, San Francisco Municipal Railway or Caltrain, taking rides between neighborhoods not well connected by public transit, running quick errands or just to get some exercise.

“That’s the beauty of bike share: Each person can make it what they want it to be,” Walder said. “In the blink of an eye it will become part of the urban fabric of the cities.” The planned expansion would make the Bay Area’s bike share system the second-largest in the country, Walder said.

Most of the new bikes would go to San Francisco, where the total number of bikes would jump to 4,500. After the expansion, there would be 1,000 bikes in San Jose, 850 in Oakland, 400 in Berkeley and 100 in Emeryville.

Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City could get up to 155 bikes between the three cities, though bike sharing has not proven to be particularly popular there and the cities may decide to abandon bike sharing altogether, according to MTC officials.

MTC officials planned a news conference for late this morning to announce more details about the expansion.