Wednesday, October 3, 2007

San Francisco - America's First Bike-sharing Town?

In the October 3rd San Francisco Chronicle, an article titled "S.F. moving to catch up with European bike-share programs" was about San Francisco's efforts to start bike-sharing. Clear Channel Adshel won the advertising rights on S.F.'s transit shelters and will be providing the bike-sharing service as part of this contract. I understand from the author of this report that a definitive number of neither bikes nor stations were not mentioned in the contract. Clear Channel won Washington, D.C.'s contract and will hopefully be starting a bike-sharing program with only 120 bikes at 10 stations, after two years of waiting... waiting.

Now that we're in a new era with programs in Europe that are measured in the thousands of bikes and hundreds of stations, it's absolutely necessary that American programs are measured in the same way. If a small program like D.C.'s fails (which I don't believe it will), it can't be said that bike-sharing in America doesn't work because America doesn't bike. This would be incorrect. A substantial program must be made to ensure that it succeeds. Velib' in Paris will carry as many passengers as the tram system by the end of the year when it has all 20,600 bikes up-and-running because an equal commitment was made to bike-sharing that was made to the tram.

Why shouldn't San Francisco have a bike-sharing program equal to Paris's? I don't see any reason why not? Paris had a bike mode share of 1.63% before Velib'; it's probably tripled or quadrupled since July. S.F.'s bike mode share was about 4% in 2003. This leads me to believe that bike-sharing would be even more well-used in S.F.

Paris has a population of about 2,200,000, or 107 people per bike-sharing bike. San Francisco has a population of 750,000, so why not have 7,000 bikes for the same ratio as Paris? This would make San Francisco's bike-sharing program the second largest in the world and deservedly so for the great city.


Anonymous said...

Good points. I was in Paris in September 2007 and used the bicycles and was totally impressed. Americans on vacation were renting the bikes saying that the idea was "genious". It's truly revolutionary and a proof of human ingenuity. I hope that the San Francisco politicians will do what they say and give specifics around this program. Liability should not be a problem as San Francisco has plenty of bike lanes, similar to Paris. We should not let the lawyers stop our quality of life! The way it is in Paris is awesome but it's heavily subsidized by government, which is how it's kept super affordable for the people, even with stations everywhere and 15 thousand bikes. San Francisco is notorious for "not having the funds" to do good things. For example Paris undergrounded their utility poles decades ago for beautification but San Francisco still "lacks the funds" for most of the city, which is why we still have horrible cables hovering and criss-crossing over our heads in most streets. The bicycle program is truly an opportunity for a San Francisco politician to shine if he details an exact timeline and major plan for the project instead of just saying "I am in favor".

Anonymous said...

It is indeed quite a project there in Paris but take away the multi billion exclusive advertising contract and let's see how many bicycles would be left.
S.F. follows the same path: advertising contracts first and then as a funny side effect a few bicycles to create the impression they want to solve traffic problems. It looks cool and improves the image of the local political parties. Never the less it's great that those bicycles will be available.

Anonymous said...

Having studied City Bikes since Copenhagen began in 1995, and the automated first steps of Bikeabout in 1996, I'd suggest that its not a population > bike ratio you need to look at and further you should look at the topography and flows - Paris had a few problems with Montmartre which the Bike hire operation Roue Libre had the solution to in the decade before Velib arrived. But most impportant is to actually ensure that you hit a critical density of bikes per sq km Copenhagen, wher bikes hardly stand still during the day has nearly 300 bikes per sq km - Paris started with just under 100 and will be just under 200 when completed.

The hook does not have to be a poster media contract. Clear Channel's system is run in Barcelona using motorist charging systems (eg parking, congestion charges) and the poster contract is with JC Decaux.

Copenhagen is run as a not for profit organisation, with the sale of bike branding covering an annual rebuild of the bikes many of which are the original 12 year old machines using a job skills programme where 80% get f/t work afterwards.

DB Rent runs Call-a-Bike (the equivalent of letting Amtrack or Caltrain running the same portfolio of connecting mode facilities) NS supports OV Fiets.

OYBike has smaller hire stations and grows organically as employers plug their pool bike scheme in to a wider network, or housing developers provide the hire bikes with a serviced appartment (condo) and Universities set up a campus system that links to the surrounding public network.

Most systems use hard wiring or GPRS for data transfer and hire authorisation and have a minimum of 10-15 stands to make a hire pillar viable, 3 systems use the Homeport grocery delivery unit which means as few as 3 bikes at any location.

Copenhagen has perhaps the lowest carbon footprint as they reuse the bikes year on year, and don't need trucks to rebalance the network by shipping excess bikes to areas of famine.


Humberto said...

As a pioneer on the development of the first major bicycle sharing system in America the City of San Francisco must first and foremost hire a top notch professional company to develop a study on the economic impact and benefits said program will have on the community and on individuals, i.e.

1. Economic impact & benefits as a result of improved traffic congestion
2. Economic impact & benefits for city and companies as a result of parking space savings
3. Economic impact & benefits as a result improved community health due to moderate workouts
4. Economic impact & benefits on public and private sectors as a result of improved productivity
5. Economic impact & benefits on individuals as a result of money savings on transportation
6. Economic impact & benefits of bike sharing on the tourism sector
7. Economic impact & benefits of bike sharing on San Francisco's convention market
8. Economic impact & benefits of bike sharing on retail establishments
9. Economic impact & benefits as a result of improved mental health due to noise reduction
10. Economic impact & benefits as a result of cleaner air
11. Economic impact & benefits as a result of curbing global warming

The preceding analyses not only will set the city of San Francisco off to a good start; it will definitely make it a paragon of bicycle sharing, thus ensuring the successful, sensible, proliferation of bicycle sharing systems nationwide.

Humberto said...

Avoiding the ‘If we build it they will come’ fallacy

“Accountability” was the downfall of the entire Bike sharing programs attempts in Europe and elsewhere. Thanks to 21st Century intelligent technologies such notion of communal bicycles is enjoying a renaissance, with France being at the forefront.

A great lesson could be learned from the SEGWAY’s failure to fulfill its promise of becoming the world’s preeminent mode of individual mobility. Those of us that advocate bike sharing as an alternative transit mode must be vigilant against any mistakes that potentially could send Public-Use Bicycles back to the dark ages. Specifically, if the future of bike sharing is going to be predicated on segregated bicycling infrastructures, i.e. bike paths, sidewalks, etc, like the SEGWAYS, we’re doomed!

Unless cities incorporate on their bike sharing implementation plan a well orchestrated education campaign to teach drivers and cyclists to share the streets —known as vehicular cycling— the success of Public-Use Bicycles in America will be marginal at best.