Bike share can reflect the best of us.
After 12 years of riding a bicycle in San Francisco, it finally happened to me. One Monday morning in January, I went to unlock the gate to the storage area in the building where I live, only to find the gate ajar. My heart sank as I rushed down the stairs to confirm the worst: my trusty daily commuter bicycle was gone. I was devastated.
While I went through our bicycle theft checklist, holding out hope for recovering my ride (see issue 162 of the Tube Times for more on what we’re doing to combat bicycle theft), I was also confronted with a more immediate dilemma: How was I going to get to work?
Luckily, I had a Ford GoBike membership, and thus began my month-long experiment in getting around San Francisco by bike share. It took adjusting my habits somewhat, but I began to get the hang of it once I did. What I noticed riding bike share during that time is that a growing number of San Franciscans are taking advantage of the systems that are now operating in our city. And those riders are beginning to reflect the communities where bike share is present.
I am so proud of the SF Bicycle Coalition members who spoke up for affordable and accessible bike share in our city. As a result, both Ford GoBike and Jump offer low-income annual membership options for just $5 in the first year through their Bike Share for All and Boost programs, respectively. Last year 1,500 individuals enrolled in Bike Share for All, and the number for both programs is growing. We were proud to lead grassroots community engagement focused on this program alongside our partners SF Yellow Bike Project and Chinese Newcomers Service Center (CNSC), sharing the fun and freedom of biking with hundreds of low-income San Franciscans. (Check out our story on culturally competent, multilingual community engagement featuring our work with CNSC on page 10.)
There were hiccups to my bike share experience, to be sure. I was “dock blocked” a few times, hoping to park my GoBike at a station that was already full. And the relatively limited number of Jump bikes currently deployed means that a nearby bike isn’t always guaranteed. I’ve also heard from members who are concerned that Jump bikes are taking up precious sidewalk rack space. Luckily, there is an easy way to solve this problem. Request a rack where you live, work or shop from sfbike.org/parking. (Side note to the SFMTA: Time to seriously step up your game installing sidewalk racks once they are approved — waiting over six months is inexcusable!)
Electric assist bikes, like those operated by Jump and being piloted in the Ford GoBike system, also proved to be an unexpected revelation. The first time I rode a Jump bike up a Market Street hill, I will admit that it felt a little bit like flying. Discovering e-biking brings me back to the joy I experienced when I first learned to ride as a child. And e-bikes’ elimination of topographical and geographical barriers is crucial for anyone who has ever said, “I would ride a bike in San Francisco if I didn’t live uphill or on the other side of town.” E-bike share has the potential to increase the accessibility of biking for tens of thousands of people in our city.
Overall, I am encouraged by the growth of bike share in San Francisco. More people riding more bicycles means fewer people hailing an Uber or Lyft on a busy bike route or crowding Muni Metro and BART during the morning commute. It also means another affordable, sustainable and fun transportation option in a city that is grappling with a serious crisis of affordability.
The Tube Times is published quarterly as one of the many benefits to members of the SF Bicycle Coalition. For a complete list of membership benefits, or to join/renew today, click here.