Learning to (Bike) Share

Editors: This story was originally published in Issue 164 of our quarterly Tube Times magazine, one of many perks of membership in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

My partner has ridden his bike, named Smithy, thousands of miles, including from San Francisco to Los Angeles five times with AIDS LifeCycle. They have a close emotional bond. But day-to-day they don’t spend a lot of time together. Fear of locking Smithy up on the street keeps him from riding for errands and general transportation. Happily, the huge swell in bike-share options in San Francisco means that my partner and I still ride together most times we’re heading somewhere.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the two bike-share systems, Ford GoBike and Jump Bikes, bridge such a gap for many people. Plenty of new users of these systems are riding SF’s streets for the first time or the first time in many years.

More access to active transportation options is a win for all of us. Your SF Bicycle Coalition also recognizes the need for education of new riders to ensure that people are biking safely — for their own well-being and that of everyone with whom they share the streets. That’s why we’re partnering with both bike-share companies to offer bicycle education specifically tailored to bike-share users.

We’ve offered an hour-long Introduction to Urban Biking class to GoBike users for the past few years. This year’s GoBike offerings have expanded with a revamped 90-minute curriculum. The new class begins with 45 minutes in the classroom, covering the rules of the road and best practices for safely sharing the street. In the second half of the class, we hit the bike lanes on GoBikes, giving students the opportunity to practice what they learned under the guidance of experienced SF Bicycle Coalition instructors.

“Having a sturdy bicycle to try out riding on San Francisco streets — without a financial commitment — can help someone feel safe and empowered to incorporate bicycling into their lifestyle,” GoBike Marketing Manager Abby Salzer said.

Classes with e-bike share company Jump follow a similar structure, but the curriculum includes education about safely operating its e-assist bikes, which can travel faster and have more sensitive brakes than non-electric bikes.

“We want to see everyone taking these classes, especially people who may not presently see biking as something that’s for them,” said Meaghan Mitchell, community outreach coordinator with Jump.

For both systems, free classes are offered quarterly at the centrally located offices of SF Bicycle Coalition. In addition to learning critical bicycle safety skills, all attendees are offered incentives, including drawings for either annual GoBike memberships or generous credit on Jump Bikes, depending on the class.

To find out more or register for a class, please visit sfbike.org/education.

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