The expansion of the Bay Area Bike Share was approved by the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Commission yesterday afternoon. Like any committee meeting there were plenty of different opinions, but ultimately, it seems everybody is for bike share.
So $8.7 million will go into developing the East Bay expansion, but right now, nobody knows how or where that will happen just yet.
Sean Co, of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, pointed out that there have been 171,000 trips, so far during the pilot. The contract with Alta Bike Share, the company running the pilot, expires in August, and unless something dramatic goes wrong, the contract with Alta will be renewed.
Co recommended that the Commission approve the expansion of bike share into Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who serves on the MTC commission and is a supporter of the bike share program, as covered on this blog in the past, mentioned that San Francisco has about half the bikes of the current pilot, but makes up 90 percent of the total trips.
"We want the whole region to have access to bike share, but we want to make sure we're not diluting so much that in those parts of the Bay Area where we know that it will be explosively successful, making sure that we have enough concentration in those cities to ensure long term success," Wiener said. "Also, as we shift responsibility over to MTC [from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District], we need to make sure that MTC has adequate staffing to run the program"
"The East Bay scores well on potential success for bike share," said Dave Campbell, Advocacy director of Bike East Bay (formerly East Bay Bike Coalition). "But for bike share to be successful not only do we need a great bike share system, we need great facilities on the streets so that people can ride safely on these bright shiny new bikes."
So the bike share program might become permanent, but are the streets ready for added ridership? The Telegraph Avenue Survey, conducted by the city of Oakland, came back with respondents almost universally calling for better bike infrastructure on that major arterial street that links Oakland and Berkeley. You can bet that the majority of other streets in the area are in the same state. What Campbell points out is that you're putting a bunch of bikes in the hands of potentially inexperienced riders on streets that are far from bike friendly.
The East Bay expansion of Bay Area Bike Share will no doubt work -- there are plenty of people trying to solve their "last mile" transit problem, with BART stops few and far between. But without safer streets and better infrastructure, cycling isn't going to get a whole lot safer or easier in the East Bay.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.