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San Francisco to add 11,000 bike shares, quadruple current rate

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SFMTA pledges huge dividends for stationless bike program—but Lyft wants to stop it

Uber Acquires Bike Share Company Jump Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency [SFMTA] announced Tuesday that it plans to quadruple the number of bike share bicycles across SF, raising the city’s cap by as much as 11,000.

“We want to [...] make bike share accessible for even more riders in San Francisco,” said SFMTA. “We’re doing that today by releasing the Stationless Bikeshare Program Application and eventually issuing a limited number of permits to operators who meet San Francisco’s high standards for safety, equity and accountability.”

According to the application guidelines for companies hoping to get rental bikes on city streets, the decision is due, in part, to “an imbalance in fleet distribution [...] compounded in communities which have historically been underserved by transportation options.”

The related “minimum threshold table” indicates that permit holders are expected to keep at least ten bikes available in the Inner Sunset and Western Addition, 25 in the Inner Richmond, 35 in the Mission, 75 in Bayview, and 80 in Oceanview/Ingleside.

The city also asked applicants to do the legwork of minimizing neighborhood pushback by creating “community engagement plans” that encourage “meaningful participation” with residents living on blocks where new bike capacity could be added.

SFMTA will accept new applications through June 24; new permits will be issues in July. Presently only Uber-owned Jump Bikes are allowed to operate stationless in San Francisco.

During Tuesday’s announcement, the city also pledged to increase the number of bike stations citywide, calling them “critically important to organizing a large number of bicycles and preventing sidewalk clutter.”

In a bizarre twist, SF-based ride-hailing company Lyft, which has thus far benefited from the city’s bike programs via its Ford GoBikes, objected to the expansion.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, Lyft President John Zimmer complained that by allowing stationless bikes to roll out across the city, San Francisco is violating its exclusivity agreement with Lyft over bike stations. The fact that Lyft’s main rival, Uber, is positioned as the primary beneficiary of any planned expansion presumably does not improve the company’s disposition.

The city argues that docked and stationless bikes are horses of two different colors and that SFMTA’s agreement with Lyft does not preclude other cycling-related programs.

According to the city’s most recent SF Mobility Trends Report, issued in February, San Franciscans took approximately 95,000 bike trips per week in 2017, down from a peak of 126,000 in 2015.

Daily automobile trips in SF are up over the same period, from 439,000 in 2015 to 456,00 in 2018, an all-time high for the century.