I finally got my BikeLink card for access to the electronic bike lockers in Santa Cruz and around the San Francisco Bay Area.
BikeLink is a secure on-demand parking system for bicycles. The BikeLink smart card opens bike lockers scattered around downtown Santa Cruz. Around the Bay Area, BikeLink gives access to lockers and bike stations at BART, AC Transit, and VTA stations.
Outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, BikeLink lockers can be found in San Diego, at TriMet stations outside of Portland, in Vancouver WA, and at the WMATA College Park Park & Ride in Maryland.
The lockers are typically big metal boxes with an electronic card reader. This allows me to leave gadgets and accessories on the bike without worry about theft. The lockers I’ve tried are wedge shaped on the inside, presumably to prevent use as a storage locker or overnight shelter. It also very effectively limits the locker to a single bicycle with no trailer. My road bike just barely fits. There’s likely no way any kind of long bike or cargo bike can fit, but I’ll try to remember to bring a tape measure so you know exactly how much space you have.
The Santa Cruz lockers charge 3 cents to 5 cents per hour (depending on location). The cost is taken from the pre-loaded BikeLink smart cards.
What else? The user interface is pretty horrible. You insert the card, use the single button to scroll through available rental times (minimum is 5 hours; over value refunded at end of rental), then remove the card to open the door. You insert and remove the card at the end of the locker rental. Once you do it once or twice it’s no sweat, but still the initial impression is one of clunkiness.
To add value, you enter your credit card info at the BikeLink website. You then get a code you enter at a BikeLink locker, using that single button to scroll through the entire alphabet and numerals to enter your alphanumeric code.
A similar competing solution is Bikestation, which has a handful of locations in California, along with a facility in Hillsboro OR and one in Washington DC. You use your Bikestation card to access a “bike station” — a shared use room or free standing building where multiple bikes are stored. While BikeLink has a few “bike station” style facilities in addition to the lockers, Bikestation established the first American bike station in Long Beach, CA in 1996. Those in the SF Bay Area might know about the Palo Alto Bikestation located at University Avenue Caltrain.