San Jose Bike Share begins by October 2012

About a dozen people attended last night’s short meeting revealing plans for the San Jose Bike Share program that should be ready to go Real Soon Now.

San Jose Bike Share: tl;dr summary

  • Regional Bike Share in San Francisco, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Jose.
  • Begins September or October 2012.
  • 200 bikes distributed at 20 docking stations around downtown San Jose.
  • 50 to 60 bikes at San Jose Diridon Station.
  • Annual membership fee TBD, but likely around $90.
  • First thirty minutes free.
  • Contract negotiations occuring with Alta Bicycle Share.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) are in the final phases of negotiating a contract with Alta Bicycle Share to operate a regional bike share program for San Francisco, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose. Right now, it appears bike share will be ready in September or October 2012 at the latest, according to San Jose bicycle program coordinator John Brazil. Bike share will launch first in San Francisco and San Jose, with subsequent launches in the days following at the other locations.

How does bike share work?

Bike Share provides bicycles for shared use to people who don’t own the bikes, using membership systems and technology to allow members to quickly retrieve a bike from an unmanned location. Bikes are ‘docked’ in locking bays at various locations, and rented bikes can be returned at any docking station. To encourage quick turnover of bikes, a short time period of use (typically 30 minutes) is included in the membership fee, while a fairly high rate is charged for longer time periods.

Bike share programs provide a short-trip option for urban workers. Workers might drive to the office, but bike share can reduce car traffic for short mid-day trips for errands, lunch, coffee, the gym or meetings, thereby reducing downtown traffic congestion, noise, and air pollution. Another goal of the Bay Area Bike Share is to help with the “last mile” problem of getting workers from transit to the office, especially with the severe bike congestion on Caltrain we’ve seen since 2008.

A membership is required to use Bay Area bike share, with options for annual, short term (a few days) or single day memberships that can typically be purchased at the bike share kiosk with a credit card swipe. After you join the system, you’ll have access to bikes at the docking stations. You swipe a membership card (which could be a credit card in some systems), a bike will unlock from the docking station, you pull it from the station and ride the bike. When you’re done riding, you return it to any open docking station.

The presumptive operator, Alta Bicycle Share, currently operates Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC and Arlington VA; and New Balance Hubway in Boston MA. The websites and services for both of those programs are very similar, so you can probably get a good idea of what you can expect in the San Francisco Bay Area should Alta get the contract.

200 bikes will be distributed among 20 locations throughout downtown San Jose. Each rental kiosk has slots for 10 to 15 bikes. Slots for 50 to 60 bikes will be available for downtown San Jose’s transit anchor at Diridon Station. Thousands of commuters travel daily through Diridon Station, which serves Caltrain, Amtrak, ACE, light rail, the downtown DASH shuttle, bus service from three public agencies, and numerous employee and other private shuttles. Negotiations with the likely operator include discussion on shuttling bike-share bikes between kiosks to meet demand during commute hours.

The city of San Jose will begin outreach to downtown entities soon to discuss the benefits of bike share, firm up bike share kiosk locations, and discuss sponsorship opportunities. Initial funding for this 12 month trial program comes from a large grant from the Air District, but future operation will depend on commercial sponsorship.

Bike share bikes will be heavy-duty utilitarian models specifically designed for urban bike share, with a small front basket; non-standard components (to discourage theft for parts); heavy flat-resistant tires; fenders; kickstand, lights and a one-size-fits-most step through frame.

The stations are modular and completely self contained, with solar panels and batteries for power, and wireless communication to eliminate any kind of land line hookups. The docking stations are moved into place with a truck and assembled on site. The only site preparation required is a place big enough and flat enough to set them down. Docking stations can be moved around if necessary to meet demand.

Several details remain to be firmed up. Annual membership fees are unknown but will likely be somewhere around $90, in line with other American bike share program. Several people suggested using Clipper cards to use bike share, but apparently integrating Clipper introduces too much scheduling risk for bike share, so they’ll likely go with a simple credit card swipe or membership card to verify membership and release a bike. Like other bike share systems, the first 30 minutes will be free, but fees for additional time are still to be determined.


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