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San Mateo Bike Share Update: City Readies to Double Fleet to 100 Bikes

San Mateo’s Bay Bikes bike share system will expand to 100 bikes this October. Photo: City of San Mateo

The City of San Mateo will double its Bay Bikes bike share fleet to 100 bikes by October. It remains the only Bay Area city to implement its own bike share program separate from the 7,000-bike Ford GoBike system, set to launch regionally on June 28.

San Mateo rolled out its own 50-bike bike share system in May 2016, after being snubbed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for inclusion in the original Bay Area Bike Share pilot program which installed 700 shared bikes in San Francisco, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose in July 2013.

“By making the bikes convenient and affordable, people who wouldn’t normally be attracted to a bike are seeing the opportunity and taking it,” said San Mateo Deputy Mayor Rick Bonilla at the City Council’s May 1 meeting. “So we’re actually growing our own bike ridership.”

San Mateo remains the only city on the San Francisco Peninsula with a bike share program, after private bike share operator Motivate decided to remove all 100 Bay Area Bike Share bikes from Redwood City, Palo Alto, and Mountain View in Fall 2016. Of those cities, Palo Alto made the most serious effort to keep bike share operating, but negotiations fell apart with Motivate in December 2016 and with Social Bicycles in February 2017 to operate a 350-bike system.

San Mateo uses “smart bikes” sold by Social Bicycles rather than the “smart stations” used by the regional Ford GoBike system. Smart bikes place all the technology required to keep track of when and where users rent on the bike itself rather than on the docking hubs, allowing the bikes to be returned to any bike rack. Standard bike racks are designated as stations so users know where to find them, but the bikes can be returned elsewhere for a $3 fee.

The bikes are parked at 15 stations throughout San Mateo, including all three of the city’s Caltrain stations. Riders over age 16 can purchase memberships for $15 per month that allow one hour of free use per day, or rent the bikes for $5 per hour.

"It's really a last-mile commute solution first and foremost," said Deputy City Manager Kathy Kleinbaum, who reported at the meeting that 650 people have purchased memberships so far and that a majority of trips taken using the bikes are between San Mateo’s Caltrain stations and major employment centers.

San Mateo's 50 bike share bikes are currently spread between 15 stations throughout the city. Image: Bay Bikes
San Mateo's 50 bike share bikes are currently spread between 15 stations throughout the city. Image: Bay Bikes
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“Hundreds of those users don’t own bikes, and therefore we’re pretty clearly growing bicycling in the city of San Mateo with this program,” said resident Adam Loraine. “This is one of the most important things that this city can be pursuing right now.”

San Mateo is purchasing the 50 new bikes from Social Bicycles for $104,000, a cost offset with a $52,000 grant from the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans). The city will also pay Social Bicycles $90,000 per year to operate and maintain the 100-bike system, the same fee it is now paying Bikes Make Life Better to operate the existing 50-bike system. Although the program currently has no corporate sponsor, any sponsorship revenue that is earned will accrue to the city, along with the revenue from user memberships.

The cities of Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View have all expressed interest in launching their own bike share programs but have yet to commit any funding. These cities are now considering options that weren’t available last year, including some offers from bike share startups to provide both the bikes and their operation at no cost to the city. One such company, Bluegogo, had hoped to deploy thousands of its smart bikes in San Francisco but was forced out of the city after the Board of Supervisors cracked down on them in March with new regulations.

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