Bike share
A bike sharing station in San Francisco where the program launched in summer 2013. The program could be rolled out to the East Bay, including in Berkeley, as early as spring of 2015. Photo: Bay Area Bike Share

UPDATE, 04.09.14: Bike share funds approved, as is money for Bay Trail: The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted to allocate the $8.7 million in bike share funding at its committee meeting today. The MTC spending plan also includes two projects to improve Bay Trail segments in Berkeley. Berkeley will receive $1 million for the third segment of the Bay Trail Extension, a spur of the Bay Trail running through the Berkeley Marina. The first two segments of the extension have been completed, and the new funding would also add a public restroom, bike racks, access improvements, parking lot upgrades and other enhancements near the two sailing clubs and windsurf rigging area. At the same time, the East Bay Regional Parks District will receive $750,000 to fill the gap in the Bay Trail between Gilman Street in North Berkeley and Buchanan Street near the Albany Bulb in Albany. The new segment will run on the shoreline side of the Golden Gate Fields racetrack.

ORIGINAL STORY: This time next year, Berkeley could have a bike sharing program in place in the city. Mayor Tom Bates, for one, thinks it won’t be soon enough.

“We’ve been lobbying for this for a long time,” Bates said on Monday.

Bates sits on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission which will vote on Wednesday to allocate $8.7 million to be spent on rolling out Bay Area Bike Share to the East Bay. The program started in San Francisco and the Peninsula last August and, in San Francisco at least, has proved successful.

If approved, the program would see 60 bike pods installed in an 8 1/2-square-mile area of the East Bay, stocked with a total of about 750 bikes, around 300 of them in Berkeley. Planning is in early stages and locations for the bike stations have not yet been decided.

San Francisco has exceeded usage expectations of its bike sharing program, according to the MTC. Photo: Bay Area Bike Share

The bike sharing program allows members to take bikes for up to 30 minutes at any one time, as many times as you like. You can sign up online for an annual membership that costs $88, or buy a 24-hour membership ($9), or three-day membership ($22) at station kiosks. Bikes can be returned to any station. There are overtime fees if you exceed 30 minutes.

There is excitement about the program in the East Bay, according to Renee Rivera, executive director of Bike East Bay which has more than 4,000 members.

“We are hearing a lot of enthusiasm for this from our members,” Rivera said. “They have been asking us, ‘when is this coming to the East Bay?’”

Rivera said that the highest number of members of the San Francisco program, after residents of that city, are from Oakland and Berkeley.

She said the bikes are a great resource for people working in San Francisco to run errands during their lunch hours. And the East Bay has distinct advantages for such a program, she said.

“It’s densely populated and relatively flat and has a great set of destinations relatively close to public transit,” she said, citing the Berkeley campus, and shopping districts such as Fourth Street and the Gourmet Ghetto.

Research has shown that bike sharing programs can stimulate the local economy. A study by the University of Minnesota showed that bike sharing programs benefit businesses close to the stations.

“The study showed that people take trips they wouldn’t otherwise take,” Rivera said, mentioning as an example the fact that she herself would bike to downtown Berkeley rather than face “the drag” of finding parking there.

Rivera also believes bike sharing will make the East Bay more appealing to out-of-town visitors.  “It has the potential to make the East Bay more of an attraction for them,” she said.

Mayor Bates sees further benefits: creating more connections between Berkeley and Oakland, and helping enhance Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, whose goal is to reduce the community’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2000 levels by 2050.

Bates says he would like to see bike pods — which hold 10-15 bikes each — at each of Berkeley’s three BART stations, and possibly on the Cal campus, at Solano Avenue, on Fourth Street and in the Elmwood.

“As many as possible,” he said.

The pods can be installed either on the street — in car parking spaces, or areas such as decommissioned bus stops — or within sidewalks. Rivera said generally the street is preferable.

There is a lot of work involved in planning the program’s implementation, including identifying locations for the stations, obtaining permits and buying the equipment, and Rivera says Bike East Bay is going to lobby MTC for another staff person in Berkeley to get the job done well.

Mayor Bates said he believes the budget will cover the planners, but whether MTC manages the process in-house, or gets other parties to bid on it, “I really don’t mind, as long as it gets done!”

Electric bike sharing coming to Berkeley in 2014 (08.26.13)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...