Bike Share in SF is expanding, but “never” on the west side

Photo by Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner

This post has been updated with new information Nov. 5. 

The Bay Area’s shiny new Bike Share program is ready to expand, and in early 2014 the popular program will have new stations lined with 150 additional little blue bicycles in the Mission, Castro, Hayes Valley and Mission Bay neighborhoods. 

The reason is simple: Bike Share is wildly popular, and San Franciscans want bike stations a little closer to home. 

“We hear ‘gosh, it’s great for work trips, but it’d be nice if it went to where I live,” Bike Share project manager Heath Maddox said at a hearing Monday on the program’s expansion, called for by Supervisor Scott Wiener.

But if you live on the west side of the city, well, tough luck. Not only is Bike Share not likely to expand into the Sunset and Outer Richmond districts anytime soon, he said, it might not fully expand there at all -- ever. 

Standing before Supervisors Jane Kim, David Chiu and Wiener, Maddox took the opportunity to trumpet the program’s successes. Though Bike Share launched with only 350 bikes in 35 stations clustered around downtown and SoMa, the number of daily trips is above some competing sister cities, including Washington DC. Closer to Bike Share's launch, that wasn't the case.

With around 2,000 paying annual Bike Share members there’s also a great demand for more bike stations across the city, Maddox said. 

But anyone with eyes could see that the map he showed the supervisors was peculiar, zoomed entirely on new stations near the hip east side of the city. What about the Sunset and Richmond districts?

The new expansion will answer that need and bring 500 borrowable bikes and 50 stations total to San Francisco, but none on the west side, Maddox said.  

“We’re not going to blanket the Outer Richmond with bikes,” he told the Guardian after the hearing was over. The issue is density, he said. The eastern side of the city has more economic and population density, making for more bike usage. As for the west side, he said, “the economics aren’t there.”

bike share sustainability

The SFMTA conducted a study on the feasability of Bike Share stations in San Francisco. Suitability was measured by population and workforce density as well as proximity to bicycle facilities, wide sidewalks, and other factors. 

Another issue with bringing Bike Share to the west side is one way trips. If people are just biking to work in the morning, and back home at night, that makes for a lot of one way commuting that makes it tough to keep the bike stations stocked. Riders take trips back and forth between the stations in downtown and SoMa, something that would be tough to accomplish outside of the urban core. On the west side stations would empty out without new bikes rotating in. 

“It’s a significant cost to the system,” Maddox said. Asked when the Bike Share program would come into the west side in a big way, he put it simply: “Never,” he said. 

That may pose a problem for the program, as the most often “liked” critique of the Bike Share system is a lack of bikes and stations in all neighborhoods, according to a poll on one of their brochures

The SFMTA also crowdsourced votes for where people would like to see new Bike Share stations. A heat map version of the map shows blotches of red -- more requests -- concentrated near Valencia and the Castro. But it also shows a demand near Ocean Beach and the Inner Sunset, a trendy part of the “Outerlands” that’s also near the N-Judah line. 

bike share station heatmap

Users pin a map with desired stations, and the SFMTA used that data to create this heat map. Red areas denote places with many votes for new stations. 

There’s also a comparable demand to some stations in the west side of the city versus the east on their crowd sourced map. Though there are around 40 “likes” of support near 16th and Mission, a busy transit hub, there are over 90 votes of support for stations where Golden Gate Park meets Ocean Beach. 

Bike Share will likely have a few “satellite” stations near Ocean Beach, Maddox said, and the Phase 3 diagrams show an intention to move into the Inner Sunset. 

But the hearing also revealed another hurdle for Bike Share to clear: sustainability. In order for the program to “break even” operationally, Maddox said, the program would need to expand to 2,500-3,000 bikes in total inside of San Francisco. Its newest expansion brings it up to 500. 

That’ll cost $20-23 million he said. When Sup. Wiener asked where the funding would come from, Maddox said that federal grants and private donors were possibilities, but nothing was cemented yet. 

“If I had 20-23 million dollars I’d just blanket the eastern side of San Francisco with bikes,” he said. 

Sup. Chiu also had some pointed questions for Maddox. “20 percent of San Francisco residents don’t have credit cards,” he said, asking Maddox how Bike Share would make itself available to users whose only payment option is cash.

“We have work to do there,” Maddox said. “There’s no way around needing a credit card for annual membership, there's a $1,200 deposit to replace the bikes [if something happens].” 

But as for daily ridership, he said they were working with local credit unions to find an alternative for riders without credit cards. 

Sup. Kim also pitched an idea in making a pilot program for Bike Share at local high schools. Future expansion may include City College and San Francisco State University, Maddox said. 

But despite the challenges ahead, Bike Share is popular. More than two thirds of San Francisco voters support expanding the bike sharing program to 3,000 bikes, according to a poll conducted independently but commissioned by the SF Bicycle Coalition. 

The Guardian reached out to Supervisors Katy Tang and Eric Mar, but they were unable to reach us before press time.  

 Update: Peter Lauterborn, a legislative aide in Sup. Eric Mar's office, called in the morning to respond to questions about Bike Share in the Richmond district. 

"There are a couple of challenges, there are hills in the way right now, literally," Lauterborn said. Because of the lack of fiscal sustainability, Sup. Mar's office started reaching out to businesses and institutions to see if they'd be interested in funding Bike Share in the district, but he said the talks are still preliminary.

For now though, "constituents are pretty silent on the project, there has not been a lot of push to get [Bike Share] into the Richmond." 

Though Richmond district residents haven't contacted Sup. Mar's office clamoring for Bike Share, there were over a hundred requests for Richmond District Bike Share stations on their website. If residents want stations in their area, they'll need to make their voices heard.   


because nobody lives anywhere but the least dense parts of sf

Posted by Guest on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

clear how this cute vision pertains in a major US city.

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by kdjfk on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

Because it makes me feel like "something" is being done. I want something to be done.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

We don't even rate an article in the Bay Guardian. What about the poor citizens of St. Francis Wood, don't they deserve Bike Share?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 04, 2013 @ 11:55 pm

The Bike Share program is not intended primarily for the use of San Franciscans.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:51 am

That is why San Franciscans should not support this program.

Posted by Richmondman on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

I think that San Franciscans would benefit from casual bike share use. The use cases for locals are different from the use cases for visitors. But the boosters of these programs only consider visitor slash business district use cases.

Local use cases would include the ability to down to do shopping, for instance, or the ability to do one-way commutes to job sites with the reverse hilly/windy commute being handled on transit.

The idea is good but the resource extraction engine known as local government gives locals little consideration in formulating public policy. Whether Bike Share makes the cut in a resource constrained environment is another question.

And how much will gaggles of slow bike sharers slow down surface transit on Market?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

know how much it slows down everyone else. But I certainly get slowed down by bikes a lot.

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

I'm sure it is truly a horrible, horrible inconvenience to be stuck in your private vehicle.

I mean -- what is this the Middle Ages? You can't control the temperature, choose your own music, I'm sure the seats are horribly uncomfortable... and it's really difficult to modulate speed in a vehicle. Having to move your foot about 1/4 of an inch. Ugh. I feel so, so sorry for your poor soul being 'slowed down' by bikes. Really, I do.

Posted by triple0 on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

And the people whose time is most valuable probably don't ride a bike to work.

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

do you ever get tired of making a complete ass of yourself and making painfully clear that you don't have the slightest clue what the fuck you are talking about, in *any* debate on this site?

here's the link to the 2009 SF bike plan EIR:

Posted by hjdlkssp on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 3:46 pm
Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

of his face in a web link

and instead makes exactly the same claim even though it was just proved completely wrong

dude, i haven't laughed this much in a really long time

by all means keep stumbling all over yourself


Posted by lkdjkl on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

keep screaming that you've won it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

when you have gotten so beat up in it that you start pretending to be "Guest" to make laughable "i agree with him" statements, because you would look like too much of an idiot if you continued to respond as "anon"

Posted by lksdj on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:27 pm


Lilli, we all know it's you anyway.

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

again you show your profound stupidity

its a randomized continuously scrambled handle idiot

it changes constantly

(what a moron....)

Posted by lkmjhd on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:13 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

Whenever a preliminary study of a bike facility indicates that it might create congestion that would delay autos or transit, then an EIR is required. There is talk of removing auto delay as an environmental impact. But studying and mitigating delays to transit by all discretionary projects is imperative.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

I do not trust the people making that determination. Do they even drive?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

It does certainly appear that this is the case. An obvious usage of the system would be to take a bike to commute to work or to BART for a trip across the bay (without the hassle of dealing with a folding bike since anything else is forbidden during major commute hours), but they've seen to it that there aren't any bikes anywhere outside of downtown which really seems to defeat the purpose. Downtown is already the only really well-served area when it comes to transit. Do you really need a bike to travel a few blocks along Market? Because that's what it seems to be designed to do. Obviously the subway that only really travels along market, or the streetcar that only travels along market weren't quite enough. Let's not even talk about how the cable cars have been very effectively turned into a tourist-oriented attraction and are overpriced and made nearly impossible for local residents to use as a form of public transit.

Posted by Belgand on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

Bike share is only economically viable in the high density parts of a city - essentially the north part of the city.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:51 am

Why must bike share be economically viable, Muni, BART and private autos are not economically viable on their own?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 10:45 am

Why must bike share be economically viable, Muni, BART and private autos are not economically viable on their own?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 10:45 am

Let me guess - you don't think it should be you.

The key issue here is that it's a rental. Would you expect someone to subsidize you renting a car? Or chartering a plane or boat?

Oh, I own an auto and nobody subsidizes that - in fact I have to pay a bunch of fees and taxes, as well as $4 a gallon, half of which is tax. Car owners subsidize transit because transit doesn't pay its own way, because of the excessive pay and benefits of transit operators.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 10:56 am

I subsidize private autos and public transit already. There are tremendous public subsidies to air travel.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:09 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by ik on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:21 am

auto drivers subsidize you.

All nations subsidize airlines because it is a fundamentally unprofitable business. The only airlines that make any money are Singapore, Emirates and Virgin, because they have brand value.

I fly a lot internationally and NEVER fly US airlines. They are the worst but are protected from competition.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:28 am

We all subsidize the federal, state and local road networks, we subsidize the price of gasoline, and we all subsidize the outsourcing of emissions into the common atmosphere. These subsidies dwarf the subsidy for transit or bike share.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:43 am

All government spending is a subsidy of one form or another. If you are arguing for cutting size of government spending then I am with you. Far and away the biggest subsidy is for the entitlement programs whereby the rich subsidize the poor for no reason other than that there are more poor voters than rich voters.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:59 am
Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

you mean the way the US government created massive wealth and put millions to work with the New Deal?

or the way that the US government also created massive wealth by building the national railway and internet highway systems and then let corporations use them essentially for free, kicking off the most prosperous century in human history?

that kind of wealth?

Posted by kdj on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

They never create any. At best their policies encourage others to create wealth. At worse they destroy wealth like nobody else.

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

Please do tell us all so that we can be clear about what we are discussing.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 1:17 pm
Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 1:27 pm
Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

just have to read the article, or of course remain ignorant. Your choice.

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

Take a whole paragraph if you need to.

(That is, assuming you are even capable of doing so.)

If you honestly can't define such a simple economics concept you shouldn't even be trying to debate about economics.

So either prove that you know how to think for yourself without quoting a Forbes columnist to speak for you, or simply admit, as you should have several posts ago, that government spending creates wealth.

It clearly does.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

become more educated. you ar give up.e just trying to set me up so you can take pot shots, and I don't play that game.

The articles expresses it much better than I can, so either critique that or

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

creation and you are furiously backpedaling in order to avoid his question because you know you are in *way* over your head in the "debate"


you know that as soon as you answer the question, the definition will make clear that doing things like building rail lines and highways is indeed wealth creation

at which point you will look like a complete idiot for claiming otherwise

and it is not "setting you up"

it is called "Socratic Method"

as soon as you get done looking that up to see what it means, why don't you simply answer the question and tell us all your definition of wealth creation


do a search on "Adam Smith" and "wealth creation"

you'll find plenty of one sentence definitions

Posted by hjdlkss on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:04 pm
Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

why don't you just admit it and shut up?

you are redefining backpedaling by epitomizing it beyond any previous backpedal in history

you're a fucking joke

Posted by lkdjkl on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

He gets business. You think it is evil.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

...what it means to create wealth, so that we can compare your definition, to things that the government has funded, which you are claiming don't create wealth.

It's a pretty simple ask really.

And you are pretty clearly refusing to answer because you know you are backed into a corner, and that to answer the question, is to admit that you are wrong.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

If you cannot be bothered to read it, then I cannot be bothered to waste time educating you.

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

I understand wealth creation perfectly well:

It is the using of funds, capital, materials, and labor, to create profits above the value of those inputs.

You on the other hand, somehow couldn't explain such a simple concept on your own without citing a convoluted Forbes opinion piece on multiple subjects.

So now that I have defined it for you, do you agree with that definition?

If not, state a better one, so that we have a basis for assessing your previous claims.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 4:42 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

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