Bike rentals at parks boom after slow start 

click to enlarge The City is set to approve a new bike rental site in Golden Gate Park. - MIKE KOOZMIN/2012 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • The City is set to approve a new bike rental site in Golden Gate Park.

Bike rentals in city parks got off to a rough start when one location was overrun by an Occupy San Francisco encampment, city officials said. But now with an expansion planned for Ocean Beach and an additional Golden Gate Park location, the Recreation and Park Department hopes to improve the experience in The City.

In March 2011, a five-year lease was approved by the Board of Supervisors between Rec and Park and Parkwide Activities LLC to operate bike rental locations in public parks.

The effort hit a roadblock in late 2011 with Occupy protests in Justin Herman Plaza, one of five locations selected under the initial agreement. Also, the other rental sites didn’t get up and running as scheduled.

In the first year of operation, the company was supposed to pay the department $127,400 in base rent, but ended up paying $89,546, according to a city budget report.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve an amended agreement to allow for an expansion of operations to include a site at Golden Gate Park’s eastern entrance at Alvord Lake near Haight Street and seasonally at Ocean Beach, mostly June through September on the weekends. The department would receive at least $578,505 in rent during the duration of the agreement.

Nick Kinsey of Rec and Park characterized business at the existing sites as “doing very well.”

“We’ve been seeing steady growth over the last 18 months in each of the locations, with the exceptions that Tuesday through Thursdays are a little bit slow,” Kinsey said during a Board of Supervisors budget committee meeting last week.

Not everyone’s thrilled with the expansion, let alone the entire arrangement. Barbara Hobie, who has owned Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate since 1977, objected to a “monopoly” operation in the park.

“I think it’s shameful of Golden Gate Park, [Mayor] Ed Lee and our city government to be bullying private businesses,” Hobie said. “I think it’s just like a big guy standing in front of you saying, ‘We’ve got the power and we’ve got the money and we are going to squash you.”

Kinsey said business could actually improve for Hobie and others. Bike rentals are concentrated in only a few neighborhoods and there are established bike routes in tour guides, but they don’t run to the west side. He said that could change by adding more rental sites in Golden Gate Park.

“Currently, over 90 percent of the bicycle rental trips in San Francisco go over Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and either bike back or take the ferry back, and people have lunch in Sausalito,” Kinsey said. “We would like to see those people biking in San Francisco, having lunch in San Francisco.”

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