Bike-share to cross city lines 

Borrowing a bicycle in downtown San Francisco, riding over to the Caltrain station to take a train to San Jose and then dropping off the bike there could be a reality under a new proposal.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is planning more broadly after neighboring cities said they want to join The City’s bike-sharing effort. The idea is modeled after operations in cities such as Barcelona, Spain and Paris, where residents register and pay to use city-owned bikes available on streets.

Transportation officials here are working with various cities, including Millbrae, Palo Alto and San Jose, to create a regional bike-sharing plan that would allow residents to use one bike to get from one city to the next.

“We realized there were all these other cities that wanted to do bike-sharing so we all got together,” said Johanna Gregory Partin, the mayor’s director of Climate Protection Initiatives. “It doesn’t make sense to have a different system in San Jose or Santa Clara.”

Cities are still working out the details — like liability issues and user fees. Meanwhile, city leaders and transit agencies are cobbling together the money needed to get this program up and running.

The program, which would station 1,000 bikes at 100 kiosks in six cities, would cost more than $7.5 million to operate. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is shelling out $1.4 million for the project, which is expected to begin next year.

The participating cities are counting on a $5.4 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to cover the remainder of the bike-sharing program costs.

The idea is to station these bikes close to transit hubs, such as Millbrae BART and Caltrain, so that commuters can travel easily from one city to the next using the same bikes, said Ralph Borrmann, a spokesman with the Air Quality Management District.

The agency is talking with vendors that would provide the bikes, and will include tracking technology to reduce the chances of theft, Borrmann said. Local bike enthusiasts believe a regional approach to bike-sharing will almost certainly encourage more people to leave their cars at home, said Renee Rivera, acting executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Rivera said she would also like to see bike-sharing integrated into the already existing Clipper Card program, where card-holders can access all forms of transit, including city bikes.

“Someone would be able to come up for a Saturday from the Peninsula,” Rivera said. “They can jump on Caltrain, pick up a bike there, ride around The Embarcadero, leave the bike and jump on a cable car and go to Union Square then back home.”

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Erin Sherbert

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