Bike sharing program coming to the Bay Area and SJSU

by Mar 4, 2012 11:29 am

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G Bike, a program which enables Google employees to borrow bicycles for a faster and greener way to get around the campus, shows how the new bike sharing program coming to SJSU may be beneficial for students and for the environment. Photo by Sierra Duren / Spartan Daily

A new bike sharing program may be coming to the Bay Area and SJSU, which will let students, faculty and community members temporarily rent bikes at their leisure.

Bike sharing can be defined as public bicycles designed for short-term use, a network of automated, self-service bike stations and a membership-based program that allows users to check out and return the bikes to different stations, according to a VTA document.

The project is coming through a grant from the VTA, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Bay Area Quality Management District, said Eyedin Zonobi, manager of SJSU's Transportation Solutions.

The SJSU planning board has partially approved the bike sharing stations that would be installed at the perimeter of campus by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

The university hopes that in the long run this program would stop students from putting their bikes in the storage centers long-term, Zonobi said.

Bike sharing would mean the students don't need to buy a bike or bring their bikes to campus and they could use the bike share bikes, Zonobi said.

Bike Share Survey

Originally, SJSU wanted to see if this was something people would be interested in and sent out an email with a survey to all students and employees.

The survey asked students and employees transportation questions, such as if they have access to a bicycle or would they support the implementation of a bike share program around SJSU campus.

The student survey ended Thursday, while the employee survey is still being conducted.

According to the Zonobi, 1,937 students and 555 faculty have completed the questionnaire so far.

"The support is overwhelming…the support is about 80 percent," Zonobi said.

The whole installation and maintenance would be taken care of by VTA, Zonobi said.

“The pilot program refers to the trial period in which we test the potential of bike sharing to work in locations near transit and downtown areas in the five Bay Area cities,” said Brandi Childress, media spokesperson for the Santa Clara VTA. “What we’re hoping for is that bike sharing can work in different types of communities as a complementary mode of public transportation as well as serve as a 'last-mile solution' for connecting to transit.”

The pilot period will help determine how to evaluate system performance in each community, collect usage data and identify a sustainable model for expanding the program to other cities, Childress said.

Bike Share Specifics

Bike sharing could provide a convenient option for making short trips to transit, work, home and social and recreation destinations.

“Whenever I’d pass the Google campus or UC Davis and see all the bike share stations I always wondered if they would ever come to San Jose,” said senior communication major Christina Bergis. “It’s a great opportunity for the community to share with each other and go green by lowering our carbon footprint.”

The bike share bicycle is commuter style, has an internally geared hub, lights, baskets, fenders, adjustable seat, theft resistant and proprietary components, according to a VTA document.

The bike share station is solar powered, has a self-service pay station and has a secure, electronic locking system, according to a VTA document.

“Where cyclists often cannot find space to board their bikes on Caltrain, Light Rail, and buses, a bike share program at key transit hubs can boost transit ridership and bike use, thus alleviating demand for bringing bikes on board oversubscribed 'bike cars' on Caltrain or buses with full racks,” Childress said. “For example, a commuter living in San Francisco can pick up a bike share bike from the nearest bike share kiosk, ride to Caltrain transit center and park the bike at the Caltrain bike share kiosk before boarding the train.”

Arriving in San Jose, the same commuter can pick up a bike share bike at the Diridon transit center and ride it to the nearest bike share kiosk at their destination,  Childress said.

It also will test the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled, according to the VTA document.

“These cities also have vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown areas that make short-distance trips within downtown faster and more convenient by bike, thereby reducing traffic, demand for car parking  and auto emissions,” Childress said.

Membership pricing is still undecided in the Bay Area but in other cities — it ranges from day use at $5 to annual use at about $60,  according to the VTA document.

“These three cities were selected as the initial hubs because San Jose Diridon, Mountain View and Palo Alto Caltrain stations represent the three highest ridership demand for VTA and Caltrain service,” Childress said. “VTA’s 2010 Bike Share Feasibility Study showed that focusing the initial network of approximately 100-130 bikes near each major transit center would increase program efficiency and generate a sufficient number of memberships to support a sustainable program.”

The regional program would include 1,000 bicycles spread over 100 stations along the Caltrain commute corridor, according to the VTA document.

Each bike will carry a GPS chip in case of theft, Zonobi said.

Set to launch in Spring 2012, the program would include California cities such as San Francisco, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Jose, according to the VTA document.

The local bike sharing program would include 400 bicycles, 40 bike share stations, bike share stations located within three miles of Caltrain stations and priority areas such as downtowns, city halls, major shopping centers, SJSU, Stanford and major employment areas, according to the VTA document.

"The bike share pods on campus can have as many as 10-20 bicycles," Zonobi said.

Alternative Transportation

SJSU supports this project because the program encourages people to take alternative transportation besides using their cars, Zonobi said.

The stations would be within three miles of Caltrain stations, have adequate sunlight for solar power, proximity to bikeways and routes, avoid obstruction to pedestrian overflow, and with no site upgrades needed, according to the VTA.

The sites install in under an hour and are portable and temporary structures, with no excavation or hard-wiring required, and are wireless and solar-powered, according to a VTA document.

"It is challenging on campus grounds but it's not impossible," Zonobi said. "Every station would be solar-powered so they wouldn't have to be connected to the campus power."

Other cities in North America that have bike sharing programs include: Washington, D.C., Denver, Chicago, Miami and Minneapolis.

“I would definitely try out this new program,” said finance major Justin Estrada. “I’ve seen bike sharing stations in other places and have always wondered why San Jose doesn’t have them.”

Next Steps 

The next steps in completing the program would include finalizing station locations, sponsorship outreach and secure public outreach according to the VTA.

"It's gonna be a little bumpy at first like everything else, but eventually the issues and problems will be ironed out," Zonobi said.

“This program is targeted toward people who don’t normally use or think of bikes as a transportation mode,” Childress said. “We’re making it easier and more convenient to use a bike by eliminating the hassle of parking, storing or maintaining your own bike when you commute.”

7 thoughts on “Bike sharing program coming to the Bay Area and SJSU

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