Rows of bright blue bikes have popped up all over the Mission District, emblazoned with Ford’s logo. Bright red JUMP bikes have been spotted in the farthest reaches of the city, as far away as Lands End or Hunters Point. And starting today, LimeBike’s dockless green cruisers may soon be another sidewalk obstacle in the way of strollers, pedestrians, and wheelchairs. As the bikeshare industry heats up, it can be difficult to keep each company straight. Who’s doing what, and which one is worth a ride? Here’s a brief guide to keeping all your bicycles in a row:
This corporate darling of San Francisco has the biggest bikeshare footprint, by far. With more than 150 stations in the Bay Area and hundreds more coming, Ford GoBike has won the heart of the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission and local politicians, who have been more than happy to hand over city street real estate to the motor company in exchange for a long-overdue bike share expansion. These new bikes replaced Bay Area Bike Share on June 28, and thanks to corporate capital, have been able to expand at a rapid rate.
But not everyone is thrilled about the new bikeshare program. Tourist bike rental companies have complained that the rent-free bike stations compete for tourist dollars, and will kill their industry. Calle 24, the Latino Cultural Heritage District, has banned bike shares along 24th Street completely. Dozens of bikes were recently damaged by vandals. And now, Mission District residents are calling for a moratorium on bike share stations, while a community impact report is done.
Drama aside, some people are enjoying the new Ford GoBikes, like these cyclists, who raced the bicycles up Hawk Hill last month.
Cost: $3 for 30 minutes, $9.95 per day, $124 per year.
Bluegogo Bicycles (James Chan)
Bluegogo was so early 2017, but as its stationless bikeshare system changed city policy, it’s worth a mention. This Chinese-owned company planned to drop thousands of bikes onto San Francisco’s streets, which would be rentable via an app, and could be dropped or picked up anywhere. As worst-case-scenario photos of similar Chinese bike share systems popped up all over the internet, the San Francisco Planning Department jumped into the fray and issued a warning to Bluegogo that they did not have the necessary permits in place to deposit their bikes on city streets and sidewalks. The controversy and accompanying bad media spurred Bluegogo to pull their bikes from the streets in March. Two months later, the board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Board of Supervisors amended the transportation code prohibiting stationless bike sharing without a (pricey) permit.
Cost: $0.99 for 30 minutes.
With their bright red paint and bucket-like baskets, JUMP‘s new bikes resemble toys. One hundred of these shiny red rides were dropped onto San Francisco’s streets several days before Ford GoBike’s big debut in June, and they pack a punch that beats the other competition: electricity. The new bikes are part of a University of California Berkeley study, funded with $735,000 from the Federal Highway Administration. On a JUMP, one doesn’t have to carefully plan a wiggly route around the city’s hills, but can just go straight up them with minimal sweating and effort, thanks to an electric motor that supplements pedaling.
Similar to Bluegogo however, JUMP bikes don’t need to be locked in official docks, making their presence on city streets potentially illegal without a permit — though more convenient for riders. JUMP bikes can be locked to any bike rack or pole, but financial incentives are at work: Riders will get charged $1 if they don’t return it to a designated spot, and a $1 credit if they do.
Cost: Use of the bikes is currently free, however the pilot is limited to those invited only.
This summer has seen the above plethora of bikeshare programs launch in San Francisco, but the season’s not over yet for companies hoping to elbow their way in to the competition. On Wednesday LimeBike unlocked 300 bikes in South San Francisco, targeting commuters. The green cruiser-style bicycles are accessible via an app, and are also dockless, bringing up that same old controversy about how users will lock them up out of the way of other cyclists and pedestrians.
Cost: $1 for 30 minutes.
There you have it: a breakdown of the blue, red, and green bikes popping up all over our streets…but soon we may see white Social Bicycles and orange Spin bikes in the mix, two additional companies who have expressed interest in opening in San Francisco.
Corporations aside, perhaps over time perhaps these will catch on, and private vehicle traffic will reduce, Muni seats will free up, and Lyft will never surge again. If that’s the case, the city better improve its bike lanes.