With a credit card, Bike Share members in Redwood City with an errand to run, a job to get to, or a train to catch can unlock a low-slung, easy-handling, seven-speed bike from a docking station at one of five downtown locations and pedal off to another station, where they then re-lock the bike and go about their business. The stations are far enough away to save time, but close enough to each other and to centers of activity to be useful and to accomplish one-way trips in less than 30 minutes.
The ideal Peninsula community for a bike-share program appears to be a busy cityscape that straddles the transportation corridor of Caltrain and El Camino Real. Menlo Park could meet the criteria needed to join, if and when the pilot expands into a permanent program, said Tom Flannigan, a spokesperson for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Redwood City, the only community in San Mateo County to be participating, has five rental stations and 70 bikes initially (growing to 100 in the second phase). The five stations are concentrated downtown, where county and city public employees gather, and are easily within a 30 minute ride of each other, said Jessica Manzi, the city's transportation manager.
Palo Alto and Mountain View have five Bike Share stations, and there are 14 in San Jose and 34 in San Francisco. The Bay Area program is the first to distribute bikes along an extended metropolitan corridor, according to the website of Bay Area Bike Share.
In coordination with the county, the San Mateo County Transit District and Caltrain, Redwood City had been working steadily on last-mile projects: getting public transportation commuters closer to the doors of their destinations. The city already offers the Zipcar car-sharing program and van pools for public employees, Ms. Manzi said. Bike-sharing was also on the table.
When the opportunity came along to join the Bike Share pilot, Redwood City was ready and applied for and received a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Ms. Manzi said. More bike lanes are coming to the city as streets are being resurfaced, she added.
The pilot, modeled on programs in major cities in the United States and Europe, aims to help Caltrain, BART and ferry commuters get to and from inner-city workplaces, and to help anyone in the inner city run errands quickly and cleanly, in terms of environmental impact.
The bikes are regularly maintained, designed for safe and easy riding on flat terrain, and are equipped with lights, bells, fenders, chain guards and a small carrier mounted on the handlebars. They even have internal gears that can be shifted while sitting still.
The air-quality district is one of several Bay Area public agencies funding the pilot, according to the Bike Share website. Others include the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrain, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and San Mateo County.
As a member, you can take as many 30-minute trips as you like within the limits of your membership, whether for a day ($9), three days ($22) or a year ($88). You'll be on the hook for another $4 if you keep the bike for 60 minutes, and the cost jumps by $7 for each 30-minute window after that.
"It's intended to be a very safe way to help provide additional mobility options," said Karen Schkolnick of the air-quality district.
Go to bayareabikeshare.com for more information.