The Vélibs are Coming, The Vélibs are Coming to San Francisco!

Globetrotting San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today in France that a Vélib’-style bike share program is coming to San Francisco. The plan is like ZipCar for bicycles – you could find a bike locked up in one of five areas around town, swipe your card, ride it to another bike lot, and then go about your bidness.

The French program has had its ups and downs. The little monsters of France (where “destroying property is a national pastime“) have found no end to what they can do to these built-to-last 50(!) pound bikes. In Paris, thousands of them have been lost and destroyed.

A satisfied Vélib’ customer in gay Paree. Cliquetez ici:

(¡Zoot alors! Their trash cans look just like ours!) via autsinevan

Who knows how this pilot program will work out here in San Francisco. Certainly, it will necessarily be different than what they have in Paris or Lyon. (The seven-mile trip between the CCSF Main Campus to the flat part of the Presidio – hoo boy, that’s a journey much longer than the typical Parisian jaunt, for example)

As they say in France, le bon Dieu est dans le detail.


PARIS, FRANCE – Mayor Gavin Newsom today used his visit to the successful
bike sharing network in Paris to announce that San Francisco will implement
a bike sharing pilot program in 2009. San Francisco’s bike sharing program
is intended to build on the recognition of San Francisco as a gold-level
bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists-the largest
United States city to receive such an honor.
“Bike sharing will help connect thousands of residents and commuters to
their workplaces and shopping destinations by providing bikes that they can
easily borrow,” said Mayor Newsom. “This bike sharing pilot project will
allow us to test and perfect the bikes and technology that will be used in
our citywide network.”
The pilot program will include 50 bikes located at five stations on
non-city property (as required by a Court injunction until environmental
review of the City’s Bicycle Plan is complete). Each station will have
either nine or 12 bikes and will provide approximately 50 percent more
bicycle parking slots to help ensure proper distribution between available
bikes and open, available drop-off spots. The stations will be in the
Financial District, Mission Bay, the Presidio, Civic Center and the City
College campus.
Bike sharing customers will sign-up through an online registration system
linked to the website of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
(SFMTA), which manages the City’s Bicycle Program.  Registration will
require a valid credit card to charge an annual user fee, hourly fees, and
to provide security for lost bikes (which will be the responsibility of the
user). A subscription will provide members access to all rental stations
and the use of a bike for a limited period of time per day.
“We are committed to the vision of increasing bicycling in San Francisco
through innovative programs like bike sharing,” said SFMTA Executive
Director/CEO Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr.
According to the 2007 Census update, 2.7 percent of San Franciscans commute
via bicycle compared to an average of 0.5 percent in the United States and
0.9 percent in California.  The SFMTA’s 2007-2008 Bicycle Count found a 25
percent increase in bicycling over the previous year, and a 2008 survey
showed that fully 6 percent of all trips in San Francisco are made by
The start-up costs for the pilot program are estimated to be between
$400,000 and $500,000, while the annual operating costs are projected to be
$450,000.  As provided for in the SFMTA’s Transit Shelter Advertising
Contract with Clear Channel, these costs are for Clear Channel to staff the
pilot program and have responsibility for installation and maintenance.
Today in Paris, Mayor Newsom received a briefing on the history,
organization and success of the “Velib” or bicycle share program in Paris,
and toured the repair, design and showroom facilities along with the
research and development facility. The “Velib” program was introduced by
Mayor Bertrand Delanoe as a way to reduce traffic and environmental
degradation in Paris by having a shared bicycle program encompass the
entire city. Today Paris has over 20,000 bicycles as part of the “Velib”
program and it has proven to be very popular and successful.

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2 Responses to “The Vélibs are Coming, The Vélibs are Coming to San Francisco!”

  1. Sean says:

    They’re going to need more than 5 spots in SF if this is going to be successful.

  2. sfcitizen says:

    Well, yeah, I mean it’s clearly labeled a trial run but it would obviously work differently than what they have in Paris or Lyon. SF’s plan is sort of like starting a bus system with just one bus.