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Palo Alto kicks bike-share system into gear

Original post made on Aug 29, 2013

Commuters and traffic-weary residents can cruise Palo Alto on readily available rented bicycles, now that the city has 75 "bike-share" bicycles at five kiosks spread around the north part of the city.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 29, 2013, 9:39 AM

Comments (31)

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 9:47 am

This is a great option! I have a friend from college who lives in Chattanooga and has been enjoying this for a while now. This sort of program has been successful there.

Posted by Mid-town resident, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

The prices are way too high to make this viable... This is not a bike rental program.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:19 am

The prices sound high, but we have just spent over $80 for bike parts and maintenance for one bike and $25 for another bike with a similar cost earlier this year.

I love the idea of bikes with someone else doing all the maintenance and keeping the tires pumped. Our school bike racks and the clumsy manner in which students treat other students bike costs more money than we expected.

When will these be available at high schools and where is the nearest bike station to my house?

Posted by so, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:13 am

Aren't these distances silly.

I thought the idea was to rent a bike and ride it one-way to a destination.
Rent a bike at the university caltrain station and ride to the Palo Alto bike store?
Who would do that?
Wouldn't it make more sense to have a station harder to walk distance like on the Stanford campus?

California caltrain to the AOL building?
This is an easy walking distance too.

I think the caltrain stations make sense, but I get off the train and ride to the an easy walk away?

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

The price is cheap if you buy the annual pass and use the system for daily commuting. The daily rates are mostly for out-of-town visitors who want to use bike share instead of renting a car.

I agree that they need to add more stations farther east and west of the Caltrain stations (like along Middlefield and El Camino). Right now, the system is most useful for people traveling north-south, like from downtown to California Ave or down to Mountain View.

I'm sure the system is a lot more interesting to people who Caltrain to San Francisco, where most of the stations are located.

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:39 am

If you want to suggest new station locations, the VTA (who is sponsoring the Palo Alto system) says to use this map: Web Link
Scroll down to Palo Alto and click on new locations or support/comment on locations other people have already suggested.

Posted by rodents, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I don't understand. If I want to take the train from my far away home, not lug a bike with me and use this rental to get to work/school - then this would make sense. But a year membership is $88 and then if I wanted to take it to work (say stanford) for 9 hours then it's going to cost me 16 (half hours) X $7 + $4 = $116 a day? Am I understanding the fee incorrectly? What use is a bike for 30 minutes?
A daily rental for a car is about $30-$40. A daily rental for a bike should be $10-$20.

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm

rodent - ask Stanford to install bike share stations on campus so you can let other people use the bike when you are at work all day. That is why this is called a "share" system instead of "rental" system. 30 minutes is plenty of time for you to get from Caltrain to campus.

Posted by rodents, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm

so, this is the bike share to nowhere? Stanford is a huge campus and there are hundreds of businesses in palo alto, will each require a kiosk for this to work? Add in the possibility that there may not be a bike at the kiosk I need and this system really seems silly.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I spoke with my friend from Chattanooga about that city's successful bike share program. She said that it is a lot like a Red Box (movie rental) system in that you can pick up and return a bike at any kiosk and use your card in case you accrue a fee.

The annual pass in Chattanooga costs $75, but students and those who work for corporate partners get a discount at $30 per year. The annual pass allows you to use the bike for one hour without a fee, but $5 for each 30 minute block over an hour. A person can re-check out a bike by simply going to any kiosk and using the touch screen. In other words, they can ride by a kiosk before the initial hour and then re-check the bike to receive another hour of use.

The big difference, according to my friend, is in the number of bike locations around Chattanooga. There are more than 30 locations around town, including those on university campuses, near high schools and throughout the "downtown" area.

Hopefully, more of these stations will be added to encompass more areas of town. I think that a station at Stanford as well as along University Ave., San Antonio Road, Charleston and several along El Caminio would be a great start!

Posted by bicyclechic, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:25 pm

The Cal Train bike station at California and Oregon serves South Palo Alto too! The trendy area South of Oregon Expy and Page Mill Road at California Avenue THANK YOU!

Posted by bikeshare = like Zipcar for bikes, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Most commenters are confusing bikeshare systems with ordinary bike rentals. Bike rentals are available from some local bike shops (Campus Bikes and Bike Connection are the options I know) for people who want to try out biking, or for short term visitors to the Stanford Campus, or for visiting relatives to get around town.

Bikeshare systems are NOT for daily commuting nor for recreational rides. They are for 15-30 minute connecting trips after you arrive in Palo Alto by train, or short hops between downtown and Cal Ave for lunch (cleverly avoiding the lunchtime parking problem).
See the website: Web Link

If this system gets lots of riders in San Francisco or downtown San Jose, then users who have business in Palo Alto (or Mountain View or Redwood City) will be more likely to leave their car at home and take the train, then use a bikeshare to get to their destination -- if it has a bikeshare docking station nearby. Of course, the system will have to expand, but I think the idea is for user demand to help grow the system. It would be great for getting from the train stations to to/from Stanford University, but for some reason the bike-friendly university isn't rolling out any stations -- anyone know why not?

Posted by emily, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:08 am

30 minutes for a trip is way too short of an amount of time to actually DO anything.

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:08 am

emily - I think you're wrong. There is plenty you can do in a 30 minute bike ride. From downtown, I can easily bike to the Stanford Shopping Center or California Street shopping district or midtown shopping center or Stanford University or downtown Menlo Park. Unfortunately, only one of these destinations has a bike share station where I can drop off the bike. Hopefully that will change in the future.

If you want to go on a longer bike ride, local bike shops can rent you bikes for moderately priced daily or weekly rates.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:17 am

parent, you are correct. The 30 minutes is not supposed to be time to "do anything" but time to get somewhere. You drop the bike in a kiosk while you do your business, then pick up another when you are finished for the return ride. Of course this only works if there are lots of kiosks and lots of bikes. The pilot program is so limited that it might not work even though a larger system would, so this will be very hard to evaluate.

The absence of Stanford is a mystery. I know they were involved and interested in the early stages of planning, and I don't know what went wrong along the way.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

How do you scale this system up to handle, say, 5,000 people a day? Where in downtown PA will you put hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these bike racks?

This is a really crazy idea in the long run.

Once these bikes begin to show signs of a lack of maintenance, and some significant theft rate, the craziness will become evident.

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

Joe - it way easier and cheaper for the city to build bike parking spaces than car parking spaces, and bikes are replacing cars for both shoppers and commuters. You can fit 10 bikes in the space of 1 car. You actually need far fewer bike parking spaces, since each bike is shared by many different people. I understand that New York City's bike share system is averaging 6 uses per bicycle every day.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:23 am

Say we had 50 ten-slot bike racks, with 5 bikes each -- 250 bikes each checked out 20 times per day is your 5000 people. Yes it's crazy to think we'd reach that level of optimization, but we're not so many orders of magnitude away from viability as skeptics may think. Maintenance may become a problem, but in similar bikeshares the theft rate is surprisingly very near zero.

Not much said here about "rebalancing", advertising, selling user data, and other technical points.

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:26 am

Super, just what we want to be, New York City. At the rate the developers are going a bike is about the only way we will be able to move in New York Alto. This ride share thing is a non-starter without dozens and dozens of stations. The VTA should spend their money on bike racks for buses and train cars. What happens when you get to your destination and the rack is full?

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:33 am

> bikes are replacing cars for both shoppers and commuters.

In your dreams. Go to any shopping mall, count the bicycles and cars. If you find the number of bicycles larger than the number of fingers on both of your hands, it will be a significant day in the saga of bicycles replacing cars. Ever try to buy a couch and take it home on a bicycle? What about just the fixings for a thanks giving dinner? Not very likely!

Currently, people travel about 30 minutes to work, using cars and other forms of internal combustion engines. How long do you think that it would take for these people to ride their bicycles? 2-3 hours? More?

You can live in your dream world if you want--but the real world is not going away anytime soon!

> build more parking spaces

There are a lot of parking spaces all over town. The problem seems to be in the downtown area. As to the City building new parking structures, the private sector is free to build these structures if it wants. Moreover, while the City does seem to be the lead agency in building parking structures downtown, the Parking Assessment District is paying for them--not the City (meaning the taxpayers).

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Joe, my 30 minute bike commute would take 10 minutes longer by car.

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Joe - first you say that downtown PA needs thousands of bike racks, then you say that no one is going to use them. Your arguments make no sense [portion removed?]

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm

The City's efforts to make the City "bike friendly" are overwhelmed
by its pro-growth polices which send waves of commuters speeding
through town, parking over-flow blocking visibilites at corners
on our residential streets. And introducing more bikes in this situation, of clogged streets, narrow and shared lanes, including visitors who may rent or bike/share and who may not be familiar with the streets and traffic patterns, is dangerous for everybody. The bike/share program is dysfunctional as presently constituted with such limited stations and high costs. The City is pursuing a set of inconsistent, conflicting and irrational policies. Nothing has changed.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm

The City of Palo Alto has almost nothing to do with the bike share program. It is being funded and operated by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and various transportation agencies. All Palo Alto had to do was agree to let them use some street space for the kiosks. The program is targeting the busiest Caltrain stations, and Palo Alto is one of them. It would have been silly not to participate.

Posted by Done That, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:42 pm

When I lived in Denmark for a year, these things were everywhere, and that was two decades ago! The Netherlands has done this for a very long time, too, we are WAY behind, as usual.

One problem I foresee here that I never saw in Europe is theft of the bikes. Are there no tracking devices? They are cheap when bought in quantities? This does happen in SF, I have been told.

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Bike theft should be mostly eliminated because you are required to lock the bike in their heavy duty racks at the end of every ride. People shouldn't be leaving these anywhere unlocked.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm

It is good to clarify that the bike share program is regional and Palo Alto is just allowing it to operate. It becomes integrated
then into our local bicycle planning, part of the system. So how
it operates, how it is used,etc. become local concerns too. We are also losing a few parking spaces to the racks.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Actually, we are gaining parking places. Each kiosk can park 10 bikes in the space that previously parked 2 cars.

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Actually by using parking places for a nonfunctional bike scheme you make the parking problem worse, 100 bike parking places means 20 highly desirable parking spaces are gone.

Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Get real. Maybe 4 car spaces were used to make space for 60 bicycles in the current installation. That's a great tradeoff in my book, especially if the city can start adding more stations in the residential parts of town so people can use bike share to get to downtown instead of driving in. That's 60 fewer cars on the road and trying to park downtown. Actually, in some cities the shared bikes are used by 6 or 8 different people every day, so 60 bikes can mean hundreds fewer cars downtown.

A new parking garage can cost upwards of $50 million. Bike share is a bargain in comparison.

We used bike share to bike from downtown to California Avenue this morning. That's an easy 12 minute bike ride at a casual family pace, using that quiet bike path that runs behind the medical center and Paly.

I just wish we could have more bike share stations. Town & Country and the Stanford Shopping Center are obvious choices, as well as some of the residential area along the Bryant Bicycle Boulevard.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Bike share if more stations can be added away from Downtown should be looked at as an option to those who want to use it.But please do not fall into the City's trap of projecting bike share as an offset to allow more development which is the prime motive here. More development means more traffic, more commuters, less safety for
bicyclists, more parking problems. In the same way Caltrain is
is the excuse to allow mega-projects like Lytton Gateway. As construction continues on Lytton Gateway it looks more and more like
a garage. I suggest Jim Baer breaks the lease with Survey Monkey
and turns it into a garage which would be a public benefit and would
almost justify this completely out-of-scale building. For a garage
it doesn't look bad.

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