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MV to test bike share program

Original post made on Dec 28, 2009

Mountain View could be among three transportation hubs to test out a new bike share program this spring, thanks to a $500,000 grant the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority secured earlier this month.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 28, 2009, 3:01 PM

Comments (30)

Posted by common sense, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 28, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Ok so $500,000 for 100 bikes...Let's do the math shall we? I'll do it for you. That's $5000 a bike. Folks, you know these bikes cost ~$100 each. Again, where is the money going? Correct, right into the city's pocket. $5000 a bike, obviously you think we're stupid! This program will fail as all the bikes get stolen and repainted. Government workers are just that stupid. Here we are struggling for money, being taxed to the hilt and gee we have $500k for something stupid like this.

Posted by Jarrett, a resident of Castro City
on Dec 28, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Common Sense,

To understand the cost behind bike share, you have to understand how bike share works. Bikes are not the only part of the equation. Essentially, there is a fleet of bikes and multiple docking stations sprinkled around town. In the case of VTA, there will be docking stations within a three mile radius of Caltrain stations. The docking stations typically contain payment machines that are interlocked with security mechanisms. Besides the bike stations, there will likely be a maintenance building or maintenance truck which moves and repairs bikes. In addition, a website will likely be created so users can find station locations and make payments online.

The bikes themselves will likely be simple mechanically but require more durable components for heavy wear. In addition, the bikes must be compatible with the docking system which secures the bikes. Some systems also embed the bikes with GPS to deter theft. As you can imagine, this costs more than your $100 Huffy from Wal-Mart

Besides GPS, bike share systems deter theft by requiring a user to register credit card information before he or she checks out a bike. If a bike is not returned to a docking station after a certain time period, it is deemed stolen and the user is charged the full cost for the bike. VTA's policies may differ, but this is the way it works in the rest of the world.
Here are some websites for some different bike share systems throughout the world.

BIXI Montreal: Web Link

Velib Paris: Web Link

Posted by Annoyed, a resident of Castro City
on Dec 29, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Great...just what we need more bikers causing problems!! Maybe the city should provide training on how to ride your bike and obey the law instead, ever heard of the lawless group critical mass. This is just the type of group I do not want in Mountain View. I get the fact that this is a commuter program, but it all starts somewhere.

Posted by sean, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 29, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Jarret, thank you for a more detailed explanation on why a project/program like this takes so much $ (500,000) to get of the ground. obviously common sense didnt think of the BIG PICTURE.i dont agree with the program or think the program will even work for that matter, i will how ever look at the links you posted and re-assess. i think it would be better to try such a program in a smaller market since it is so new to the US. i also think the 500,000 could have been better spent- the vta is making major cuts right now, why not put the money to that?

Posted by jane, a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Dear Annoyed,
"...more bikers causing problems"?! People who ride bikes are not out there to cause problems. Many of us are committed to cleaner transportation and are very alert to drivers as we try to navigate safely around town. As to your other part of your comment, perhaps "bicycle training" could be part of the system i.e. your creidt card is used to reserve the bike (like is for cars) but there is a safety checklist for the bicyclist to review and to check that the rider with comply with.

Posted by dcrilley, a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm

On the Paris bike share program: "At least 3,000 bicycles were stolen in the first year of operation, many more than had been initially estimated... As of August 2009, of 20,600 bikes initially, about 16,000 bikes have been replaced due to vandalism, including 8,000 stolen and 100 pulled from the Seine River." - from Velib entry in Wikipedia at Web Link'

Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2009 at 3:11 pm

500,000 when the State is running stupendously in the red. Genius. When oh when will California learn that this kind of stupidity has to stop? How about a little fiscal responsibility? Oh who am I kidding?

Posted by bike riot?, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm

As to the numbers mentioned above in Paris, the same site explains further the unique situation there.

"A sociologist saw the vandalism as a symptom of revolt by sub-urban poor immigrant youths against the bourgeois urban middle class, the main users of the bikes."

I can't recall any Paris-like youth revolts here in Mountain View. I'd say the bikes will be relatively safe here, and a welcome addition to the city.

Posted by jane, a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 29, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Grant money is usually money that is applied for and justified - how many people will be impacted, what is the benefit of the grant etc. This means that the grant money was available and applied for to test this pilot program, and as much as we may feel that it should have been used for something else, that is not usually how grants work. Mountain View will not be out-of-pocket by trying this program. If it has safeguards builtin i.e. the user has an i.d. card to unlock the bike and then lock it up at the destination the program could be a great asset! Many comuters by train could use the bikes to-and from a 3-mile radius, depending on where the bike hubs are placed.

Posted by Jarrett, a resident of Castro City
on Dec 29, 2009 at 5:26 pm


The money comes from a pool of money that can only be used for transport projects. It can't be used to balance the state budget.


The Paris system is the largest bike share system in the world with over 20,000 bikes and nearly 1,500 stations. Despite the problems in theft, that same Wiki article you link to describes a system that is wildly successful and in high demand. Its low cost makes in a easy and cheap way to complete short trips and connect to major transit lines. Systems like Bixi in Montreal and Bicing in Barcelona have less theft issues since they are newer than Velib and were designed with stronger ant-theft devices. With that said, there are still issues with theft and vandalism, but this shouldn't stand in the way of the ideal of bike share. These problems can be solved with improved designs and with continued demand for bike share, systems will improve and become even better.

Posted by phm, a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 29, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Considering the millions of dollars needed to fix any problem on a freeway, and that the ability to borrow a bike to get from a train station to a workplace will likely encourage more people to take the train and get off the freeway, $500K to set up a bikeshare project sounds like a good deal to me.

Posted by NeHi, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 29, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Trust everyone; just cut the cards!

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 30, 2009 at 6:32 pm

These are silly programs. If there was such a need the private sector would provide rentals. These pubic programs do emulate some private characteristics but fail because the individual users are not held responsible for poor use. This is a very expensive program to accommodate people that want free rides. Make them pay their fair share and this program will disappear. Google offers free bikes and take a look at the broken bikes in the parking lots
Cities have also tried this with per hour free car rentals. You can do this with any car rental agency; you just have to pay and have insurance.

Posted by Stick, a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 8:59 pm

When I was in Paris, I saw one of those bike stands. The whole thing was empty except for one bike with a flat tire. $500k ? Hmmm

Posted by Not really, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 30, 2009 at 11:43 pm

To Political Insider,

Two of the concerns you share about the planned bike-sharing program are unfounded, based on what I've read elsewhere about the program that VTA is planning.

You say that "These pubic programs... fail because the individual users are not held responsible for poor use" when (as was pointed out in comments above) the users actually need to put down a deposit by credit card to check out the bicycle, so if they damage or lose it, their card is charged.

You also say that "This is a very expensive program to accommodate people that want free rides"; however, my understanding is that the VTA program is not intended to be free - people will be charged a per-hour fee paid by credit card.

And on your note about "free car rentals" -- I'm not sure what you're referring to here, but if it's car-sharing (which would make the most sense given that the article is about bike-sharing) --
Car-sharing services such as Zipcar and Flexcar are fundamentally different from what you describe in 2 ways: (1) They are not free, but charge per hour or per day, and (2) Car-sharing organizations include the cost of insurance in the rental fee, which makes them particularly well-suited to those who do not have a car, or who wish to use a car only on a limited basis (like college students or those living near transit stations).

I'd like to see more true car-sharing options (like Zipcar or Flexcar) here in Mountain View and Silicon Valley, as I think there is a demand for people who want to live more sustainable, lower carbon-footprint lifestyles.

Posted by LFM, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 11:05 am

VTA is around a $100m in the hole. Maybe they should shut down operations and use pedal power instead

It's time to privatize the bus routes and put them out to bid. You could bundle viable and non viable routes together and the private sector will figure out how to make money out of it using affordable labor and airporter type vans.

Posted by stick, a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2009 at 12:33 pm

One stolen credit card, a fleet of missing bikes. Empty bike stands all over town. Program ends. Bike stands become eyesores. $500k gone forever.

Posted by Child Please, a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 31, 2009 at 12:47 pm

When I see cars obeying the laws, I'll complain about bikes not beying the laws. And to clarify I do not own a bike, and have not since age 16
Lets start where there's more impact to everyone's lives by getting all the red light running, aggressive driving, game playing motor vehicle operators in line first. That's easily a bigger public safety issue than some bikes.
If every biker I see obeyed the law(stopped at all stop signs etc) it wouldn't impact me a bit compared to how wonderful life would be if all the unsafe drivers were eliminated. In fact, if all bikes stopped and walked across the street all stop signs, it would likely cause more of a traffic impact compared to how fast it takes you to get through an intersection than if bikes just scoot through and are gone in a blink.

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 4:01 pm

To Not Really,

If everything is as you say, why do we need the public sector to rent out bikes and cars. If the market is there (eg SF or pick some other tourist spot) rentals are readily available and the private sector will provide the service and cover its costs. In fact as I stated above, there are car rental agencies in MV and you can rent cars by the hour.

The reason you see the public sector involved is because they will provide these services at subsidized or free prices, which means that they really don't cover all of their costs. If they did, they would have to compete with the private sector. The fact that you dont see private provision should suggest the public pricing is not sustainable.

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Though private (zip and flexcar) , they have not been successful in every town. You need a lot of market demand and they will have to compete with traditional car rental companies. They have also been given preferential parking treatment by local government.

"After years of losses for both companies, Flexcar, based in Seattle and controlled by America Online founder Steve Case, said it will merge with the larger Zipcar, based near Boston, in hopes of achieving profitability within the year."(2007)

Posted by steve, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 31, 2009 at 4:54 pm

"Pools of money" sound like sacred cows to me. The state cannot afford these kinds of programs. 500K may not sound like a lot of money, by it all adds up. Death by a thousand bee stings and all.

When will California residents realize that they are burdening their children and grand chirldren with these many quasi-utopian programs that they seem insistent on creating?

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 2, 2010 at 11:22 am

As Jennie Loft of the VTA said "It's a conceptual project at this point, There aren't a lot of details." not a good sign.

If really you want to live in a walkable community you need to move to New York, San Francisco, Boston, London, Paris or any other major city. Silicon Valley is a sprawling suburb and most of it is not accessible by public transportation. In a real 'city' public transport is always a faster alternative then driving, not so here.

If they HAVE to spend the 500K it would better spent on putting in more bike lockers, serious cyclists who commute need to have a safe place to store their bike at transportation hubs.

Posted by The Dad, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I'm astounded by the people writing it off already. What part of "Test" don't people understand?
We'll know if it works or not afterwards and we can ALL pipe down because we'll have facts instead of a bunch of opinions.
If you're not willing to even test new ideas, then you're a big part of many problems.

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm

The so called tests are not new and have been performed in other cities and have not worked well. Why should we test bad ideas?

Posted by xyz, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Lots of people would ride their own bike to the stations if there is a low-cost safe place to park their bike. I don~{!/~}t mind to buy two bikes to place in two stations for commute to work.

The $500K should be spent on bike infrastructure.

Posted by The Dad, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Have ALL the test in ALL the cities not worked well Political Insider?
Hmmm? Careful how you answer ;)
Politics as usual is more like it, not Political Insider.
Grow, evolve.

Posted by Bradleigh, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

This area is full of educated people who make a fairly decent living. We can pay for our own bikes/transportation. Why do we need a grant to help us in this area?? Grants/monies can be more effectively used is areas that NEED it. We are NOT in need.

Posted by Political-Insider, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 5, 2010 at 10:24 pm

The results from SJ were bad. Cant speak for all programs but these is nothing new here to test since private markets exist for bike and car rentals.

Posted by jane, a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Response to Bradleigh's comment that the area is full of educated people who make a fairly decent living and can pay for their own bikes/transportation. This may be true, but just because a person can afford a bicycle does not mean that it is easy to take the bike on and off of the train. It does not mean that there are enough bike lockers available for everyone who owns a bike. For someone to park a car in Millbrae and ride the train to MV and then bike to a hub - what a great opprotunity to reduce car congestion in our town!

(There are also educated people who do not own bikes, and uneducated people who do own bikes.)

How nice it would be to have a cheap and easy way to bike from one hub to another hub.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm

So who will repair these bikes and what about liability if they cause a accident?

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