News

New ideas to bring bike-sharing back to Mountain View

Fleet of companies promise new, low-cost system to replace Bike Share program

About a year ago, Mountain View leaders faced a stark choice -- pay $1.1 million or lose the city's Bike Share program. The rental-bike stations sprinkled throughout town were popular in concept, but they struggled with low ridership, and it took outside grant funding to keep the program afloat.

Last year, by just one vote, the City Council decided to let the Bike Share program die off in the hopes that a better service might be around the corner. In hindsight, that appears to have been the right move.

In a meeting last week, the City Council learned that a suite of new bike-sharing companies were willing to set up shop in Mountain View at essentially no cost to the city.

"It's become evident that the Bike Share industry and business model are undergoing sustantial changes," said Dawn Cameron, Mountain View's assistant public works director. “We have companies knocking on our door saying they'll be here tomorrow if you want them to.”

Technology is the main reason for why these newer bike-sharing services don't need a government subsidy. The previous Bike Share system relied on docking stations built around the city, which required costly maintenance and regular redistribution of bikes.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

That business model is being ditched by a fleet of newer companies such as LimeBike, BluGoGo and Spin. These “smart bike” companies rely heavily on GPS-equipped bicycles that don't require docking stations and can be rented out by anyone with a smartphone.

This new generation of rental bikes are self-locking, and they can either be "corralled" into designated parking areas or just left wherever is convenient around town. The cost would likely range from $0.50 to $2 per half-hour to rent one, Cameron said.

Perhaps most significant, these companies don't need any money from the city, aside from some basic oversight costs. This finanicing system could be hard to sustain in the long-term, but for now it seemed like a pretty good deal, city officials said.

The City Council supported the idea of designing a new one-year pilot program for these new Bike Share companies. Each company that wants to set up shop in Mountain View will need to provide at least 200 bicycles. City staff members explained that they would work with neighboring cities to prepare a regional approach for the new bike-sharing program in the coming months.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

New ideas to bring bike-sharing back to Mountain View

Fleet of companies promise new, low-cost system to replace Bike Share program

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 1:56 pm

About a year ago, Mountain View leaders faced a stark choice -- pay $1.1 million or lose the city's Bike Share program. The rental-bike stations sprinkled throughout town were popular in concept, but they struggled with low ridership, and it took outside grant funding to keep the program afloat.

Last year, by just one vote, the City Council decided to let the Bike Share program die off in the hopes that a better service might be around the corner. In hindsight, that appears to have been the right move.

In a meeting last week, the City Council learned that a suite of new bike-sharing companies were willing to set up shop in Mountain View at essentially no cost to the city.

"It's become evident that the Bike Share industry and business model are undergoing sustantial changes," said Dawn Cameron, Mountain View's assistant public works director. “We have companies knocking on our door saying they'll be here tomorrow if you want them to.”

Technology is the main reason for why these newer bike-sharing services don't need a government subsidy. The previous Bike Share system relied on docking stations built around the city, which required costly maintenance and regular redistribution of bikes.

That business model is being ditched by a fleet of newer companies such as LimeBike, BluGoGo and Spin. These “smart bike” companies rely heavily on GPS-equipped bicycles that don't require docking stations and can be rented out by anyone with a smartphone.

This new generation of rental bikes are self-locking, and they can either be "corralled" into designated parking areas or just left wherever is convenient around town. The cost would likely range from $0.50 to $2 per half-hour to rent one, Cameron said.

Perhaps most significant, these companies don't need any money from the city, aside from some basic oversight costs. This finanicing system could be hard to sustain in the long-term, but for now it seemed like a pretty good deal, city officials said.

The City Council supported the idea of designing a new one-year pilot program for these new Bike Share companies. Each company that wants to set up shop in Mountain View will need to provide at least 200 bicycles. City staff members explained that they would work with neighboring cities to prepare a regional approach for the new bike-sharing program in the coming months.

Comments

Jean
Gemello
on Oct 3, 2017 at 2:15 pm
Jean, Gemello
on Oct 3, 2017 at 2:15 pm

"just left wherever is convenient around town"

Don't we already have a program like this? Google bikes are all over the place.


Darin
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2017 at 2:48 pm
Darin, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 3, 2017 at 2:48 pm

If I am not mistaken, Google's program doesn't use docking stations, and it still requires regular redistribution of bikes (not even counting the bikes that are taken off campus). Eliminating the docking stations and allowing users to leave the bikes "wherever is convenient" probably won't eliminate the need for regular redistribution of bikes.


BD
Cuesta Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:02 pm
BD, Cuesta Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:02 pm

This new approach sounds much better to me as a potential rider, too. I don't have to leave the bike at an inconvenient location and walk to my final destination, but rather can cycle right where I'm going and then check out.


Anke
North Whisman
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:14 pm
Anke, North Whisman
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:14 pm

It seems like if enough cities adopt a system like this, it could help reduce the problem of bikes getting bumped off Caltrain because some people would be able to bikeshare at either end instead of taking their own bike. But on the other hand I wonder how long it takes before the GPS is vandalized and the bikes simply stolen.


Ed S
Cuesta Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:32 pm
Ed S, Cuesta Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Bike-sharing in China is really popular. The unintended consequences, however, are staggering. Photo: Web Link


resident
Old Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:33 pm
resident, Old Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:33 pm

The problem with the old bike share system is there weren't enough stations to make the network usable for most city residents. Similarly, these new bike share systems will only be usable if there are enough bikes spread out where people need them, including in residential areas. If people can rent a bike to get from home to the Caltrain station, a lot of city residents will stop driving to work.


A bit concerned
Shoreline West
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:50 pm
A bit concerned, Shoreline West
on Oct 3, 2017 at 3:50 pm

I think its a great idea but leaving the bikes wherever is convenient may be good for the rider but a mess if I have bikes piling up in our yard. We have Google bikes left in our front yard often and I have to call them to pick them up. Once we had 2 bikes right behind my car in the driveway. Not convenient for me!


John
Willowgate
on Oct 3, 2017 at 4:25 pm
John, Willowgate
on Oct 3, 2017 at 4:25 pm

These systems know exactly who last rode a bike and who parked it there, so they could punish people who leave bikes in people's driveways: Web Link


AllYouCanEat
Monta Loma
on Oct 3, 2017 at 4:42 pm
AllYouCanEat, Monta Loma
on Oct 3, 2017 at 4:42 pm

Why in the world would anybody pay to ride a bike when there are tons of Google bike spread throughout Mountain View.

Another thing. Stop trying to force people to ride bikes. The ones that don't want to ride will not ride. Leave them alone!


Forced to bike?
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2017 at 5:03 pm
Forced to bike?, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Having something exist does not equal being forced to use it. You knew that right?
I'd try and get used to the growing number of cyclists though. So many have discovered how great it is in many instances, that it's really caught on. If you hear of anyone forced to ride a bike, for the record, I'm 100% against that.


A Talking Cat
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm
A Talking Cat, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm

What kind of awful victim complex do you have to have, to believe that making something easier for others somehow removes your freedom from not doing it? (P.S. It must be terrible to be forced into a wheelchair whenever you see a ramp next to stairs.)


Crankcase
Rengstorff Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 9:19 pm
Crankcase, Rengstorff Park
on Oct 3, 2017 at 9:19 pm

I'm waiting for dockless bike share to do a pilot program. Hopefully, it'll be successful. The old system required me to dock and walk four blocks home. That kinda defeat the purpose of riding bike share. In other words, it will work if you live across to one station. You're basically being controlled by what the bike share operators wants you to do. Freedom is not there. It's like locked and unlocked cellphone services.


Bruce Karney
Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2017 at 7:11 am
Bruce Karney, Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2017 at 7:11 am

This is an encouraging new development, and I hope city residents, commuters, city staff, and elected officials get it right the first time. Clearly, we are going to need LOTS more bike parking space in certain locations, and the City will need to make that happen very quickly. For example, not just at the downtown Transit Center but also at the one on Showers Drive and at the San Antonio CalTrain station. If station-less bike sharing is successful there will undoubtedly be many other locations that will need more bike parking. Fortunately, usage data from the bikes' GPS systems will help decision-makers know exactly where those places are.


Great option
Castro City
on Oct 4, 2017 at 7:43 am
Great option, Castro City
on Oct 4, 2017 at 7:43 am

The nice thing about this approach is the use of the private sector to decide if this is feasbale. The old approach basically needed huge government subsidies to survive. The new firms "claim" they can provide a bicycle system without public funds. Great. Of course council and staff bureaucrats will try to screw this up by imposing nonsensical demands for service. Let the private sector respond to consumer demand and run a system that truly serves customers and that makes money. The city should just take a percentage of revenue. If this works, maybe it will lead to figuring out how to male the trains and bus system to run more efficently so that they stop using public funds. If it works for bicylcles, it can work for trains and busses.


Great idea, and about Google bikes
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2017 at 10:42 am
Great idea, and about Google bikes, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2017 at 10:42 am

I walked home from the train station all the way down Castro as well as walking in today and saw ZERO Google bikes, so obviously that's not gonna work.
Sounds more like an opportunity for people to belly-ache about their pet peeve issue rather than join in the discussion at the grownup table.


resident
Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2017 at 11:10 am
resident, Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2017 at 11:10 am

The city needs to create rules about where these bicycles can be parked (eg only official bike racks) and the city needs to make sure there are enough of these bike racks installed around town. Palo Alto has bike racks on every street corner in their business districts, and also in every city park and library. Is Mountain View going to do the same?


Me
Willowgate
on Oct 4, 2017 at 1:12 pm
Me, Willowgate
on Oct 4, 2017 at 1:12 pm

One day I actually was looking for a google bike, and I couldn't find any in the usual spots ;(


Gary's Old Town Tavern
another community
on Oct 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm
Gary's Old Town Tavern, another community
on Oct 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm

What a waste of taxpayer money.


^^^^^
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2017 at 2:22 pm
^^^^^, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Knowing who was responsible for the bike last is a big advantage. Progressively less cars on the road means less time lost, increased general productivity. Even the grumpiest among us will benefit.


Gary's Old Town Tavern
another community
on Oct 4, 2017 at 4:07 pm
Gary's Old Town Tavern, another community
on Oct 4, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Do you [portion removed] who are supporting this understand that the people who want to ride bikes already have bikes? I don't think you do.


Name hidden
Another Mountain View Neighborhood

on Oct 4, 2017 at 4:17 pm
Name hidden, Another Mountain View Neighborhood

on Oct 4, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


@Gary's Old Town Tavern
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2017 at 5:16 pm
@Gary's Old Town Tavern, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Actually, you need to think a little more thoroughly on this. See the thing is, I have a bike. I ride it like crazy on the weekends, but don't have it at work since I drive in from the east bay. I would LOVE access to a downtown "lunch bike" for quick errands, or just to turn a 20 min round trip walk from one end of Castro to the other into a 3-5 min roll. I'd EASILY pay for that as described in the article. Less lunchtime cars downtown is a good thing in my opinion. I hope to lead the charge and free up some car space on MV's roads soon. If you choose to think past your obvious bias on this one and you'll see the benefits more clearly and we may even get to read ALL the words you write here ;)


resident
Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm
resident, Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm

I want to commute to work by Caltrain or VTA lightrail. I live too far from the station to walk every day. If I biked there, what do I do with my bicycle when I get there? Trains are often full, so take it on the train with me is not a great option. If I lock it to a bike rack at the station, what is the chance it will still be there when I come home after work? Bike share is perfect, if the bicycles are easily available both in residential areas and at the train station.

These are private for-profit businesses with no taxpayer money involved, so why not let them try?


PA Resident
another community
on Oct 5, 2017 at 4:05 am
PA Resident, another community
on Oct 5, 2017 at 4:05 am

Any bike sharing plan that doesn't coordinate with Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, etc. so that riders can take them across City borders isn't going to be as attractive to riders than ones that have to stay in Mountain View. The artificial city boundaries are not the way people live their lives. We cross these boundaries all the time just to shop, visit friends, work, go to church, theaters, parks, etc. Really the only people likely to stay in town are children riding their bikes to school, but that isn't a given with private schools and after school activities that involve crossing the border.


Just Bob
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 7:00 am
Just Bob, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 7:00 am

"Any bike sharing plan that doesn't coordinate with Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, etc. so that riders can take them across City borders isn't going to be as attractive to riders than ones that have to stay in Mountain View."

If the intent is to encourage longer trips, then I would say that's true. If the intent is to encourage shorter in town trips, I would disagree.


MV Biker
Slater
on Oct 5, 2017 at 1:14 pm
MV Biker, Slater
on Oct 5, 2017 at 1:14 pm

This is a great idea. I live and work in Mountain View without a car and rely on my bike and ride-shares. It would be great to be able to take a ride-share to work to avoid showing up sweaty, but then have the option to save a few bucks by riding one of these smart bikes home. Steven's Creek trail entrances would be a good place to group them.


Wonderful!
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 2:10 pm
Wonderful!, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 2:10 pm

I like how it's privately funded. Should be very nice!


DC
Sylvan Park
on Oct 5, 2017 at 8:10 pm
DC, Sylvan Park
on Oct 5, 2017 at 8:10 pm

A sad outcome of these large quantity of easy use bikes is that some users don't care about the other pedestrians and leave them anywhere. Has anyone seen a handicap or blind person try to negotiate around a random parked bike? (seen because I was in a car across the street)


@DC
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2017 at 4:27 am
@DC, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2017 at 4:27 am

Thew great part about this is that the last users of the bikes are known/registered so issues like you describe can be easily flagged and tagged to an offender rather than them just being anonymous users.


Me
Whisman Station
on Oct 6, 2017 at 4:04 pm
Me, Whisman Station
on Oct 6, 2017 at 4:04 pm

There are bike racks all over downtown already. A lot of them are single 2 bikes, or double (4 bikes).


Giterdone
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2017 at 6:07 am
Giterdone, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2017 at 6:07 am

Bring it on! Lets roll!


Blushing Borrower
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2017 at 9:48 am
Blushing Borrower, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2017 at 9:48 am

You know who's going to love this? My co-worker who, I'm sure, is sick of hearing me ask "Can I borrow your bike to run up to the bank?"
Love you Angela!


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.