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S.F. District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston is asking the city to research turning the Bay Wheels bike-share system, currently run for profit by Lyft, into a city-owned and potentially city-operated service, like Muni. “We need to meet the rise in demand for green transportation in our city–and part of that is through a municipal bike-share program to complement public transit and advancing public ownership of vital city services,” said Preston. “I’ve asked our Budget and Legislative Analyst to report on what it would take for San Francisco to implement a successful municipal bike share program and make it a reality.”
A city-run bike-share program would allow “…oversight and control to serve transit, environmental, and equity goals, not prioritized by large for-profit companies that currently own the network of bikes and bike stations across the city,” continued his office in a statement.
Currently, dock-based bike-share in San Francisco (and elsewhere in the Bay Area) is exclusively run by Lyft/Bay Wheels and regulated by regional authorities.
“San Franciscans shouldn’t be forced to rely on ride-share companies for an essential mobility service–especially from a company who just spent millions to crush workers’ rights statewide” said Jason Henderson, Chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. Henderson is referencing last November’s passage of California’s Prop. 22, sponsored primarily by Lyft and Uber, which removed obligations to provide benefits to its drivers. Prop. 22 was decried by labor advocates as an assault on worker protections in the midst of a pandemic.
“We know a publicly owned model is successful in other cities,” said the San Francisco’s Bicycle Coalition’s Janice Li. “Both the District of Columbia and Boston have publicly owned and privately operated models (both operated by Motivate)… The purpose of this Budget and Legislative Analyst report is to explore those models further and to learn more.”
In the announcement, Preston’s office also points out that advocates have criticized bike-share price hikes from March 2020.
An official in Preston’s office stressed that asking for the study is just a first step. Depending on the results, a proposal could develop to fold bike-share into SFMTA. Streetsblog hopes whatever scenario it leads to will mean better integration, such as including bike-share in the price of Muni transit passes.
It’s perhaps too early to determine how other Bay Area cities that host Lyft’s bike-share system will respond. “I’m not aware of any efforts or plans along those lines,” wrote Sean Maher, a spokesperson for Oakland’s Department of Transportation. Streetsblog emailed an official at MTC to find out if any cities aside from San Francisco are thinking along similar lines.
Regardless, “…we welcome this move by Supervisor Preston towards a municipal bike-share system so that we can get an affordable, equitable system that works for all San Franciscans,” said Li.