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Bike advocates want electric bike share ‘caps’ to end

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Two bike advocates are calling for the city to lift a cap on the number of e-bikes that can be offered by bikesharing companies such as Jump. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Local bicyclists have launched an online petition to combat The City’s restrictions on electric bike sharing.

The effort, called “Free Our Bikes,” has only about 681 signatures so far, but its grassroots organizers Patrick Traughber and Brad Williford hope it will pick up steam.

E-bikes, which can boost a rider’s efforts with an electric motor, have the potential to make bicycling more friendly to San Franciscans, the pair said.

“A few months ago I was walking down Valencia (street) and started chatting with a woman looking for an e-bike to rent,” Williford said. “She found one, hopped on with her friends, and rode off. You wouldn’t believe her excitement.”

But efforts by Motivate, which runs the Ford GoBike bikeshare program, have led to a cap on shared e-bikes in San Francisco. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency pushed to allow bikesharing companies to offer e-bikes last year, only for Motivate to challenge that competition based on its exclusivity contract with San Francisco to run bikeshare in docks.

SFMTA and Motivate entered arbitration, the result of which was a scaled-back permit allowing e-bike company Jump, which is owned by Uber and operates a “dockless” model of bikesharing, to offer only 250 bikes in San Francisco.

SEE RELATED: Supes, neighbors block Ford GoBike’s citywide expansion

Additionally, some of The City’s Board of Supervisors have opposed Ford GoBike’s expansion into neighborhoods from the Marina to the Mission, effectively curtailing the program’s planned expansion to 7,000 available bikes Bay Area-wide.

Traughber said that was short-sighted.

The bikes “make our streets safer, healthier and are an affordable option for getting around The City,” he said. “I recently moved from a neighborhood with a Ford GoBike station on our black and it was wonderful. My new neighborhood doesn’t have access to a Ford GoBike station, and it makes it much harder to get around.”

Traughber lives in Russian Hill, at the edge of District 2, where Supervisor Catherine Stefani opposed the expansion of Ford GoBike into three locations after some neighbors complained they would lose parking spaces, the Examiner previously reported.

It was that reporting that alerted Traughber and Williford that they should act, the pair told Streetsblog SF, who first reported the petition. “That was a real wake-up call to me and some of my friends who really rely on bike-share,” Williford told the transportation blog.

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