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Ford pulls controversial bike share ‘GoPass’ as local rentals fear ‘death’ of industry

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Tourists ride rental bicycles from Blazing Saddles at Pier 41 in San Francisco on Monday, June 26, 2017. (Sarahbeth Maney/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Ford GoBike and partner company Motivate have pulled their controversial “GoPass” from its website following an outcry from local bike rental companies, which feared the “death” of their industry.

The move comes on the eve of Ford’s much-touted Bay Area launch of 3,500 “shared” bicycles, slated for Wednesday.

The bike share company is allowed to place its stations on San Francisco public sidewalks for free by The City through an exclusive contract, amounting to publicly-subsidized competition for its rentable bikes — via cell phone app — that bike rentals said they could not compete with.

That wasn’t a problem with bike rental companies when Ford GoBike focused its service on commuters, but the small shops cried foul when Ford GoBike released a new “GoPass” for $15, allowing for unlimited three-hour trips in a 24-hour period — what they saw as a clear shot at their business.

That GoPass also featured the Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic tourist destination, in its advertising materials, which it later pulled.

Now Motivate has replaced the GoPass with a “Day Pass” which can be used for unlimited 30-minute rides and are more in line with commuter trips, and not tourist trips.

And Motivate, the bike sharing entity that partnered with Ford to operate the bike shares, is shifting its position in talks with Blazing Saddles and 15-plus other bike rental companies.

“Yes, they’re moving closer” to an agreement, confirmed Jeanne Orellana, a spokesperson with Bay City Bike and Parkwide, of the two sides.

Orellana said the bike rental companies are asking Ford and Motivate “cease marketing and advertising” to tourists, to restrict the “GoPass” to people who have zip codes in the Bay Area, and not to compete with bike rentals in Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina District, Hayes Valley and Golden Gate Park.

“I said [to the Mayor’s Office] hey, are you going to give us some free sidewalk space? Can we level the playing field here?” said Orellana.

She didn’t expect a “yes.”

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