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Transportation officials halt funding for Ford GoBike expansion, citing rental bike conflict

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Ford GoBike is encroaching on San Francisco’s tourism industry. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)

A day before bike-share program Ford GoBike is set to expand by 3,500 cycles Wednesday, transportation officials have halted funding for the program’s expansion, citing conflicts between Ford GoBike and local “mom and pop” bike rental companies.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board voted Tuesday to hold off on granting $255,000 toward researching possible expansion sites for Ford GoBike.

The $255,000 in funding would allow another transportation body, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, to “review station sites and designs” and to “issue bike share station and special traffic permits” for an additional 96 stations, and 1,350 “shareable” bikes, according to an SFCTA staff report.

Without that funding, part of Ford GoBike’s planned bike-share business in San Francisco may see substantial delay.

Ford GoBike announced 7,000 bikes as part of its expansion efforts in the Bay Area, of which 3,500 will launch Wednesday.

As the San Francisco Examiner has previously reported, bike rental companies said the launch of Ford GoBike’s $15 “GoPass” was not targeted toward commuters, but tourists, who are the customers of 15-plus local bike rental companies.

“We look forward to welcoming an expanded bike network that provides new travel alternatives for our residents while standing by our commitment to support the legacy businesses that make this city special,” Mayor Ed Lee, whose office negotiated with the bike companies to reach an agreement, said in a statement.

Notably, much of Ford GoBike’s expansion is funded by San Francisco in a unique public-private partnership, which is administered not by Ford but a company called Motivate.

“It was never our intent in any way to be competitive” with the bike rental industry, Motivate CEO Jay Walder told the Examiner.

The “GoPass,” he said, was scrubbed from the bike-share company’s app, website and advertising materials, and they are in the process of printing out new decals for the bikeshare kiosks — which will also mention bike rental companies for “longer” trips.

Still, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs the SFCTA board, was not convinced Tuesday that the conflict between bike rentals and Ford GoBike was resolved. “I won’t believe it until I see it,” Peskin said.

Walder, the Motivate CEO, said if it was helpful for all involved to assure them that the controversial GoPass would not return, “I’ll put it in writing, that’s not a question to me.”

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