BART’s newest Ford GoBike station is bound for a location near the 24th Street Mission BART Station after a proposal to place it at the station itself met with fiery opposition from Mission District community members citing racial tensions, gentrification, and community justice concerns.
Bike advocates had hoped for the bike dock to be placed at the station and argued that two-wheelers are needed to facilitate faster travel from San Francisco neighborhoods to BART, and lend greater safety for women seeking to take BART at night.
However mostly Latino Mission community members, protested the dock’s placement, alleging at a BART Board of Directors meeting Thursday morning that tech-enabled “bikeshare” services are just for “white men” who drive “gentrification.”
Before the vote, Mission neighborhood native Vicky Castro asked the BART board to consider long-time Mission residents’ perspective when making their decision, including the Latino community.
“Put that at the forefront,” she told them in public comment. “What the community asks for, not what the visitors ask for.”
Ultimately, the BART board favored a compromise between the community and bikeshare proponents put forward by BART director Bevan Dufty.
The BART Board of Directors voted 5-3 to approve a temporary pilot for a Ford GoBike station in front of Mission Library on 24th Street on Thursday, just 100 steps from 24th Street Mission BART Station.
Director Nick Josefowitz was absent. Directors who voted nay included John McPartland who represents Alameda county, Rebecca Saltzman who represents Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and BART Board of Directors President Robert Raburn.
That temporary station will be up until the library is renovated in just over a year, giving Motivate, the company that runs Ford GoBike, a chance to conduct more outreach to the community, BART directors said.
The approval falls short in the eyes of bikeshare advocates, who said the station needed to be directly on BART property, both to encourage more ridership of the bikes and for safety reasons, so cyclists did not have to walk through the neighborhood to reach 24th Street Mission BART.
Jean Walsh, director of external relations for Motivate, told the directors that placing the Ford GoBike station at the BART station would allow for 30 bikes, a necessary amount for the expected usage at the station. To provide a similar level of service would require removing five parking spaces near the Mission Library, she said.
“It would not be nearly as convenient,” she said.
Brad Williford, an avid cyclist who started an advocacy group calling for more bikeshare called “Our Bikes,” told directors he gathered support from more than 1,000 community members who want to see a Ford GoBike station directly on the station plaza.
And Gillian Gillett, a former transportation policy advisor to the late Mayor Ed Lee, spoke as an individual at the meeting, arguing her children are often left behind by Muni buses when heading to BART, and would benefit from a Ford GoBike station directly at the plaza.
“We need to get people out of their cars,” she said. “One of the ways to get people on their bikes is to provide access.”
Marie Sorenson, a Mission neighbor, argued the library site was close enough.
“I’m a bike rider,” she said, but “if you’re so freakin’ healthy, walk a block.”
Many public speakers from the Mission accused the advocates arguing for bikeshare of being gentrifiers, and implied or directly stated they were outsiders. Hearing this complaint, BART director Lateefah Simon addressed the elephant in the room.
She told Walsh, “the adversarial language I’m hearing is that bikes are for white men. That’s what I hear.”
Walsh directly answered, “They’re not just for white men,” and said that she herself conducts outreach in the Mission in fluent Spanish. But, she admitted, Motivate has work to do to ensure it connects with the community.
BART director Dufty argued locating the bikeshare station at the nearby library would give cyclists an option close to BART while respecting the Mission community’s desire to keep the plaza space open for vendors and festival activities.
Before the vote, Dufty delivered an impassioned speech imploring directors to see the community’s perspective. He also offered a blistering rebuke of Motivate’s outreach efforts.
“I was frustrated at my own meetings with Motivate. I told them to go talk to one Latino business that says this is good for them. Find me someone that says they will see better business at their bakery or restaurant,” Dufty said. “I haven’t gotten a single email.”
“I just ask that we put the bikes at the library, and maybe Motivate can do a better job at working in the community — and show some respect,” he said.
BART board directors said they respected Dufty’s wishes to have say in his own district, but also asked he should show them the same grace when they protest issues in the neighborhoods and cities they themselves represent.
The decision was praised by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission District.
“I am so grateful to Director Dufty for working with me on a compromise that respects the wishes of the community and maintains the use of the BART plaza for entertainment and economic opportunity while also ensuring close proximity of bike share for everyone in the neighborhood,” she said in a statement.