Bike share: Transit’s future in S.F.?

They may not be high-end racing bikes, but the bicycles unveiled Tuesday during a Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting were still a welcome sight to proponents of a citywide bike-sharing program.

The City isn’t much closer to actually receiving the bikes, and the board of directors appeared to have other things on their plate, but the two-wheelers and their tech-savvy stalls still managed to make an appearance.

With tens of thousands of bikes already offered to the residents of Barcelona, Paris and another dozen cities across the Atlantic, a bike-share program might be just the thing to make the City by the Bay boost its Euro-cachet.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has been a fan of the idea for years, promoting the bike-share program because he is convinced that it’s an effective way to get commuters out of their cars and onto an environmentally friendly mode of transportation, according to spokesman Nathan Ballard.

“[Newsom] has been pushing the MTA to adopt a European-style bike-share program, and he’s pleased to see that it is moving forward,” Ballard said.

But just how fast it’s pedaling forward is another matter. Not only are the particulars still up in the air, but nothing can be built until an injunction stemming from an environmental-quality study on The City’s bike plan is lifted, according to Muni spokesman Judson True.

Some, however, say that waiting for the environmental review to be completed is a waste of time.

“We’ve been frustrated by The City’s timidity on this. Planning can be done as this injunction goes through the court process,” said Leah Shahum, director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Under the latest advertising contract with Clear Channel Outdoor, the MTA is required to offer them the first shot at a contract. But if the bid is rejected, there are other companies such as JC Decaux, another advertising giant with similar bike programs in Europe.

The first American version of the program is set to be unveiled this spring in Washington, D.C., according to Clear Channel Outdoor Northern California President Bill Hooper. Hooper said that he envisions the San Francisco bike program being most popular around The Embarcadero, far from the hilly terrain elsewhere.

bbegin@examiner.com

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