Electronic bike parking may deter BART commuters

Bicycle riders will be able to park their two-wheelers at the Embarcadero BART station for longer periods of time, but some worry the new system will increase bike thefts.

Since the transit agency put a new system in place at the busy station, commuters can park their bikes whenever it’s open. The previous setup restricted parking to commute hours on weekdays.

BikeLink, the new program, started Monday and allows bicycle-toting commuters to access the station’s existing parking cage with an electronic card. In lieu of a full-time attendant, BART will employ a series of security cameras, transit agency spokeswoman Luna Salaver said.

The program also will save BART money. The $3.22 per bike the transit agency spent with a valet is slashed to 42 cents with BikeLink, according to Salaver. The BikeLink program is already used in several BART locations in the East Bay, but this is the first time it’s being employed at a San Francisco station.

Theft has not been a huge problem at the Embarcadero station — three bikes have been stolen during the past two years, according to BART — but some cyclists fear that will change.

Anne Wellington, an Oakland resident who takes her bike on BART daily, said she uses her BikeLink card for lockers in the East Bay, but would not do the same at the Embarcadero station.

“There’s not going to be an attendant on duty,” Wellington said. “What’s to stop someone from going into the cage and taking a bunch of parts from all the bikes?”

Along with security concerns, some cyclists don’t like the increased cost of parking. Commuters have to pay $20 for an electronic access card and a $5 registration fee.

The $20 goes toward parking at the station, which costs 3 cents an hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. It’s a penny an hour outside that time frame.

“I’m not a huge fan of paying $25 to park my bike at a place I’m not even sure is secure,” said Ron Bishop, a bicycle instructor from Oakland.

For others, the hassle of carrying yet another card is enough to deter them from BikeLink.

“I have plenty of cards already in my wallet,” said Eric Mehlhaff, who takes his bike from Richmond to the Embarcadero station daily. “Why do I need another one for parking my bike?”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

Watch those wheels

Bike thefts at BART stations:

653 Total thefts during 2009 fiscal year (July 2008 to June 2009)

59 Thefts at Pleasant Hill station (most of any station)

2 Thefts at Embarcadero station

Source: BART

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