Cyclists Boycott Businesses Seeking Removal of Bernal Bike-Share Station

The new bike share station on 29th Street (Photo: Telstar Logistics)

An effort by some merchants along Mission Street in Bernal Heights to seek the immediate removal of the new bike share station on 29th Street triggered a strong response from San Francisco bicyclists, with some cyclists saying they plan to avoid businesses that oppose the bike share program.

Last week, San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez broke the story that the MIssion-Bernal Merchants Association (MBMA) asked the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to immediately remove a new Ford Go-Bike bike share station installed in front of the UPS Store at 60 29th Street between Tiffany and Mission.

In addition, Bernalwood has confirmed MBMA also raised concerns about the new bike-share stations on Valencia at Cesar Chavez and in Precita Park, as all three stations fall within MBMA’s membership “blueprint area.”

MBMA says they weren’t properly notified about the installation of the new bike-share stations, with most merchants only learning about them when notices went up a few days before station installation began.

At least one other Bernal neighborhood organization echoes the complaint about notification. Despite appearing in Ford GoBike’s Outreach Report  as one of the program’s “Planning and Community Partners,” Demece Garepis of the Precita Valley Neighbors says her group had to reach out proactively last January to get information about the bike share program and discuss preferred station locations around Precita Park. After some brief exchanges with bike-share coordinators, Precita Valley Neighbors then heard nothing until July, when an email notification arrived the day before the new Precita Park bike share station was installed. “Above all the pros or cons and real concerns, a day in advance is not reasonable notification,” Garepis says.

Community notification requirements for the creation of bike share stations were established by SFMTA and codified in vendor Motivate/Ford GoBike’s contract with the City. In addition to soliciting public feedback online, during workshops, and in community meetings, each potential bike share station location is also subjected to a traffic engineering analysis to ensure it meets safety standards.

On 29th Street, MBMA says the new bike share station creates a safety hazard by compounding congestion problems along the busy 29th Street corridor, where the existing UPS store and adjacent STEMful learning center generate significant amounts of vehicular pick-up and drop-off activity.

Apart from the struggles caused by the 2016 Cole Hardware Fire, the arrival of the bike share stations has compounded Mission Street merchants’ frustrations with the establishment of an express “red carpet” lane for Muni buses and months of disruption caused by the streetscape construction along Valencia between Mission and Cesar Chavez

In a statement sent to Bernalwood, MBMA president Eden Stein and co-coordinator Ani Rivera said:

MBMA’s request to SFMTA is to immediately remove/suspend the Ford Bike Share Program on 29th Street and a comprehensive analysis (study and survey) to be conducted to determine if the program is suitable, desired and safe in any future identified locations.  In addition, we also request that SFMTA include in its outreach MBMA’s input when decisions and designs are being made that will affect any aspect of the MBMA corridor.

According to the Examiner, Kevin Cline, an MBMA member and owner of the Rock Bar and The Front Porch on 29th Street, also told SFMTA that the 29th Street bike share station should be removed immediately.

Cline tells Bernalwood the arrival of the bike share station had changed traffic patterns on the street. “I’m not a virulent anti-bike share person, but it would have been nice if they consulted the businesses that are right there,” he says.

Cline says there were curbside meters in front of the UPS Store before the bike share station was installed, including a 10 minute-only green meter zone, but parking turnover was frequent. Now, he says, UPS trucks and customers double-park because they can no longer park in front of the store legally.

“I would love [bike share vendor] Motivate to join us at a merchants meeting to discuss this,” says Cline, who has co-owned The Front Porch for 11 years and lives a few blocks east on 29th Street. “When I opened my business, I had to reach out to all my neighbors, and I had to change some things. That’s what being a good merchant is about.”

Reaction to MBMA’s efforts to remove the bike share stations has been intense, both on Bernalwood and elsewhere. In response to bike share opposition, some cyclists say they will likely avoid going to Rock Bar and The Front Porch, and any other merchants that seek to have bike share stations removed.

Cyclist Kevin Flaherty says he’s only rarely decided to boycott anything, but he’s considering it now. “I’m not promoting a backlash, but I’m not particularly fond of giving material support to a group that is against reducing parking and undermining a system I depend upon.” said Flaherty, 41, who grew up in the Sunset and now lives in the Mission. Flaherty adds he’d previously visited Rock Bar three or four times.

David Gouldin, a cyclist who lives near Dolores Park, points to SFMTA surveys that show merchants may over-estimate how many of their customers arrive by car, so they complain when parking spaces are converted to other uses. He adds that City officials and Motivate/Ford GoBike held many neighborhood workshops and information sessions about the bike share program, so “when a business like Rock Bar or Front Porch opposes bike share, after years of planning and public meetings, that’s ridiculous. I don’t want to give my money to a business like that. I hope other cyclists will consider doing the same.”

While stopping short of a boycott, cyclist Brian Coyne from The Mission says it’s a “jerk move” when businesses oppose bike share, and that such efforts influence perceptions of local merchants and neighborhood organizations. He says having to accept other people’s amenities in public space is just part of city life. “For example, I don’t own a car,”  he says, “but the streetspace directly in front of my house is public car parking.”

“As someone who loves the food at the Front Porch, I’m disappointed in the owners for taking this line,” Coyne says.

Kevin Cline from The Front Porch and Rock Bar says he has “real concerns” about the possibility of a boycott. “We’re only in business because we take care to listen to our customers,”  he says. “Obviously, I don’t want anyone to avoid my restaurant because I worry about their safety while crossing the street.”

Cline adds that while he thinks the 29th Street bike share station should be removed, he would accept another one nearby. “It’s not like I don’t want them in my back yard,” he says. “I wouldn’t mind if they were closer to my back yard! But I don’t think the current location is a good one.”

Cyclist Brian Coyne says he understands that the transition to alternative modes of transportation is awkward — though he expects that the initial friction will eventually fade. “Bike share isn’t for everyone,” he says,  “But it’s clearly the best transportation option for some people, and I think all of us, whether we own businesses or not, ought to accept that some public space will be used for it.”

50 thoughts on “Cyclists Boycott Businesses Seeking Removal of Bernal Bike-Share Station

  1. maybe they should implement more loading zones and/or handicapped spaces instead? If the concern is that there is a lot of pickup/drop off activity, then why maintain spaces with 2 hour limits?

  2. It sounds like some of the people advocating for the boycott are conflating MBMA’s objection to the particular location of this bike share on 29th St with the other reports of some merchants being against bike shares due to gentrification concerns.

    I agree that if some merchants are against bike shares just because they remove parking spaces and somehow lead to an increase in gentrification, then countering that argument is worthwhile, possibly going so far as calling for a boycott if it gets that far. Just make sure that you are directing your fight at the proper recipients.

    I know Kevin Cline personally and although I haven’t discussed this particular issue with him, I know that he is really reasonable guy and if you read his comments in this article you can see that he is against the particular location of this bike share and the lack of notification/discussion of its install. He isn’t against bike sharing in general or worried about cars not being able to park to go to his restaurant. He just thinks that there is likely a better location that this bike share can be moved to that won’t result in a huge increase of double parking that this one is causing.

    The intersection of Tiffany and 29th St is already dangerous for bikers and pedestrians and anything that makes it worse should be carefully examined before anyone gets hurt. So let’s all be reasonable and listen to both sides and hopefully come up with a better solution for everyone before we start lashing out and threatening boycotts based on false notions.

    • Agreed. When I read the headline I was all for a boycott. When I read Kevin’s concerns, though, I changed my mind. Why not put the bike share around the corner on Tiffany? There is a ton of parking there and no traffic at all.
      I lived 3 blocks from this location for many years, and have been to the Front Porch, the Rock Bar and all the other local merchants dozens of times per year. I also commute via bikeshare so I am very in favor of bikeshare stations. And I’d love to see one near the Front Porch so I can bike to it! But Kevin is a solid guy and he’s totally right that traffic right there between Mission and Tiffany is already a ridiculous logjam. Move the station to Tiffany: problem solved.

      • Yes! I’m a cyclist—one of those spandex people, I admit it, but I also use my bike for getting around the city when I can—but as soon as I saw that bike-share station I thought, “This is a terrible place for one…why didn’t they put it on Tiffany?” So yes, please, keep it in the neighborhood—just move it around the corner!

  3. putting that bike share right in front of the UPS store on 29th was really poorly thought through. i’m a huge fan of bike sharing programs but that’s its actually one of the few spots where it is critical to have parking due to constant quick drop offs of UPS packages. that simply was not a smart move.

  4. I’m 100% pro bike share on every corner of the city. That being said, the location should potentially be adjusted. If they put the bike share in front of the post office on Tiffany it would have been a lot safer for everyone.

  5. I’m a cyclist and I’m not boycotting. I’ve been biking in this city for over 15 years, long before the sharrows and green paint. Heavy Metal Bike Shop (best ever!) is on the corner across from this and is my shop.

    This is my neighborhood and I agree with the merchants about this corner. The double parking makes my ride less safe. Anything that increases double parking is a negative for my ride, and as someone who owns her bike and prefers to ride with a helmet, I’m not stoked on all the bike rentals that have cropped up either. I’m thrilled that folks want to ride, but just like Uber and Lyft drivers being amateurs on the road, when I see the blue bikes I give wide berth because they’re cruising and I’m commuting. It feels tourist oriented and again, why no helmets? I realize you only have to wear one if you’re under 18 in Cali but putting tourists/folks who don’t regularly ride on bikes in the city without them is like begging for TBI.

    Finally, shouldn’t the merchants be allowed to go to SFMTA’s public meeting and make statements without it turning into a reason to hate on them? They’re following the process to address their concerns. We’re a nation of outrage and Bernalwood seems to thrive on these feelings in the neighborhood.

    • Sorry for the tangent but FWIW, lots of people use these bikes for commuting. I use one to commute because I had 4 bikes stolen in less than 4 years. I have given up owning a bike in this city but I’m not a tourist – I’ve lived here for over 20 years – and I’m not a beginning cyclist. The locations of the stations and the pricing of these is clearly geared toward residents, not tourists (you can’t ride them longer than 45 min at a time; the hourly rate is super high but the yearly rate is super cheap; locations are mostly near workplaces and residences not hotels or tourist spots).
      As long as your commute is flat these things are great: don’t have to lug them inside once I’m at work; don’t have to ride it home if I would rather go out with friends or if it’s raining; no worry about it being stolen.
      Agree helmets are an issue for bikeshare generally. I stupidly don’t wear one.

      • I have never had a flat commute despite a decade plus on the bike in SF. What a luxury, Dan! I also do my shopping by bike and these bikes are not for me. Heavy and a terrible fit. I agree with other commenters who say that the merchants are being reasonable – no need for a screaming match.

    • +1 on the Heavy Metal Bike Shop being awesome! I say let those guys decide the fate of the 29th Street Bike Share Station. Being bike merchants, they should be fair in their judgement. Check out their website: http://www.heavymetalbikeshop.com/ for a great picture of 29th Street from a long time ago. If only there was a time machine to take me back to those days. I wonder if the merchants were griping about how the streetcar construction was keeping the horse and buggy drivers from frequenting their businesses.

  6. “I don’t want anyone to avoid my restaurant because I worry about their safety while crossing the street.”

    I am sure Trump removed the bikeshare from the white house because he too was worried about peoples safety while crossing the street. Personally I am avoiding your restaurant because of your backwards thinking on Bikeshare. Please don’t try to frame your NIMBY stance as altruism.

    • When you compare a local merchant whom you don’t know to Trump, you lose all credibility and reveal more about yourself than the person whom you are trying to attack. Sad.

    • Front Porch in no way exhibits ‘backward thinking’ toward bicyclists. Just legitimately questions the less than optimal location of one specific bike rental company.

    • The for profit bike rental company decided on a place to put their rental station that would get them the most income. The fact that they did this with the minimal amount of community outreach and input from local residents and businesses is what frosts the ass of said residents and businesses. The fact that you agree with them because of your bias towards bicycle riding does NOT make them right. Rules are supposed to be followed by everyone, whether you agree or not

    • Wut? What does Trump have to do with this?

      I’m pretty sure Kevin explicitly states that he wouldn’t mind the bike share station closer to his business if it will alleviate issues for the day care place and UPS.

  7. What a terrible idea to boycott businesses that are suffering from iill considered city decisions. Communities and businesses need to be consulted before the city starts taking out parking spaces.

    Most of us support increased bicycle use in San Francisco, but the Ford bicycle program is a corporate scam. San Francisco should never have agreed to this program. Ford is siphoning money out of our community into corporate coffers and it is not, as it promised, going to help low income residents in the long term. By the third year these bikes become considerably more expensive to rent than the price of a clunker.

    We need a community funded program that is less expensive and keeps revenue within the community.And we need serious communication between the city and local businesses.

    • Agree. I’m a bicyclist, support more bicycle infrastructure—is this Ford bike thing what you want to hitch your wagon to? It’s cool some people like it, but boycotting your neighbors because they don’t agree on this weird corporate pet program that Ford will probably abandon in a few years anyhow? Jesus.

      (For the record, I’ve been told they do offer reduced rates for low-income users.)

    • Ford doesn’t run the program. They are just the Sponsor. Motivate runs the program, so no money is being siphoned into Ford’s corporate coffers. On the contrary, Ford is dumping money into the bike share.

      Community sponsored bike programs, like Bicis del Pueblo, are great, but they aren’t comparable to bike share. Bike share is a regional transit system that lets you rent shared bikes around the Bay Area for one-way point-to-point rides.

      And even at $5/month, the bike share’s low income program seems pretty cheap.

      • You are correct that it’s run by Motivate, which is the largest “bike share” company in the world. Besides being a sponsor, Ford is also an investor in the company, and I’m still a little hazy on their importance since it came at the same time Ford bought local private van service Chariot and touted them as two new branches of their “mobility solutions” business.

        I have nothing against Ford—my family has worked for Ford—just trying to piece the facts together. I honestly hope something like this thrives one day, just a little miffed they don’t do it on private land. Imagine if SF sold street parking to Zipcar?

        https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/9/12861632/ford-shuttle-bus-bikeshare-chariot-motivate-san-francisco

      • Also, worth remembering… there’s nothing new about allowing private companies to provide transit services on public streets. In fact, that’s something San Francisco has been doing for almost as long as there’s been a San Francisco.

        All of our historic cable car and streetcar lines were built and operated by commercial for-profit transit companies that operated under franchises authorized by the City. Indeed, Muni itself was created when the City purchased some of these commercial transit operators and brought them under public ownership. For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_Street_Railway_(transit_operator)

        It’s not unreasonable to look at the City’s contract with Motivate as being a 21st century version of the same thing. Bike share is a new form of transit infrastructure, and as we’ve done so many times in the past, the City decided to let a private, for-profit operator assume the risk and pay the costs associated with developing that infrastructure.

        Frankly, it’s unlikely Motivate will become wildly profitable via their San Francisco operation, even if the program is successful. And if it isn’t, taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the risks associated with building-out an unproven transit technology operating on city streets called bike-share… just as they weren’t on the hook for all the risks associated with building-out a once-unproven transit technology called cable cars that’s still operating on city streets today.

      • The low income program is actually $5 PER YEAR (!) Not sure why Calle 24 thinks this program does not benefit its constituency, but Calle 24 has it’s own twisted agenda.

  8. Traffic is jammed all over SF but especially downtown due to Market Street, and around Mission Street in Bernal Heights. This is just stupid planning.

    • Your comment seems to contradict itself. Bikes would ease traffic, so does that mean you’re for it? Either way, if we (SF) really wants to ease traffic the first step we could take is no longer allow out of town folks come into the City just to drive their Uber & Lyft cars. Every driver I get seems to be from Dublin, Pleasanton, San Jose…etc.

      • Even though they may help the parking situation, my gut feeling is that Uber and Lyft have increased congestion and the overall number of miles driven on San Francisco’s streets. I would like to know the answer to this equation: TOTAL UBER MILES DRIVEN WITHOUT PASSENGERS minus NUMBER OF MILES DRIVEN BY PRIVATE CARS SOLELY LOOKING FOR PARKING plus TOTAL DISTANCE OF UBER TRIPS THAT THE PASSENGERS WOULD HAVE JUST WALKED 5 YEARS AGO. I am sure there are many more variables, but I don’t think they will ever yield a negative number or lower CO2 emissions.

  9. I’m a cyclist, and also own a car. I’ve been using that bike station several times a week. I attended the hearings for the bike station after seeing the flyers posted around the neighborhood in multiple locations. I frequent Rock Bar and Front porch a few times a month. I visit Cafe78 a couple times a day. I’m not planning on boycotting either establishment, but I think the merchants are missing out on opportunities here by calling for an immediate removal.

    With regards to some of the quotes:

    “Now, he says, UPS trucks and customers double-park because they can no longer park in front of the store legally.”
    UPS trucks have been double parking there on 29th, and double parking on Tiffany, for the past two years, every day. So have cars.

    “On 29th Street, MBMA says the new bike share station creates a safety hazard by compounding congestion problems along the busy 29th Street corridor, where the existing UPS store and adjacent STEMful learning center generate significant amounts of vehicular pick-up and drop-off activity.”

    Again, the UPS double parking has been there a while. Stemful just opened a few months ago, so they should have known about these issues ahead of time. I would support a passenger dropoff zone there for them. During peak commute times though, 29th has always been congested there with double parkers.

    I’m surprised that none of the MBMA merchants had any notice at all about the stations. There were flyers about the hearing posted in several locations around the neighborhood.

    • Flyers posted in the neighborhood? How about a direct mail TO the merchants and residents. Flyers get torn down, fall off or get covered up. Also to see the flyer you have to walk by to look at it. Flyers shopuld NEVER be the onl;y method for any zoning type issue.

    • At the hearings they simply collect information, they don’t actually make decisions. Also, in the case of STEMful, they might not have been in operation when those hearings took place. Either way, direct communication with the businesses adjacent to a change in public infrastructure that they rely seems obvious. When a business wants to change the type of commerce they do at a location (like barber to clothes merchant) they have to notify every business and resident within a couple hundred feet radius and seek input. The city should play by the same rules.

      Also, and I’m not responding directly to your comment, but Kevin Cline was protesting on behalf of the business association, not just himself.

  10. Boycott aside – Several people have said it would have been better to move the bike share station around the corner to Tiffany Street, where there’s “a ton of parking” in one poster’s words.

    Wouldn’t it be easier for the people double parking on 29th to go around the corner and park on Tiffany? Why is anyone blaming the location of the bike share and not the assholes who are double parking? Why would it make more sense to go through the necessary permitting and hearings and physical effort to move a stationary installation than for people in vehicles designed to be mobile to just park legally instead?

    • Agree double-parkers are assholes. It would be great if SFMTA would just enforce the law and disallow double parking but that’s not going to happen. And UPS trucks are also not going to go park on Tiffany when the UPS store is on 29th. UPS trucks seem to pull up right in front of the store regardless where it is.So unless SFMTA stations someone in front of UPS full-time, those trucks will stay on 29th. Moving the bikeshare station is easy; moving the UPS trucks is basically impossible.

  11. I now depend on Ford Gobikes to get around. I was tired of the stress of having to lock up my bike. I’ve kept up with the news as the program rolls out and without exception the merchants pushing back on the program are always concerned about parking first and foremost. Mr. Cline says he concerned about public safety I call BS. He is concerned about parking and yes I live near by and I will avoid his establishments.

    • I think it’s almost all about parking loss. Even the questionable arguments about bikes causing gentrification. ???!

    • There’s some conflating here about Kevin’s concern about the placement of this one particular station and other businesses being against bike shares in general. The details matter. Before making it personal you should suss out his exact position. The guy’s a good dude and I share his concerns. Also, I think something needs to be done to reduce double-parking on that block.

    • Your mean posts should include a complete John Hancock. Not doing so gives the rest of us Mike’s a bad name. Anyone up for a happy hour where you have to attend wearing a name tag with your Bernalwood identity?

  12. Business owners: is it better to have a 20′ long space in front of your business occupied for hours by an empty car that brought 1 or 2 (maybe 4) people, or the same space that holds 10 bikes that brought 20 people? Watch this video of a bike share station in NYC and decide for yourselves. Lastly, make sure you and your employees park far away from your business so you are not taking up space that can be used by your customers. Parking near your business and feeding the meter is bad for your business. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.citylab.com/amp/article/531936/

  13. I guess nobody was checking the GoFord Bike website because the spots where the bikes were going to be was on the map a couple moths ago. I’ve been following, waiting for it to open. I’m scared to lock up my bike around town, so it limits my riding to exercise. Now, i don’t have to worry and can go wherever i want.

    • Some of us just ride modest bikes and don’t have so much trouble locking them up. I’ve lost a seat, lights etc over the years. And I know lots of people who have lost whole bikes, but no one who was scared away from cycling. I’ve heard about people being that way, but my friends and I are not that type. I’d never heard of GoFordBike before these things showed up en masse.

  14. So have the businesses been driven to bankruptcy yet by the tens of activists who can’t tell the difference between opposing a policy and opposing certain of its details?

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