Social Bicycles coming to Sacramento - here's how it works
Residents of Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis will soon be able to rent a bike parked on the sidewalk with the tap of a smartphone and leave it a few blocks or miles away at a street rack.
Local officials on Thursday said they will sign a deal with Social Bikes, known as SoBi, an international bike-share company, to bring a fleet of cycles to city streets starting next month.
The initial mid-May rollout will take place in West Sacramento’s waterfront district, and in downtown and midtown Sacramento, offering up to 100 bikes and 20 bike parking corrals.
The company will then expand the program, adding the city of Davis in the following months, with a goal of putting 800 bikes and 100 electric motor-assist bikes on the streets by November. The expanded territory would include East Sacramento, Oak Park, Curtis Park and Land Park, officials said.
The bike-sharing program represents a long-anticipated step in ongoing efforts by the three cities to offer alternatives to driving for short trips.
Sacramento downtown Councilman Steve Hansen said bike share will be “empowering” for residents, including workers who want to do quick chores, transit riders who have an extra mile to go from the light rail station, students and people who don’t want to own cars.
“This is going to be the easiest, cheapest way to get around,” he said. “It will revolutionize people’s ability to get places.”
West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon agreed. “In transit-oriented urban places, a wide range of (mobility) choices are essential,” he said.
For example, Cabaldon said, a person could ride a bus or light rail into downtown, then pedal the last mile to their workplace. Or ride a bike-share bike to the local brewpub, then hire Uber to get back home afterward.
Cabaldon can take some credit for this week’s deal. Last month, West Sacramento announced it had decided to partner on its own with another private company for a program in that city alone. City leaders were impatient with the slow pace of the regional bike-share planning process and wanted to get a local program up and running immediately.
In response, the regional effort, headed by officials at the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, stepped up their negotiations and made several program changes that included assuring more bikes for West Sacramento. Pleased with those changes, West Sacramento this week dropped its plan to go it alone.
Although the project focuses on the central city and riverfront areas, Sacramento city officials say they ultimately would like to expand the program to other city neighborhoods, linked to light-rail stations and possibly main bus corridors.
Local officials say they believe the upcoming local program incorporates what has worked best elsewhere. SoBi, a New York company, has been in business since 2010 and operates bike-share programs in 35 cities internationally, including 1,000-plus bike programs in Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles.
Riders will be able to use the local bus and light rail “Connect Card” to rent bikes or use a smartphone app to reserve and pay for a bike.
Costs will vary depending on whether a rider buys a monthly membership or rides casually. The rental rates typically will be $4 an hour, prorated to the minute. The average trip in other cities is slightly less than 15 minutes, which is a $1 ride, SoBi founder and CEO Ryan Rzepecki said.
Monthly memberships will cost $15 and will give the member a free hour of riding daily. Student discount memberships will cost $30 for a year and allow an hour free daily as well.
The SoBi program will include bike parking, or docking, stations at key spots. But riders can drop bikes off at any bike rack, paying an extra fee if it is not a designated docking area. A person who picks a bike up at an outside rack and returns it to a docking station will get a discount.
The bikes are equipped with GPS systems that allow users to find available rides via their smartphones. Those GPS systems also will serve as anti-theft devices, notifying SoBi employees and tracking the bike’s location anytime one is being moved without payment.
The Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the region’s transportation planning collaborative, will invest federal “congestion mitigation” grant funds to help pay for additional bike racks, which can be used by the bike-share program or by other residents as well. SACOG also is in talks with potential local sponsors to help underwrite the program.