At its meeting on Oct. 4, the City Council unanimously approved a citywide Bike Share system with fleet of 350 Social Bicycles (SoBi) as part of the regional Ford GoBike system. Motivate, the nation's largest bike share operator, is the operator of the Ford GoBike system and will launch the Palo Alto system in June 2017. SoBi smart-bikes are state-of-the-art and allow customers to reserve, pay for, and locate bikes via an intuitive mobile application. Bikes can be picked up and returned at designated hubs or at any bike rack, making the system extremely versatile. The terms of the agreement will allow for other cities on the Peninsula to join the regional system using SoBi smart-bikes under the same favorable terms and conditions.
Expressing his enthusiasm for an integrated approach to bike sharing, Palo Alto City Manager James Keene said, "Solving the first and last mile for transit commuters, providing a viable alternative to driving solo, and putting in place a bike infrastructure to utilize our many miles of bike paths can only effectively be accomplished on a regional basis." Letters of support for the bike share system were submitted prior to a Council decision from Stanford University, the Stanford Research Park, Stanford University Medical Center, and a joint letter from the Cities of Mountain View, Menlo Park, and Redwood City.
In 2013, Palo Alto was part of the initial Bay Area Bike Share pilot program, with five stations and about 37 bikes in the Palo Alto network. That system is expanding across the Bay Area and into the East Bay, and it was recently announced that Ford Motor Company will be the system’s new sponsor. Bay Area Bike Share will be known as Ford GoBike, and will primarily be a point-to-point bike share, similar to other systems in large cities across the nation.
The new agreement with Motivate will allow Palo Alto residents and visitors to use a single membership to ride up to 7,000 bicycles within the Ford GoBike system and 350 additional SoBi bikes in Palo Alto.
SoBi is also developing an e-bike option that is nearing completion and may be a future option for the system to extend the reach of bike share.