Adaptive Bike Share Update

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Last month, the SFMTA, Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP), San Francisco Recreation and Parks and Lyft launched San Francisco’s first-ever adaptive bikeshare program. The program operates out of Golden Gate Park every Sunday at the intersection of JFK and Kezar Drive, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the park is closed to vehicular traffic. An additional location will soon be available Thursdays on the Embarcadero Waterfront and adaptive cycles will be free to rent for the first six months.

(From left: Annette Williams of SFMTA, Lucas Tobin of SF Recreation and Parks, Neal Patel of Lyft, Kurt and Finn who are BORP participants, and Greg Milano of BORP stand in Golden Gate Park on a sunny day surrounded by different kinds of adaptive bikes. Greg delivers remarks at a podium.)

What is an adaptive bike? Glad you asked! “Adaptive” or “accessible” bikes encompass many different types of cycling devices that allow people with varying levels of strength, different mobility constraints and who may have different conditions to use hands, feet, or a combination thereof to propel them and their device forward. Some participants may be able to maneuver themselves on/off or in/out of an adaptive cycle independently, while others may require a manual lift or additional human support. Some may have electric-assist (such as the JUMP and Lyft e-bikes already seen in San Francisco), while others are powered purely by the rider (or co-rider). Adaptive bikes usually have three or more wheels (in order to remove the need to balance on two wheels as a barrier to participation) and may be for one person or two, allowing people of different strength levels to ride together. 

Bike share programs across the United States have gained ridership and popularity in recent years, with 2018 seeing a combined 45.5 million trips using station-based and dockless shared bikes. Key gains have been made in ensuring financial access to bike share, such as in the Bay Area, where the ‘Bike Share for All’ program offers a $5-for-the-first-year membership (with $5/month in the second year), the first 60 minutes of every ride included and the ability to pay with cash rather than credit/debit card. In 2018, nearly 1/3 of bike and e-scooter share systems across the US offered a low-income membership option.

While financial access to bike share has increased for many, physical access has proven a challenge. It is vital that our agency ensures these resources are available to all, regardless of ability. BORP, founded in Berkeley, has provided opportunities for recreation, fitness, sports and play to people with disabilities since 1976. BORP has also already seen success collaborating on an adaptive bike share in Oakland at Lake Merritt. Along with Rec and Park, BORP was a natural partner for launching this program in San Francisco. Several BORP participants spoke at the launch party, offering their perspective on what the organization’s cycling programs have meant to them.

Kurt, pictured below, described the thrill of biking for the first time at the age of 29 and he was excited to have more open road to call his own.
(Image: Kurt, smiling, sits in a recumbent foot-pedal bike, holding the bike’s handlebars.)

The program at Golden Gate Park has a variety of adaptive bikes available and trained BORP staff are present to educate participants on their various options and to assist and fit users to their preferred bike. For those with hand strength, there are both upright and recumbent handcycles.

(Image: Sam-Alicia, a member of the Paratransit Coordinating Council at SFMTA, and Annette Williams of SFMTA, move side-by-side down a paved pathway surrounded by trees and green grass on a sunny day. Sam-Alicia uses her powered scooter, while Annette uses the upright hand-pedal cycle.)

For those seeking a foot-pedal option, there are recumbent leg trikes.

(Image: Finn, a BORP participant, is assisted by a BORP staff member while he is strapped into a recumbent trike.)

Want to take a ride with a friend or relative? Two types of tandem bikes are available (recumbent and side-by-side). The side-by-side bikes are especially exciting since participants can customize how much power each rider provides and who steers, all with a helpful e-assist.

(Image: Erin McAuliff of SFMTA and Natasha Opfell of SF Paratransit sit side-by-side on the white, side-by-side tandem bike, moving down a paved road on a sunny day.)

BORP also has adaptive equipment such as supportive pedals, seats, straps and hand-pedals for quad or SCI riders. It is worth noting that, while people with disabilities might be the initial target audience for these devices, older adults and others who have wondered “can biking be for me?” will also have increased options as we expand ways for everyone to get around San Francisco.

Bikes are available on a first-come-first-serve basis or can be reserved in advance by email.

Come take a ride with us!