An effort by some merchants along Mission Street in Bernal Heights to seek the removal of a new Ford GoBike station on 29th Street triggered a strong response from local bicyclists, with some saying they plan to avoid businesses that oppose the bike-share program.
Last week, the Examiner reported that the MIssion-Bernal Merchants Association (MBMA) asked the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to immediately remove a new Ford GoBike station installed in front of the UPS Store at 60 29th Street between Tiffany and Mission.
Bernalwood has confirmed that 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.”
The association claims it wasn't properly notified about the installation of the new stations, with most merchants only learning about them when notices went up a few days before 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 Precita Valley Neighbors said 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 one day before the new station was installed.
“Above all the pros or cons and real concerns, a day in advance is not reasonable notification,” Garepis said.
Community notification requirements 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 said the new bike-share station creates a safety hazard by compounding congestion problems along the busy corridor, where an existing UPS Store and adjacent STEMful learning center generate significant amounts of pick-up and drop-off activity.
Apart from the struggles caused by the 2016 Cole Hardware Fire, the bike-share stations have compounded many 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 said the arrival of the 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 said.
According to Cline, 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 legally.
“I would love [bike-share vendor] Motivate to join us at a merchants meeting to discuss this,” said Cline, who's 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 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.
David Gouldin, a cyclist who lives near Dolores Park, points to SFMTA surveys that show merchants may overestimate how many of 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," said Gouldin. "I hope other cyclists will consider doing the same.”
While stopping short of a boycott, cyclist Brian Coine said it’s a “jerk move” when businesses oppose bike-sharing, and that such efforts influence perceptions of local merchants and neighborhood organizations.
Accept other people’s amenities in public space is just part of city life, said Coine. “I don’t own a car, 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,” Coine says.
Cline said 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 told Bernalwood. “Obviously, I don’t want anyone to avoid my restaurant because I worry about their safety while crossing the street.”
While he thinks the 29th Street bike share station should be removed, Cline said he would accept another one nearby. “I wouldn’t mind if they were closer to my backyard," he said, "but I don’t think the current location is a good one.”