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Bike share program holds fundraiser amidst concerns over rollout plan

Bay Area Bike Share launch in San Jose on Thursday, Aug. 29 2013 at San Jose City Hall.

While the details of the bike share program being developed for the Sacramento region are still under wraps, a debate is already under way about where the program should be located and if the current plans give minorities and lower income residents sufficient access.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management is behind the bike share plan. We’ll hear more about the program from strategist Chris Morfas at a fundraiser tonight at the Downtown Plaza (details below).

Earlier this month, Morfas got into a Twitter debate with West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon on an issue that’s at the core of the plan to roll out bike share in Sacramento – where the bike kiosks will be located.

In a typical bike share program, users can rent bikes from kiosks by either becoming members and paying a monthly fee, or by paying a daily rate.

The initial plans that the district showed to stakeholders and elected officials called for the program to begin with kiosks in areas with a heavy concentration of bike riders: the grid, East Sacramento, Land Park and Davis. Those areas also happened to be largely affluent and white, and Cabladon believes the program should start with a more diverse user base.

Here’s the full exchange between Morfas and Cabaldon that occured on Aug. 30. It ended on a positive note:

I interviewed Cabladon shortly after he posted those tweets. His view is that, in general, planners don’t tend to think of working class people as urban bike riders and tend to have the more well-off urban professional in mind. He also believes that access to bikes via a bike share program could help booster bike riding in lower income communities.

"This is not a slam on bike share and I am a huge supporter of it, but I do think that a lot of the planning work has occurred in an echo chamber of who bikes now and where they bike now, and even that I think is missing significant parts of the community," he said.

Cabladon said that since West Sacramento is expected to grow more rapidly than highly developed areas like Land Park or East Sacramento, it is in greater need of transportation infrastructure to accommodate new residents.

"One of the fundamental matters that I worry about the bike share plan is that it’s focused on whose biking now and where they are,” he said. “If we do that with bike share and with transit and with roads, we are setting ourselves up for a massive fail both on the social justice side of the house and the environmental suitability question, and certainly on issues of congestion."

Not all stakeholders see it the same way. Terry Preston is the Complete Streets Coordinator for Walk Sacramento, a nonprofit focused on pedestrian advocacy. According to Preston, it makes sense to start bike share in areas where it is most likely to catch on to show it can work in Sacramento. After the program proves viable in places like East Sacramento and the grid, it can be expanded to other areas.

"It’s not like this is the only place bike share is going to happen ever until the end of time," he said. "Once you have it successful and up and going, then you have a good model to take elsewhere. I’m quite confident that’s what’s going to happen.”

Jim Brown, the executive director for the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, was another stakeholder the district consulted when drawing the plans. He thinks the question of equity is an important one when considering how the program will be implemented.

"If we look at bike share as an analogue to a bus system, then presumably it should be something that lower income residents should be able to count on," Brown said. "I think the available models for bike share have all grown up around the idea of educated professionals using the system rather than anybody – my sense is that the business model that has evolved for bike share favors people with more income and thus perhaps more education and more opportunity."

This debate has just begun. The Air Quality Management District has submitted a grant application to the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to start the bike share program and SACOG staff is expected to issue a recommendation in October. The program will go before the SACOG transportation committee on Oct. 31 and is expected to go to the full board for a vote on Dec. 14, according to A.J. Tendick, public information coordinator with SACOG.

Morfas will present on the plan at a fundraiser for the program tonight at the Sacramento Downtown Plaza from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Food and libations will be provided by Blackbird Kitchen + Bar, Pre Flite Lounge, Cafe Bernardo on K, Pizza Rock, Revolution Wines and Twisted Rivers Wines. The event will be hosted by NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Association. Tickets are $25 for members and $50 for nonmembers.

Correction: Chris Morfas’s tweet "@mayorcabaldon Your Wash., D.C. Capital Bikeshare performance amazed during C2C. There’s still flexibility in station siting. Work together?" was initially missing from the exchange between him and Christopher Cabaldon. It has now been added. 

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