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California: Bay Area kicks off new bike-share program

There's an easier way to get around San Francisco now, and it doesn't involve cars or cabs. Bay Area Bike Share launched recently with 350 bicycles available in the city and another 350 spread out among Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.

And you don't have to be a local to take a spin on one of the bicycles that are available 24/7 at 70 stations.

"The locations selected are for optimal use for locals who are commuting but also for visitors," says John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "You need not be a Bay Area resident, you need not be a California resident and you need not be an American."

It costs $88 for an annual pass, $22 for a three-day pass and $9 for a daily pass to use the bikes, but that's not the only cost involved. Each pass provides unlimited trips, and the first 30 minutes per trip is free. After that, it costs $4 for 31 to 60 minutes, and $7 for each additional half hour, capped at $150 per day.

How comfortable are the bicycles? "The riding experience is somewhere between a beach cruiser you would rent in Laguna Beach and a more utilitarian commuter bike," says Sean Co, a transportation planner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The sea foam green bikes cost $5,000 each, including the docking stations, and have seven gears and adjustable seats. Co says each is equipped with a basket at the front and bungee cord to stow personal items, and reflectors and lights for riding at night.

Users can walk up to a docking station, run their credit card to buy a pass and receive a PIN that unlocks the bicycle each time they use it until the pass expires.

The Bike Share map shows kiosks and docks where you can pick one up.

The idea of the pilot program is to cut air pollution by providing an alternate way to get to and from destinations. More than half of air pollution in the Bay Area is attributed to transportation, according to a statement from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the transportation commission.

Agencies plan to add 300 more bikes in early 2014 to reach a total of 1,000 bicycles at 100 stations. San Francisco and Bay Area cities join New York, Boston and other cities that have started bike-share programs.

Info: Bay Area Bike Share

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