Bringing a more equitable bike share to the East Bay

Clarrissa Cabansagan Headshot

 Ken GutmakerWalking through downtown San Francisco and San Jose, you’re likely to see some shiny blue bikes lined up in a row, ready for you to start cruising after a quick credit card transaction. Bike share is an excellent alternative to driving in a city: it’s cheaper, quicker, and healthier for both people and the planet.

But what if you don’t live or work downtown? What if you don’t have a credit card, or if $9 is too much money to spend on transportation for the day? In order for bike share to be truly successful in the Bay Area, it must extend to and serve all of people living and traveling here – including low-income communities and communities of color.

That’s exactly what TransForm is working to change, starting close to home in the East Bay.

Thanks to a grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership, TransForm will be partnering with Bike East Bay, Bay Area Bike Share, and the Cities of Oakland and Berkeley to encourage equity in access as the system expands out to the East Bay. Our goal is to create a regional model for bike share equity, to increase the diversity of who rides bike share, while reducing the barriers that keep low-income and people of color from participating. 

Right now, bike share has a ways to go to reflect the transportation needs of the diverse people who call the East Bay home. Dr. Susan Shaheen from UC Berkeley recently completed a study of Bay Area Bike Share riders and found that the current system skews towards annual members who are overwhelmingly male, well-educated, white, and affluent.

Yet Bay Area Bike Share plans to expand to some of the region’s largest and most ethnically diverse cities. If the expansion continued current membership trends, huge segments of the East Bay’s population would be left out.

For starters, let’s look at race.  Bay Area Bike Share members are disproportionately white (75%) compared to both San Francisco (50%), where Bike Share is currently operating, and Oakland (40%), one of the East Bay cities where Bike Share will soon expand.  

Current Bay Area Bike Share Membership vs. Ethnic Breakdown of Bike Share Cities


Sources: 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates and Shaheen, 2015

Current Bike Share members are also wealthier than the average person in either San Francisco or Oakland.  80% of members have an annual salary of $75,000 or above, and almost 30% of members have an annual salary of over $200,000. In contrast, just under 50% of San Franciscans and just over 50% of Oaklanders make less than $75,000 annually.

Current Bay Area Bike Share Membership vs. Income of Bike Share Cities

 Sources: 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates and Shaheen, 2015

The expansion plans for bike share have some key improvements for access. First off, we’re increasing the number of bikes available by ten times, from 700 to 7,000 bikes. Motivate, the vendor that operates our system, will also ensure that at least 20% of all docking stations are located in communities of concern, and must offer a deep discount to low-income households at $5 a month (that’s $60 rather than $149 for an annual membership). At that rate, bike share will be one of the most affordable ways to get around. We will also create a regional Shared Mobility Equity Fund, a key component of our project which would provide free bike share passes for low-income residents. This is part of a long-term strategy to first build in free passes as part of bike share in these cities, and to include mobility credit on all forms of shared mobility based on identified community needs. Through the Better Bike Share Partnership grant, TransForm will establish the Equity Fund and try to grow it through investment from a creative mix of partners including health organizations, tech companies, regional and county transportation agencies, and local business improvement districts to name a few. We'll use our direct community engagement to inform how the fund should be spent to increase access to shared mobility options.

But as we know, locating in these communities doesn’t equate to ridership by residents. Most of San Francisco’s stations are located in a community of concern, or within walking distance, and the ridership as explained earlier serves a very different demographic.

Bike Share Stations in MTC Communities of Concern in San Francisco

So as bike share launches in Oakland and Berkeley, we have a plan that will bring bikes to more people and make bike share a more realistic transportation option for them to choose. With our partners, we will focus on embedding bike share as a community asset that serves all East Bay residents, but especially the most vulnerable. With inclusive and diverse outreach, deeper community involvement, and affordable memberships for low-income riders, Bay Area Bike Share can become a more equitable option that gives everyone a chance to get around without a car, regardless of their race, gender, zip code, or income. 

We are very excited to be leading on this new initiative that will benefit our Bay Area communities. To learn more about this grant and the other grantees working on bike share equity across the United States, visit and 


About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit