TagSan Francisco

Let me help you plan your next vacation

Head to San Francisco, where they bike year round! (Amsterdammers and Copenhageners also bike year round, partly because they continue to have safe places to bicycle whereas Chicagoans deal with snowed-in bike lanes.)

Taken in November 2010.

Taken in January 2011.

Taken in January 2011.

All photos by Adrienne Johnson.

Electric cars on their way

The New York Times is reporting that several California cities and companies are preparing for the coming rise in electric car ownership:

  • San Francisco is updating its building code.
  • Silicon Valley companies are ordering equipment for their employees.
  • Local electric utilities are trying to manage demand, either by predicting where ownership will be highest, in order to prepare for increased electricity use, or by asking customers to use “smart meters.”

The Tesla Motors store on Grand Avenue has since opened.

I hope bicycle advocates, cities, and the electric car manufacturers consider the bicycle rider’s point of view: The noise a car makes is helpful for urban riders to evaluate the street and their surroundings. While nothing trumps the utility of being able to see and having facilities that help make bicycling safer, a bicycle rider uses all of their senses to navigate the urban environment.

More from the article:

Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley company that makes electric cars, says it has already sold 150 of its $109,000 Roadsters in the Bay Area. One customer bought the sleek sports car on the spot after a test drive.

Chicago’s been ready for the “onslaught”

Tesla recently opened a store in Chicago, Illinois, but I haven’t seen one yet. Chicago’s not a stranger to electric car charging ports. The City uses them for its own fleet of electric cars. There are publicly-accessible stations scattered around downtown. A parking garage in River North has plug-in charging ports.

Photo of Greenway Self Park at 60 W Kinzie, featuring a wind-turbine that powers a portion of the night lighting. By Eric Rogers.

Update on BikeLink electronic bike lockers

Two weeks ago I wrote about BikeLink electronic bike locker from eLock Technologies in Improving bike access to airports. I discovered some new information about the lockers about changes being made to a bike parking facility in San Francisco, California. Later, after watching a Streetsfilm video on the novel system, I realized I mistakenly identified the electronic access method.

BikeLink news in San Francisco

In October 2009, the Embarcadero BART station switched from a valet-based bike parking facility to using a BikeLink-controlled cage. The San Francisco Examiner thinks the lack of a hired attendant will deter people from parking here. The reason was cost: The labor needed to staff the cage cost $3.22 per bike while the electronic system costs only $0.42 per bike. Members pay only 3 cents per hour between 8 AM and 8 PM, and only 1 cent per hour at all other times.

The writer found three people to go along with the story and question the converted facility’s safety/security.*

The article doesn’t give up further details, but Alameda Bicycle (a local bike shop) fills in the missing information:

  • New members sign up and pay for an access card from BikeLink online or one of several physical locations.
  • The member opens the cage with their card and finds a place to park inside the cage. This is the sign-in.
  • The member locks their bike (there may not actually be an object to which one can lock their bike) and removes any easily-removed parts (like lights and bags) and exits the cage.
  • The member then exits the cage and inserts their card into the read to perform the sign-out. If 10 minutes has passed and the member has no signed out, an audible alarm will go off, and the cage operator (Alameda Bicycle) will be alerted.

There are some other rules that apply to cage use. You have to also register your bicycle so that the operator knows which bicycle belongs to which member so they can better track misuse of the facility. The operator will conduct random checks to verify this. Because of the way this electronic cage works, members have an incentive to not let non-members into the cage.

*The San Francisco Examiner article went so low as to publish this worthless quote from an individual, “I have plenty of cards already in my wallet,” said E.M., who takes his bike from Richmond to the Embarcadero station daily. “Why do I need another one for parking my bike?” The benefit of having a card to lock your bike is that you can use the same card to securely lock your bike at lockers up and down the state.

Smart card, not magnetic stripe card

I wrote that the “debit card” is a magnetic stripe card (like a credit card or transit fare card), but instead is a smart card, with the member’s data and current balance stored on an integrated circuit chip. Occasionally, some people equate smart cards with proximity, contactless, or RFID cards. It seems more popular though to only identify a smart card as one that has a gold-plated chip visible on the front side. These are more popular in Europe and Asia.

Streetfilms (a sibling of Streetsblog) visited Oakland and El Cerrito, California, in 2007, to show how they work and how they compare to traditional, leased lockers (short story: electronic lockers are on demand and can serve multiple, unique users in a day or week, while the leased locker has one unique user). Watch the video:

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