News

Around Town: a new path; waiting for the new iPhone

 
A handful of people set up folding chairs outside the Apple store on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto on Nov. 2, 2017 to get their hands on the new iPhone X that will be released on Friday. David Casarez, far left, was the first person in line, arriving late Tuesday evening. Photo by Veronica Weber.

In the latest Around Town column, learn about the city's new approach to establishing a bike-sharing program, people waiting for the new iPhone and a Paly grad who made his mark at the World Series.

A NEW PATH ... For a city that famously loves bicycles and has recently invested millions in new bikeways, Palo Alto's effort to establish a bike-share program stands out for all the wrong reasons. The city's first try at bike-sharing fizzled in 2015, when the city pulled the plug on a 37-bike program that received very little usage. Undaunted, the city decided to double down (or, if you prefer, go 10X) on bike-sharing in 2016, when it began negotiations with the companies Social Bicycles and Motivate for a 350-bike system, with more stations and GPS technology that would allow users to more easily pick up and drop off their bikes. That too went nowhere. Now, the city is weighing a new strategy: make up a regulatory framework and let the private sector go at it, with little investment from the city. Inspired by similar programs in Seattle and South San Francisco, the Palo Alto City Council will consider the new approach on Nov. 14. Planning staff is recommending that each vendor be required to provide at least 100 bikes, with an overall citywide cap of 700 bikes (electric bikes would be exempted because the city is trying to encourage an "electric bicycle fleet," according to a new report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment). Planners are also recommending that no more than 50 percent of a vendor's "free-floating bicycles" (which do not require racks or corrals) be located in downtown or California Avenue so as to disperse them throughout Palo Alto. The new rules would be implemented under a pilot program that would expire in December 2018 under the staff proposal. "The advantages of this market competition include the potential for faster deployment and more bikes being made available," the report states. "In addition, these companies are competing for ridership, creating an incentive for good customer service, keeping the bikes in good working order, offering competitive prices and making sure the bikes are located where they will generate ridership."

WAITING FOR THE NEW IPHONE ... Gone are the days where everyone wanted a piece of the pie. But even after a decade of iPhones, many are still eager to get a bite of the Apple. Among them is David Eaton, a project manager from San Jose. He was the second person in line outside the downtown Apple Store on University Avenue on Wednesday afternoon awaiting Friday's release of the iPhone X — a new model that boasts facial recognition, a full all-screen display and wireless charging (features available in Android phones two summers ago, though the Apple cult seems unphased by this fact, and ever loyal). "Stores will have the iPhone X available for walk-in customers, who are encouraged to arrive early," the company announced in a press release issued Oct. 24. A seasoned iPhone line veteran, Eaton has waited in line for eight of the 10 versions, and described each time as an experience. He described his plan to camp for two days and two nights in the November cold rather than the usual hit-or-miss September weather as "a new challenge." It seems that Eaton, and many other customers, see this ritual as a strange, social bonding experience. The forced proximity of these lengthy lines brings people together in pursuit of their explicit common goal: some form of material fulfillment. There was a sense of camaraderie between these customers, like war buddies, huddled up in their lawn chairs for the long haul.

GAINS AND LOSSES ... Palo Alto High School graduate Joc Pederson and the Los Angeles Dodgers had a roller coaster of a time in this year's World Series that ended Wednesday night with a 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros. Despite the shortcoming, Pederson had a commendable performance in the tight series, hitting one home run each in games 2, 3 and 6. The outfielder also made strides in the post-season by making an extra-base hit in five consecutive games, a record that was previously made in 1953. The 25-year-old was drafted onto the MLB team right after graduating high school in 2010. His father played for the same team in 1985.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2017 at 8:25 am

For these bike share programs to work, they need to cross city borders. They need to be available to be dropped off at places like movie theaters, high schools, and be picked up in the neighborhoods (at the parks?).

For the number of bike thefts and the requirement for maintenance, I would think that young people in particular may be a target for the efficiency of a bike share service as opposed to the cost of replacing stolen bikes and the damage/maintenance aspect taken away could make them an affordable alternative to personal bike ownership.

It can take quite a while to drive to Shoreline movie theaters, but when the tunnel is open it is a short bike ride!

Definitely in our family we have spent so much on bikes over the years that we could see it being worthwhile if the bike stations were nearby and we could leave them at useful destinations.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2017 at 12:58 pm

The problem with the old bike share system was not enough bicycles available at not enough stations. So now they want to fix that problem by limiting the number of bicycles that will be available? Does that make sense to anyone? If their concern is the availability of bicycle parking, then install more bike racks. Bike racks are tremendously cheaper than car parking lots.

I would also like to see some kind of monthly or yearly subscription program that is good for all the different bike share systems around the Bay Area. Forcing people to sign up for each program separately really discourages usage.

I agree with the previous comment that letting people bike across city boundaries is common sense. A lot of people like in one city and work or shop across the border. A lot of my friends and neighbors live in south Palo Alto and work or shop in Mountain View or Los Altos and we are perfect candidates for bike share.

We also need to open up corridors to encourage bicycling from residential neighborhoods to business districts. We badly need a direct bicycle route from Midtown to the California Ave business district. Also from south Palo Alto across Hwy 101 to Google (the current route under the highway is closed during the winter).


1 person likes this
Posted by John
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 4, 2017 at 10:27 am

Free-floating bikes!!! Hooray!! I really hope they make it happen! In China, millions of people are already using such infrastructure. I don't see why it wouldn't work here. I hope I could ride a bike from downtown Palo Alto to my place in East Palo Alto. I'm always hesitant to bike downtown, afraid to get my bike stolen.


3 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 4, 2017 at 11:13 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Resident - "The problem with the old bike share system was not enough bicycles available"

We know that's not true because the data usage showed most bikes sat unused for weeks at a time. Availability clearly wasn't a problem. You are right that lack of stations may have contributed to the fact that the program failed, but more likely there isn't a real use case for them in Palo Alto. The downtown is small enough you can walk from the train, and if you are going further than downtown, you probably don't want to bike anyway.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2017 at 12:32 pm

@john_alderman - the problem with the old bike share system is the lack of bicycles. There are no stations in residential areas, so city residents cannot use bike share at all, either to go shopping or to go to work. There also no stations at major employers like HP or Facebook or Stanford or Google, so most commuters cannot use bike share either. The lack of stations and number of bicycles in the system are really different ways to look at the same problem (adding more stations without adding more bicycles is pointless). If a new bike share system limits the number of bicycles that are available where they are needed, it is going to fail just like the old system.


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