Ford launches Bay Area ‘GoBike’ service

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. isn’t only looking at four-wheeled machines as it continues a series of experiments in mobility.

On Wednesday, the company will launch in the San Francisco Bay area, part of what it says will be the nation’s second-largest bike-share program.

Called Ford GoBikes, the system is another step in a series of new ventures from the automaker as it tries to reinvent itself and bridge the gap between its image as a traditional carmaker and a potential technology and mobility powerhouse.

Ford is partnering with Motivate, a New York-based bike-sharing company seen as a leader in such systems, on the West Coast. The Dearborn-based automaker said it will launch a fleet of Ford GoBike bicycles in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The automaker expects to have 3,500 bicycles in operation in that area by the end of the summer. By the end of 2018, Ford says the region will have 546 stations and 7,000 bikes, which will propel the system into the second-biggest in the U.S.

To compare, Detroit’s own MoGo bike-share program launched in late May with 430 bicycles at 43 stations.

The bikes developed by the two companies are designed for ease of use on the hills in San Francisco, according to Ford. The aluminum-frame bicycles have a wide gear range, puncture-resistant tires and motion-activated lights. Riders can access the bikes through the FordPass app, which launched in 2016 and is used to help customers pay for parking, share their vehicles, start the car and lock the vehicle.

Ford announced plans to build a bike-share program in September, when it acquired San Francisco shuttle company Chariot. Chariot recently expanded to its third city, Seattle, and has around 250 Transit vans operating in San Francisco and Austin, the first two cities to host the service.

Both the GoBikes and Chariot shuttles were developed as a result of a 25-point mobility plan launched under former Ford CEO Mark Fields in January 2015. And under current CEO Jim Hackett, the Ford Smart Mobility’s City Solutions team is continuing the push to change how people move.

The work in that segment of the company is meant to grow a transportation ecosystem that Executive Chairman Bill Ford wants to foster. The bikes and shuttles would work in tandem with connected vehicles, autonomous cars, electric vehicles, ride hailing services, bike-sharing and existing infrastructure like rails and buses.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau