By Vince Buck, North Orange County Bicycle Advocacy Coalition (NOCBAC), Courtesy of the Fullerton Observer, December 2013 Edition
Bicycle sharing has come to Fullerton.
Fifteen BikeShare stations are in place around town and being made available to the public. However, riding the new bikes is not as simple as it seems. I was one of several “beta-testers??? and have a few suggestions on using these bikes (details on how the system works can be found at on the Orange County Transportation Authority website.
If you are used to riding a standard 27-speed road bike or a mountain bike, the BikeShare bikes will take some getting used to. If you ride a beach cruiser, the adjustment will be easier. These are slow, heavy bicycles. The only reason anyone would steal one is for scrap-metal.
The bicycles do not have chains and the tires are solid. They do have a basket, lights that turn on when the bicycle is moving, three speeds and a bell.
The configuration is similar to a beach cruiser, but since I ride a road bike, I found it difficult to control. My first suggestion is to do your initial ride in a safe place until you get used to controlling the bicycle.
- The bikes do not shift when pedaling. You must stop pedaling, shift, and then resume peddling. Since the bicycle is so heavy, having three gears is very helpful and shifting is essential. The shifting mechanism is a ring around the right handlebar.
- The bell is a ring (no pun intended) around the left handlebar. If you do not know it is there you might ring it by mistake which is startling. The bicycles are slow, probably about 8 mph, half the speed of a road bike, so take that into consideration when planning your trip.
- The lights work only while the bike is moving, so you may not be visible when stopped at a traffic signal. The front light flashes. It is not for lighting the street but to make the bike visible. Be careful not to obscure it with items in the basket.
- Seat height must be adjusted. On the front of the seat post are some marked gradations. Once you know the proper adjust- ment—in my case, 7—you can easily go to it each time you take out a bicycle. Once you know your height, it is probably easiest to make the adjustment before removing the bike from the rack. For the first time adjustment, a rough guide is to have your leg fully outstretched when your heel is on the pedal.
Bicycles can be “rented??? on a daily or yearly basis. (Pay your money and you can hop on and off any bike at any time.) If you sign up for a year — and students are subsidized — you are given a card. All you need to do to take out the bike is pass that card over the sensor. On a daily basis you can use a credit card, which is a more involved process.
No charge is made for the first 30 minutes of use, once you are signed up, or have paid the daily fee. If the bike is returned before 30 minutes have expired, you can take it out again for another 30 minutes with no charge. (You can ride all day, switching bikes every 30 minutes, for just one charge. You really can ride across Fullerton this way.)
When the bicycle is replaced it is important to make sure it is locked in. That requires an extra push. When it is fully in, lights will flash.
While this may seem complicated and the bikes cumbersome, they will serve useful purposes and be a good supplement to getting around town, especially when all the stations are in place.
Similar bikes are immensely popular in large cities around the world. New York had five million rides in the first five months of operation. Still, regular users will probably want to buy their own faster, more comfort- able bikes.
Commuters should know that there are bike lockers at the train station, so your personal bike can safely be stored overnight. Bikes are also allowed on trains and on buses, so you can put your bike aboard the bike car and have a bike when you get to your destination.
But if you just want to ride from Fullerton Transportation Center to Cal State Fullerton—Bikeshare will get you there easily.