In this guest post, Yosemite Bike Share Attendant Nina Listro shares some updates, insights and fun facts from the 2020 season.
If you visited Yosemite National Park this year you probably noticed a lot of things were different. You made a reservation, you were able to find a parking spot (score!), park rangers greeted you from outside the Visitor Center, and you entered the Village Store through a maze of yellow fences. If you were paying close attention, you might have also noticed a lot of people riding blue and silver beach cruiser bikes sporting Yosemite Conservancy and National Park Service logos. Blue and silver shine? It must be the Yosemite Bike Share!
The Yosemite Bike Share isn’t technically new to the park this year (it made its debut back in 2018), but perennial visitors and employees alike often exclaimed that it was the first time they had noticed the program. During the summers of 2018 and 2019, the 30 beach cruisers were distributed among the Upper and Lower Pines campgrounds as an incentive for campers to leave their cars at the campsite and ride the bikes to get groceries and other necessities. No emissions, no headache trying to find a parking spot.
The basics of the Bike Share are pretty simple: People use the free Yosemite Bike Share app, which can be downloaded on any smartphone, to rent, pick up and drop off bikes. But for 2020, the Bike Share team had to get a bit creative to figure out how — or if — the program would be able to run safely during the pandemic.
The first thing we had to address was how to sanitize the bikes between rides. The main change is that now, users rent bikes from a “Sanitized” corral and return them to a “Used” corral. Once one of the Bike Share Attendants has thoroughly sanitized the bikes in the “Used” corral, they’re transferred back to the “Sanitized” corral.
The location of the rental kiosks was also changed, since campground services were limited. The team decided to have two kiosk locations, one at Yosemite Village Parking and one in Yosemite Village proper, to provide easy access for visitors with day-use permits or who were entering the park via YARTS buses. An added benefit to moving the kiosks to these locations was more reliable cell phone coverage, allowing for greater ease when downloading and using the app.
While Yosemite saw fewer visitors this summer season, Bike Share usage soared. As of September 9, Bike Share users have logged 1,600 rides since the bikes were put out at the start of July. That’s double the number of rides in 2018 and 2019 combined! The increase in rides is probably due to a few factors, including more reliable cell phone coverage, the fact that shuttle service is not available this year, and the more centralized, more visible bike kiosk locations.
Beyond looking at the uptick in total rides, we’re also digging into the data on how people use the bikes. Most of this summer’s rides (70%) were under two hours long. Bike Share users in this category primarily rode the bikes to the Lower Yosemite Fall trailhead and to spend time in Yosemite Village. Longer rides lasting anywhere from two to five hours (30% of all rides) were predominately used to access the eastern part of Yosemite Valley, with stops at areas like Curry Village, Happy Isles, and along the Merced River.
While the summer season is winding down, the Yosemite Bike Share is still operating and will remain available to visitors until changing weather brings more precipitation. Ride for two hours for free; for longer rides, we encourage you to make a donation to help fund the Yosemite Bike Share and other Conservancy-supported projects in the park.
To learn more about the program, head to the Yosemite Bike Share page for more information, to download the app, and to check out our interactive Yosemite Bike Share Map. You can also stop by Yosemite Village Parking when you’re in the park and our Bike Share Attendants Nina and Carlos can help get you set up and answer any questions you may have.
Thanks to Nina for her insights and for helping the Yosemite Bike Share keep rolling along safely and smoothly this year, and thanks to our donors for supporting this program since its pilot year!