Public bike sharing is a beautiful thing: It reduces traffic! Improves air quality! There?s built-in exercise! But trust us, you do not want to hop on uninformed. With the launch of our own civic cycling program, we rounded up a few pointers to help you cruise around on one of those minty-fresh two-wheelers with ease:

Know where you?re going Most of the bikes in SF are concentrated close to downtown transit stops, so they?re meant to take you from BART or Caltrain to your office (there are also some bikes in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose). Download the CycleFinder app to check which stations have availability, and keep in mind that your trip can take no longer than 30 minutes max.

Protect yourself before you wreck yourself While helmets aren?t required, they are strongly encouraged! We suggest wearing something simple and bright, like this one in yellow or red ($50) from local company Giro.

Be realistic about your ride These bikes are heavy and durable for a reason, so don?t expect to be zipping around. If you?re rusty, take a free street-safety course through the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Bay Area Bike Share memberships include annual ($88), three days ($22) and 24 hours ($9).

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