Bicyclists riding in downtown Santa Monica now have a secured place to store their two-wheelers and take in other amenities at the Santa Monica Bike Center, the largest full-service bicycle facility of its kind in the United States.

The city of Santa Monica and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) officially opened the new $2 million bicycle complex during aribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 18.

The two ground-floor bike center areas in the Santa Monica Place mall parking structure cover nearly 5,300 square feet of space combined and feature nearly 360 secure bicycle parking spaces, making it the highest capacity secure bicycle parking facility in the U.S., city and Metro officials said.

Officials note the bicycle “hub,” which is located in one of the county’s most popular beachfront destinations, offers close connections to existing and planned public transit, including the Metro Exposition Line. In addition, the new facility offers showers and lockers for regular commuters, attended valet parking for visitors, bike rentals and repairs, travel information and related services for cyclists and bike commuters in the city.

“Santa Monica is rapidly transforming itself into a world-class city for bicycling,” Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom said. “This new bike center, built from scratch into a major development site, will provide commuters and recreational riders with all the amenities they need to better access downtown Santa Monica car-free.”

Officials touted the ideal location for the large bike center, noting that 3.4 percent of work commuters in Santa Monica travel by bike, which is higher than most other California cities.

According to a citywide resident survey, two-thirds of Santa Monica residents already own a bike and 75 percent of bicycle owners ride at least a few times per month.

The project received $1.5 million from Metro as part of its 2007 Call For Projects Program, which allocates discretionary federal, state and local transportation funds to improve all modes of surface transportation, including bikeway improvements.

“The Santa Monica Bike Center fulfills Metro’s mission to fund bikeway projects that establish key linkages to transit hubs throughout Los Angeles County,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also serves as Metro board chair. “It is exactly the type of project our region needs to help make L.A. a more bike-friendly community.”

Cyclists can participate in the bike center by becoming members of the facility and paying low-cost fees for daily, weekly or monthly access to the facility. Daily operations for the bike center will be managed by Bike ‘n’ Park, a firm that plans to utilize the facility to promote “green mobility” through outreach and education to employers and the public, and by conducting bicycling classes and tours.

The bike center is part of a comprehensive array of projects called for in Santa Monica’s Bike Action Plan, which was scheduled to be approved by the City Council Nov. 22 and calls for increasing bicycle use in the city from 3.4 percent to 14-35 percent of trips.

Information, www.bikesantamonica.org.

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