Santa Monica is about to launch an ambitious citywide bicycle-share program and L.A. is taking notice
By Elliot Stiller
As Santa Monica continues to expand its network of bike lanes on public streets, city officials aim to coax more residents out of their cars by deploying hundreds of grab-and-go bike rental stations throughout the city.
The $5.6-million Santa Monica bike-share program dubbed Breeze, funded largely by regional transportation grants, will place 500 bikes at 75 stations throughout the city, project manager Elizabeth Bar-El said. Breeze will be tested on a limited basis in September, with installation to follow in October and a public launch in November.
Bike-share programs such as Breeze differ from traditional rentals because their stop-and-go fee structure encourages short-term use for quick, one-way trips, Bar-El said. Renting for $6 per hour, the program’s eight-speed Breeze bicycles come equipped with smartphone app-enabled GPS sensors that start the clock when a user picks up the bike at one station and stops it after the bike is returned to another station convenient to the user’s destination.
“I think bike share is going to be a game-changer,” said Cynthia Rose, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Santa Monica Spoke, which worked with the city to set up Breeze. “If you have to go downtown to do errands, you might choose to drive instead of taking multiple buses. Now you can just hop on a bike [at any point in the journey].”
But what if those errands take you outside Santa Monica city limits?
In Venice, you’re covered. Just as new bike lanes in Venice are linking up to Santa Monica’s network via Main Street, Breeze will extend into Venice with 50 bicycles at five stations — the product of collaboration between Santa Monica officials and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
Santa Monica included a “me too” clause that allows neighboring cities to piggyback onto the city’s contract with program operator CycleHop LLC. West Hollywood is also working with CycleHop to implement a sister bike-share program of similar size, according to the Park Labrea News & Beverly Press.
Los Angeles is only beginning to roll out a bike-share network. On June 25, the Metro Board of Directors approved an $11-million contract with a different operator for a pilot downtown Los Angeles bike-share system of more than 1,000 bicycles that would launch next year, according to StreetsBlogLA.
Bonin, a member of the Metro board, said he favors growing a regionally compatible bike-share program throughout Los Angeles.
“I am tremendously excited that we are moving forward with bike-share in L.A. and that we are focusing on developing a system that will connect our neighborhoods through interoperable systems,” Bonin said.
Eric Bruins, planning and policy director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, said regional bike-share connectivity is a key to success.
“The goal is to have one system that would allow you to use a single membership for bike-share facilities in downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Venice” and throughout Greater Los Angeles, Bruins said. “As programs grow and expand, the service areas would begin to touch and you could create a single unified system.”