Three Years Later: Is L.A. Ready for Bike Share

The bike share program at Emory University asks the key question.

In September of 2008, Los Angeles was beginning to move towards creating a bike share system for Los Angeles.  It was a hot topic at the time after then City-Council Transportation Committee Chair and now Comptroller/Mayoral Candidate Wendy Greuel championed the idea after experiencing a successful temporary bike share program at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

There was only one problem…nobody else thought Los Angeles was ready for a bike share program.  Some thought that biking in L.A. was just too dangerous to encourage novice cyclists to rent a bicycle.  Others just thought there were more pressing infrastructure needs at the moment.  When I say nobody thought it was a good idea, I’m including leaders with the LACBC, Councilman Tom LaBonge, and even the LADOT (and especially the majority of Streetsblog readers in 2008.)

The LADOT simply wrote:

…the City still lacks a continuous network to accommodate bicycle use for the bike sharing program.

And that wast that.  Bike share has more than caught on nationally, just check out the roster of recent films at Streetfilms, but it hasn’t been a major issue here in the Southland outside of an occasional reference in a report or government document.

Until last week.

A motion by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Santa Monica Council Woman Pam O’Connor ordered Metro Staff to examine the possibilities of using Metro stations as bike share hubs. While L.A. has made some pretty impressive strides the last couple of years, the infrastructure on Los Angeles’ streets aren’t that much different than they were when Wendy Greuel was the bike share champion.  On the other hand, as city’s around the world try bike share, we’re discovering the benefits of a working system are pretty impressive.

So I ask you all again, is L.A. ready for a bike share program?  We’ll forward your messages on to Yaroslavsky, Villaraigosa and O’Connor.  We’ll also make sure to ask the city’s Deputy Mayor when he fills out our reader Q and A later this week.

  • I commented about this last week but it bears repeating:  Bike sharing is not something you can half-ass.  A system will only be popular if there is a sufficient density of stations that there’s one near your starting point and one near your destination, for a good chunk of your trips.

    In other words, a pilot project won’t work, unless its confined to a small geographic area- say Downtown, for example. If we try to spread the network out too thin so every neighborhood has a station but no neighborhood has enough stations, no one’s going to use the thing. The system will fail, the critics will say “I told you so”, and it’ll be 5-10 years before the idea of bike sharing gets floating again.

    We’ve got to go big or go home.  Capital Bikeshare in DC has 100 stations and 1,100 bikes, and its only a city of 600,000 people.

  • El Barto

    might be worth looking into for something like the DTLA area where there are tourists and local destinations near hotels etc… but this isnt going to work as a city wide operation unless the city becomes more bike friendly.

  • Ma2006tucson

    I believe financial resources and political will should be focused on establishing the infrastructure (bike lanes & markings), efforts aimed at changing behavior and the culture towards biking should be focused on basic education–then bike share

  • I see a great world where people from West Los Angeles and Hollywood are jealous of the San Fernando Valley and it’s network on Orangline Paths with the newly installed Bike share network. In this new great world the city of burbank would get on board and build a bike network to get you from the Chandler path to the LA River path and beyond. 

    So in other words, Try it out in SFV. See how it goes. We might never get rail but we get bike lanes. 

  • DC is nothing. Paris launched with 7,000 bicycles and 750 stations. 

    Paris now has 20,000 bicycles and 1,202 stations.

  • Just saying, 100 stations, confined to the CBD is probably the minimum we’d need to get a successful system off the ground.  I think we all know that our city isn’t going to commit to a Paris sized system right out of the gate (although I would love it if they proved me wrong.)

  • I agree, totally concentrated is best. I think Santa Monica, Venice, and Playa Vista would be the best location to start. Plenty of short trips, comfortable cycling weather, lots of bike amenities and parallel local streets to the big boulevards. Then work your way east.

  • DP

    I really hope that bikeshare can be introduced on a large scale and rapidly expand across LA, but I don’t think were ready.

    LA has a huge commitment to quadrupling the city’s bikeways over the coming years, but public transit is pathetic, parking is convenient, and we’re still too reliant on cars.  Outside touristy beach communities, a bike share will most likely be a bust and really screw up biking’s great momentum right now.

  • Marcodanderson

    Someone from LADOT gave a presentation to a Metro TDM working group a year ago about a project they were working on to put a number of mobility “Hubs” in DTLA Hollywood and partner with Long Beach. The hubs would combine bikeshare, carshare, and bike stations. I’m pretty sure te still moving forward.

  • Irwinc

    The initial zone for the pilot program needs to be large enough to have enough population base and destinations to generate a critical mass (not intended as a pun…) of users. The area will also need to have a lot of bi-directional travel so bikes can be evenly distributed.

    The obvious place is near rail stations or major bus transfer points with lots of destinations nearby. I think Santa Monica, Venice, Long Beach, Koreatown, and East LA are all perfectly good candidates as they all have all-day bi-directional travel patterns and near major transit lines (terminus of light rail or major Rapid bus lines). I’m not as sure about Pasadena or SFV. While they have access to transit lines, the travel pattern is peak one-directional in or out of the area rather than bi-directional or intra-zone. The one-direction peak travel makes bike share a little more difficult to manage, at least during the initial phase – you don’t want people peddling around to look for an empty bike stand to return the bike – that’s one sure way to make sure they will not use the service again.

  • Irwinc

    That’s a good plan but the key here is these communities have lots of short trips within the local area. Bike share works best when there are bi-directional demand through out the day so you can always find a bike when you need it, and more importantly, an empty stand to return it,



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