In an announcement that caught even some CicLAvia organizers by surprise, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this morning at the “CicLAvia opening” that CicLAvia partners Bike Nation will establish a permanent footprint in Los Angeles this December. The cost to the city will be minimal, as Bike Nation promises to pay for all of the 4,000 bikes and 400 kiosks coming to Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Venice Beach and Westwood. Bike Nation estimates it could take a full year to complete the installation.
“In tough economic times like these, we knew it wasn’t feasible to start a public bike share program,” explains Villaraigosa of the $16 million investment by Bike Nation. “But we know it’s what LA needs. As we’ve seen with CicLAvia and ‘Carmaheaven,’ Angelenos are aching for a day without a car.”
Bringing bike share to Los Angeles has been a hot and cold topic going back to the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. At the Convention, Bikes Belong set up a temporary bike share for delegates to move around the city. This captured the imagination of then City Council Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel , who rode the bikes and wanted a permanent system in Los Angeles. At the time, LADOT  and many members of the bike community warned that the city wasn’t ready for a stream of inexperienced bicyclists to hit the Downtown all at once.
Is the city ready today? It’s been less than four years since there was consensus that it was not.
Villaraigosa thinks so.
“We’re building the infrastructure; we’re making it safe and practicable,” explains the Mayor. “With Bike Nation’s new venture, we’re making it that much easier for Angelenos to get around this town while promoting business and job growth in the City.”
Alexis Lantz, the planning director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, also believes the city has made great strides in four years. However, Lantz has one suggestion that will make bike sharing that much more accessible to Angelenos.
“The really important part of building a network that many people forget is the way-finding signage to direct cyclists to the best ways to get to major transit destinations and other areas where people where want to go,” Lantz explains. “In Washington D.C. they have a map of the downtown area showing where infrastructure is at the kiosk, but once you’re out there you’re on your own.”
Navin Narang, one of the founders of Bike Nation explains that their goal is to have a system that covers all of Los Angeles and some of the other neighboring cities. For now they are starting with some of the more densely populated areas, which also happen to be places with some of the better bicycle facilities. “I think we can expand beyond this first step, but this is a great first step,” Navin hopes.
Los Angeles’ coming bike share system will be one of the largest in the country. Washington D.C. and San Francisco both brag of systems with 1,200 bikes. Chicago has a system with 3,000 bikes. Only New York City, which has a system coming on-line in the very near future, will have a larger system. New York brags of a 10,000 bike system.
“We all grew up in Southern California,” Navin explains of many of the original investors and staff of Bike Nation, “so we’re thrilled that we’re doing this in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is an international city, and it’s always been a trendsetter. We’re excited to bring something that’s green and sustainable to a city that we love.”