Santa Monica Pushes Timeline Forward For Its Own Bike Share Plans

Bike Nation Preview Rendering At CicLAvia
A preview rendering shown at CicLAvia following the Bike Nation LA announcement. Will Bike Nation operate bike share in Santa Monica as well? It's possible, but other venders will be considered.

The Santa Monica Lookout News recently reported that Santa Monica is speeding up its bike share plans from the 2016 date originally in the city’s bike action plan, to possibly by the end of next year. I felt the original goal date was unambitious, so I was really excited to read the status update the Lookout got from Francie Stephan, community and strategic planning manager for the city of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Bike@Work Bike For City Staff Shared UseSanta Monica is well suited for bike sharing with a growing bike network, a coming rail line, and a large daytime population that includes regional workers and tourism from both near and far. The Santa Monica Bike Center already rents bikes at 2nd and Colorado Ave. and can barely keep them on the floor on busy summer days. City staff can also be spotted using their own employee Bike@Work bikes from their sharing program at city hall.

With the city of Los Angeles announcing its plans and arrangements with Bike Nation to provide bike sharing, I’m sure many have been wondering about what that announcement would mean for other adjacent municipalities that have been planning bike share systems. Although that biggest question, concerning who the provider might be and maintaining compatibility across borders was not asked in the Lookout story.

At the recent public workshop on the developing Downtown Santa Monica specific plan, I fortunately got a chance to ask Francie Stephan a few questions about bike sharing in person. She confirmed the accelerated timeline, and indicated that on the 23rd the city would be doing interviews with a full lineup of vendors in the bike sharing world like Alta BikeShare and B-Cycle as well local newcomer Bike Nation.

Stephan also mentioned that the city has been in talks with Bike Nation without hinting too much about any details. I’m sure a lot of eyes will be looking at how they handle their first service launch in Anaheim this weekend.

Clearly there is a lot of pressure to maintain compatibility with the city of Los Angeles, especially given that closely neighboring Venice Beach is one of the initial L.A. bike share roll out locations. Stephen said “We’re highly focused on compatibility” and elaborated that all potential vendors will be asked to address compatibility concerns.

Current plans call for 250 bikes at up to 25 stations in Santa Monica. Fewer stations may be opted for to provide more bikes at especially high demand locations. The city bike action plan also indicates a number of desirable locations that include each of the future Expo Line rail stations and important attractions and job centers. However there may be further public process to get input on stations.

A public meeting could come early next year, but hasn’t been set in stone. An online process for pointing out desired locations on a map was also floated as an idea, but a lot of things are still up in the air at this point.

About the new timeline Stephan added that, “We were wanting to do it anyways, so with LA announcing, we definitely wanted to have a synergy, and get people used to using it before Expo arrives.”

Velib StationThere are some bike advocates who find bike sharing a distraction from other pressing concerns they feel ought to be addressed first.  Others are on the fence about the value of bike share to a city. I get where that perspective is coming from. But ever since I first saw a modern bike sharing system in action when I traveled to Paris in 2010, I was sold on the concept almost immediately.

I saw Vélib’ bikes in use, parked, or docked, literally everywhere. The bikes were clearly being well utilized despite what appeared to be far less developed road infrastructure for cycling than notable biking capitals like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. The Vélib’ bike share system has played a part in a culture shift toward making other bike facilities a higher priority in Paris in recent years as well, and I hope we experience some of the same effect when we try out the concept here in LA and Santa Monica.

  • zstern

    Hard to imagine bike advocates being against a bike share! It is great because it takes the storing/locking/and hassle of biking short distances away from the user and shifts it to the system.  I grew up in Washington DC area and the system there is awesome.  So easy to get around. 

    It should have a huge effect on expo line usage as it will put many just out of walking distance from the station residents in the mix.  I predict a huge boom in bike travel in SM if this program is implemented correctly.  I also predict a huge increase in demand for cycling infrastructure once this is implemented.  My biggest concern is station location.  I have a feeling they may try to “pack” to many bikes into downtown SM area and neglect the Ocean Park/Sunset Park areas and residential areas further west.  If the residential neighborhoods are ignored than most people will still have to “get” to a bike sharing location somehow.

    In my mind the station locations should be decided with the following user level priorities:

    1)  Residents
    2)  Commuters
    3)  Tourists

    I am worried number 3 could be number 1.  Either way, very excited for this.  Assuming I get a station somewhat close to my house I will have an nice way to get to the 4th and Colorado expo station.

  • Sorry to be a grammatical sour puss, but in the title “it’s” should be “its”

    It’s = it is
    Its = possessive, like his, hers

  • Bikeshare Friend

    Don’t have too much expectation of Bike Nation spreading too far beyond Anaheim and maybe a station in LA. The company just barely launched their first station ever 2 months late in Anaheim and has no connecting stations. The one person who had experience in bikeshare is no longer with the company and they still have no source of revenue aside from being a loss-based tax write-off for their parent company “First Pacific Holdings”.

    Santa Monica and all other interested entities would be wise to wait out Bike Nation’s failure so they can go into the RFP process with minds clear of the fairy-tale of a free-to-the-city bikeshare system. It just doesn’t work.

  • Anonymous

    When Boston started a bikeshare program, it changed the dynamic in the city. It became much more common to see people riding – including tourists, residents, and even business people. The more people who ride, the more demand there will be for better facilities.

  • To have a bikeshare program is fantastic, but while Velib has 18000 bikes at 1200 stations around Paris, Bike Nation currently has 10 bikes at 1 kiosk in Anaheim. Paris and London launched big schemes so that they would be a big success. Launching a small scheme makes bike sharing next to useless, it reduces the utility of the scheme by limiting the destinations open to users and it makes the whole thing look like a waste of money that could have been spent on cars.

  • zstern

    So are we rooting for Bike Nation’s failure with the hope of SM and LA signing with a proven bike share operator?

  • I absolutely agree a roll out has to be big with connecting stations at important sites within a solid radius to have any useful function and traction. Santa Monica’s numbers of wanting to start with 250 bikes is more modest than I would prefer, but it is a compact scaled area with a lot going in 8 square miles. I think 250 spread between the right spots can be sufficient to attract starting users and hopefully demonstrate quickly the need to expand.

  • The rolling out with only one station is pretty pathetic, I just heard about that, I mean why bother? A delay is always better than a product without functional use on day one. 1 bike station is only slightly more useful than opening a train line that doesn’t go anywhere, the whole point is to facilitate trips to and between other docking points.

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