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 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.”
There 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.