Bikeshare Begins in LA!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in anticipation of LA County’s Metro Bike Share opening (plain beige moniker and all) in downtown. This will be the only bikeshare system in the City of Los Angeles, and it will be technically incompatible with the municipal bikeshsare systems that will operate (or are operating) around and within it in Santa Monica, Long Beach, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and UCLA. Those five systems are interoperable: you can pick up a bike at one city’s dock, and drop it off at another. There will even be Santa Monica and West Hollywood bikeshare docks in LA itself, in Venice, near the Farmers Market, and at a few other spots. Having docks at destinations is doubly important, because the clock stops once you dock the bike, while keeping it too long, even if it is just leaned against your café table, can incur a fee. So interoperabilty makes a certain amount of sense. Even “Smartbike” systems, where all the electronics are on the bike itself, usually require that it be parked within a certain distance of a compatible dock.

Metro, dominated by the City of LA, went its own separate way, but the system is up and running, it does use TAP cards (a big plus), and people have signed up. I’ve seen folks pedaling the big green bikes around, and I’ve noticed regular changes in the disposition of bikes at the massive docking station at Second and Fig, which I pass by several times a week. So far, so good. There are docks at Union Station, Grand Central Market, the Central Library, and near most of the museums and Metro stops downtown, as well as a fair number scattered about the Arts and Fashion districts, the Cleantech Corridor along the river, and in Chinatown (but not on Broadway!). The two downtown libraries don’t have them, and could use them, but maybe they’ll come, Check out the map here.

Will this affect the many bike shops downtown, or in other parts of then county as bikeshare spreads? While some shops in current bikeshare cities claim to have lost business, the fact remains that bikeshare bikes are of limited utility: you can’t ride them for long, and if you could, you wouldn’t want to ride them far, except as a stunt (as has been done). In the long run they will probably habituate more people to think of bicycling for transport, and many of these will eventually buy a bike of their own. Since the long run has not had time to develop yet, we’ll have to wait and see. Many people (such as the notorious BikesnobNYC) use both shared bikes and their own private bikes, and I suspect that over time, bikeshare users will pick up bikes of their own for recreational or distance riding, once they get used to thinking of bikes at all. It’s a low-cost way to try out the World’s Most Efficient Machine.

So go to the Metro Bike Share website, sign up, and give it a try. And let us know what you think!

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