Share and Share a Bike

Well, tomorrow (or July 7th, if you’re not reading this on the day I post it), Los Angeles joins the family of cities that offer bikeshare systems. This fraternity includes: megacities such as New York and Chicago (and real megacities such as Huangzhou, with over 65,000 bikes and nearly 3,000 stations, or Mexico City , more modest at around 6,000 bikes and over 400 stations); midsized cities such as Denver with its famous BCycle system; and smaller towns such as College Park, MD, as well as local pioneers Long Beach, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood.

Los Angeles, with its typical timidity, is taking a very tentative step into bikeshare (given that bikesharing is an established success worldwide), starting with a claimed 1,000 bikes at 65 stations. Some of the stations are, to my befuddled mind, oddly placed, such as the one depicted in the photo above: this immense station is at the corner of Figueroa and Second, practically at the front door of the ritzy Promenade Towers, which advertises itself as offering “luxury apartments.” There’s not much of anything else around to justify this station, except the Bonaventure hotel two blocks away. I’m not sure what justifies placing the largest bikeshare station I’ve seen in any city I’ve visited in this little-trafficked spot, but there it is.

At least it’s at the crossing of two bike lanes. What most other bikeshare cities share (besides bikes) is connected bikeways. Denver, certainly; I’ve ridden many of its bikeways; New York, famously, thanks to ex-LA planning maven Janette Sadik-Khan; ditto Chicago and even our wee neighbors Santa Monica and Long Beach. (Not so much West Hollywood, but they’re diligently expanding their bikeways network even as I write.)

In LA, as readers of my endless complaints know all too well, bike lanes tend to huddle in lost corners of the city, starting nowhere and obsessively avoiding contact with any other bikelane. This may hold down our bikeshare system’s numbers, as the bikes are intended for people who are not habitual riders, and they tend to prefer clearly marked and connected bicycle networks.

In any case, some of the other bikeshare station locations make more sense than Second and Fig—the Central Library, for example (though there are no bikelanes nearby), Chinatown (ditto), the Fashion District (ditto; the Los Angeles street bike lane stops well before the garment hub), Grand Park (no bike lanes), and some other spots where bike lanes were inadvertently included.

Should you wish to try it out, you can buy a dedicated pass or use your Metro TAP card; apparently some provision for users who have neither will be implemented in August.

Ride it, and let us know what you think. It would be particularly interesting to know how it compares to, say, Santa Monica’s Breeze bikeshare.

So…as Bill Mulholland said all those years ago, “There it is; take it!”

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