"We needed to show that cycling was a viable option — not a scary thing," says Pascual. "And CicLAvia did that. It changed the paradigm. It changed the mind-set for average people and for city councilmen who'd been resistant to cycling."
In March 2011, the City Council approved the 1,680-mile bicycle master plan, to be rolled out over 30 years. Last year, 74 miles of bike lanes were completed. An L.A. County Bike Coalition 2011 survey found that ridership doubled at places where bike lanes were put in, showing that people will ride more if they think it's safe.
The new lanes will come in handy for another piece of the urban cycling puzzle: bike sharing. L.A., long behind its big-city peers around the world, starts catching up this month with the first stage of a 4,000-bike, 400-station program. Bike sharing involves renting an inexpensive bike at automatic kiosk-racks (free for 30 minutes with annual membership, or $1.50 an hour), then docking it at another kiosk near your destination.
Minneapolis-St. Paul has 1,330 bikes and 145 stations. Miami has 1,000 bikes and 100 stations. New York is set to launch a 10,000-bike program in May. The granddaddy is Paris, which launched its 24,000-bike system in 2007.
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Los Angeles' bike-share supplier, Tustin-based Bike Nation, which is also installing a 100-bike system in Anaheim and will add one in Long Beach (2,500 bikes), sped the adoption of L.A.'s program by several years when it offered to completely self-fund the $16-million program.
L.A.'s program starts with a 60- to 90-day test of nine downtown kiosks, then expands to Westwood, Venice and Hollywood through the summer. The bikes will have flat-proof tires and grease-free belts instead of chains. GPS units will track stolen bikes.
For many, it's the start of a transformation.
"There was a complete sea change when the mayor started throwing his weight around," says Dan Dabek, director of CICLE, a local nonprofit cycling advocacy group. "When he fell off his bike, it was the perfect storm. These ideas were already out there, and Villaraigosa chose the right side of history. There is good momentum. If the new mayor in June keeps the momentum going, we'll be in good shape for the future. "