In its quest to transform a metropolis built around freeways into a land where bicyclists and sport utility vehicles can amicably share the road, Los Angeles will soon reach another benchmark — a citywide bike-share program.
At a news conference Thursday with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and L.A. Clippers basketball star and cycling advocate Caron Butler, executives with Southern California-based Bike Nation announced plans to begin rolling out their bike-share program in downtown Los Angeles in April.
Although no contract has been signed or permits issued, Bike Nation has pledged $16 million toward eventually installing as many as 400 bike-share kiosks with 4,000 rental bikes across the city in areas such as Westwood, Hollywood and near the beach.
Executives said they plan to begin a small, beta-testing operation in downtown in April and hope to put kiosks with roughly 10 rental bikes each at Union Station, the Caltrans building on Main Street, City Hall, the Hall of Administration, LAPD headquarters and Olvera Street before eventually expanding.
According to initial plans, cyclists in Los Angeles will be able to rent bikes for $6 a day, $1.50 an hour or $4.50 for 90 minutes. Trips shorter than 30 minutes will be free; one-year passes will cost $75.
The company has also installed a bike-share system in Anaheim and is making plans for kiosks in Long Beach and Fullerton. Executives also said they have submitted offers to West Hollywood and Culver City.
"We are excited to put stations on the ground in downtown Los Angeles and begin the process of rolling out our bike-share program and providing a safe, low-cost, healthy transportation alternative to Los Angeles residents," said Bike Nation's Chief Operating Officer Derek Fretheim.
Bike sharing is common in cities like London, where it is normal to see double-decker buses alongside swarms of downtown commuters atop Barclays branded rental bikes. They are also popular in many U.S. cities, including New York and Washington, D.C.
But unlike many other large metropolitan bike-share programs, Los Angeles' will not — at least for now — be subsidized by taxpayers. Bike Nation, or any other company that wants to open bike-share kiosks in the city, can apply for permits and essentially run their systems privately.
But that means Los Angeles may not be able to cash in on the highly lucrative advertising and sponsorship contracts that Bike Nation or other vendors will probably be able to sell. In New York, Citibank reportedly paid more than $40 million over five years to be the primary sponsor of that city's bike-share program.
Villaraigosa aide Lisa Sarno said current plans are that Bike Nation, or any competing bike-share company, can apply for permits for their kiosks. The public permits will have to be approved and will cost about $200 to $300 each and last one to two years.