New Bike Center Opening!

Bicycles are becoming an emblem of the future for the city of Santa Monica, as locals are quickly saying goodbye to cars, traffic, and noxious fumes. By Friday, Nov. 18, the Santa Monica Bike Center will be opening it’s doors to the public, offering secure bike parking, rentals, and many other cycling related services.

“The Bike Center is part of a comprehensive strategy to get people to ride bikes, walk, and take transit more, and drive less,” said Santa Monica’s deputy director for special projects Lucy Dyke. “Encouraging people to bicycle instead of drive is just one way to achieve these goals.”

The Bike Center has two locations in Downtown Santa Monica, with its main offices at 2nd and Colorado and its self-service location on 4th and Broadway.

Dyke has worked in the planning of the Bike Center, and described it to be a kind of ‘mobility hub’, which “connects people and provides information about bike related events as well as offering programs, classes and sponsoring its own events,” said Dyke.

She feels it’s part of the city’s approach to making the planet a better place, one step at a time.

The City Council Report, written back in April, stated that the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) calls for an increased emphasis on cycling and other active transportation modes to improve access and congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote healthy living and foster community.

The City has also already implemented some bikeway improvements around the Bike Center, such as bike lanes, signal detections, and what are called “sharrows”, also known as shared lane markings.

According to Dyke, a comprehensive agenda to complement the programs in the city’s Bike Action Plan is also being considered, a plan that is aimed at integrating bicycles into the fabric of everyday life.

The new Bike Center includes features like access-controlled indoor bicycle parking, repairs, accessory sales and rentals, guided bicycle and Segway tours, safety classes, programs, and events. Access to most of the features requires paid membership, though.

These memberships vary by usage options, with monthly rates starting at $15 and going as high as $50 (depending on services), and annual fees range from $99 to $299. Though some might see the prices as high, the City has no intention of financially benefiting from it.

“It’s set to recover costs, not make money for the City,” said Santa Monica’s City Manager Rod Gould.

Mark Ponsness of Cynergy Cycle hoped the facilities would function like those he’s used in Santa Cruz where you can pay $2-$3 at day to lock-up your bike in a locker, and receive a key that gives you open access.

“For those who want to come down just for the afternoon and enjoy the area that would be better,” said Ponsess.

Ron Durgin, who is associated with the Bike Center, said the bike valet does offer daily drop-off for $3 at day during certain hours of operation, with access to bikes in valet only during valet hours. Paying members will be issued a key card giving them access at any time during any day of the week.

An anonymous bidder in the early stages of the project said with the cost of the hours of operation the city required after doing the numbers it seemed like a financially unsound endeavor.

He found that they’d need all 262 parking spots filled at $30 a month just to break even and was also worried about the distance from the center to the Exposition Rail Line.

The center is operated in partnership with Bike and Park LLC, and other organizations such as  Perry’s Cafe and Rentals (operating the bike rental and tours components), Urban Motion Inc.’s division in Los Angeles (which will offer limited Segway tour opportunities), and Sustainable Streets (which will conduct local marketing, employer and community outreach, as well as bike education activities).

“We have a lot of work to do in the next several years to provide safer, more visible pathways for bicyclists,” said Gould. “But having the Bike Center will encourage more people to try biking to work, or to shop and play in the downtown Civic Center.”

Separately, Santa Monica College, in keeping with sustainability goals, has also created a transportation task force that is working to promote commuter bike use to campus, and is in the process of renovating and improving bike racks around campus in attempts to achieve these goals.