Pedaling away parking: Breeze Bikes on campus
Pulling up to campus riding a bright neon green bicycle emblazoned with a decal for Hulu on the front basket, SMC student Erfan Heydari dismounts and locks his Breeze bike at the Pearl Street bike station on the southern end of campus before heading off to class. He describes the process as hassle-free and says, “It’s hard to find parking around campus, so this is just more convenient." For students like Heydari, parking is always the foremost issue to keep in mind when commuting to SMC. Although he does drive a car, he also uses the Breeze Bike Share program as another means of transportation to avoid the parking problem altogether.
Officially launched Nov. 12, 2015, the Hulu sponsored and City of Santa Monica owned Breeze Bike Share program made 500 eight-speed "smart bikes" available at 79 stations throughout Santa Monica and Venice, with four stations on SMC campuses. The program is part of the City of Santa Monica's Bike Action Plan.
The "smart bikes" use Global Positioning technology to allow paying riders to pick up a bicycle at one station, ride it to where they wish, then drop it off once they've reached their intended destination, paying for the time spent riding though subscription services. According to representatives from Breeze Bike Share, there are currently about 11,120 users, 8,529 of which are "pay as you go" users.
Ferris Kawar, Vice President of SMC's Environmental Affairs Committee, hopes the Breeze Bike Share service will be an alternative remedy to the endless search for parking familiar to SMC students and another opportunity to get more cars off the road. Kawar, an avid-cyclist, runs the Center for Environmental & Urban Studies (CEUS) just off campus is working closely with the Breeze Bike Share program and the SMC Bike Club to promote transit alternatives and grow bicycle ridership on campus.
“There are currently 47 students and staff using the bike share service,” said Kawar about the start of the program's acceptance at SMC. These Breeze users make up a fraction of the entire SMC cycling community, as there are anywhere from 200-300 riders a day commuting on their own bicycles. Kawar is looking to change this, and has even signed up for the program himself, saying that sometimes he uses the bright green bikes more than his own bicycle.
One of the more potentially valuable features for SMC students is the program's SMC Student Pass, available only to enrolled students. The pass offers six months of the Breeze bike share program at a reduced rate of $47. Amanda Ortiz, Vice President of the SMC Bike Club, sees an overall positive reaction coming from students who use the service. “I notice a lot more [bicycle] riders on campus, and I think it’s great for students and the community,” said Ortiz.
Having only been available since November, the service is still in its infancy and has some more growing to do. According to Kawar, there have been "early hiccups" with promotion for the service on campus, which was set up to coincide with the start of the Spring semester.
The CEUS and Breeze program aim to garner more riders through collaborations on upcoming events. This includes expanding promotions during “Bike Month” this coming May, an event where the CEUS and SMC Bike Club will host a number of cycling-related events on campus. They also hope to take advantage of the opening of the MTA Expo Line extension on May 20.
Kawar hopes that students and commuters alike will be able to take the train, mount a Breeze bike and close the mile between the train stop at 17th & Colorado and the main campus. “Whether it’s Breeze bikes or Uber Pool, there are just a plethora of new solutions filling these [transportation] gaps,” said Kawar.
The Breeze bike share program is a unique alternative to driving on a campus infamous for parking problems and traffic congestion. While making some headway in terms of increasing its membership since its launch, the bike share program is building an awareness to alternative transportation around campus, even if it isn’t their own. Kawar said, “A lot is happening this semester, and I hope that [the Breeze bikes] become a gateway to getting more people to ride a bike.”