DOWNTOWN — There always seems to be traffic in Santa Monica, especially in the morning during people’s commute to work. The Santa Monica Bike Center is now providing some relief.
The Bike Center on Friday kicked off a new commuter program to loan bicycles to people for two weeks to give them a taste of what it’s like to ride a bike to work.
Many are hesitant to start commuting to work on a bike, but this gives them an easy solution, Ron Durgin, manager of the Bike Center, said.
“A lot of people don’t know what kind of bike to get, but this gives us a chance to have that conversation with them and give people a hands-on experience,” Durgin said.
The Planning and Community Development Department at City Hall came up with the funding for the Bike Center to get the program started, Durgin said. They provided just under $3,500 to purchase five bikes, bike bags, headlights, taillights and locks.
“[The Planning and Community Development Department] like[s] this plan because they have plans already to reduce trips by car, so this is very strategic for them,” Durgin said.
Durgin hopes to get 100 participants over the course of the year, and is optimistic about the initiative.
Participants are provided with a bike for two weeks if they pledge to use the bike about three times a week to commute to work. The Bike Center is also willing to provide “bike buddies” to help participants plan their route and ride into town for the first time on a bike.
The program was inspired by a similar one in Copenhagen, Denmark in which people who had to take their children to school or childcare centers were provided with bikes.
“With this program we will also have optional child seat accessories so if people say, ‘Oh I have to take my kid to school so I can’t,’ we’ll help them out,” Durgin said. “When people say they can’t do something, we’ll say yes we can, and this is how. Bring on the objections!”
Bicycle store Helen’s Cycles is also participating in the effort. They plan to provide a discount to those who finish the two-week session so they can continue their bike commutes.
“The program is great, it’s been really interesting to watch the Bike Center evolve,” Brad Edwards, manager of Helen’s Cycles, said. “It’s a wonderful resource for the community and the program is a great opportunity for someone to try out bike commuting without having that financial cost up front.”
That will encourage people to continue bike commuting after their two weeks are up because they will learn how to do it on the right bike with the right products, Edwards said.
Durgin hopes the commuter program will get more people on bikes and out of their cars.
“The car congestion needs to be decongested and a bike provides an antidote to that problem,” Durgin said. “You can get to work on time and get exercise in the process. People can experience Santa Monica from the saddle rather than staring through the windshield.”
The Bike Center, reportedly the nation’s largest, opened in November of last year at the corner of Second Street and Colorado Avenue. It features 360 bike parking spaces, showers, lockers, bathrooms and a space to rent bikes. The 5,300-square-foot facility was built for roughly $2 million, with $1.5 million coming from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
For more information or to sign up for this program, contact the Santa Monica Bike Center at (310) 656-8500.