CIVIC CENTER — A gray sky and a sprinkling of summer mist were not enough to keep some curious Santa Monicans from catching a glimpse of City Hall’s proposed bike sharing plan earlier this week.
At the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, city officials and representatives from Global Green USA introduced a solar-powered bike sharing station, courtesy of B-cycle, with bicycles available for test rides.
Several people hopped on the bikes, spinning circles around the mostly empty parking lot; unsurprisingly, most of those in attendance chose not to drive, but arrived on bicycle.
The purpose of the event was to gauge people’s interest in bike sharing, as well as field any questions, comments or concerns about the system.
A panel comprised of members of Alta Bicycle Share and B-cycle, companies that manage bike sharing systems, as well as a representative of UC Irvine’s bike sharing system, spoke at the event.
One party that appeared happy to see the bike sharing system announced was Santa Monica College.
“We’re very interested in partnering and collaborating with the city in their efforts,” said Genevieve Bertone, director of sustainability at SMC. “Santa Monica is one of the greenest cities in the nation [and] SMC is hoping to be one of the greenest community colleges in the nation.”
City Hall has been recommended to receive a grant for $1.5 million from Metro to help cover the cost of the program, said Lucy Dyke, Santa Monica transportation planning manager. It is expected to cost $2.4 million to get the program up and running.
The grant would help City Hall install at least 250 bicycles in 25 locations, Dyke added.
The cost to borrow a bike has not yet been set. Dyke said the program will most likely mirror bike sharing programs in other cities. In Denver, the fee is $6 per day, $20 per week and $65 a year. Anything under 30 minutes is free.
After presentations by the panel explaining the methods of planning, installing and maintaining a bicycle sharing system, the community was ready to weigh in.
Primary concerns included encouraging bike safety, maintaining the bikes, preventing vandalism and paying for the installation and upkeep of the system. Dyke took notes on twin sandwich boards.
Most of those gathered seemed eager to get the wheels of bike sharing turning, citing its positive effects on the environment.
“It will reduce emissions in our country, give people better health and will promote a more sustainable lifestyle and tourism in our community,” said Joy Cernac, Santa Monica resident.
Linda Porta, a Venice resident who works in Santa Monica, has been on a bike for the past year and a half. She already bikes everyday, but feels that the bike share could make the community easier to visit.
“It wouldn’t totally effect me, but it would help my friends when they come out and see the city,” Porta said.
One of the biggest concerns was safety.
“There will continue to be a high risk to bicyclists,” said Cernac.
That risk could be reduced if the bike share bikes came equipped with helmets and the city launched a campaign for public safety, Cernac added.
“Safety is our number one concern,” Bertone said. “As an educational facility, I think we have a valuable role to play.”
Some felt that a reexamination of traffic policy in Santa Monica was key.
“I think that the traffic laws should reflect the nuanced differences between modes of transportation: bikes, people, cars,” said Gwynne Pugh, former planning commissioner.
Pugh has been riding a bike for over 30 years in Santa Monica, but still believes that bicyclists have to be aware of the rules of the road, and follow them for everyone’s safety.
“The biggest responsibility is on the cyclist,” Pugh said.