SECOND STREET — Those who use their bikes to get to work Downtown will be able to safely secure their wheels and freshen up before heading to the office thanks to the new, $2 million Santa Monica Bike Center, the largest, full-service bike facility of its kind in the nation.

City and county officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday to celebrate what they called a “major new amenity” for bike commuters and recreational riders. Two ground-floor bike center locations in the Santa Monica Place parking structures feature nearly 5,300 square feet of dedicated space and nearly 360 secure bicycle parking spaces, plus bathrooms, showers and lockers.

Not only will people be able to park their bikes, visitors will also be able to repair them. And those who do not own a bike can rent one for the day or for just a few hours, depending on the need. Prices range from $20 for two hours to $55 for an entire day, depending on the type of bike desired. There are mountain bikes, handcycles and tandems by Trek, one of the world’s most trusted bike manufacturers.

Those who already have a bike and commute regularly can become members of the center for a monthly or yearly fee ranging from $15 a month to $299 a year, which includes a locker and clean towels.

“Santa Monica is rapidly transforming itself into a world-class city of bicycling,” said Mayor Richard Bloom. “This new bike center, built from scratch into a major development site will provide commuters and recreational riders with all the amenities they need to better access Downtown Santa Monica car-free.”

The two bike center locations are located near the planned terminus of the Exposition Light Rail Line Phase II, scheduled to open in 2015, and major Metro and Big Blue Bus stops, as well as popular tourist destinations like the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade. The Santa Monica Bike Center is a key piece of the transportation puzzle, officials said, as it will help move people through the city without having them add to traffic congestion and parking woes.

“The Santa Monica Bike Center fulfills Metro’s mission to fund bikeway projects that establish key linkages to transit hubs throughout Los Angeles County,” said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Metro Board chair. “It is exactly the type of project our region needs to help make L.A. a more bike-friendly community.”

The project received $1.5 million from Metro as part of its 2007 Call For Projects Program, which allocates discretionary federal, state and local transportation funds to improve all modes of surface transportation, including bikeway improvements.

The Bike Center is recycled from auto parking: 27 auto parking spaces were previously located in the areas that now house the Bike Center.

Perry’s bike rentals will help run the center along with Segway Los Angeles and Bike & Park, a national organization that encourages people to get out of their cars and on their bikes. It has partnered with three bike centers, including one in Millennium Park in Chicago and another in Cincinnati. Sustainable Streets will also be on hand to educate people about safe cycling, and Bike & Park will conduct classes and tours.

Josh Squire, the founder of Bike & Park, said Santa Monica is the perfect community for cycling given its year-round moderate climate, relatively flat terrain, a robust tourism industry, and the number of major employers situated in Downtown who are committed to alternative forms of transportation.

“It’s very unique and I expect it to be very successful,” he said.

The percentage of commuters who travel by bicycle in the city is 3.4 percent, which is higher than most other California cities. What’s more, the share of people accessing work by bicycle in Santa Monica has increased by almost 30 percent from 2007 to 2010, city officials said.

According to a citywide survey of residents, two-thirds of those who live here already own a bike and 75 percent of bicycle owners ride at least a few times per month.

To accommodate the growing demand, City Hall has made several street improvements to help cyclists and make them feel more comfortable while on the road.

The Bike Center is part of a comprehensive array of projects called for in City Hall’s Bike Action Plan to increase bicycle use in the city from 3.4 percent to 14-35 percent of trips.

For more hours of operation and other information, go to www.bikesantamonica.org.

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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