Grab a Bike and Go?

Shared bicycles in Beijing, China.

Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu introduced a motion in October for city officials to explore a pilot program for dockless bike shares in Los Angeles.

Metro currently has bike share programs in downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, the Port of Los Angeles and Venice. Bikes in Metro’s program must be picked up and returned to “hubs,” which are located near Metro stations. According to Metro there have been over 271,000 rides since the program launched in July of 2016.

Ryu’s program, however, would be a little different, similar to programs that have been offered in other parts of the country like Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Seattle.

Dockless bike shares have no hubs, but instead use GPS-equipped bikes, which riders find using a mobile app. Users then scan a bar code from their phone, for instance, to a matching bar code on the bike. Doing so unlocks the bike and the rider is ready to go.

When finished, riders can leave the bike at any appropriate public location within the service area. The bike’s wheels lock when not in use.

Rates typically are around $1 to $2 per half hour, depending on the company used. Frequent riders may purchase memberships.

According to Nicholas Greif, Ryu’s Director of Policy and Legislation, Ryu is supportive of Metro’s system, but said a dockless program is cheaper to run and requires considerably less infrastructure.

Danny Cohen, of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, said he thinks locals would enjoy bike shares, given Los Feliz’s commercial district and nearby Griffith Park.

But according to Cohen, bike lanes must be installed on local major streets such a Vermont and Hillhurst avenues as well as Hollywood Boulevard for any program to be successful.

“Those major corridors would make a huge difference in creating a more inviting atmosphere for cycling in our neighborhood,” Cohen said, adding that attention should also be given to roads and streets used by children going to and from school.

“Dockless or docked is irrelevant,” he said. “I would love both in our neighborhood … but if people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to [use the bikes].”

According to Cohen, a bike share program without such safety measures would be futile.

This sentiment was echoed by Los Feliz resident Don Ward who is a biking activist and the organizer of bike race series Wolfpack Hustle.

“I think dockless is a better system than docked and that people would use it,” he said. “The only thing that’s a problem is having a bike network that people can use the bikes on. It’s still quite intimidating on a lot of our streets to share them with 45 mile-per-hour traffic.”

Officials from the city of Santa Monica, which has its own bike share program, say their program’s success correlates directly to the safety of local streets.

“We can see the paths of where riders go and you can see that the corridors that have good, safe bike lanes are heavily trafficked every day,” said Kyle Kozar, Santa Monica’s bike share coordinator.

Currently, there are two initiatives underway in Los Angeles such as Mobility Plan 2035, which aims to add bike lanes and other pedestrian friendly amenities on many of the city’s major streets, and Vision Zero, which seeks to end all traffic deaths by 2025 by getting more people out of their cars as well as slowing speeds on city streets.

Greif said he hopes more cyclists on the road using bike shares will help move those conversations forward.

Ryu’s dockless bike sharing motion was introduced alongside another that would ask the city’s Dept. of Transportation to also develop a permit process for peer-to-peer car sharing, in which car owners rent the use of their vehicle to others.

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