LA the Latest to Join the Nationwide Bike Share Game

A rendering of a bike share station in LA. (Courtesy Bike Nation)

A rendering of a bike share station in LA. (Courtesy Bike Nation)

Over the weekend, over 100,000 pedestrians and cyclists packed the streets of Los Angeles for the city’s CicLAvia open streets initiative, a play off of the the Ciclovia in Bogotá, Columbia which popularized the movement to shut down city streets to cars and turn them over to the community for a day.

But masses of people taking to the streets wasn’t the big news out of LA. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a surprise announcement that the city is the latest to join the bike share craze that’s been pedaling across the nation. When it opens later this year, LA’s bike share system will be among the largest in the country, so AN decided to take stock of where some of the biggest initiatives stand today.

Los Angeles will be partnering with local bike share company Bike Nation to bring 4,000 bikes distributed over 400 stations throughout the city, marking a $16 million investment by the company. Bike sharing programs have been popular because of these public-private partnerships where the physical infrastructure is paid for by a private operator and funded by branding and member fees. According to StreetsBlog LA, the mayor said, “Angelenos are aching for a day without a car.” He jokingly invoked the catch-phrase “Carmaheaven” describing the splendor of car-free streets created during last year’s infamous Carmageddon.

A previous attempt at initiating a bike share program failed in 2008 as many worried a flood of inexperienced cyclists would overwhelm the city, but times have changed. The city hopes to have the program installed in phases over the next couple years, with the first bikes hitting the streets as early as the end of the year.

Farther north in California, a regional bike share system is taking shape in San Francisco and several Silicon Valley cities. 500 bike will be distributed throughout downtown San Francisco just before the opening of the America’s Cup boat race. An additional 500 bikes will be located near transit stops in Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose. StreetsBlog SF reports that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has set a goal of 20 percent of trips in the city on bike by 2020.

On the east coast, New York’s massive 10,000 bike strong system will be the largest in the country by far and is expected to open this July. The city has been presenting preliminary station maps to community boards after a public input process earlier this year and a finalized map is expected to be released soon. 600 stations are planned across Manhattan and Brooklyn. Excitement across the city has been growing as evidenced by a recent bike share exhibition at the Center for Architecture.

In Chicago, many have been waiting to see if DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein can pull of another bike share success story like he did when he helped set up a Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC. His newest program will launch this September, sprinkling some 3,000 bikes across 300 stations in the Windy City with another 2,000 bikes and 200 more stations in the following two years. Mobility in the city took one additional step forward last Friday as the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee approved a contract with Alta Bike Share of Portland, Oregon to provide the thousands of new bikes.

But not to be left out, that bike Mecca of American cities—Portland—is starting up its own bike share system as well. The city released an RFP for a bike operator in March and bids are due at the end of May. With an anticipated opening set for April 2013, expect to see even more bikes will be cruising the Rose City. Bike Portland noted that the city is hoping to use the bike stations as place-making devices to maximize their benefits. Citizens are currently being invited to propose bike station locations on an interactive map.

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