LA County’s first bike-sharing program comes to Santa Monica

Santa Monica Breeze Bikes at a station at Cloverfield and Broadway. Photo by Avishay Artsy.
Santa Monica Breeze Bikes at a station at Cloverfield and Broadway. Photo by Avishay Artsy.

Thursday, Nov. 12 is a big day for local cyclists.

The city of Santa Monica plans to unveil its much-anticipated bike-sharing program – the first of its kind in Los Angeles County.

Cynthia Rose of Santa Monica Spoke. Photo by Avishay Artsy.
Cynthia Rose of Santa Monica Spoke. Photo by Avishay Artsy.

Five hundred bikes will be docked at about 80 different hubs across Santa Monica, and parts of Venice. You sign up online or through an app, which shows you where available bikes are parked. You tap your member card onto the bicycle keypad or type in your account number and four-digit PIN code, and unlock the bike.

You can adjust the saddle height and check the brakes before riding. For quick stops during your ride you press use the “hold” button next to the keypad and secure the bike to any bike rack. To unlock it again, you enter your 4-digit pin code.

To end your trip, just return and lock the bike to a Breeze station, or a rack within 100 feet if the station you choose is full. You can lock to any other public bike rack for a $2 fee. If you pick up a bike that’s not locked to a station and return it to a station, you’ll get $1 credited to your account.

It costs $6 an hour (you pay for whatever fraction of an hour you use), or $25 a month or $99 a year to use a bike for an hour each day. That annual fee jumps to $149 beginning next year.

“It’s not really bike rental. It’s part of the transportation network,” said Cynthia Rose, director of Santa Monica Spoke, a local chapter of the LA County Bike Coalition. “So, if I want to go to a movie and I don’t necessarily want to lock up my bike for three hours outside of a movie theater, I can get one of these bikes – there’s a station half a block from my house – I ride it downtown, I go to the movie. Then maybe I decide I’m going to go meet some friends for drinks, and I go somewhere else and we sit around and have happy hour and then we Uber home.”

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The keypad on the back of every Breeze Bike. Photo by Avishay Artsy.

The system is operated by CycleHop, LLC and features Social Bicycles’ “smart bikes.” The streaming television service Hulu donated $675,000 to be the primary sponsor of the program, and has its logo on the front basket and skirt guard of each bike. Hulu employs more than 500 people at its Santa Monica office. Extra money left over from the donation may pay to install new bike hubs or bike helmet kiosks.

Other cities including Long Beach, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood are planning their own bike sharing systems. Los Angeles plans to put 1,000 bikes at 80 stations around downtown LA, which is expected to be up and running in spring of 2016.

One of the concerns among some bike share watchers is whether the programs will be compatible countywide in case you wanted to rent a bike in one city and return it in another, referred to as “interoperability.” The pending LA system is called a “smart dock” system, while Santa Monica’s “smart bike” system incorporates the keypad into the bike.

Joe Linton is Editor of Streetsblog LA and has written extensively on bike share programs. He says lack of “interoperability” is “not a big deal. It’s similar to the Big Blue Bus versus the Metro bus.” He says that bike share systems are “designed for short hops. The bikes are too heavy and cumbersome for long rides from city to city.” For his part, Linton plans on attending the launch Thursday morning. The arrival of bike share is long overdue in the Southland, in his view, and Santa Monica’s program is going to be a “game changer.”

Santa Monica officials will celebrate the bike share program’s rollout on Thursday with music, food, and a bike parade down Main Street.

The locking system for the Breeze Bikes. Photo by Frances Anderton.
The locking system for the Breeze Bikes. One of the cool design angles is that there is no chain meaning no grease getting onto legs for people who might want to ride these in work clothes. Photo by Frances Anderton.
A map of the Breeze Bike Share system. Courtesy of CycleHop and the city of Santa Monica.
A map of the Breeze Bike Share system. Courtesy of CycleHop and the city of Santa Monica.