This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Bike Nation to bring bike-sharing to Westwood

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Rendering courtesy of Bike Nation.
Rendering courtesy of Bike Nation.
The bike-share company Bike Nation recently announced plans to distribute 4,000 bikes across four communities in Los Angeles, including bringing hundreds of those bikes to Westwood and UCLA by mid-2013.
 
Bruins would be able to check the bikes out for a fee from one of potentially dozens of bike stations, each of which would have 10 bikes and 15 docks to hold the bikes, explained Derek Fretheim, chief operating officer of Bike Nation. Both Bike Nation and UCLA Transportation are interested in placing bike stations on campus. Cyclists could ride a bicycle and return it to any of the other Westwood stations, making it practical for short trips across campus or into the village, Fretheim said.
 
“The number of stations that we would put in Westwood is still to be determined, but it’s safe to say maybe 50 to 75,” Fretheim said. “We really want to canvas the community first and get their feedback.” At 10 bikes per station, that would mean 500-750 bikes for Westwood.
 
The company plans to install the other bike-station clusters in downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and Venice, he added. Installation is planned as early as this October, after which Bike Nation plans to roll out all 4,000 bikes at 400 stations over 6-10 months, Fretheim said. Though the company doesn’t have any existing programs yet, it is also working on rolling out its first bike-share program in Anaheim.
 
As a bike-share program, not a rental program, the pricing encourages cyclists to use the bikes for no more than 30 minutes at a time to increase availability. Participating requires first paying for membership, then a per-ride fee.
 
Riders can check out a bike by subscribing for as little as $6 for an all-day pass and as much as $75 for a year. A timer clicks on when a cyclist pulls a bike out of a docking station, and the cost of the trip depends on how long it takes for the rider to return the bike to another dock. To encourage lots of sharing, each short, half-hour trip is free, a 60- minute jaunt costs an extra $1.50 and 90 minutes runs the rider $4.50. After that, the cost climbs to an eye-popping $12 an hour to discourage users from hogging bikes.
 
UCLA Transportation is eager to see the program in gear and has already begun discussions with Bike Nation to include bike-share stations on campus, said Dave Karwaski, Transportation’s senior associate director for planning, policy and traffic systems.
 
“We’ve circled around the idea of bike-sharing hubs for a few years, but have never found the right fit,” Karwaski said. “This is a good fit.”
 
Bike Nation has taken on the $16 million price of the system at no cost to the city. Stations could be placed in locations such as the city’s Broxton parking garage in Westwood, Karwaski suggested, or similar UCLA spaces. Bruins could use the bikes for cross-campus trips, visits to the village for errands or lunch, or to travel between public transit and campus, he suggested.
 
“This is positive in more ways than just transportation,” he said. “It could cut down on car trips and air pollution. It could solve the ‘last mile solution’ to help people get the rest of the way to UCLA if public transit doesn’t bring them close enough. It could build more incremental exercise into people’s day if they bike instead of drive.”
 
Bike Nation will spend the next two months working with city officials, UCLA and select community members to study Westwood, Venice, Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles – “the most dense areas of the city,” Fretheim said. The company will identify likely station locations, such as near Metro stations; determine the density of the bike stations, which work best within a quarter mile of each other; and hammer out other details, Fretheim said.
 
The next step will be community outreach, when Bike Nation will meet with neighborhood councils and other local groups to get feedback, Fretheim said.
 
“Our expectation is not that someone would ride a bike from Westwood to downtown — that would be pretty far,” Fretheim said. “We’re looking to really connect a community, and then we would grow the system from that point, adding intermediate locations later.”
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