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Downtown one of four LA neighborhoods to receive bike share program

By Hayley Fox
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, at 03:02PM
via Bike Nation

Eventually there will be 40 to 50 Bike Nation stations in downtown L.A.

A bike sharing program that aims to bring 400 to 500 bicycles to downtown L.A. will be doing a "beta launch" later this year, in which a group of city, state, county and Metro employees, along with select members of the public, will have a chance to try out the rental system for free.

Bike Nation will be installing a preliminary 10 to 15 kiosks throughout DTLA for the 90-day trial, with plans for up to 175 solar-powered kiosks on public and private land in the area in the future.

Derek Fretheim, chief operating officer at Bike Nation, said the program's initial launch will include stations located around populated areas such as Union Station, LAPD Headquarters, El Pueblo, City Hall and the Caltrans building.

When Bike Nation sets up permanent shop in Downtown, these kiosks will be open to all residents, commuters, tourists and others who want to rent a bike for a quick jaunt -- to run an errand, or get to work.

The cost to use a bike is a combination of a membership rate and rental fee. There are options to purchase a 24-hour membership which costs $6, all the way up to a year membership which is $75. There is also a range of riding fees which start at $1.50 for the first hour and go up from there. The first 30 minutes of every ride is free.

Bike Nation has their rigs custom made, and the models that will be used in Los Angeles were based on the company's specific needs, said Fretheim. These bikes have no chains and airless tires -- which Bike Nation says helps "reduce the need for on-road service." The bikes also have active GPS, which riders can use to track how many calories they're burning and how much energy they're saving per bike trip.

"One of the things we wanted to do was control all the manufacturing for our bikes," he said, adding that the new bikes will be "100 percent" made in the U.S. and constructed from recycled product.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa first announced the $16 million bike share program at a CicLAvia event in April. Although Bike Nation is working closely with City departments, the project is funded entirely by Bike Nation.

"In tough economic times like these, we knew it wasn’t feasible to start a public bike share program. But we know it’s what L.A. needs," said Villaraigosa in April, according to the LAist. "As we’ve seen with CicLAvia and 'Carmaheaven,' Angelenos are aching for a day without a car."

In addition to Downtown, Bike Nation is launching their share program in Venice, Westwood and Hollywood, said Fretheim -- areas that are fairly dense, populated and attract a lot of visitors.

Bike Nation's self-service kiosks do not provide helmets, mostly, because there hasn't been a huge demand for them, said Fretheim, and there's no law for people over 18 years old to wear them. He added that Bike Nation "always encourage people to wear helmets" and said they even have technology in the works for a helmet vending system, but there's still lingering issues with providing them -- such as hygiene.

For now, the company is working with area bike shops and retailers to facilitate the purchase of helmets for riders who need them.

Although the official opening date is a "moving target" said Fretheim, he expects to have the Downtown stations accessible by next year. In the meantime, Bike Nation is asking for community input on where to place the kiosks. Registered users can suggest a location by clicking here.

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