West Hollywood has an opportunity to revolutionize local transportation by installing a system of shared bicycles—but bureaucratic inertia may make us miss our window of opportunity.
Bike sharing systems are popping up everywhere. Paris’ aptly named “Velib” system (a conjunction of the words “for bicycle” and “freedom”) and London’s “Boris Bikes” (named after Mayor Boris Johnson) are wildly popular with locals, and with other cities, from Honolulu to Fort Lauderdale.
A local company, SoCal Cycle Share, has tried working with the City for nearly a year to bring a 20-station bike share system to West Hollywood—at little or no cost to the taxpayers. They’ll secure corporate sponsorships, install the bike racks and maintain the system; the City needs to provide access to the public right-of-way.
Earlier this year, the City entered into a similar agreement for a pilot program with ZipCar—dedicating ten parking spaces across the city to the company—for a pilot project, and more often than not, it looks like people are driving those ZipCars.
Bike sharing is a similar model to ZipCars, but with bicycles. Wouldn’t it be easy to pick up a bike at the Andaz, and ride it down to the Abbey and park it in one of their stations? If you need to take a cab home after a night out, you don’t have to worry about leaving your bike locked up and retrieving it in the morning.
A disproportionate amount of time spent on car trips within West Hollywood is spent looking for parking. If these short trips can be replaced by bike-sharing, we can reduce congestion and open up parking on city streets.
At the July Transportation Commission meeting, Lindsey Horvath and I introduced a motion directing staff to work with SoCal Cycle Share and bring us back an arrangement for a pilot project based on the model they used to enter an agreement with ZipCar. The commission agreed with unanimous consent.
However, the alternative is to continue the bureaucratic process at the Westside Council of Governments, which wants to coordinate the rollout of bike-sharing between Santa Monica, Culver City, West Hollywood and Los Angeles. Santa Monica wants to go first and use federal grant money to support a government-funded bike share model.
It is important to have symbiosis with our neighbors, but not if the cost is years of delay or missing this opportunity altogether. The value of a bike-share program expands exponentially if you could ride it to public transportation options, like the subway at Hollywood and Highland or to destinations like the Grove. SoCal Cycle Share is already working with surrounding neighborhoods to make this a reality. If we wait for Santa Monica to go through its RFP process, we may get something we do not want.
West Hollywood’s core values of creativity, innovation and leadership should guide our way when it comes to bike-sharing. Why would we want to let another City go first, and lock our policy-makers into a program that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, when we can do our own program, practically for free? West Hollywood should take the lead and show our neighbors how a successful bike-sharing program can be done.
The Transportation Commission will once again discuss our intent to take the initiative and be leaders in bike-sharing, but the City Council must take the lead. Maybe we could nickname the bikes after them; we’ll just have to guess which one the “Johnny Bikes” are named after!