Last Thursday, July 7 marked the start of the first bike-sharing program in Los Angeles. The city and county finally joined the ranks of more than 850 other municipalities around the world with public bike-sharing programs. The pilot project will make up to 1,000 bicycles available through 65 stations across downtown Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, city and county transportation officials celebrated the start of the bike-sharing program at Grand Park, sending more than 200 cyclists on their inaugural ride. Mayor Garcetti got behind the wheel, and the bike-sharing program signals another step in his Green Streets plan to modernize L.A.’s transportation infrastructure and reduce traffic congestion.

John Fasana, chair of the Metro board, said that the bike-sharing project was a good move for a city often called the car capital of the world. A major goal of the project is to bridge the first-mile and last-mile gap between people’s residences and workplaces. By providing an easy way for commuters to get to public transportation, the project’s designers hope to encourage the use of public transit and reduce traffic congestion.

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Whether or not Angelenos will go for the new bike-sharing program is another matter. Currently, the program is only available to monthly or annual Metro pass holders. Riders may purchase a new TAP card or add bike-share access to their existing Metro pass. On August 1, the program will become available to non-pass holders who can pay by swiping a credit card for a 30-minute trip. The regular rate will be $3.50 per 30-minute trip, but Metro is offering a 50% discount through September to encourage adoption.

The high cost came as a shock to some residents. A gallon of gas can get you a lot further than a 30-minute ride on a bike, depending on the traffic. The pilot project is a $11 million initiative funded by the Metro and the city of Los Angeles. It is the first bike-sharing program in the country to be overseen by a transit authority, although operations will be managed by a private company.

Metro has already given out 40,000 annual pass coupons to Metro Rider Relief members and has a $100,000 program to expand the bike-share project to low-income communities. But cost is just one factor that may hinder adoption of the bike-sharing program. Safety is another.

Out of the 2,000 miles of bikeways in Los Angeles County, only 7 are separated from car traffic by a physical barrier. Still, biking advocates and enthusiasts say the rewards of the project outweigh the risks. Officials and residents are already discussing how to expand the program beyond downtown. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said she hoped the bike-share program would make it all the way to Claremont within the next year. Metro plans to start rolling out the bike-sharing program with bikes and docking stations in Pasadena starting in early 2017.

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