On Sunday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will reveal the details of a $16-million L.A. bike-share program.
You don’t need to look far from USC to see compelling reasons for such a program. To the east lies the 110 Freeway — and all the traffic congestion it brings. Bicycles offer a cleaner, healthier alternative.
Unfortunately, that alternative is a little unrealistic.
In theory, the bike-share program’s plan is great. It has successful predecessors in places like Denver, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Four thousand bikes will be connected to 400 rental kiosks throughout the city. Each bike will be registered under a credit card and monitored via GPS to prevent theft. On top of it all, the plan will cost the city nothing to implement: Bike Nation, a private company, will foot the $16-million bill in exchange for city endorsement.
Though there seems to be little downside to the program, it is far from a slam-dunk.
The distances between some of the planned kiosks in areas like Downtown, Westwood and Playa del Rey are much larger than the ones encountered by users of similar systems in Denver or San Francisco.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the exercise involved in cycling eight miles from Venice to Westwood is just the sort of thing the program wants to encourage. Still, pressing deadlines and equally pressing laziness could depress Bike Nation’s potential customer base in a city as spread out and busy as Los Angeles.
I’m not condemning the aim of this program. The danger it poses does not lie in what it does, but rather what it could detract from. It has the potential to distract officials and stall improvements on L.A.’s existing public transportation system.
The bike-share program should be nurtured, but realistically, it has a very solid ceiling. The city should continue to focus on expanding the Metro and continuing to streamline the bus system; it’s a much better way to combat our traffic issues.
Daniel Grzywacz is a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and anthropology. His column “72 Degrees and Shaking” runs Wednesdays.