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Santa Monica Bike Center Kicks into High Gear for Summer
By Jason Islas
July 17, 2012 -- Since its fanfare opening November 18, Santa Monica’s Bike Center -- which is located in Public Parking Structures 7 and 8 at Santa Monica Place -- has raked in a major award, enrolled some 150 new members and enlisted half a dozen clients.
The $2 million, 5,300-square-foot center, which provides bike rentals and 360 bicycle parking spaces, as well as showers and lockers for its members, recently added 100 new bikes to keep up with its average enrollment of one new member a day since February, center officials said.
And it’s not only individuals hopping on board. In addition to Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM), a hotel and a planning consulting firm have signed up for the center’s “Bikes At Work” program, which encourages employees to bicycle once they get to work.
“Based on results, it’s been a great investment for the City,” said Ron Durgin, general manager of the center, the largest such facility in the country. “Every Saturday and Sunday there are 100 orders for bike rentals. But we’re never satisfied until we’ve filled all opportunities.”
Durgin expects the Bike Center to have 350 members by the end of its first year. “The season has just started, and we have high hopes for the summer,” he said.
A full membership at the center costs $15 a month for the basic 24-hour access to secure, members-only bike parking. Those who want additional locker and shower access pay $50 a month.
“Our retention rate is about 83 percent, month-to-month,” Durgin said. “Sometimes people move away or they figure they aren’t using the center enough, so they cancel their membership.”
“It’s a good mix of people,” said Durgin, referring to those who have become members.
In its latest initiative to reduce traffic congestion, the center’s “Bikes At Work” program allows local businesses to rent bikes for $45 a year per bike and keep them for employees to use. Once the bikes are rented, it’s up to the business operators to decide how the bike share program is run, Durgin said.
One of the first to sign up was Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants, which rented three bikes in late April to encourage its employers to get out of their cars, said Tamar Fuhrer, a transportation planner with the firm.
So far, Fuhrer said, the three bikes have worked well for the Walnut Creek firm’s Downtown Santa Monica office on Second Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, which has 25 employees. On average, each bike is used at least once a day, she said, adding that several employees ride their own bikes to work.
The bikes are “being used especially for errands during the day,” Fuhrer said. “Just the hassle of getting in and out of a parking space can become a hindrance. It’s easier just to take the bikes out.”
The firm has been using a first-come first-serve system for checking out the bikes so people don’t have to register, Fuhrer said. “As long as you’ve watched the safety video, you can take a bike,” she said.
In addition to Fehr & Peers and DTSM, the new Shore Hotel has also joined the “Bikes at Work Program,” renting six bikes for its employees and guests.
It’s not only businesses and individuals that are taking advantage of bike rentals. In May, the City’s Commission for the Senior Community voted unanimously to support a senior ride and approved a small budget for advertising.
Under the program, the Bike Center will provide the bikes, and the seniors will choose where they want to ride, Durgin said.
Durgin is quick to point out that the Bike Center is more than a place to rent or park a bike. He and his crew are also working to reach out to the community about bike safety and hosting bike maintenance classes.
In April, the Bike Center received a League of American Bicyclists Silver Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) award for being “at the forefront of a movement to make American businesses more competitive, sustainable and attractive to the best and brightest employees.”
Now, with the tourist season kicking in, Durgin doesn’t expect things will slow down anytime soon.
“We’ve been super busy,” he said.
To join the center visit smbikecenter.com or call 310.656.8500.
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