Route Tracker: Where We Are With Bike-Sharing in Los Angeles

The largest private bike-sharing program in the country just launched in the Arts District. Los Angeles County’s public program is moving along, too

For advocates, bringing a bike-sharing program to Los Angeles has been a long, rough road, and some residential properties are tired of waiting.

One Santa Fe, a residential complex in the Arts District designed by architect Michael Maltzan, has begun offering residents the option to borrow bikes as an amenity. People who live in the building can now check out a bike at the concierge desk (along with a lock and detachable front and rear lights). Each of the 50 colorful beach cruisers available features a basket, carrier rack, and cup holder. Riders are then free to roam the area, so long as they return the equipment within 24 hours. The bike-share program is the largest created by a private company in the U.S.

Since the boxy, white, and red structure—which stretches longer than the height of the Empire State Building at a quarter mile wide—opened in September, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment for tenants has been a top priority. One Santa Fe has an open, street-level entrance, is served by the DASH bus, and is near the Metro Gold line, making transportation in the district and nearby Downtown a cinch.

Implementing bike sharing on a larger scale, however, hasn’t proved easy for the city. A plan to bring bikes to L.A. in 2013 fell through, and efforts to bring the project back have been slow-going. A cycling program came back into the city’s sights last year when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority started seeking bids to create a countywide system. Metro has been reviewing proposals since January and expects to announce a contract in June, with hopes to have Angelenos pedaling by spring 2016.

The program, which is funded for a two-year trial run, would be centered in Downtown initially and feature about 1,000 bikes at 65 stations in the area. If successful, Metro said the program could expand to nearby areas and could potentially grow to include about 3,800 bikes.

Although the bikes aren’t here yet, the state has proposed a bill to make cyclists safer. California could become the first state to require bikers to wear helmets with Senate Bill 192, which would impose a $25 base fine on adults who ride without headgear. Some California bike advocacy groups oppose the bill because it makes bicycles seem more dangerous and might discourage people from choosing to travel on two wheels. Plus, since helmets aren’t provided through bike-sharing programs in other cities such as San Diego and San Francisco, activists worry commuters won’t take advantage of them. A vote on the bill is expected to take place this spring.