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LA streets brightened by more shared bicycles, but ridership lags

LA Metro launched a bike-share program in Pasadena in July 2017 with 300 cycles available at 30 stations around the city. Meghan McCarty Carino/KPCC

Los Angeles County was a bit late to the bike sharing party but it's been making strides to catch up, with colorful bikes expanding into several new neighborhoods in 2017.

But the region is still a bit behind the curve on bike-share ridership.

Last year, the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority rolled out bike-share stations in Pasadena, Venice and the Port of Los Angeles. UCLA also got its own system, although it uses a type of bicycle that's different from Metro's.

Still in car-centric L.A., bike sharing struggles to attract the number of expected riders.

"What we’re currently learning is that we definitely need to have that density of bike-share stations," said Jenny Cristales, a Metro transportation planner. "The bigger the system the more rides per bike we get."

She said Venice saw the highest ridership among the Metro bike-share locations followed by downtown L.A. But even its best numbers are about half as high as ridership in cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

At a high point of one ride per bike per day, the ridership is also half of Metro's goals for the program.

Late in the year, the region also saw the arrival of privately operated dockless bikes that don’t need stations. Users can pick up and drop off using a smart phone. They are available in Griffith Park, Koreatown and the Harbor area.

The L.A. City Council is considering a plan to regulate the systems.

Officials fear the cheaper dockless bikes could siphon off some Metro’s riders. Propped up by venture capital, the private companies' bikes rent for as little as $1 an hour compared to Metro's $7 an hour without a membership.

The agency wants to up its marketing in the coming year and is studying the possibility of expanding bike sharing to neighborhoods in the San Gabriel Valley, Culver City and around the University of Southern California.