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First bike-share program in LA County to launch in Santa Monica

A Santa Monica Breeze bike-share station at Arizona Avenue and 4th Street near the Third Street Promenade is one of 75 set up in the community.
A Santa Monica Breeze bike-share station at Arizona Avenue and 4th Street near the Third Street Promenade is one of 75 set up in the community.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

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The first bike-share program in Los Angeles County will launch this week in the beach city of Santa Monica.

It's similar to programs in Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco that allow users to check out a bike, ride it elsewhere and drop it off.

Officials are hoping bike sharing will prove a solution to bridging the distance between people's homes or workplaces and public transit hubs, called the first and last-mile gap.

Breeze Bike Share, as the program is officially called, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Santa Monica City Hall on Thursday to mark the kickoff. Users will be offered a free day of riding if they sign up online ahead of time.

The system will roll out with 500 bikes at 75 stations throughout the city. Rates start at $6 per hour and range up to $100 for an annual membership.

See the full interactive map of Breeze Bike Share locations here.

Each eight-speed bike is equipped with tracking and check-out technology. Users can return the bike to where they picked it up or leave the bike outside a designated docking station for an extra fee if they so choose.

The flexibility to drop the bicycle at multiple locations is what makes the bike sharing program so exciting to Cynthia Rose, head of the the L.A. County Bike Coalition's Santa Monica Spoke chapter.

"It is like that gateway drug," she said. "People who are interested in biking, but don't know if it's going to work for them — this gives them the option of riding a bike for one segment of their trip and then going on to another segment, whether it be [via] Uber, Lyft, the bus, the Expo."

Rose hopes bike sharing will encourage those who don't have a bike, or don't want to bring a bike with them all day, to get on two wheels for shorter trips.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also banking on bike sharing to catch on. The agency announced plans to launch a similar program in downtown Los Angeles next year.

However, Metro has contracted with a different bike-share company than Santa Monica, prompting concerns that the two systems will not work together.

"One of the key aspects of a successful bike-share system is that it be a seamless experience for the customer," said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a former Santa Monica city councilman who had urged Metro to use the same system.

Long Beach, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood all have plans to use the same bikes as Santa Monica's as they roll out their systems in the coming year.

Metro officials have said they could install side-by-side docking stations for bikes in adjacent areas and create a unified payment system, possibly utilizing the TAP card, to make the two programs more compatible.