Two Years Later, Santa Monica Bike Center is “Huge Success”
By Jason Islas
Santa Monica Lookout, Staff Writer
November 21, 2013 — Two years after the doors opened to the Santa Monica Bike Center — the largest facility of its kind in the U.S. — officials are calling it a huge success.
The Center, at Second Street and Colorado Avenue, rents thousands of bikes a month, boasts hundreds of secure biking spaces, showers and locker rooms for its more than 300 members, has hosted dozens of community bike education classes in 2013 alone and even hosts a bi-monthly bike ride for seniors.
And, with no sign of business slowing down any time soon, the Center’s General Manager, Ron Durgin, only sees room to grow.
“The first year we were open, I had no sense of what it was going to be,” Durgin said, reflecting on the day in November that the Center opened. Since then, “we’ve established ourselves quite a bit.”
One particular place Durgin is proud of is the Center’s education outreach.
From November 2012 to November 2013, Durgin said the Bike Center offered more than 50 classes to the community. About 35 of those classes, he said, were bike maintenance classes. Another 20 were focused on getting riders more comfortable on the streets or teaching new riders the basics of bicycling.
That’s double the offering from its first year of operation, he said, since the first six months were spent figuring out the logistics of running the business.
And business has been good, Durgin said. In July and August, bike rentals averaged 4,000 a month, the Center’s best months on record.
Part of that, Durgin said, is the Center’s prime location, just two blocks from the world-famous Santa Monica Pier.
“We’ve got a great location on one hand,” he said, “but on the other hand, some people are intimidated” by the street.
The narrow sidewalks along Colorado Avenue have caused logistical problems on busy days.
“There have been times when people have been backed up along all three of our doors, 40 feet from the corner,” he said.
That’s why Durgin’s looking forward to the City’s pending $10 million overhaul of Colorado Avenue west of Fifth Street.
The project, dubbed the Colorado Esplanade, will limit car traffic to one west-bound lane, widen sidewalks along the south side and create a buffered cycle track. (“City Council to Look at Revised Plans for Santa Monica Esplanade,” May 10)
“I’m really look forward to (the Esplanade),” he said. “I’m not looking forward to the construction.”
Still, Durgin is optimistic.
In two years, use of the Center’s secure bike parking, showers and locker rooms by members has doubled.
From November 2011 to November 2012, Durgin said the security system registered 14,580 total entries to the secure parking facilities by 256 unique members.
For the same period next year, the system logged 29,075 entries by 318 unique members.
And, the Center’s bike valet, which allows non-members to park their bikes in a secure area during business hours for a small fee, has gotten a lot of use.
“We get a lot of people who come back time and again,” Durgin said. “Bike valet is a really inexpensive way to find out what we’re about.”
All of that is good news for all stakeholders.
“It’s been a huge success,” said Strategic and Transportation Planning Manager Francie Stefan. “It’s performed better than expected.”
The Bike Center, while privately operated, is in a City-owned facility and is part of Santa Monica’s comprehensive Bike Action Plan, a 400-page document adopted in 2011 that lays the groundwork for the next two decades of bike-related development in the bayside city. (“Santa Monica Adopts New Bike Action Plan,” November 24, 2011)
The City hopes to build on the Center’s success in coming years.
“It’s been a great model,” Stefan said, adding that the City hopes to explore the possibility of putting “a Bike Center-type facility at each Expo station.”
By the time that Expo starts running to Santa Monica in 2016, Durin hopes to have done significant outreach to the community to help facilitate bicycling in town.
Currently, Durgin’s team is helping local businesses, City Hall and even Santa Monica College apply for “bike-friendly” status, a designation bestowed by the League of American Bicyclists on organizations that effectively encourage bicycling. (“Bike Friendly Business Movement to Get Push from Santa Monica Bike Center,” August 22)
Durgin said his team is consulting on the bicycle-friendly designation application with several Santa Monica businesses, including Areal Restaurant, Co-Opportunity, the Apple Store, Seasons 52, Hulu, Red Bull and Real Office Centers.
They are also working with Crossroads School.
During and his team celebrated the Center’s two year anniversary Monday with a modest lunch at the facility with a smattering of guests and supporters who showed up throughout the day.
“We’re just going to go slow and adapt to the changing environment,” Durgin said about the Center’s future. “Who knows what’s on the horizon.”