When I visited my friend in Oakland a few months ago, I met his father for the first time and he gave me a hard time about being from Los Angeles. Jokingly, he referenced the scene from L.A. Story in which Steve Martin drives to his friend’s house who lives three doors down. While the example didn’t apply to me, cars and traffic in Los Angeles are undoubtedly an increasing problem, and I had no rebuttal.
Los Angeles and its southern neighboring counties suffer from arguably the worst traffic congestion in the United States. Coupled with the second highest gas prices in the nation, people have begun turning to alternative forms of transportation. Among these, bicycling has become increasingly popular among people from all walks of life. It’s a cheaper and greener way to get around.
Sensing the trend, in 2009, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) asked Media Nation, and its Outdoor Bike Banner Division, to participate in the FTA’s “Mobility Hub” project for L.A., Hollywood, and the Long Beach regions. This project seeks to ease traffic congestion in high density urban regions by offering various services, such as ride sharing.
With the enthusiasm building behind alternative forms of transportation due to the Mobility Hub and related projects, Navin Narang and Brad Barlow founded Bike Nation USA in 2010, a bike sharing company located in Anaheim, California. Bike sharing is a service that allows people to rent bicycles for an allotted period of time. While common throughout Europe, the concept is relatively new in the United States.
Bike sharing is ideal for traveling short distances, whether for commuting to work, school, or simply to get some needed exercise. The process is fairly simple: after registering with Bike Nation, one can rent a bicycle from any station and ride to their given destination. Bikes can be returned to any number of docking stations around town. Membership costs vary, but the more you ride, the cheaper the service becomes. Once registered, the first thirty minutes of every ride is free for all riders!
While bike sharing reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by tailpipe exhaust, Bike Nation differentiates itself from other bike share programs through its focus on improved bicycle safety, with steps to help riders bike safely while also implementing the use of green technology. Each bike is fit with LED lights that rarely need to be replaced. Bike Nation utilizes shaft-driven bicycles, eliminating the need to clean bike chains with harmful chemicals. The bikes also use airless tires increasing overall pedaling efficiency. Finally, all of the bike rental stations are solar-powered! Everything is manufactured in the USA, cutting down on the company’s carbon footprint while keeping manufacturing jobs in America.
Bike Nation currently restricts its rental stations to Anaheim, although it plans to expand. Recently, Bike Nation announced its plans to create a bike-sharing program in Long Beach, Ca., the first in the city. Long Beach is already striving to become “America’s Most Bicycle-Friendly City,” and this announcement furthers their commitment to doing so. Installations of bike kiosks are set to begin in February of 2013, with the eventual goal of installing 250 kiosks and 2,500 bikes while expanding to other areas such as downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Westwood, and Venice Beach.
Get on your bikes and ride!
By Joey Tanzer, LoaTree Writer
Photographs provided by Bike Nation