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Bike-share program could drive students beyond Westwood

By Zoey Freedman

June 28, 2015 11:57 pm

Usually, four is considered greater than two. However, for those that live in and around Westwood, two wheels may have a greater impact than four.

On Thursday, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Directors, also known as the Metro Board, awarded $11 million to the company Bicycle Transit Systems, Inc. to bring a bike-sharing program to Los Angeles. The program is expected to bring almost 1,100 bicycles to 65 different stations throughout downtown by the spring of 2016, with expansions set for Pasadena and eight other Los Angeles communities in the near future.

At the same time, the city of Santa Monica has been cooperating with the transit authority to integrate their own distinct program with Metro’s, thereby creating a regional network initiative like those in New York and San Francisco.

Yet, while the city of Santa Monica has solicited advice from UCLA, neither they nor Metro has indicated any plans to create a Westwood bike-share hub.

Given UCLA’s proximity to both areas, and its place on Santa Monica’s advisory board, both Los Angeles and Santa Monica need to prioritize connecting the two programs so communities like Westwood will have the opportunity to participate in the bike-share program. Placing a bike-share hub directly in Westwood Village would grant students an opportunity to access other forms of public transportation and other parts of the greater Los Angeles community.

Essentially, a Westwood hub of the city-wide bike-share program would allow members of the UCLA community to rent bikes at an hourly rate and allow them to return the bike at another part of the city, offering students a simple, affordable and fast connection to other communities in Los Angeles.

With nearly 3,100 people that come and go from campus via bike every day, UCLA has already developed a solid user base for a bike-share program.

In addition to giving commuters the opportunity to quickly and conveniently get to the closest bus or train station to connect to the longer leg of their commute, a city-run bike share would connect Westwood to the rest of the Los Angeles community by allowing students to travel longer distances without worrying about returning the bike to UCLA.

Most who live in Westwood tend to stick close to campus, only venturing so far into surrounding neighborhoods to try a new restaurant or run a short errand, keeping themselves sealed in a Westwood bubble because they lack the transportation and the opportunity to do so.

These students who reside in Westwood – especially those without a car – would also provide an additional user base for a city-wide bicycle program in Westwood, and could take advantage of a fun and healthy alternative to taking the bus.

Other forms of transit tend to stop frequently during a given route, adding time to a commute. With bicycle hubs located in several areas of each municipality of Los Angeles, riders have the opportunity to take a more direct route to their destination, saving time and fuel. Riders will also have the opportunity to ride from one bus stop to their next if the two usually do not connect, providing an overall smoother commute with public transit.

Also, providing bicycles in Westwood could potentially lessen the car traffic flow through Westwood Village and allow it to become a more biker-friendly area to travel and commute to class through. People who once lacked the means to commute to campus or get to their bus stop after ending class late could now have the opportunity to quickly rent a bicycle in Westwood and make it to their destination quickly and cheaply.

Although UCLA already offers daily, weekend, weekly and quarterly bicycle rental programs, this program doesn’t provide what a city-wide program could, since the bikes have to be returned to the campus.

Many other Los Angeles communities have denser populations than Westwood, clearly making their bike-share needs more urgent. But, Westwood should still have a guaranteed future in the program for not only the sake of easily connecting UCLA’s Santa Monica medical facilities to its Westwood facilities, but also to connect students to these more densely populated and more diverse communities throughout Los Angeles.

For UCLA students, the math is obvious: Two is greater than four.

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Zoey Freedman
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