Bike sharing has finally arrived in Santa Monica! Branded as Breeze Bike Share, the program is currently in a testing phase through the end of September. During this phase, there are seven active stations set up around the city, with one in Downtown at Arizona Avenue and Fourth Street. When the program is in full swing, there will be a total of 80 stations in the city. Also, only members are able to use the bikes during this test phase. Annual membership rates are deeply discounted right now at $99. Members get to ride for 60 minutes per day at no additional charge. Once the testing is complete, the bikes will be available for anyone to rent by the hour.
“Potential exists for this to be one of the greatest bike-share systems in the U.S.” said John Romero, CEO of Cyclehop, the company that has been contracted by the city to implement the bike-share system.
I decided to take a test ride for our SantaMonicaCentric.com readers. Here are the steps I recommend for making the most out of the bike-share system (at this time, the steps below will only work for Breeze members*):
1. Reserving/Checking Out Your Bike
I downloaded the app Social Bicycles to determine the bike availability closest to me. The app said the closest bike was at Arizona and Fourth. I could have put a hold on a bike from the app, however, after 5 minutes of hold, your rental time starts, so I opted to check out my bike directly from the station to save my minutes.
After the short walk to the station, I picked the bike I wanted to use. I recommend doing an informal check of the tire pressure on each one before you make your choice. To be sure that the bike wasn’t reserved, I pressed one of the keys on the keypad. If it was reserved, the screen would tell me so. I proceeded to enter my account number and pin, and then the bike was unlocked and ready to go!
2. Must-Do’s Before Riding
The bike is officially checked out, but you’ll want to do a few things before starting your ride. First, be sure to place the lock in the holder on the rear of your bike. Unlike many other city bike-share programs, Breeze allows you to take the lock with you. Second, don’t forget to put your helmet on. In Santa Monica, the law says it’s optional to wear a helmet if you’re over 18, but I highly recommend it for all ages. Third, use the simple quick-release lever under the seat to adjust your seat height. Finally, use the sidewalks and crosswalks to walk your bike to a spot where you can easily and safely pull into the nearest bike lane (or car lane if it’s a shared road).
3. Enjoy The Ride
The bikes themselves offer a very smooth ride. I wasn’t used to having such a heavy basket on the front, but I got used to that pretty quickly. These test bikes offer three speeds, however, the final bikes that will be in place after the test will offer eight speeds. From Downtown, I rode to the station at Main Street and Ashland. The ride was pleasant and fun, and it reminded me how fortunate I am to live in a city that is bike-friendly. I must also admit that I’ve taken the Confident City Cycling course from Sustainable Streets, which helped me feel more comfortable when I’m on major roads. I recommend this course for all cyclists!
4. Locking Up/Returning The Bike
It’s important to note that you can lock the bike up anywhere, even if it’s not a station, however, if you do this, the timer will still be going on your account. To officially end your time, you must return the bike to a station. When I arrived at Ashland and Main Street, I couldn’t see the station right away. That’s because it’s actually located on Main Street, just a bit south of Ashland. I took my lock out of the holder, lined up my bike with an opening in the station, and secured the lock. The keypad flashed “THANK YOU” when the lock was properly in place. This indicated that my transaction was complete. The system also sent me a notification on my phone letting me know that my rental time was now closed.
Here are a few other items to note:
- If you take a bike out of the system area (city of Santa Monica) and fail to return it, you’ll receive a $20 charge. You’ll also get an automated email if this occurs, or if any other fee is charged to your account.
- The locks must stay with the bikes. Utilize the lock holder on the rear of the bike.
- Members will receive cards which they can use to tap the keypad to wake up the bike, enter their pin, and unlock the bike.
- When using the app or website to reserve a bike, the system will choose the bike in closest proximity to you and most fully-charged.
- If you get a flat tire, or experience any problems on the bike, you can either call the support number listed inside the basket or press any button on the keypad and choose “Repair” from the screen.
- The bikes use disc brakes on the front and back wheels.
- Lights come on automatically.
Where will you bike to with the Breeze system? Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #DTSM.
*Many thanks to the team at Cyclehop for providing me with a temporary membership for the purposes of this post.