My first encounter with bike share happened just about a year ago when I traveled to New York City from LA for a few months, and for the first time in a while, I found myself without a bike to ride. Citi Bike was the obvious solution, and it didn’t take long for me to fall into the rhythm of relying on it to get almost everywhere I went.
Overall the experience was wonderful. It was more reliable and cost effective than the train, and way faster than pretty much any alternative. If I’d been asked, I would have rated it 9/10 (minus one point for why are the handlebars always sticky?). And yet, deep down, I don’t believe I ever saw myself using it outside of a tourist’s context. When I got back to LA, I hopped back on my own personal ride, and that was that.
Fast forward to a couple months ago when Metro started hyping up the debut of our very own Metro Bike Share. Though I was excited about it, I was mostly excited that someone else might be able to have the same experience in LA that I had in New York. I wanted bike share for downtown. I wanted it to succeed. I even thought about buying a membership to show my support. But I never thought I would actually use it.
Boy was I wrong.
Bike share is absolutely transformative. It changes the way you interact with your neighborhood in a way that no normal bicycle can, and though I will certainly attempt to break that sentiment down into bullets and explain, the reality is you will never truly understand Metro Bikes until you try it.
Thus, I present to you 9 game-changing things you won’t truly understand about Metro Bikes until you’ve tried it:
- You don’t have to make a round trip — This may seem obvious, but the effect is multifaceted and far more dramatic than you expect. Not only can you return a bike to a different dock than you checked it out from, but you can also do things like bike back from a place you walked or Uber’d to, or bike to a place you have no intention of biking back from.
- You don’t have to plan ahead — you can randomly decide to hitch a bike ride at any point in your day, even if you had no intention of doing so when you left the house. And due to some excellent planning on Metro’s part, there always seems to be a station near you when you need it.
- You don’t have to carry a lock — I used to lug around a heavy U-lock and a cable lock in a backpack to keep people from stealing my bike, the quick-release front wheel, and the seat. With bike share, the dock is all the lock you need.
- You don’t have to worry about someone stealing it — Not only are they pretty impossible to steal, even if they do get stolen, it’s not your problem!
- It’s always in good working order — Flat tires, stolen lights and bells, dirty chains, rickety shifters, squeaky breaks, and all those other annoyances are a thing of the past.
- You get more respect on the road — For whatever reason, drivers seem to behave more respectfully and cautiously around Metro Bikers than they do around traditional cyclists. Perhaps it’s because Metro Bike Share sidesteps the aggressive, “scofflaw cyclist” stereotype. Or maybe it’s that drivers perceive Metro Bikers as potentially less experienced cyclists who need a little more room on the road. Or maybe Metro’s endorsement of such a highly visible bicycle program lets drivers know that bicycles are not only welcome on the road, they’re actually encouraged. Regardless of the reason, Metro Bikes feel more welcome and accepted on the road than traditional bicycles.
- You can go places with your friends — When your friends come visit, they usually don’t come with bikes, which means if you want to go somewhere that isn’t walking distance, you have to drive. With Metro Bike Share, however, all it takes is a couple bucks and you’re good to go.
- It’s safer — My girlfriend clued me in to this one. She commutes to Santa Monica for work via the Expo Line and often has to walk back to our apartment from 7th Street Metro Center in the dark. Now that she’s able to bike back instead, she no longer gets harassed by seedy characters along the way. She says it’s made her commute much more comfortable.
- It strengthens your sense of community and place — Though it’s the least tangible, this is the most significant point of them all. When a car drives through DTLA, you have no idea whether the driver lives here or is simply passing through. But when you see someone on a Metro Bike, you know they’re part of the community. You know they’re likely to be your neighbor, coming from somewhere local, and going somewhere else local. It might be subtle, but it’s a constant reminder to everyone here that this isn’t just a bunch of buildings and offices: this is our home, and we all live here, together.
Bike share is not bike rental. It sounds cheesy, but it is truly an experience unlike anything else. And for what it’s worth, I haven’t ridden my own personal bike since it debuted. I highly recommend you give it a try.