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Santa Monica Bike Center Stays a Steady Course

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

May 3, 2013 -- After 18 months, Santa Monica's Bike Center - - the largest in the country - - is holding strong with more than 200 members using the facility on a regular basis.

The $2 million, 5,300-square-foot center, with some 350 secure bike parking spaces, showers, lockers and the City's only year-round bike valet service, the Bike Center -- located at Second Street and Colorado Avenue -- opened in November 2011 as part of the City's comprehensive plan to get more people to ride bikes.

“Our fundamental purposes is to accommodate bicycle commuters who are coming into downtown,” said Ron Durgin, the center’s general manager. “Our goal is to really maintain a standard.”

“We've exceeded projections,” said Durgin. “People are still coming by and supporting us.”

When the Bike Center first opened, it drew 25 members within the first month and has gained momentum since. By the end of its first year, the Bike Center hit about 200 members and has been holding steady since.

The Bike Center caters to “a lot of people who work in the mall, in retail, in restaurants,” said Durgin. He added that half-a-dozen employees from the newly-opened Seasons 52 restaurant at Broadway and Ocean Avenue have already signed up for memberships.

Seasons 52 joins about five other downtown businesses that have bought memberships for their employees at the Center.

And the Center is continuing its efforts to get people to ditch their cars and ride.

Over the winter, Durgin said, some 30 people participated in the Center's Bike Loan program. Through the program, residents can borrow a “fully-equipped” commuter bike for two weeks, free of charge, so long as they ride it.

“About 70 percent (of participants) go ahead and buy a bike,” said Durgin. “I really feel it's a gateway drug into cycling.”

On May 16, the center's employees will also be out in force, helping Los Angeles to celebrate Bike to Work Day, Durgin said. Increasing the visibility of bicyclists is just another step to encourage people to ride, Durgin said.

Still, “At the Bike Center, everyday is bike to work day,” he said. Out of the 13 people who work there, none of them drive to work, said Durgin.

The Bike Center is more than just a place to park bikes, he added. It also offers classes on bicycle safety, repair and bike rentals.

“Our rental business is up 25 percent over last year,” said Durgin.

Starting this summer, the Bike Center will offer a “street art” tour for tourists and residents, he said.

On the tour, participants will get a chance to ride to Venice's various street art displays, places where street artists can legally paint graffiti murals.

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