(Introductory Note: This is the first UEPI blog by Joe Linton, Occidental College alum and urban environmental activist who is helping with UEPI’s efforts on the Los Angeles Bike Summit, which will take place on Saturday March 7th 2009 at Los Angeles Trade Tech College. I will be blogging here on bicycling and other sustainable transportation issues, including parking. I also blog at LA Creek Freak and the LA Eco-Village Garden Blog.)
Good Samaritan Hospital continues to be a leader in Los Angeles’ bicycle community. They host the annual Blessing of the Bikes, during Bike-to-Work Week (more on the Blessing below.) They actually have convenient bicycle parking. They were honored withthe LA County Bicycle Coalition’s Community Leadership Award in 2004. Now they’ve introduced a new bike sharing program.
Bike sharing is basically a short-term, typically unattended urban bike rental or loan program. It’s all the rage in Europe, especially the extensive ”Velib” system in Paris. Velib is privately run, based mostly on advertising revenue. Bike Sharing doesn’t seem to be quite as common or as successful in North America, though I’ve heard of modest programs in Toronto (unfortunately now defunct), Washington DC, and on quite a few college campuses (including Occidental’s rivals at Pomona College.) After a recent visit to Paris, Los Angeles City Councilmember Wendy Greuel introduced a motion to investigate implementing a bike share program here. The LA Department of Transportation, though not sounding enthusiastic about the possibilities, is preparing a Request For Information, so that companies can submit potential proposals.
Good Samaritan launched its “GSH Express” bike share program in late November. To further promote the program to employees, Good Sam plans to host a big kick-off event on December 17th where Santa Claus will arrive by bike. I first heard about the bike share program from a brief article in the Downtown News. It’s also received mention in LA Streetsblog and the LA County Bicycle Coalition‘s email newsletter. The UEPI blog took the time to visit (it’s on my commute into downtown), so we could bring our readers more on-the-ground detail on how it really works.
The fleet consists of 3 bicycles, seen in the photograph above. The actual bike models are the gender-specific pink Hearts Desire and brown/beige Drakes Beach from Marin Bicycles in Novato, California. (Stickler’s note to the manufacturer: if it had been me, I would’ve included apostrophes in these names.) They’re nice sturdy 3-speed aluminum cruisers, tastefully a bit retro style. Excellent bikes for shorter urban trips (such as a lunch run to Langer’s Delicatessen), though perhaps not ideal for serious hills, such as climbing back up to Good Sam from downtown. The bikes are out fitted with nice utilitarian white wire-baskets on the handlebars. U-locks, helmet, and safety vest are included, too.
Bikes are available for free short-term use by hospital employees to travel on campus and in the nearby neighborhood. Employees can check bikes out at the front security desk. Employees sign on a paper log, show their employee ID, and leave their driver’s license. The bikes are kept hidden in a nearby storage room. The bikes are available to all Good Samaritan employees from 7am until dusk.
The bike share program is intended to complement other Good Sam programs that support employee health – these include weight-loss classes and healthy cafeteria food. Good Sam’s CEO Andy Leeka is bike commuter and has spearheaded their bike initiatives.
Another really excellent bike aspect of Good Samaritan is their annual Blessing of the Bikes event. It takes place in May each year. I’ve really enjoyed past Blessing events there. The breakfast and freebies are generous. There are clerics of various faiths that pray for the safety of bicyclists. One year, a minister read a wonderful somewhat-surreal bible passage about a vision of a wheel within a wheel – about as close as one could get to a biblical bicycle reference! At the conclusion, a priest sprinkles holy water as the assembled bicyclists ride slowly past.
Good Sam is located in Central City West – on Wilshire just a couple blocks west of the 110 Freeway. Thanks to Katrina Bada at Good Sam for providing background information and for showing me the bikes!
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