Due to popular demand, CycleHop, the company running Santa Monica’s Breeze bike-share program, will extend the testing period past the October 1 date it was originally scheduled to end.
Breeze, which is on track to be L.A. County’s first public bike-share program, began a system test with seven hubs and about 30 bikes in the middle of August. The system test was originally scheduled to end at the end of September, at which point CycleHop had planned to pull all the test hubs and bikes until the November launch of the full 500-bike, 80-hub system, but according to CycleHop officials, there has been popular demand to extend the run.
“We received a lot of requests from members to keep the bikes on the street, and after some careful consideration we decided it was a good idea,” said Ron Durgin, the Southern California Regional Manager for CycleHop. “The launch is still on schedule.”
According to an email sent to current “Founding Members” of Breeze bike-share, CycleHop plans to keep the test bikes on the street at least until the end of October. Meanwhile, the anticipated launch of the full system remains is on schedule for November, a year after the city council unanimously approved the contract.
As of August, about 80 “Founding Members” had signed up for the bike-share system and were participating in the test run. Founding Members get a special discounted membership — $99 a year — which allows them to ride up to 60 minutes a day for no additional cost.
Breeze uses a “smart-bike” system instead of a “smart-hub” system, which means that the main computer is built in to the bike rather than in the stationary hub. That gives riders the freedom to tether the bike nearby if a hub is full rather than seeking out another hub with open slots.
During the test phase, CycleHop suspended its out-of-hub fee structure for test riders, but once the system launches in November, users will be charged an extra $2 if they leave the bike outside of the range of a hub and $20 if they leave a bike outside the system area (all of Santa Monica and part of Venice). Users can get a $1 credit for returning a bike to a hub.
Metro has begun moving forward with its own bike-share system, which will use an incompatible “smart-hub” system. Metro is expected to launch a 1,000-bike pilot program in Downtown L.A. next year, but some are concerned that the incompatibility of the systems will create unnecessary problems in the future as Metro expands its program to areas where other systems like Breeze are already operating.