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Photos: Los Angeles' First Bike Share Is Officially Open

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This has been a long time in the coming. While other cities across the country were opening bike share systems left and right, those tasked with bringing bike share to Los Angeles were held back by a litany of bureaucratic technicalities.* Today, however, Metro and the city of Los Angeles jointly unveiled the first bike-share system in the entire country to be fully integrated with a regional transportation system.

While today marks the official "opening" of the bike-share system, you can't quite just waltz up to one of the downtown kiosks, swipe your credit card and pedal happily away. Until August 1, the system is operating in a sort-of trial mode, letting those who purchase a monthly or yearly pass to use the bicycles. At the start of August, the system will open also for single-use payments—swipe your card and ride your bike.

As it stands, the fare system is honestly confusing unless you take a few minutes to wrap your head around its structure. Single rides less than 30 minutes (the sort available starting August 1) will run $3.50 each. Each additional 30 minutes will also be an extra $3.50. Monthly passes are $20 for unlimited 30 minute or less bike rides around L.A., adding an extra $1.75 per ride that lasts longer than 30 minutes. Yearly "flex" passes run $40, and will reduce the price of a less-than 30 minute ride to $1.75, with the same $1.75 charge per half hour. Basically, if you are going to use the bikes just a couple of times a month, just pay $3.50 each ride. If you'll use it regularly, get the monthly pass. If you're going to use it sometimes, but not always, get the "flex" pass."

It's probably fair to assume that this is just Metro's introductory fare scheme, and that it will change in time as more stations open up around the city.

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Metro has also developed an app for iPhone and Android devices that will let you purchase a pass right from your phone, as well as locate stations and bicycles around the city (just downtown for now).

At around noon on Thursday, a few hundred people reported to the Grand Park lawn in front of City Hall. In order to ceremoniously inaugurate Los Angeles' first bike share system, event planners chose to let Angelenos themselves be the ones to ride the bicycles from the park to their stations located throughout downtown Los Angeles. A mariachi band serenaded the spectators waiting for the public officials to give their words of blessing.

Eventually, Metro Board Chair John Fasana offered his welcome to everyone, happily exclaiming that the day was an exciting one that marked the inauguration of a bike share system that would eventually spread across Los Angeles. Neighborhoods like Huntington Park, North Hollywood, Burbank, Pasadena, East Los Angeles and Hollywood are all on the list of districts to receive bike-share in the near future.

Los Angles Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds remarked that the L.A. bike share system is the first in the country to be fully integrated with a regional transportation system. The bicycles are official Metro vehicles, and can be undocked with your TAP card provided you have loaded a Metro Bike Share Pass onto your TAP.

And, of course, Mayor Eric Garcetti offered a few choice words about the rising multi-modal future of Los Angeles. "I'm a big fan of William Mulholland's words from the opening of the California Aqueduct. Of the water, he said 'there it is, take it.' Well, here they are. Use them," Garcetti said while gesturing to the sea of Metro-branded bicycles.

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A few minutes later, hundreds of people on bicycles took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles, making their way from Grand Park to wherever their bicycle was supposed to go.

The bikes themselves are heavy machines, but generous gearing options means you can pedal lightly and move right along without a problem whatsoever. The weight actually lends itself to a sturdy, very comfortable ride. The brakes are strong and responsive, and the bicycle itself proves to be quite nimble while threading through downtown streets. The seat height is easily adjustable, and the seat itself quite plush.

Of course, while riding south along Grand Avenue, the bike-share bikers were confronted with several signs ordaining "Bike Lane Closed." The first segment was for a film shoot of some sort. The second was for construction. This is still Los Angeles after all. Maybe one day, we'll get all the way there.

*L.A. almost managed to build a bike-share system back in 2012 when then Mayor Villariagiosa announced a partnership between L.A. and "Bike Nation," a private company. That proposal died, however, after it got caught by an advertising contract between the city and advertising CBS Outdoor, where Los Angeles had promised the company ad rights on "street-furniture" until 2021. Apparently bike kiosks are considered street-furniture.