Following the announcement of one of California's largest bike sharing programs, Bike Nation announced that local businesswoman and avid biker April Economides will head the program as General Manager.
Economides, whose business background is in sustainable management, is both excited and inspired by Bike Nation's approach to getting alternative mobility access into cities.
Upon building her team in order to roll out the effort to engage more citizens to partake in biking, Economides said, "I like that Bike Nation is bringing a public bike share to Long Beach without using taxpayer money. America needs more businesses like this; businesses that provide beneficial services and/or products and create green jobs."
That latter point—benefits via green policies—drives the community health aspect of the program that attracts Economides. For her, if more residents and tourists are biking, the overall benefit for the community occurs in a ripple effect: decreased parking issues for business districts, leading to decreased smog and traffic, leading to increased sale for local businesses and a healthier population.
A car-free commuter, Economides deeply believes that the key features to bike culture in Long Beach resides not only in its diversity, but the fact that biking is becoming an equalizer. "Long Beach is blessed with being an extraordinarily diverse city and our bike culture reflects that. People of all backgrounds ride here, and for all sorts of reasons. Bikes are a great freedom tool: almost anyone can ride because bicycling is affordable."
And with Bike Nation's massively scaled program—some 250 kiosks dispensing 2,500 bikes throughout the city—could very well alter the landscape of our city on a multitude of scales. For one, the sheer exposure of such a large program (exceeding even D.C.'s popular bike sharing program) already brings about attention from bike enthusiasts and businesses alike.
However, Economides sees an even deeper change possible: safety. And with more bikes on the road, an "educational curve," as she calls it, comes for drivers.
"There are still some drivers who forget that the bicycle actually came before the car, that we have as much right to the road. And there are still some bicyclists who ride on the sidewalks in business districts, which is not only dangerous for pedestrians but also illegal. I’d love to see more ‘Walk Your Bike’ sidewalk stencils go down in our business districts and perhaps also signage. We’ll educate our customers about this at our kiosks and on our website."
Of course, Economides is hopeful since she feels that the time has come when Southern Californians are beginning to rediscover the bicycle and loosen their car addiction a bit.
"Thankfully, this 'attitude' is already changing," she said, stating that biking is on the rise not only due to obvious health benefits, but larger macro reasons. "It’s also changing because Americans value freedom and individualism, and the bicycle is as ‘all-American’ as you can get. It’s relies on American energy (i.e. our legs) versus Middle Eastern oil, and it allows for easy and free parking. And we all know that Americans value free parking."
One can now see why Bike Nation hired her.
The first kiosk is slated to open Downtown in February of next year.