This bike ride felt different. Usually, Valencia resident Jeffrey Thompson leans forward on his Cervelo P3 triathlon bicycle as he picks up speed along the Santa Clarita paseos. But not this time.
“The sights, the sounds all around; it was quite wonderful,” he said. “This ride was slower. I saw so many things that I’ve never really noticed before because I go so fast.”
This bicycle didn’t have the flexibility or aerodynamic advantage that he commonly thrills over, but this model was ideal for the morning ride. It’s not part of his collection of triathlon models, nor did he purchase one for the occasion. He simply stopped by a nearby park and accessed a bike for himself and his daughter Kendall through the Pace app.
Pace bicycles, a bike-share service owned by Boston-based company Zagster, first rolled into Santa Clarita in December and have since garnered significant attention from cycling enthusiasts like Thompson and first-time riders, too.
The service, a pilot program with the city and Zagster, allows residents and tourists alike to check out a “lock-to” dockless bike for $1 per 30 minutes and ride it around Santa Clarita. Customers need only download the Pace app on their mobile device to start riding.
A total of 50 beach cruiser-style bicycles and 12 stations, including at the Iron Horse Trailhead, Old Town Newhall Library, and the Valencia Heritage Park, are now readily accessible.
Thompson first came across the micro-mobility concept, compact-sized vehicles designed to self-transport one or two passengers at a time, in Paris.
“I first saw these same-colored bikes everywhere in Paris and even New York City and I thought, ‘What are those things?’” he said. “It was an interesting concept but it looked messy.”
Messy is what some residents and local governments have labeled dockless bikes, electric bikes, smart bikes and scooters — the new breed of transportation lauded as replacements for cars. Whether in Los Angeles County or in Europe, these small vehicles have raised debate over being sidewalk nuisances or a solution to traffic congestion.
That’s been part of the conversation since Pace arrived in Santa Clarita, with some residents saying it’s only a matter of time before the bikes start getting left in all sorts of places.
Dan Petkunas, Pace bike mechanic for the Santa Clarita area, said there have already been some instances where bike parts such as tires and seats have been damaged or stolen or left in places other than on Pace or regular bike racks, where they belong.
“When that happens, Zagster sends in replacement parts and we get the bikes and relocate them back to the stations,” he said. “For the most part, I’d say 99 percent of people have been responsible with them. So far, so good.”
Zagster spokeswoman Stacy Sebeczek said, if problems persist, “We will likely respond with off-station parking fines.” She added that the community is advised to alert Zagster of any bikes that have been improperly parked by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What some have said the city and Zagster can improve on is accessibility. Some residents have said that stations are “spotty” and adding more bikes at various other locations can improve a rider’s transportation experience with the aim of reducing car use.
When it comes to using Pace bikes with the whole family, the app reads that riders must be at least 18 to ride. If children come along, adults are encouraged to have younger riders bring their bikes along or rent from a daily rental bike shop. Petkunas said that hasn’t been the case as he has seen some parents give their bikes to children, “which is contrary to the agreement. I’ve brought this up with Zagster that the agreement needs to be changed or more clear.”
When it came to convenience, however, riders shared their satisfaction. Thompson said, “You don’t have to invest in a bike or the hassle to drive to a park. You get the benefit of being able to ride in something that is safe, sturdy and in a great area. Santa Clarita has all these paseos around the city, and you don’t have to maintain or buy your own bike. This is for the person that wants simplicity.”
Pace user Sarah Whitford said, “I don’t own a bike, so it has been really convenient and fun to rent one and ride around the trails with my kids.”
Former Canyon Country resident and first-time Pace customer Byron Martinez said the last time he used a bike was nearly a decade ago, but his recent experience “was really easy and the ride was smooth. I also like that the bike has a bell.”
On Jan. 31, the city held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the launch of the Pace bikes.