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San Antonio bike share

I love the idea of B-Cycle, San Antonio’s new bike sharing program, I’m just not sure how well it will work.

“I think it will encourage faster infrastructure for bike lanes and all the things we need because suddenly it’s there, visitors will use it, and we need to make sure we can get around,” said Cindi Snell, executive director of San Antonio B-cycle and co-owner of Bike World, the local bike shop that won the contract from the city to run the new program.

This is also the first such bicycle-sharing program in Texas, a fact not lost on anyone Saturday.

“Yee haw,” Snell said. “We don’t ever do anything first. I’m just so excited that we have it before Austin.”

The city received stimulus funds, plus grant money for the program from the Energy Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bike World created a nonprofit called San Antonio Bike Share, which will administer B-cycle, a national bike-share program.

Bike World will maintain the bicycles and run the daily operations. The organization has hired a full-time operations manager who will monitor bike maintenance and ensure they are evenly distributed throughout the city, Snell said.

[...]

Bicycles, 140 total, will be distributed among 14 docking stations in or near downtown; all but one, at the UTSA Downtown Campus, are now open.

Users can rent the bicycles free for the first half-hour and $2 for each half-hour after that, or pay $10 and keep them 24 hours.

A seven-day membership is available for $24, and an annual pass costs $60 for adults and $48 for seniors or students.

I guess I’m thinking of it as a value proposition for the casual bike user. A decent new bike will run you a couple hundred dollars, or you can get a used bike pretty cheaply. I bought one a few weeks ago for $40. On the other hand, joining a program like this saves the hassle of looking for an affordable bike and won’t take up any space in your garage or apartment, so there is definitely some appeal. I wish them good luck with the effort.

When I read this story, I thought that Houston might have been a better fit for the trial run of this – we have a pretty decent bike infrastructure, and a lot of people living in the city’s inner core. Turns out I was right to think so – Houston is on the way to getting its own bike share program, thanks to a grant from the EPA that will help with the startup funds. Here’s a KUHF story and a Houston Tomorrow post about that. There’s also a Houston Bike Share Facebook page, though it’s not exactly overflowing with fans just yet. I wanted to know more, so I contacted Laura Spanjian with a few questions. Here’s what I learned:

- The City expects to have bike stations installed, electronic access system and customer website implemented, and bike sharing up and running by fall of 2011. This will begin with three stations at which five to seven bikes will be available, at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Market Square, and City Hall. Longer term, this will be extended to the rest of the city, with about 500 bikes available in all. A map of the pilot stations plus more information about how bike sharing works is here.

- In the meantime, logistical issues such as who will operate the bike share – in many cities, such as San Antonio, it’s handled by a non-profit – are being worked out. You can find out more details in this fact sheet Spanjian sent me.

- Houston has a number of excellent off-road bike trails, but the bike infrastructure on the streets is lacking. The task force working on this will be considering ways to make what we’ve got work better for bicyclists so that more people will be encouraged to give it a try.

- Along those lines, I asked Spanjian who the target audience is for a bike share program. She said not the hardcore bicyclists, since they have their own rides, but folks who have an interest in bike riding but also have concerns about safety. I presume this might include people who aren’t willing to shell out three or four hundred bucks on a bike on the chance they might not feel comfortable riding it but who could be persuaded to shell out, say, ten bucks for a day.

- B-Cycle, the group running the San Antonio Bike Share, will be in town on April 20 at the City Hall Farmer’s Market to demonstrate how the program works. I’m going to try to be there to check it out.

So there you have it. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes in San Antonio, and how it gets implemented here.

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8 Comments

  1. Peter Wang says:

    I’m going to a convention in SA in September, I’ll have to remember to bring my helmet and give it a try.

  2. RBearSAT says:

    Great post Charles. I can tell you B-cycle is working in San Antonio and people are using it. I can tell based on seeing varying numbers of open docks in the stations as I drive past. I’ve seen several running around downtown San Antonio. I signed up in the introductory phase and have a one year membership for $25. You CAN’T beat that for cost.

    I’ve used it about 3 times and the system is easy to use, especially if you have a B-card. The card has RFID in it so all I do is touch a button beside the bike I want, tap my wallet (the reader reads the card inside) to the button and off I go. The bikes are no-frills and definitely not what you’d want as your personal bike. But that’s not the point.

    As you stated, you can’t beat the cost if you’re using them for casual errands. They are not designed for a day of riding because you have to have the bike back in the next station in 30 minutes or you get charged extra. But they are great for getting quickly from point A to B.

    Based on the map I see, Houston really should think about expanding their program. San Antonio built a network that hits the major points of downtown and will expand as the program grows. Denver has the best network of bikes that I’ve seen anywhere.

    Good luck with the program and I know you’ll love it.

  3. RBear – My understanding is that the intent is to expand Houston’s program fairly quickly. It will eventually serve the whole city. Thanks for the feedback about SA’s bike share – glad to hear it’s working well.

  4. John says:

    I’d like to add my own experience with the bike sharing in Minneapolis.
    As context I own two bikes and zero cars.
    For me it’s been useful as an option when, for whatever reason, i don’t have a bike with me.
    Say I’m at a friend’s house and want or need to get home quickly- I can just hop on a Nice Ride bike and not have to worry about cab fare or bus times or bothering other people.
    I think bike sharing works great as a component of a larger automotive reduction plan.

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