Why More Bicycle Rental Stations Could Improve Houston's Bike Friendliness
by: Florian Martin, April 4, 2013 10:04:00 am
During the official launch of the completion of Phase II of the “Houston B-Cycle” bike sharing program, Mayor Annise Parker says less than a year ago, there were many who questioned the wisdom of offering the program here.
“People that are downtown, you know, they’re in their business suits. They’re not going to want to ride around. Where would you even go downtown?”
But almost a year later, the model turned out to be quite successful. So successful that the program has now been expanded to 21 stations with 175 bikes from the initial three locations with a total of 18 bikes.
Laura Spanjian, the city’s sustainability director, says there’s already been a spike in checkouts since the new stations were installed.
“The week prior, when we had only three stations, we had about 150 check-outs. In the last week, since we added all of these new stations, we had 650 checkouts. So we’ve seen a huge increase, and we know it’s only going to grow as more and more people hear about it.”
Houston is one of 14 cities nationwide that are participating in the B-Cycle program. Fort Worth and Salt Lake City will launch it later this month. Several other cities have similar programs.
That makes Houston one of only a few American cities with a bike-sharing program.
But does that mean Houston is one of the more bike-friendly cities? Brian Conger, director of operations for B-Cycle nationally, thinks so.
“Biking around downtown Houston, you have great streets. You have flat topography and really a lot of destinations that make it very attractive to get around and hop on a bike and go from point A to point B.”
Mayor Parker says the bayou trails development project approved by voters in the last election as well as pending legislation in Austin that would allow recreational use of rights-of-way go a long way toward more bike-friendliness in Houston. In addition, the city is working on a safe passage ordinance …
“… to identify for Houstonians that they have to give room to bicycles on the road, and I think we’ll be bringing that forward before the peak of the summer riding season starts.”
Unlike other major Texas cities, Houston currently has no law requiring drivers to share the road with bicycles.
Neil Bremner, owner of Bike Barn, says having more designated bike lanes would be nice too.
“Houston’s nice, downtown is nice, because it's got three to four lanes and a lot of room to ride but I think by adding in certain areas within the city just dedicated bike lanes street-level would help also.”
Brian Conger, the B-Cycle director, says having a bike-share program increases the bike-riding population, and that in turn helps raising awareness for infrastructure needs for even more bike friendliness.