Ah, springtime in Austin. It’s a magical time of year. Lady Bird Lake is overflowing with all manner of water craft, bar and restaurant patios all around the city have a one-hour wait, and bikes reclaim their status as a viable form of transport around town.
About five weeks later, the brutal heat starts smoldering our fair city, but what a glorious five weeks! The Austinot has written several articles on how to beat the heat, and even a few others on how to get around town. But this spring and summer, Austinites will have another option to add to the list. In characteristic Austin fashion, it’s a thinking “outside the box” kind of approach.
Want to get around town quickly and cheaply, but don’t own a bike? No problem! Austin’s new B-cycle program, part of a nationwide network spread around over 20 cities, quietly launched late last year. They have just completed their initial 40 station roll-out and are more than ready for the inevitable onslaught of new riders.
B-cycle is a bikesharing program that allows users to pick up bikes at any of the 40 solar-powered stations spread throughout Central Austin. The stations can be found as far west as Zilker Park, as far south as SoCo, all the way up to UT’s campus, and as far east as Plaza Saltillo on E. 5th St. Think of this as the bicycle version of Car2Go, only powered by tacos and sweat, instead of gasoline and Smart cars.
How Austin B-Cycle Works
The premise is simple as can be expected: swipe your pre-registered credit card at one of the 40 stations, grab your bike from the dock, and ride! There is no charge for the first 30 minutes as you ride from station to station. Every half-hour after that will be billed $4 bucks.
A few caveats to point out. The above rates are for members only, which requires a subscription fee. B-cycle offers 24 hour rentals to anyone with a credit card, which will come in handy for out-of-towners seeking a local experience, but the majority of its users will be members.
Subscriptions come in the following varieties:
- Daily $8
- Weekly $25
- Annual $80
The annual subscription will offer you the most bang for your buck, in addition to giving you access to the nationwide network should you be visiting another B-cycle-friendly city. Further cementing their carbon-free footprint, credit card terminals are completely solar-powered and very easy to use. The bikes themselves are easy to dock and un-dock, making the process of checking out a bike usually last only 10-15 seconds.
Breezing Through Town
As a regular user of Car2Go, the concept of ridesharing was already familiar to me, so adapting to B-cycle was a breeze. I’ve used both systems interchangeably since I became a member of B-cycle, with Car2Go being the preferred method for quick transport in less than ideal weather. But when the conditions were right, riding a bike was always preferable.
Since becoming a member, I’ve never had a ride last more than 30 minutes, so the initial subscription is all I’ve had to pay so far. Now that spring is upon us, I’d imagine longer bike excursions will be in order.
So why not just purchase a bike instead of paying a subscription fee? For me, it’s entirely a matter of convenience. If I want to meet a few friends for drinks on the other side of downtown, I can just bike it over and forget about the bicycle, then take a short cab ride home. Parking or driving under the influence aren’t a concern.
Using B-cycle’s smartphone app, I’ve always been able to find a bike within a few blocks. Now that all 40 of the initial roll-out stations are complete, I never have to walk far to find one. Each of the bikes come equipped with a basket and their own lock, so if you are renting for the day, it’s easy to keep secure.
Safe and Green RideShare Alternative
Private industry is picking up the slack where the City of Austin is falling short, providing Austinites with yet another safe ridesharing alternative. Although we are a bit late to the game (Austin is now the 4th city in Texas to offer this program), bikesharing is taking off around the world with worldwide ridership more than doubling over the last 3 years.
Despite the fact that I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years, I was able to get right back on one and navigate through downtown with ease (although, please read up on safe biking in a city before you do). Austin B-cycle already broke a nationwide record for most bikes checked out in a week, all during SXSW, with an average of 10+ checkouts per bike, per day! With spring in full gear, I’m confident Austin can fully embrace the concept of bike ridesharing. What do you think?
Have you tried any of Austin’s other rideshare programs?
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