As of Saturday, December 21, Austinites can look forward to using a new bike sharing program. Austin B-cycle will officially open 11 of its proposed 40 bicycle kiosks, giving access to more than 100 bikes to people eager to find a new way to get around town. By March, that number will increase to more than 400 bicycles. Approximately 100 city officials, founding members and Austin B-cycle employees will take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Congress Avenue at 11th Street before riding the bikes to their new stations.
But aside from being the latest in a trend of major cities implementing bike sharing programs, this is also a proactive way to fight Austin's increasing traffic and infrastructure problem.
The first batch of kiosks to open are all located downtown (though two are posted on South Congress Avenue), giving first access to those commuting into the city center as well as tourists looking for an alternative way to take in the sights (not to mention providing an alternative to joining one of those Segway gangs). "Once the stations are all in place, this will be the best, fastest way to get downtown," says Marketing Director Kristin Nelson.
"For commuters, this is going to be a great way to commute their last mile," explains Nelson. "If they take mass transit but they're still five blocks away from the office building when they arrive, this helps them get [to work]. Same for people who have to drive a car: they can park on outer areas of the city and ride the bikes in."
But it's not just downtown commuters who can look forward to the bike sharing program. With the rest of the stations opening by March 1 (just in time for SXSW), Austin B-Cycle is also a way to navigate the many festivals, concerts, celebrations, parades and markets that frequently shut down downtown streets and snarl traffic.
Aside from being the latest in a trend of major cities including New York, Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon, timplementing bike sharing programs, it's also a proactive way to fight Austin's increasing traffic and infrastructure problem. Though we may be a long way from having a coherent public transportation system, a bike sharing program, along with alternative mobility companies like Car2Go, serves as a viable alternative to owning a car in a time when it's terribly expensive to do so.
Annual memberships are available online for $80 and include the first 30 minutes of every ride. After your initial 30 minutes are up, your on-file credit card will be charged $4 for each additional half hour. Don't want to commit to a whole year? Pick up a weekly pass at a kiosk for $25 or a daily pass for $8. If you're around for the holidays, you can get a $1 day pass for Austin B-cycle by using the code 123113 at any of the kiosks December 21 - January 1, 2014.
To see a map of the first 11 kiosks and find out more information, please visit the Austin B-cycle website.