Bike sharing program finalizes funding

Amanda Voeller

Normally, students riding bikes they don’t own might indicate theft — but officials at Bike Share of Austin hope it will become the norm when a city-wide bike sharing program opens
in December.

Bike Share of Austin completed fundraising necessary to begin its program, contributing the final installment of $350,000 to the program overseen by the city of Austin on Thursday. Bike Share has invested a total of $500,000 in this project, alongside a federal grant of $1.5 million.

“It’s very similar to the very successful Car2Go program, only with bikes,” said Elliott McFadden, executive director of Bike Share
of Austin.

Bike Share of Austin’s portion of the funding comes from ten private sponsor organizations, McFadden said. 

The program will at first involve 100 bikes distributed between ten sharing kiosks that will open in December. By spring, the program will feature 40 stations and 400 bikes, with potential for expansion in the future.

In addition to taking public input, Bike Share of Austin will determine kiosk locations based on factors such as population, work density and access to transit,
McFadden said.

“We want to make sure it’s a location that gets enough traffic to support a bike share station,” McFadden said. “In general, that’s where people go, so that’s where most
people voted.”

McFadden said in addition to being convenient, the bike share program will reduce the odds of a student’s personal bike being stolen.

“It’s a really fast, easy way to get around,” McFadden said. “You don’t have to have a car You don’t have to worry about locking up your bike either. I know when I was going to UT, I had many bikes stolen during my
time there.”

Each bike will have a built-in GPS and a lighting system for nighttime riding, McFadden said.

Bike Share of Austin will finalize its pricing in November, but the estimated cost is around $8 for a day’s membership and around $80 for a year’s membership, McFadden said.

McFadden said that
because officials at the University have not yet expressed to him intentions of participating in the program, he is unsure whether the program will offer a
student discount.

“I personally will be buying a membership,” Andrew Hartford, Longhorn Bike Coalition founder, said. “It’ll be very convenient using the bike share because sometimes I might not have my bike with me or might not want to leave my bike in a location overnight [because of this] makes it vulnerable
to theft.”

Three other Texas cities — San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth — have bike sharing programs and use the same bicycling network, McFadden said. Members of the Austin network will be able to use their membership in 15 other U.S. cities.

For festivals such as Austin City Limits Music Festival, bike sharing would be more useful than bike rentals, according to Shilpa Bakre, Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau Senior Communications

“The one advantage that the bike sharing may have [over bike renting] is for people that are already in and around downtown,” Bakre said. “They can simply walk to one of the kiosks and hop on a bike
right away.”

McFadden said because of the way Austin is developing, bicycling is more practical than driving.

“Driving a car is not the most convenient way to get around. Actually, riding a bike is,” McFadden said. “Having this system of bike stations … [is] going to make it easier to get around and navigate in the
urban core.”