Austin B-cycle launches low-income membership program, builds new stations

Lauren Florence

An Austin bike-share program is making bike rentals more accessible to low-income residents seeking an affordable means of transportation.

“B-cycle for All” is Austin B-cycle’s new membership program targeted toward low-income residents with an annual income of $25,000 or less. Citizens who qualify for the program pay an annual membership fee of $5 for access to all Austin rental stations. Residents who live in affordable housing communities and make more than $25,000 a year can pay $40 for an annual membership — half the cost of a regular membership. 

There are 400 of these memberships available, which Austin B-cycle plans to have filled within six months, according to its website.

Austin B-cycle celebrated the new program with a ribbon-cutting on Aug. 17 for new rental stations at the affordable housing communities of Santa Rita Courts, Chalmers Courts and Capitol Studios, as well as a fourth, solar-powered station at the corner of Sixth and Lavaca streets.

“Bicycles can reduce the cost of transportation for low-income residents,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

According to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute, there has been major growth in bike-sharing programs in the United States over the past few years. However, the report said bike-sharing may not be reaching residents of low-income communities, leading various bike-sharing systems in the nation to fund programs to increase accessibility.

Residents enrolled as full-time students are not eligible for the program, but children from ages 13 to 17 are eligible based on their parent’s eligibility, according to Austin B-cycle.

Electrical engineering sophomore Santiago Echeverri said he would use Austin B-cycle if he could take a bike home instead of docking it at the station. Currently, Austin B-cycle charges riders $4 for every half hour past the first 30 minutes the bike is checked out.

“I think students probably aren’t using [Austin B-cycle] because it’s inconvenient,” Echeverri said. “If I want to have a bike, it’s to go home and come back. If you need to leave it back there [at the station], it’s just an inconvenient thing.”

Austin was one of seven cities chosen to receive a $50,000 grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership; Austin B-cycle also received a $10,000 grant from the Downtown Austin Alliance to help start the new program and build new rental stations.

These additional stations make for a total of 50 stations around downtown Austin. As of last July, riders had taken more than 250,000 bike trips via the B-cycle system, according to its website. 

The solar-powered bike rental station aims to “enable greener, pollution-free commuting across the city,” according to a press release by Green Mountain Energy, which helped fund the project.

“Our mission is to improve the mobility, economy and health of Austin, and the ‘B-cycle for All’ program will work to ensure that we are serving all of our entire community,” a press release from Austin B-cycle said.