Austin B-Cycle ends free student membership after University refuses funding operating costs

Jackson Barton

Students who signed up for the formerly free Austin B-Cycle student membership will be out $1 when they wake up Wednesday.

Elliott McFadden, Austin B-Cycle executive director, said the nonprofit will now be charging a $1 monthly fee for student memberships to stay self-sufficient.

“Our nonprofit, which operates Austin B-Cycle … has been subsidizing all of the costs of (offering free student memberships), and we discussed with the University, now that the program has been a success, in helping to fund our costs,” McFadden said. “At this time, the University is not able to do that.”

Jeremy Hernandez, Parking and Transportation Services bike coordinator, said PTS is largely self-funded and cannot afford to subsidize B-Cycle’s $120,000 yearly campus operating costs. McFadden said operating costs consist of paying for B-Cycle’s field staff, which move bikes between stations, bike mechanics and customer service lines.

Austin B-Cycle’s planned 18-month campus pilot program kicked off last February with the City paying $272,000 for nine new bike stations in and around campus. As of Wednesday, 14,000 students have taken advantage of the free 60-minute rides with the student membership for 255,293 total trips, according to an email from McFadden. 

“The program’s been a huge success,” McFadden said. “It’s been beyond our expectations in terms of uptick in use of the system, and now we want to make sure it’s sustainable for the long term.”

Elliot said the service provides 750-1,500 campus rides per day.

Joshua Iwe, an electrical and computer engineering sophomore, rides a B-Cycle bike to and from class nearly every weekday. He said he wishes the University would pay for the costs of the free student memberships.

“I will still use B-Cycle … I feel like I get more use out of it for $1 a month,” Iwe said. “I wish they didn’t do that. I’d rather it be free, and I thought the University was the one subsidizing it.”

Dockless electric scooters launched on campus last April and have proven popular with students due to their convenience and low cost, usually starting from $1 per ride. McFadden said the launch of dockless scooters has not affected the amount of rides students take on B-Cycle bikes around campus. 

“We’ve not really seen very much of an impact with dockless for our University area,” McFadden said. “We have seen an impact with our downtown system.”

McFadden said B-Cycle will not be scaling back any services and is looking at ways to add new bike stations around campus.

Biology sophomore Mac Phillips said he canceled his subscription as soon as he received an email notifying him about the $1 monthly charge. He said he hadn’t used B-Cycle since mid-October. 

“I rode it because it was free, because it was convenient, and they have spots everywhere” Phillips said. “I just didn’t want to pay for it anymore, I just didn’t think I would use it enough.”


Want more content like this in your inbox every morning?

* indicates required