Houston's bike-share program, B-Cycle, is about to undergo a huge expansion, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Wednesday.
Thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration, B-Cycle will triple in size over the next two years, adding 71 new stations in addition to its existing 31 stations and 568 bikes to its current 225. By the time the expansion is finished, B-Cycle will be one of the largest bike-share programs in the country.
“The expansion of the B-cycle system will bring bike sharing into new neighborhoods and to new users,” Mayor Turner said in a statement. “As I’ve said, we need a paradigm shift in transportation away from single-occupancy motor vehicles. Making cycling more accessible by building a strong bike-sharing system is a critical component of that change.”
B-Cycle has been in Houston since 2012, and roughly 300,000 Houstonians have taken advantage of the bike-sharing program since then, with more trips every year. Riders can buy membership online that lasts either 24 hours, a week or a year, and riders can take a bike for an unlimited amount of trips as long as they return it to one of the B-Cycle stations at the end of the day. Or, without membership, anyone can take a B-Cycle for free if the trip is shorter than an hour, costing $2 for every half-hour after that.
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This year alone, Houstonians have made 73,577 B-Cycle trips and have traveled 508,044 miles. By choosing to bike instead of drive, riders have offset 481,272 pounds of carbon—saving more than 24,000 gallons of gas — and have collectively burned 20,256,294 calories, the equivalent of more than 4,500 gallons of ice cream and more than 67,600 hamburgers, according to data from the city.
Carter Stern, CEO of Houston B-Cycle, said the expansion will allow the firm to cover a diverse range of areas in the city, a main focus of B-Cycle. Fourteen of the new stations and 107 bikes will be in the Texas Medical Center, which currently has none, and another 21 stations and 248 bikes will be on or surrounding various college campuses, including Texas Southern University, University of Houston Main Campus, UH-Downtown and Rice University.
"If we're truly going to be an equitable transportation option, we need to touch all communities," Stern said. "We have an opportunity, because we have no zoning. When we have old historic neighborhoods pressed up against condos, pressed up against park space, and all different ethnic communities jumbled together all within the range of one B-Cycle trip, you begin to incrementally have a lot more diverse ridership."
Stern said the stereotype of B-Cycle has often been that it's only for young, well-educated Millennials. But on a Sunday a few weeks ago, he hung out at the Sabine Street Bridge B-Cycle station for four or five hours, trying to see if that held true. He greeted every rider, and he said maybe only about 30 percent were white.
"You heard Spanish and you heard Chinese and you saw old people. You saw students from the University of Houston. That's what's exciting to me," Stern said. "I want to shake that stereotype about bike share, because I really think if we're doing our job right, bike share is for everybody. It's part of the fabric of the city."