By Colin McDonald – San Antonio Express-News
With the help of a new bike-share program, the mayor thinks San Antonio is closer to becoming a cool city.
City officials on Friday previewed San Antonio B-cycle, which will start in early 2011 with 140 bikes available for checkout from 14 bike stations spread across downtown.
For Mayor Julián Castro, the program will add to the city’s quality of life and help make it a more attractive and hipper place.
“San Antonio is going to be the most bike-friendly city in the country in the years to come,” he said. “We want to get off the fattest list and onto the fittest.”
The goal of bike sharing is to get more people using bikes for transportation. In two years the nonprofit running the program plans to expand to 500 bikes at 50 stations.
The system is designed to provide bikes for short trips, like an office worker going to lunch or picking up documents at the courthouse or a tourist going from the Alamo to Market Square.
“We want to see multimodal transportation,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “We don’t all need to get into cars to drive across downtown.”
Access to the bikes is made available through a membership card that can be purchased by the day, week or year. The bikes are checked out and returned at any station. There is no charge to use the bike for a half-hour at a time. Each subsequent half-hour costs $2.
In the last year, Denver, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., have launched bike-share programs to promote cycling, reduce congestion and improve air quality and public health.
Once we get in the habit of cycling downtown, we will wonder why we didn’t do this sooner,” Sculley said.
Last summer, Sculley got excited about the potential for bike sharing in San Antonio when she saw a similar program in Montreal and sent photos of it to her staff. Bike-share programs have been common in Europe for years.
Denver’s program launched in April with 500 bikes that have logged 190,000 miles and helped riders burn more than 5 million calories, said Bob Burns, president of B-cycle, the company that makes the bikes used for the rental program.
The 45-pound, three-speed cruiser-style bikes are equipped with a large front basket, a light and reflectors, a bell, a lock, full fenders and an adjustable seat so anyone can ride safely in almost any weather. Riders use the bikes at their own risk and are asked to provide their own helmet.
Those with annual membership will be able to track their use via the website sanantoniobikeshare.org and get reports on how many miles they have traveled, calories burned and reduction in carbon emissions.