“Think about parking for Astros games or for Rockets games. What if we had the opportunity where people could park six, eight, 10 blocks away, leave their vehicle, jump on a B-Cycle, and head to those venues? One, you’re going to eliminate $20 to $30 parking and, two, that’s somebody that’s not going to be in a car.”
These are the kinds of things that go through Will Rub’s mind, which makes sense. He’s the director of Houston BikeShare, the nonprofit behind Houston’s B-Cycle program.
B-Cycle entered the Houston market in May 2012 with just three pilot stations: City Hall, the George R. Brown Convention Center and Market Square. These days, though, the iconic red two-wheelers can be found in 29 racks around town, almost all of them densely packed in downtown, Midtown and Montrose.
“Initially, the thrust was to get downtown because that’s where the critical mass is,” Rub said. “Then we started looking at some other areas that are contiguous to downtown that could enable people to become commuters. It was just a desire to create a little bit of awareness in some areas.”
B-Cycle allows users to check out bikes for commuting and recreational purposes through daily, weekly or annual memberships. After paying a membership fee (the daily rate is $5), bikes can be checked out for free for the first 60 minutes, with additional charges for each subsequent half-hour. The system encourages users to cycle from station to station, checking bikes in and out frequently to avoid surcharges.
Locals and visitors alike have embraced the program, taking 121,652 rides since it began, including 83,000 rides in 2014 alone, an average of 231 per day. Rub expects those numbers to continue to grow as the system expands into new neighborhoods. And if additional grant funding is approved, the program’s next expansion will target the Texas Medical Center, where Rub says the need for commuter bicycles is high. Look out, absurdly expensive hospital parking lots—B-Cycle is coming for you.