It’s been almost two and a half years since I started advocating for Austin Bike Share in the state capital. It became the highest rated of any SpeakUpAustin initiative, ever. Because of incredible grassroots support, generous financial support by several local businesses, and hard work by City staff, Austin Bike Share is finally happening for Austin.
Austin City Council this week is expected to approve an important step in the process, which will allow the city to form a partnership with nonprofit Bike Share of Austin to operate the bike share program.
The City and Bike Share of Austin are aiming to have the bike share program up and running by spring 2013. A separate contract with a bike share vendor for the purchase of bicycles, kiosks, and the bike share system network is scheduled to come to City Council for approval at the next scheduled council meeting, which would be Jan. 31.
It has long been rumored around town that Austin is going to pick B Cycle, the same bike share operator as San Antonio, to supply the bike share system for Austin. San Antonio’s system is a phenomenal success and expanding.
According to the City, the bike share will bring about 40 bike share kiosks, with as many as 400 bikes, to Central Austin area. That’s a good start.
It was around 2009, when traveling in Montreal, that I was first introduced to a robust bike share system. That system was called BIXI, but it was the same bike design used in Minneapolis. The system works impressively well. You can become a member, or pay-as-you-go. The three-geared bikes are comfortable and well maintained.
That Austin’s Bike Share initiative seems to be heading for the final stretch is superb news, and I’d like to thank all of our City Council members and all the folks at the city who are working to make this happen.
We can expect a draft map of the locations within the next couple of months.
I’ve learned that City staff’s process of identifying possible sites for bike share kiosks is based on several criteria:
- Proximity of bike infrastructure such as bike lanes or cycle tracks
- High employment density
- Nearby parks, recreation facilities, tourist attractions, or other destination
- Favorable topography
- Public transit services
Get it out there.
For the sake of getting bike share off the ground, I really hope the City doesn’t let perfection get in the way of progress. I, myself, would be in favor of a phased launch and the City says, “we are putting half the stations in these spots. Deal with it. However, we would like to hear from the public about where we get the other stations set up at.”
That would get Austin Bike Share rolling, with kiosks being put into the ground, instead of letting all the zealots debate the minutia and delaying having something the public can actually use.
By “zealot”, I assume you mean concerned taxpayer. It’s terrific that private donors chipped in to make this happen, but there are already lots of private businesses that rent bikes in the downtown area. All this will do is create unfair competition for those legitimate, local businesses. And it will likely end of being a sinkhole for local tax dollars.