San Antonio Could Lose Bikeshare, Too

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A San Antonio B-Cycle on display at The Pearl. Photo by Scott Ball.

San Antonio B-Cycle, by most measures, should be a national model: first bikeshare program in Texas, one of the first in the nation, and after four years its network of 55 stations and 450 bikes is set to expand to 76 stations and 650 bikes with a $1.2 million Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) grant. Nearly every neighborhood surrounding downtown will have stations by the end of 2015.

Unlike rideshare, where Uber and Lyft have suspended service to protest city regulations, bikeshare has become an integral part of the urban landscape since its launch in 2011. The understated grey bikes have been checked out 275,000 times. Riders have pedaled 818,000 miles, burning 36 million calories on the path to making San Antonio a healthier city. More than 3,000 locals have purchased $80 annual memberships, and thousands more have purchased $24 seven-day passes or $10, 24-hour passes. Tens of thousands of visitors have used the bikes during their stays. Nearly one-third of all B-Cycle trips are taken up and down the Mission Reach and to and from the Missions. Bikeshare has reduced the city’s carbon footprint.

Yet San Antonio B-Cycle could be on the verge of following rideshare and disappearing from the San Antonio landscape, multiple sources have told the Rivard Report, unless it can win the local government, corporate and philanthropic financial support that bikeshare enjoys in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, Houston, and Austin. The same sources said Cindi Snell, the unpaid executive director since B-Cycle’s started here, announced at a Tuesday B-Cycle board meeting that she has decided to step down later this year. Snell has recently told friends and colleagues in the cycling community that she is exhausted after four years of unsuccessful efforts to win any major sponsorships and operating on a bare bones budget and pro bono support services to survive.

(Read More: City Leaders Committed to Saving Bikeshare)

San Antonio B-Cycle Executive Director Cindi Snell poses for a photo at the B-Cycle station located at the Witte Museum. Photo by Scott Ball.

San Antonio B-Cycle Executive Director Cindi Snell poses for a photo at the B-Cycle station located at the Witte Museum. Photo by Scott Ball.

Sources say the B-Cycle board will have to consider shutting down or scaling back operations even as it seeks a new executive director, which it lacks funds to pay. One option would be to turn down the $1.2 million TXDOT grant to avoid the increased operating costs associated with an expanded network, but that would signal an end to rideshare’s growth in San Antonio, disappoint many neighborhoods awaiting stations, and the board would still face an underfunded system that would have to operate after losing Snell, bikeshare’s strongest and most visible advocate in San Antonio.

The bulk of funds that have built the San Antonio B-Cycle system flowed through the City’s budget from federal stimulus programs, and like the pending TXDOT grant, were for bikes and stations. Snell, co-owner of the Bike World cycling stores, has worked full-time for free while B-Cycle’s seven employees are paid modest salaries or hourly wages. The City, County and regional government entities do not contribute any funding to support B-Cycle. The 80/20 Foundation and Baptist Health Foundation have each contributed $50,000 grants this year, but no national company or locally-based company has shown interest in sponsoring bikeshare in the city.

Snell was not available for comment Tuesday night, but previously has said that San Antonio B-Cycle will raise about $450,000 in 2015 from all sources, including riders, and will need $750,000 a year to service the expanded 76-station system.

By contrast, Philadelphia is launching its bikeshare progam with 70 stations and 700 bikes later this month, thanks to an $8.5 million contribution from Independence Blue Cross that will underwrite the system with annual $1.7 million payments over the next five years. The system has been named Indego in honor of the corporate contribution. The City of Philadelphia is contributing $3 million to purchase bikes and stations, and other funding is coming from state and federal agencies.

The San Antonio BCycle vehicle transports bikes down Saint Mary's Street. Photo by Scott Ball.

The San Antonio BCycle vehicle transports bikes down Saint Mary’s Street. Photo by Scott Ball.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is the corporate sponsor for the smaller, 20-station system in Houston. Ten different individuals in Austin contributed $50,000 each last year to Austin B-Cycle, which now claims to operate on membership revenue. Denver’s 700-bike system is underwritten by managed health care giant Kaiser Permanente and a network of more than 35 local government, corporate and philanthropic sponsors. Boston’s city-run Hubway system features 1,300 bikes sponsored by running shoe manufacturer New Balance, among others.

Bikeshare is seen as a key urban amenity that helps attract young professionals to live and work in cities. The closure of San Antonio B-Cycle, or the reduction in stations and bikes, would likely have the same kind of negative impact on the city’s image that occurred when Uber and Lyft pulled out.

The fate of San Antonio B-Cycle also could give the three leading mayoral candidates challenging Mayor Ivy Taylor a new issue to debate. Mike Villarreal issued a press release Tuesday afternoon, coincidentally, pledging his commitment to the B-Cycle program, although the release did not address its funding issues or commit the City’s support in the event he is elected.

“Bikeshare is one of the most exciting downtown innovations to come along in years. B-Cycle’s success in San Antonio is another clear sign that bicycles are coming into their own as a real alternative mode of transportation – and that our urban core is becoming more welcoming to young professionals,” Villarreal said in his Tuesday release.

A San Antonio BCycle next to the San Antonio River.  Photo by Scott Ball.

A San Antonio BCycle next to the San Antonio River. Photo by Scott Ball.

“With 55 stations in operation, B-Cycle is firmly anchored downtown. But if it works in the inner city, let’s make it work in the rest of our city. As Mayor, I’ll encourage bike share on college campuses across San Antonio and in dense job centers such as the Medical Center.

“The B-Cycle program also has a place in my vision for a vibrant, 24-7 downtown. We want the center city to hum with the energy of tech entrepreneurs and thousands of office workers during the day, and the excitement of residents, visitors and San Antonians from around our city at night. Those big, gray bicycles will continue to pass through all of our downtown street scenes.”

Villarreal said it was his goal to make San Antonio a Top 10 Cycling City. That is unlikely to happen unless San Antonio decides it is willing to pay the price to become a city with safe cycling streets and a robust bikeshare program.

 

*Featured/top image: A San Antonio B-Cycle on display at The Pearl.  Photo by Scott Ball.  

Related Stories:

Summer Updates From SA B-cycle

Field Research, Riding Around on the San Antonio B-cycle

City Council Removes South Flores Bike Lanes

B-cycle Heading Down the Mission Reach

One By One, Friends Dig Deep to Help Earn-A-Bike

95 thoughts on “San Antonio Could Lose Bikeshare, Too

  1. The loss of B-Cycle in San Antonio would be major–even more so than ridesharing, in my opinion. Between our rich medical community, burgeoning tech community, and USAA, there’s really no excuse for a corporation not to step up financially and make sure bike sharing sticks around. Far more than just tourists use B-Cycle, and bike sharing signals a trend of residents wanting to find viable alternatives to expensive car ownership. Yes, even here. You may not personally use B-Cycle but it’s a more important part of our city’s fabric than we realize.

  2. We’ve already lost Uber, Google Fiber, bike lanes. Heck, before you know it, well be back in 1970. No surprise at all.

  3. Bob, sounds like a neat program. Can you help me understand why young professionals don’t want to buy their own bikes? The same with neighborhood residents — what is the thinking?

    • Morgan, I must disclaim that I do not live in Texas currently. I lived in San Antonio in 2010. I currently live in Colorado where Bcycles are a boom! I also own 6 bikes and I also ride the Bcycles. when I want to go to lunch or for a stroll when it’s nice, I can just jump on a bcycle. There are many other reasons to use a bcycle. People don’t bring their bikes wherever they go, so Bcycles are very convenient.

    • B Cycle is great for many reasons, even for those that own bicycles. I will use it to ride to the bus stop to grab a bus to the Spurs game. Starting a night out when I know I won’t be able to drive and will be taking a taxi home. Quick rides to the Pearl when I don’t want to carry my bike downstairs from my apartment, etc…

  4. Well, if there were a way to make it cheaper, I’m sure more people would love to use it. Or donate the bikes.

  5. Mr. Matson, the reasoning behind bike share is the exact same logic that drives the desire for ride share or street car. People want options and convenience. It is a new way of approaching life that still seems to be lost on so many.

    • I think the ‘reason’ tends to be mismanagement, unfortunately. We spend tons in San Antonio but are surprised when our plans to exclude lower-to-middle income residents and visitors (including students, seniors and various workers) from publicly financed services and places fall over or come to be.

      Miami has lots of ‘nice’ things that have stood the test of time, promote social mixing, support those with the least and encourage healthy (non car-dependent) living for all. Fare free downtown metromover monorail built in the 70s with Federal dollars that everyone uses (connecting stadiums, employment centers, conference centers, neighborhoods etc) integrated with an elevated metro rail (running 10 miles south to suburbs/town centres and universities along a congested highway, with bike paths to downtown underneath) and regional rail running 70+ miles north (connecting multiple airports up to West Palm Beach) and comparatively great neighborhood-to-downtwon sidewalks to boot.

      They have a private bike share, too. And homeless people – but I never noticed cops harassing them like I do in San Antonio or traffic whizzing by at crazy speeds in downtown or residential areas. Basically, everybody was on the street walking, biking, playing in parks, working at construction sites (builders looked organized, safe and welcome for once), eating in outdoor and open air cafes, etc. It was hot as hell and I spoke way more Spanish than I do in San Antonio, and I got everywhere without a car – from the airport to the beach to the university to the conference to the lower-end neighborhood hotel where I stayed – for under $30 for the week. The problem appears to be San Antonio’s suburban managers (who take off when the funding is gone or the deadline is approaching), not San Antonio residents and visitors.

  6. Its a big shame. We use it many times and is more convenient then strapping on bikes on our small car around san antonio.

  7. Heard about this awhile back. This would be such a terrible thing to loose here in our city. Share this story and maybe, just maybe it will get onto someone’s feed that could help them out.

  8. I’d sure like to get a look at their accounting books because the numbers aren’t adding up. The article says the total revenue for all sources, including riders, in 2015 is expected to be $450,000. Now let’s do some math. It also says there are 3,000 annual memberships at $80 apiece–that alone is $240,000. Whenever I ride through town, I see people riding B-cycles everywhere. There must easily be hundreds of daily rentals going to tourists and conventioneers, but lets just say they only sell 100 day passes on an average day. That adds up to $365,000 per year and that is being conservative. So far we are up to $605,000 per year, just from riders. Now add in all the advertising revenue,city funds, and the pair of $50,000 grants that you mentioned and there should be pretty close to the $750,000 needed to maintain an expanded system.

    • Looking at their most recent 990 (2013), their total revenue was $1.16M, but only $216k of that came from paying customers. Most of the rest of their revenue ($863k) came from gov’t grants which may not be in effect for 2015 and is definitely not a sustainable revenue source.

      Also, for that year, they showed $670k in expenses, none of which were coming from paying a permanent staff. Even if everything breaks right (expenses don’t increase and they pull in $750k), they still don’t have much leftover in case of emergencies (like a grant for next year doesn’t get awarded) or if they want to hire their first staff member.

      • @Josh. 2013 was their first year, so no surprise that the revenue was low and expenses were high as they were building the system with fewer paying customers. At present, the annual memberships alone bring in more revenue than all of what they made in 2013. Also, they currently employ a staff of 7 people so they are well beyond their first hire.

    • Nor has any public transportation system in America, including our interstate system, with the exception of northeastern transit, perhaps. Profitability is not and should not be the mark of a successful program; cities have to decide whether the service is worth the subsidy. This program seems like an obvious yes for the minuscule cost.

  9. If riders paid the actual cost of the program what is that cost calculated to be per “rent”?

  10. I think part of the frustration using it are the 30 minute time limits. As a tourist, having to check in every 30 mins is super tedious and a deterrent.

    • 100% agree with the time limit. It should be an hour. Almost every time I have explained how it works I get the ’30 minutes!!!’. Yes, we all know that is quite a bit of time on a bike but in someone’s head being asked to pay $10 for a day pass in the first place it’s not much.

      • Laura, I believe members have 1 hour instead of the 30 minutes. Also, there are more stations coming online all the time, so plugging into a rack and immediately checking it out again are ok for the majority of users.

    • BCycle San Antonio currently misses many international visitors by not having a strong presence at the airport (promotion at least, but the airport is only 8 miles from downtown and could be more bike-able with the right infrastructure, including picturing connections with The Quarry and The Yard and the HEB on Olmos ) or at Greyhound or Megabus or Omnibus, etc. There are BCycle stations close to regional bus line stations, but they are not visible to visitors. There’s also obvious opportunities for bus company, airline, Quarry, Yard and HEB sponsorship or advertising via the BCycle network.

      AirBnB (another possible advertising partner)’s map of San Antonio also makes it clear where stations could be added – mainly north and northwest of the downtown area currently. Visitors want to experience San Antonio ‘like locals’ but currently too many locals don’t have easy access to BCycle despite living in the historic core of the city and close to City’s ‘downtown’.

  11. I think more people would rent the bikes they didn’t have to check in every hour. It’s no fun having that linger over your head when you are trying to explore a city. I think 2 or 3 hour intervals are more realistic.

  12. It has great potential to help San Antonio’s get back to enjoying the outdoors & encouraging healthy activities.

  13. If any mayorial candidate wants my instant vote, pledge to make protected bike lanes. We don’t need a light rail system or a trolley system…. For a fraction of the cost, you can put in protected bike lanes all the way up Broadway, Caesar Chavez, Blanco and San Pedro. People would then feel safe on their bikes and you’d get more people renting them. Look at Ciclovia and how many people come out when you just close off some streets for a few hours….We just want part of a street year round that a car cannot park in. If a car can park in it, it’s not a bike lane.

  14. Where does the average citizen donate money to keep this vital program? It would be wonderful to raise the funds by Earth Day. What a celebration for SA that would be!

  15. Indianapolis is a great example – the Indiana Pacers are the major sponsor, so much so that the bike share is called Pacers Bike Share and has the team’s colors on the bikes.

    Spurs Bike Share any one? Or maybe Silver and Black (S&B) Bike Share?

  16. This was easily one of my favorite things about living in the urban core of San Antonio. I used bcycle to get to the grocery store, dinner, the park, work, and the gym. I rode alone to commute, with friends to go out, and to get to many of San Antonio’s great cultural institutions. Living in Bozeman, I miss many things about San Antonio, bike share being one of the top things. I sincerely hope that the corporate community comes together to support this. If companies in San Antonio want to attract top talent, a robust lifestyle including transit options like bike share is paramount.

  17. We need a network of protected bike lanes! Lets link BlueStar to the Pearl and Alamo Heights. Run it right down Broadway all the way to AH High School.

    • There is basically a protected bike lane from the Southern most Mission through Blue Star and the Pearl to the Witte (Riverwalk plus Ave B – although Ave B has been ruined by the construction going on there). Granted riding along the Riverwalk from the downtown damn to the SAM damn is not ideal. The rest of the way is pretty easy going.

  18. Horrible news in so many ways! Why are USAA, HEB, Tenet Healthcare Corporation ( the huge company that owns Baptist Health Systems) just to name a few, not stepping up to the plate? This would be a great way for them to give back to their communities and support healthier lifestyle choices in San Antonio. If the companies we welcome if San Antonio can not afford to sponsor a program such as bike share that would be one thing, but I find that highly unlikely.

  19. H-E-B should sponsor the B-Cycle since 1) They have closed off main street, 2) They will have the only mainline food store downtown, 3) Downtown residents will use B-Cycle often to shop at the new store when it opens, and 4) Ads on the bikes would direct tourists using B-Cycle to the store. I think they will benefit from B-Cycle more than any other business in the city. Tourists love the idea of the B-Cycle when I tell them about it, so it would be a shame for it to go away. Thanks to Ms. Snell for giving four years to the project.

  20. sad to hear.! Bikeshare requires private and public funds to succeed. BTW Houston Bikeshare has 29, not 20 stations. And paid staff. Can we contribute?

  21. Cindy,
    Don’t give up! The storm is always darkest in the light of day! If San Antonio losses its bike sharing program we-the rest of the U.S.- will have lost a great example. Contact others for ideas. Try Bike Houston.org Charities such as American Heart Assoc., or American Diabetes might be willing to help w/ programs or events.
    While the share program is not yet a wild success here in Houston, it is great to see their popularity during such events as Sunday Streets HTX and their usage in the Museum district.
    Perhaps some video advertisement targeting local business could help. Have local news stations to help?
    Remind others…
    http://video.pbs.org/video/1362888236/

  22. City doesn’t want any progressive transportation!… we are stuck with Via… yellow cabs…. Pata mobile

  23. Yes lets all keep blaming the current mayor who has been on the job a year. None of this is castro’s fault. This is how local politics work, they create thease programs that cant possibly fund themselves ever then leave when its time to pay the piper and everyone blames the new guy.

  24. So you’re saying the business plan was contingent on factors that weren’t ensured before execution?

    • Chris

      In retrospect, being first in Texas and one of the first nationally has meant other cities have learned from San Antonio and not launched until they had the necessary local government and corporate funding to ensure success. In San Antonio’s defense, federal stimulus dollars were available on a onetime basis when B-Cycle launched here. In hindsight, more should have been done to build a more sustainable model. The volunteers who launched the program here had no idea that demand for stations and bikes would grow so rapidly throughout the urban core. They made the assumption that if the system proved popular, sponsors would gladly sign on and local government entities would help fund. That has not happened…yet. –RR

  25. Don’t get it. No local sponsors? Is B-Cycle asking for the wrong thing? Not enough or too much? Strings attached? With 3000 locals subscribing, and thousands of visitors using the service, there is something someone is not telling us.

    • Idea: If we knew the potential sponsor contact history, I just bet we (the public) could make something happen. Can you get documented info on: WHO was contacted (company and contact person), WHO did the contacting, HOW they were contacted (in person?), WHEN they were contacted, WHAT did Ms. Snell ask for, WHY they said no? For example, blast email is not going to do it. Did she meet face-to-face with a decision maker?

  26. It’s unfortunate that San Antonio cannot get over the hump of becoming a great city. We have the potential to be right in the top 10 thriving cities but we need to lose the small town thinking and vote for top notch leadership that will push us forward and actually bring big companies that bring great paying jobs and will actually give back to the city. But before we can do that we need to start with the little things like bike share and tackle the bigger issues like education, infrastructure, and move into the times…what’s so scary of actual glass towers downtown? Corporations don’t want yesterday buildings they want high end architect let them have them and they will come and put in millions of dollars into our city which benefits all of us. We can still have our historic downtown and unique culture we will always have that but why not have the modern integrated with our history…I love this city always will but it’s time to move forward not backwards.

  27. Why can’t paying the Executive Director be in any of the grants/funding? That would seem like an important element of this to take care of quickly. Good people need to be paid for what they do; can’t be expected to pro bono it forever.

  28. San Antonio’s corporate citizens seem to have done a good job supporting the construction of numerous world class art venues. It wouldn’t make any sense that a city with a strong economy, a headquarters city to a respectable amount of both F500 & F 1000 companies, could not find financial support for such an important amenity as a bike share program. Besides the strong local economy, downtown San Antonio is a top tier convention & visitor destination and a central core that is also seeing a lot of residential development that would only help further support, B Cycle.

  29. The B-Cycle leadership has had 4 years to find a way to keep it alive. If they are failing, then the program needs new leadership. Plain and simple.

  30. OMG! The whining here is unbearable!
    If the demand is not there to support the business model it should be shut down.
    If you want it, YOU write the flippin’ check!
    Quit bitching about what other people don’t want to spend their money on.
    All of you whiners are free to start your own company, work hard, be successful and give your money to others for their convenience.

  31. I agree that dedicated bike lanes would encourage more bike ridership, but who of you that owns real estate along such a proposed route is willing to donate your property to enable such road widenings? Widened roads equals the need for the city to take the land/buildings of private property owners by means of eminent domain, are you behind that?
    Bottom line in my mind, if Bcycle is to become viable, it needs to be self sufficient. Either businesses and the INDIVIDUALS pining about its’ potential demise pony up $$ to keep it going, or ridership increases, or both.

    BTW, Mr. Rivard, your article certainly seems to be an endorsement of a particular mayoral candidate that has a rather questionable voting record in the state senate, such as voting to allow multiple election ballots to be turned in by a single individual (HB148)

    • Nearly all bike lanes have been installed without widening the road. Much can be done through working creatively with the existing right of way. For example, Austin has made busy roads work with 10′ wide vehicle lanes, even on bus routes. San Antonio believes we can’t get by without 12′ lanes, or wider on bus routes. Narrow lanes encourage drivers to not exceed the speed limit, making things safer for everyone, and opens up space in the road for people biking and walking too.

      Cities with more density and narrower streets all over the world have made it safe to get around by bike. We can certainly do it here in SA with the space we have to work with.

  32. NOO!!! This is so sad! My parents recently were in San Antonio for a visit, and so we got 3, 24-hour passes for a day to check out the Missions. It was a great, fun way to see more of San Antonio, and to get some exercise in among all the good eating around town. $10/person was a great deal, and even if we did miss “checking in” a bike before the 30 minute limit, it’s only $2 to use it for an additional 30 minutes. All in all, it was still way cheaper than renting a bike for a day from any bicycle rental shop.

  33. I can’t believe the H-E-B and Rackspace haven’t jumped on sponsorship opportunities.

    H-E-Bcyle

    RACKspace.

    Seriously?

  34. I wanted to rent one once but it said it would cost 10$ for a day. As a resident, I don’t need the bike all day to explore. There should be a resident discount. And longer limits between checking it back in.

  35. Corporate Sponsors for a terrible service? Maybe, if the service itself was any good corporate sponsors wouldn’t be needed. Who wants to “rent” a bike for 24 hours, just to have to “check -in” every 30 minutes, or be charged again? Tethered bikes won’t work anywhere, no matter who funds them.

    • Haha, right… except for where it does work in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, Columbus, Indianapolis, Austin, Denver, Boulder, etc., etc.

      The concept has been proven over and over again, but it is a public transportation system. As such, it requires funding, just like light rail, BRT, transit, and those public roads we all drive on.

  36. My first knee-jerk thought was B-Cycle could be the perfect marketing venue for Coca-Cola! Seriously, someone should try to get a 10-year commitment from Coke… or Pepsi… or Anheuser-Busch… But there may be a bigger issue here than funding. Unlike many of the cities with successful bikeshare programs, SA is not a bike-friendly city – it just doesn’t have the infrastructure (or the driver awareness) to support safe cycling in most parts of the city. Yes, B-Cycle has introduced lots of locals to bike commuting (primarily in the hip downtown areas), but the cart is a bit before the horse. I’ve commuted by bike in both Boulder and Austin, but I’ve never felt safe on a bike in San Antonio. If public funds are part of the equation, I’d prefer to see public dollars (whether local, state or federal) support linking up the growing trail system and a truly safe system of bike lanes on major arteries so that cycling can become a safe transportation alternative in SA. B-Cycle would be a nice complement to that type of system, but I’m not sure about the viability of bikeshare in SA before a much-needed (and long overdue) cycling infrastructure is in place across the community.

    • Joel, I get where you’re coming from but I have to disagree that we need the infrastructure first before bike sharing is viable. First, I don’t think we’re as unfriendly to bikes as you suggest. In general, US cities have a looong way to go in being truly amenable to people on bicycles (notice I didn’t say “bicyclist,” as this indicates a different type of person); that said, I have been using B Cycle throughout downtown, the Museum North area, and Southtown without much issue–without a helmet, even. I have found that riding in the middle of the lane as a vehicle would is far safer than trying to stay to the edge of the road in hopes that you’re not sideswiped by a passing car. Statistics supports this biking method as well. More to your point about investing in bike infrastructure first, I wish that were the way things worked but sadly we are part of a weird loop where people want to see demand before they build the infrastructure, despite knowing that it takes better infrastructure to get the most risk-averse to actually get on a bicycle. So, both must happen together. We need to invest in B Cycle and watch that system grow, and at the same time continue the work of adding protected bike lanes and other accommodations for those who actually want to get out from behind their wheels. This investment shouldn’t be that difficult, as devoting even 5% of our transportation dollars to bike infrastructure would make a big difference toward creating an incredibly well-connected network within 410. I think we’re currently somewhere around 1-2% right now. In my mind, infrastructure for the Lycra set out on 1604 is also important, but secondary to this discussion.

  37. When I saw all the B-cycle stations going up in San Antonio, it didn’t make sense to me. So many of the stations are clustered in close proximity to one another downtown. It made me wonder, who is paying for this? A quick Google search at the time, made me realize that the program was being paid for by TARP. As a taxpayer, this made me mad. Shouldn’t TARP money have gone to projects that would have produced more jobs? A quick look at the B-cycle website today, and their press kit specifically touts that the stations are made in the USA, but I don’t see any verbiage about where the bikes are made. So these TARP funds, meant to stimulate the US economy, were used to buy bikes that don’t even appear to be made in the USA!

    I have spent a lot of time in London, and the bikeshare program there is utilized primarily by commuters to get from train stations to their office buildings. San Antonio’s downtown is primarily hotels, not office buildings. Walk out the front door of the Hyatt Regency, and there is a B-cycle station directly across the street, one on the corner to the right, and one around the corner to the left on Houston Street. I wonder what the churn rate is on stations like these? Yet, look at the bus stop at St. Mary’s and Travis where the #6 Express bus comes into town – no B-cycle station in site. Why isn’t B-cycle partnering with Via to place the stations close to popular bus stops?

    Everyone wants to talk about cool things in downtown, but look at the reality of bikeshare – per this article, 1/3 of the rides are from stations along the Mission Reach. I bet if you moved some of these B-cycle stations out of downtown and to parks along the linear trails, they would generate a lot more revenue than outside hotels downtown – think O.P. Schnabel Park, Phil Hardberger Park, Lady Bird Johnson Park. Next, put the stations at popular Via stops (i.e., along Fredericksburg Rd.) and in nearby neighborhoods, and I think the churn rate/use of these bikes would grow considerably. Stop idealizing our downtown San Antonio and put the bikes where they will be used!

  38. Annual membership rates have grown from roughly $30 to $60 to $80 in just a few years – or over 30% annually and to now nearly the cost of a new low-end bike each year.

    It might be a fair ‘fare’ for a publicly supported transit system, but we should note how VIA appears to be moving towards fare-free services downtown. Regardless, $80 is a significant commitment for lower income earners to make up front, particularly when signing up multiple family members. There’s currently no family or couples membership packages, local (or apparent student, senior or military) discount or chance to pay in monthly installments, which is how some other bike share systems operate.

    More critically, the current San Antonio service map looks like economic segregation on wheels. The publicly supported system has avoided lower income neighborhoods and services (including HEBs ) just a few miles from downtown and in easy cycling distance of the existing network – including places that tourists visit such as Avenida Guadalupe, San Pedro Park or the AT&T Center. See the map here http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Income-is-S-A-s-great-divider-3755547.php compared with the map here: https://sanantonio.bcycle.com/default.aspx

    In Miami, bike share serves Miami Beach (their Riverwalk) but it also serves neighborhoods, shops and noticeably grocery stores – including in Little Havana 7+ miles west but connected to the beach with stations en route.

    I hope the San Antonio system survives, but it appears that the private side of this public-private partnership has been mismanaged towards public exclusion. If more dollars are spent – public or private – the need to serve lower income areas and riders with the network needs to be addressed.

  39. I’d like to see a follow up article on some of the issues raised in the comments such as:
    1) The time is limited to 1 hour for members and 30 minute for day pass people because the system is supposed to be a commuter option; not a half-day or day-long tourist rental. Some seem to use it that way and that’s ok, but if everybody did there would be no bikes left in circulation.
    2) The system does go through lower income neighborhoods, especially along the southside/Mission Reach. There was also a lot of effort initially made to include people with lower incomes, but one of the problems is that you need a credit card to use the system and not everybody has one. There was an effort to offer free or deeply discounted memberships to SAHA residents who live near the stations and I’d like to see what became of that and other initiatives.
    3) The cost did not go from $30 to $60 to $80 per se. There were special offers at the very beginning to get people to join. The price charged in SA is probably comparable to other cities.
    4) The costs may seem high but there are a tremendous number of costs related to establishing the stations and operating the system: architectural drawings; pad and site work; solar and/or electrical connectivity; wifi and electronic circuitry; tech and troubleshooting support; training; credit card fees; rebalancing the system throughout the day so the stations have enough bikes; staff and vehicles to rebalance the system and maintain the bikes, etc.
    5) Clustering the bike stations together and in high(ish) density areas is key to the success of this commuter option. Having isolated stations scattered throughout the city would be very, very difficult and would cost more.
    6) ALL MODES OF TRANSIT ARE SUBSIDIZED. Your highways are NOT PAID FOR JUST WITH GAS TAX!!! I wish people would research and educate themselves on this topic. I sigh when I hear people say this should be a self supporting business model. I, for one, am so very tired of the car as king. I need options!
    7) Full disclosure-I worked on the project during its roll out (pun not intended) but speak now as a private citizen.
    8) Thanks Cindi Snell and to all the Bike Share staff for their hard work and efforts!!

    • It’s coming. There is a lot of misinformation contained in the comments, indicating not everyone read the story, while others are making assumptions about the program contrary to the facts. –RR

      • Martha: You reference B-cycle as a commuter option in your points, but downtown San Antonio is not really a commuter destination. Downtown Austin and Philadelphia, both referenced in the article, are commuter destinations. And, B-cycle is not even located outside the large office buildings downtown should someone want to commute from a bus stop to an office building. For example, no B-cycle stations outside The Weston Center, Bank of America Tower, Argo/Visionworks building, or CPS Energy/Tower Life. Given that our downtown is largely a tourist destination, why not better position these B-cycle stations where they will get more use by San Antonians? How about placing stations at the North Star Transit Center and at destinations along the San Pedro corridor including North Star Mall, or nearby office buildings like SWBC, Oracle & B of A? How about in the Med Ctr, where there is a large student population and workforce population that utilize Via already and could commute from bus stops to apartments and work destinations? I just find it disappointing that B-cycle is configured in San Antonio as if we are Chicago, London, or NYC, and not the city that we actually are.

  40. I live near downtown and really enjoy using B-cycle to get to downtown events and restaurants. B-cycle saves me a lot of money I would otherwise have to pay for parking downtown. I have had an annual membership since it started. The bikes are easy to ride and well-maintained. I would be unhappy if the program ended.

    Related to the program obtaining additional grants from foundations, corporations and individuals — does anyone know who is currently on the B-cycle organization Board of Directors? I don’t see a list of the Board on the B-cycle website. I looked at the latest 990 on Guidestar and it only lists 3 Board members – Cynthia Snell, Tom McKenzie and William Simons. I am not trying to criticize those three people. I’m sure they have volunteered many many hours on this project. I am just saying that to get foundation and corporate grants it helps to have corporate and community representatives on the Board. I have done grant writing for many years for non-profits and funders almost always ask for a list of the Board members and their affiliations.

    • Hi Debbie – that’s a great point. Others have asked about lists of sponsors and it looks like there’s been a wide range of local and other support (including public transport dollars), but not sure how well this has been leveraged or managed or promoted:

      https://sanantonio.bcycle.com/About/SponsorsandPartners.aspx
      https://sanantonio.bcycle.com/About/MemberPartnershipDeals.aspx

      At this time, I’ve cancelled my subscription as the annual rate has gone up substantially and is contrary to the price advertised at most stations ($60). My membership cards never functioned (despite being re-issued cards), adding wear to my credit card. Membership also now defaults to auto-renewal, and in my case the program billed my credit card despite an email indicating a 5-day grace period to cancel. There’s three separate email domains for the program currently suggesting the program is either a .com or an .org and most problems require a phone call to sort out regardless.

      Along with billing problems, I’ve noticed throughout the year the unadvertised closing of stations at UTSA downtown, Main Plaza and Central Library – possibly experiments with future station closings but very inconvenient to those relying on the system for commuting. Closed stations have offered no hints to the next nearest station (including one tucked into the Havana Hotel parking lot for instance), and it is starting to feel too much like an ‘insiders’ transit system to me. It is hard to justify the public transport funding and other public support if that is the program’s aim.

      I’ve used the system mainly to connect downtown dots, including routes once covered more frequently by VIA trolley (more fun to ride by bike). I’ve also used it to show visitors the River Walk and Missions but beyond that, it doesn’t serve most inside-the-loop residents very well at all – particularly those living or working just north, northwest, west, southwest and east of downtown and within the 410 loop.

      I’d hate to see bike share in San Antonio go, but the management must improve, membership prices lowered and stations spread within the 410 loop before I would return as an annual member. A critical mass of local annual members – including infrequent riders – is needed and the price needs to return to at least the advertised $60 (with additional discounts for seniors, students & military) to get there.

      There’s also apparently great and mainly downtown discounts for members, too (wish there was as station near the Cove), but dang – I’ve never seen thes or Bcycle promoted at any of the counters listed.
      https://sanantonio.bcycle.com/About/MemberPartnershipDeals.aspx

      BCycle San Antonio pays all employees the City and County’s established minimum living wage of over $11 an hour, too, right? If it is a non-profit attracting Federal and other public funds and supporting lower income residents (a large percentage of residents within the 410), could they host Federally-supported AmeriCorps members to help with operations (and lower operating costs)? I wish them the best of luck and look forward to watching for improvements in 2015!

  41. Austin makes an interesting comparison in terms of fee structure – including a monthly option (roughly the same cost as a week):
    https://austin.bcycle.com/

    Fort Worth offers clear student, senior, military discounts for annual membership ($65) and a semester option:
    https://fortworth.bcycle.com/pricing.aspx

    Houston appears to have BlueCross BlueShield of Texas sponsorship (USAA?) and a very fair fee structure – $5 a day-$15 a week-$65-a year.
    https://houston.bcycle.com/pricing.aspx

    Savannah offers a 50% discount for students off of a $30 annual fee.
    https://catbike.bcycle.com/join-now

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