City’s Safety Net Sets Stage for B-Cycle 2.0

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B-cycles lined up and ready to rent at the San Antonio B-cycle Hub. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

It might not seem like it at first glance, but one of the most desirable job openings in San Antonio’s urban core is executive director of the city’s fast-growing San Antonio B-Cycle bikeshare program.

Cindi Snell, a co-owner of San Antonio’s three Bike World stores, has been serving as the unpaid executive director of the non-profit bikeshare program since its inception in March 2011. Snell has announced her intentions to step down on Sept. 1 and serve on a reconstituted board of directors.

What Snell and her small team have accomplished to date in launching and then building the city’s B-Cycle program is remarkable, but the program needs a new business plan, new sources of funding, and new leadership to take bikeshare to the next level.

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 at the Witte Museum’s B-Cycle station. Photo by Scott Ball.

So who would want to follow in her footsteps? The four-year-old program is underfunded, lacks corporate sponsors, and operates without an effective board of directors. What’s the attraction?

For starters, the next executive director will be a City employee reporting to the Office of Sustainability and its Director Doug Melnick for one year. With surplus funds on the table, City Council recently approved several mid-year funding requests, including a one-time $121,500 payment to B-Cycle from the Hotel Occupancy Tax and Energy Efficiency funds.

(Read more: Council Approves Funding for B-Cycle, Body Cameras, and More)

The new director also will report to a reconstituted San Antonio Bikeshare board of directors, which should add muscle to fundraising efforts, bring in more pro bono management expertise, and open doors to San Antonio’s major employers and donors. The City is seeking board members with professional expertise in the following fields:

  • Certified Public Accountant
  • Public Relations/Marketing
  • Healthcare/Wellness
  • Transportation
  • Non-Profit Fundraising/Philanthropy
  • Bicycle Industry
  • Convention and Tourism

Click here to see the current portfolio of SA Bikeshare sponsors, which includes the Rivard Report.

Second, thanks to the City’s infusion of funds to bridge the transition, the job pays well and includes benefits. Depending on the individual’s level of experience and skill set, the salary will be at least $67,436.72  and could go as high as $114,642.21. Realistically, given the size of the B-Cycle network of stations and staff, the salary likely will fall somewhere in the middle.

Third, once a new board and executive director can demonstrate the ability to raise sponsorship dollars from the private sector, foundations and other sources, and shift a bit more of the costs to the program’s users, the executive director will report exclusively to the non-profit board while continuing to collaborate with City staff to expand the network of bike stations into more neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, City staff has deferred implementing a dedicated $1.2 million Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) grant, which would increase the size of B-Cycle by 40%. That expansion can take place once the reorganization efforts are in place along with additional corporate/private sector sponsors.

San Antonio was the first city in Texas and one of the first in the nation to launch a bikeshare program in 2011, and with the anticipated TXDOT funding, it will grow from its current size of 55 stations and 450 bikes to 76 stations and 650 bikes.

“The City is committed to this program, an integral component of our City’s transportation network. The health, air quality and economic benefits are essential to San Antonio’s future as a sustainable city,” Melnick said. “We’ve had it for four years, and it’s been successful, so this is a good time to grow it to B-Cycle 2.0.”

The new director and board members will have to prove they can raise the funds to support that expansion. While the non-profit San Antonio Bikeshare has struggled to attract the kind of contributions and sponsorships necessary to cover the salaries of the executive director and pay a living wage to lower-tier employees, it has been a huge success for B-Cycle users.

SanAntonio B-cycle-map-October2014-print

Map of San Antonio B-cycle stations. Click image to enlarge and here to download full size PDF.

Unfortunately, only about 42% of B-Cycle’s annual costs are covered by users. Bikeshare memberships and daily usage revenue tend to be higher in other cities than they are in San Antonio, but that makes usage more affordable for a broader range of locals. There are about 2,900 dues-paying annual members, and 70,000 users who have purchased 24-hour or seven-day passes.

The bikes are equally popular with visitors. The understated, silver-grey bikes are easy to ride and to balance, have front and rear lights for night usage, and big baskets to carry personal belongings. All the bikes come with a cable lock. The only equipment missing for the safety-minded rider is a helmet, which some visitors now pack in their luggage when they are traveling to a city with a bikeshare program.

The bikes have been checked out more than 295,000 times to date. Riders have pedaled 880,000 miles, burning 38 million calories, producing 835,000 pounds of carbon offset and a gas cost-savings of $134,881.

On average, 195 B-Cycles are ridden daily for 46 minutes per trip. 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.

Edward Benavides, chief of staff in the City Manager’s office, said the new arrangement should put San Antonio Bikeshare on a more secure footing going forward.

“Working with the board we’ve been re-evaluating the governance structure, and that structure has been changed so that the organization can grow,” Benavides said. “The board has been technically, operationally oriented. We really need a board with a broader range of representation.”

Interested in applying for the job? The City is soliciting applicants locally and nationally, and also is soliciting applications for the new board of directors. Benavides said the City would like to have a new B-Cycle executive director in place before Sept. 1, Snell’s planned date to leave the position, to allow the new hire to work with Snell prior to her departure.

The new board will include five individuals from the current board, one representative of the City Manager’s office, which will be Melnick, and three at-large trustees appointed by City Council.

A presentation of the new governance structure will be made to City Council on June 18, its last general meeting before the July recess. If the City intends to provide annual funding for B-Cycle that certainly would justify four trustees selected by the city manager and City Council. If the current funding proves to be a one-time stopgap measure, then San Antonio Bikeshare would be better served by putting more big company representatives on the board who can assist in corporate fundraising efforts after the transition year.

“It has been so exciting to see how San Antonio has responded to the B-Cycle bike share program,” Snell said. “We see this partnership with the City as a page in the next chapter of B-Cycle’s success in San Antonio.”

 

*Featured/top image: B-Cycles lined up and ready to rent. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

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2 thoughts on “City’s Safety Net Sets Stage for B-Cycle 2.0

  1. $85,000/yr free bike czar. Wheeee! Pales in comparison to wasteful subsidies for cars, but that doesn’t make it any less frivolous.

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