B-Cycle headed to Houston, TX

Fourth largest US city invests in bike sharing

It is often said that in Texas they do things big, and when it comes to bike sharing the state’s biggest city—which now ranks as fourth largest in the country—will take it on in a big way. Last month the Houston City Council approved new green initiatives that include a bike sharing program run by B-Cycle.

This US$105,000 bike-sharing project includes three solar-powered bike kiosks in the city’s downtown, and depending on ridership would expand further out from the city center. Bike Share Houston, as the program is now known, is a joint project of the city, Bike Barn, and the nonprofit Bike Houston organization.

Even those involved with the project say that the city, in part because of its size, is far from the friendliest places to ride. Here it is a case where size matters, and locals admit the sprawl—which is also done Texas style—means a long road ahead. “Houston definitely has a long way to go before it is truly a bike-friendly city,” Darren Sabom, chairman of Bike Houston told BikeRadar. “It is a massive, sprawling city in which new freeway construction can never seem to keep pace with the growing number of cars on the road.”

The fourth largest city in the US is working toward a bike-friendly designation, photo credit: Fred Zapalac of Blue Line Bike Lab

Sabom says that the city’s bike friendliness isn’t solely the result of its infrastructure, and adds that he believes Houston has a number of other attributes that are very conducive to cycling. The weather for one makes cycling possible year round he adds. “We have great weather for riding nine months of the year and the city is completely flat. The result is a relatively bike-able city for those of us that take the time to find the low-traffic side roads for getting around,” said Sabom. “Of course, I’d love to see more bike trails built and to have bike commuting become more culturally accepted in Houston, but things aren’t quite as bad for cyclists as people might think.”

The one issue of weather of course remains the heat. And many in northern states often say that the south means hot, hot summers. Sabom says he understands this point of view, but reminds those up north that they aren’t likely out riding for many winter months. “Houston’s summer heat will definitely impact bike share ridership,” admited Sabom, “but probably not as significantly as the winter weather does in cold climates. Especially in the evenings, I would expect that bikes will be checked out throughout the summer.”

Beyond some hot summers, with bike sharing as just one initiative under way, Sabom says it is time to think what can happen next. “The most exciting development for cyclists in Houston has been the expansion of our bike trail system.”

While not as extensive as many other cities, he admits, a number of great trails and pedestrian bridges have opened in recent years. “Going forward, there are two initiatives in the works that I hope will serve to speed up the development of our bike-ped infrastructure.”

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