The weeklong event known as SXSW — pronounced South by Southwest — is a merging of new and interactive technology, independent films, and of course music. The event, which grew out of the defunct New Music Seminar in New York City, began in 1987 in Austin, Texas as a way to showcase local music. Over the years it has grown in size to include film and interactive media — for 2012 it will also include bicycles, not as an industry show, but rather as a means for transportation for attendees.
Urban transport company Tern Bicycles will be providing folding bikes for the SXcycles bike share program, which will be available from Friday, 9 March through Tuesday, 13 March during the SXSW Interactive and SXSW Film days.
The SXcycles will be available through this program from 9:00am until 2:00am as a means for attendees to get out and see Austin. “SXSW Interactive is an amazing event but it can get pretty hairy looking for a cab or parking when hundreds of people all need transport to a different venue at the same time,” said Steve Boyd, head of Tern in North America. “Our goal with SXcycles is to let people see how convenient, fun, and fast it is to get around by bike. Austin is an amazing cycling town and our hope is that if attendees enjoy their bike trips in Austin, they’ll think about incorporating more bike trips when they get home.”
Tern Bicycles see this as a step — or pedal stroke — in the right direction for bike sharing, and think Austin is the right place and the right show. "We're excited to break new ground with SXcycles and Austin's bike friendly streets will show attendees how easy and fun it will be to navigate the conference on two wheels,” Craig Randall, Tern Bicycles, North American press manager, told BikeRadar. “SXcycles’ participants can ride Tern bikes to day-time events and late-night happenings, alike. Bikes will be available until 2 in the morning so we're excited to provide a fun and safe way for attendees to take in concerts, drinks, and general night time revelry.”
The 20in wheeled Link D8 model provides riders with 8-speeds and is described as Tern's jack-of-all-trades model
Austin Bike Tours and Rentals will serve as the onsite vendor for attendees to pick up bicycles, and Velolet will provide online bike rental hub. In the same way one might rent a car, attendees can go online and reserve a bike and expect it to be ready pick up at the event. “We’re providing the online registration,” said Dan Cleary, of Velolet. “We’re the Orbitz of bike rental.”
Cleary says that in addition to helping make it easy for attendees to have a way to get around, SXSW is also providing some exposure for the bicycles as well. “We’ve come up with a feature that allow bike brands to participate and get some expose to consumers.”
Keith Byrd of Austin Bike Tours and Rentals tells BikeRadar, “I am expecting is that event will bring a lot of attention. It is a gigantic thing and it puts us on a very large stage.”
Of course SXSW has a proven history for being on the cutting edge, first with music, then with movies, and more recently as a showcase for interactive companies, so it goes without saying that it could be big for bikes too — this year and possibly in years to come.
Byrd also says any concerns about safety are probably over played. “Obviously don’t drink and ride,” he said. “But I think that Austin is very friendly for riders, even at night. It really is the best way to see SXSW, and there is no faster or easier way to get to the events.”