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Austin's Bike Share Program

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

A proposed bike share program for Austin would cost $2 million -- a million and a half of that would come from federal grants and your taxpayer dollars, the rest would be raised privately.  This week, Austin City Council members are expected to vote on a five-year contract with a non-profit, Bike Share of Austin, to run the program.

"I liken it a lot to Redbox where you can check something out and then bring it back to a different station," said Nadia Barrera, a project coordinator with Austins Public Works Department.

Four-hundred bikes at 40 kiosks in and around downtown, with annual or daily memberships to check them out. So why is the program needed?

"Congestion is the number one problem in Austin." Said Barrera. "Imagine South by Southwest, ACL Fest. People would be able to get these bikes and use them."

So would people taking the train or bus who don't want to walk the last mile or so. Barrera says studies show it also boosts local businesses.

"The slower a credit card goes by your business, the more likely someone is to stop and spend," she said.

The cost each year? Around $225,000, and run by nonprofit Bike Share of Austin. The city would own the equipment, membership and sponsorships would pay the bills.

"It could be a little bit intimidating to tourists," said Elise Fornell, of Austin. Another cyclist told us she worries the program would bring more beginning cyclists trying to navigate downtown's sometime chaotic traffic for the first time.

"In general, there's safety in numbers for cyclists," said Barrera. "Studies have shown with these bike share bikes in particular, these cyclists that are trying out these bikes tend to be more cautious."

Barrera says she's convinced the program will work, saying it's been successful in all cities that have run it, pointing out San Antonio, which has recently expanded its nearly two-year-old program. Officials argue Austin has a better infrastructure than most, with more improvements, like new sections of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, along with cycle tracks, on the way.

If the program doesnt work?

"We would have to, I guess, sell the kiosks and the bikes back," said Barrera.

The city hopes to have the program up and running by the spring. They're still working out membership costs. In San Antonio, a yearly membership costs $60, with week and day passes available for less. Officials say Dallas and Fort Worth are also looking into bike share programs.

By Adam Bennett

Austin's Bike Share Program



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