Bill Bowen email@example.com
The first days of downtown Fort Worth’s bike sharing program are off to a freewheeling start. Sunny skies and cool weather and Mayor Betsy Price’s cheerleading helped bring cycling enthusiasts, downtown dwellers and merely curious out for a spin on the red Trek touring bikes on Earth Day, April 22. Three hundred volunteers pedaled the bikes from the delivery points downtown to the 27 stations set up in and around the downtown area. They traveled with a bicycle police escort and a festive attitude. “It’s gone great,” said Nick Olivier, who heads the publicity and media service for Fort Worth Bike Sharing. By the afternoon of Wednesday, April 24, the system had logged 644 trips among the 300 Trek touring bikes parked in groups of 10 at 27 stations. The stations are concentrated downtown, but Texas Christian University is hosting the southernmost on West Cantey Street, another at the University of North Texas Health Science Center is the farthest west, those at The T offices on East Lancaster on the east side of downtown mark the eastern boundary and another at Belknap and Taylor streets is the farthest north. Others are near the convention center, the Omni Hotel, on Magnolia Avenue in the near Southside and at the Intermodal facility where bus and train commuters can use bikes from two stations to make the last mile to downtown offices. The program was funded with a $1 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. That bought the 200 bicycles from B-cycle, a bike sharing company partly owned by Trek, the bicycle manufacturer, the parking stations and the software to track usage and travel patterns. Other stations will be set up this summer based on need and sponsorships. The city of Fort Worth waived $12,000 in permit fees to nudge the project along. User fees and $20,000 sponsorships by local businesses to host a bike stations will help pay for operations of the nonprofit set up to operate the system, Fort Worth Bike Sharing. Olivier said that Cypress Equities has bought a sponsorship and an additional station will be set up along West Seventh Street about June 1. Perhaps an offshoot of similar programs in Europe and Asia, Fort Worth’s project is one at a growing number of American cities who are seeking to reduce road congestion, promote livable urban areas and to help reduce smog and other pollutants. New York City, Washington, D.C., Denver, Boulder, Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami, Madison, Wis., and Portland, Ore., have programs, as does Paris, Montreal, Lyon and other cities. In the first year the Paris program reduced city traffic by 5 percent. Fort Worth promoters don’t promise those kinds of results, but hope that the program will help commuters to use the bus and train services to get near a downtown destination and the bikes to help finish it. The bikes in the Fort Worth program have GPS devices installed that will help show biking patterns around the city and control theft. They also have large baskets that will allow city residents to conduct shopping trips on two wheels. The system isn’t really set up for pleasure riding, but for commuting from point to point. “It’s for visitors, tourists, commuters on The T,” Price said about the program. “If you’re working at City Hall and want to run down to one of the restaurants at the other end of town at lunchtime, just stick your credit card in there and go and come back. “On a beautiful day like this, what could be more fun than that?” Using the bikes requires a membership and user fee. But the system is meant for short jaunts from station to station, so user fees would normally be rare. Memberships range from $8 for a day to $80 for an annual membership, which gives riders unlimited 30-minute trips during the 12-month period without additional costs. User fees are free for the first 30 minutes and then $3 for the next 30 minutes. Most trips from station to station can be made in less than 30 minutes. So a resident of Fairmount can get a bike at the station there, ride downtown in fewer than 25 minutes, park the bike, eat, shop or browse and grab another bike for the ride home without paying a user fee. Part-time workers will help move the bikes when necessary should one station get empty and other clogged. “We expect that to happen from time to time,” Olivier said. So far, Fort Worth South Inc., West Seventh Street, Tocco Creative, City Place, The Omni Hotel, Texas Harris Hospital and others have bought sponsorships and advertising deals to play host to the bike stands.