Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Alamo? Not so much, but bike sharing service in San Antonio was the real thing (and maybe coming to a Michigan city near you?)

This woman does not come with the bike
Our trip to San Antonio would have been much, much different if not for their outstanding new Bcycle service, which allows people to check out bicycles and drop them off at numerous points throughout the city.

We rented cycles three days, pedaling ourselves to the point of heatstroke checking out places like the botanical gardens, the many tremendous Tex-Mex restaurants and the meandering Mission Bike Trail that follows the San Antonio River.

And of course we joined thousands of sweating, sloppy tourists ogling The Alamo, where an IMAX movie and lots of other "educational" materials explained the mission's historic and inspirational role in Americans stealing Texas from the Mexicans  standing up for freedom against the tyranny of Santa Anna.

But the cycles were the most pleasant surprise of the trip, allowing us to tour the city in a way we never otherwise would have been able to.

You just insert your credit card and select a bike from the rack. When you’re done, you find another rack (an easy Smart Phone app will locate them for you, but there were plenty of signs in the city too) and slide the bike in an empty slot, where it locks tight until the next user arrives

$10 per bike per day, plus fairly nominal charges for the time you use (the first half hour of every use is free).

My friend and colleague and Lansing City Council candidate  Rory Neuner is among a group trying to bring Bcycle to Lansing. I’ve heard several other Michigan cities are considering such programs, but I don’t know which for sure.

It’ll take some work in Michigan’s cities, which still are designed primarily for cars and NOT for pedestrians or cyclists. But that is changing and Bcycle might help that momentum. Bike lanes, curb cuts, great signage and the Riverwalk all helped make San Antonio’s work.

Honestly, I don’t know if we contributed any more cash to San Antonio’s economy than we would have if the Bcycle rentals weren’t available. But the whole Bcycle experience makes it far more likely that we will return one day. And we can recommend a trip to that town far more enthusiastically than we otherwise would have.

Linked to Michigan’s already outsanding trail networks, bicycle sharing programs in certain areas could be a great, low-impact way to market a region's best cultural, recreational and retail opportunities to visitors.


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