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Monday, November 19, 2018

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Houston B-cycle brings rental bikes to campus


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Thanks to a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, bike sharing company Houston B-cycle will be exapanding at UH. | Jessica Cruz/The Cougar

Houston, the oil capital of the world, is embracing healthy transportation alternatives.

Houston B-cycle, a bike sharing nonprofit, has recently received a federal grant to set up more rental stations throughout Houston, including some on the UH campus.

“Unlocking your bike then locking it back up is kind of a hassle,” said psychology junior Jose Portillo. “It’s great that they’re offering new ways to get around.”

Houston B-cycle began operating in 2012. It has received support from the Houston City Council and expanded its reach throughout the downtown, Midtown and Memorial areas since then. Since the start of 2016, the company said the city’s cyclists has made 73,577 trips totaling 508,044 miles.

The program received a $3.5 million grant from Federal Highway Administration. This, in addition to $880,000 of the organization’s own resources, will allow Houston B-cycle to install 71 new stations with 568 new bikes.

To use the bike, riders must first get a membership that lasts a day, a week or a full year. Prices for the memberships are $5, $15 and $65.

The bikes can be taken from the stations with no additional charge for up to 60 minutes per ride and $2 for each half-hour past that. The usage fee can be avoided by docking the bike within the first hour and taking it out again.

“If you think about it, it only takes you about seven minutes to ride across the campus,” UH facilities manager Craig Whitfield said. Whitfield has been working with Houston B-cycle to bring their stations to campus.

Rental bike stations could alleviate some issues associated with using personal bicycles, freeing up existing bike racks and letting more students get around quicker without having to bring their own bikes to campus.

B-cycle has a companion app available for both Apple and Android devices, which lets the users know where the closest docking station is and whether it has any bikes available.

“You don’t have to do any maintenance either,” Whitfield said. “The bikes are maintained for you.”

Another potential benefit is that the rental system can bring down bicycle theft, which is common on campus.

There are currently 31 B-cycle stations with 225 bikes. The upcoming expansion will bring those numbers to 102 total stations and 793 bikes, more than triple than what it is now. Of those stations, 21 will be spread across Houston’s universities, including UH, UH-Downtown, Texas Southern University and Rice University.

“I have to park far away from here, and ride the bike,” Computer information systems senior Nick Chen said.

Chen is one of many students who commute to campus by car and bring a bike to get from the remote economy parking lots to their classes.

He was excited about the possibility of using rental bikes to get around.

“It’s a good idea,” Chen said. “Just make sure they have them here and in the parking (lots).”

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