By Maryellen Tighe
My girlfriend and I visited San Antonio for a weekend in October. Both of us are frequent bicyclists. Missing our usual morning rides, we decided to try the San Antonio B-Cycle program.
We were impressed on Friday night by the number of bicyclists we saw near where we were staying. There were bike lanes by all the bars we visited, and full bike racks.
Saturday morning, we picked up our bikes from a B-cycle station near the southern extension of the San Antonio River Walk, on East Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. It was $10 for as many 30 minute rides as you could take in one day.
The heavy bikes have three speeds and rear brakes. Word to the wise: don’t carry them up stairs unless you have to. The basket was perfect for carrying snacks, cameras and water. I was unaccustomed to riding with weight in front, but it was a quick balancing act to solve.
There is a helmet rental program, which requires a visit to the B-cycle center during business hours. We started our ride before the office opened, so we did not use the program.
After picking up our bikes, we headed south. The ride started in shaded residential areas, moving to full sun south of the Blue Star Brewing Company. For October, this was nice, but it could get hot in the summer. The path was busy and well-used by tourists and locals alike. Most riders looked to be recreational, such as parents with children or families in town for vacation. There were a few spandex-wearing riders as well.
The docking stations were well positioned at parks along the way, even though they were difficult to spot when first leaving the trail. They were frequent enough that you could stop and dock the bikes without exceeding the 30 minute limit.
Unfortunately our visit was during the government shutdown, so we did not visit The Missions national park sites, and I cannot say how accessible they were from the trail.
The south River Walk portion of the bike share appears to be mostly weekend riders and vacationers. Unless you work very close to the south River Walk, it would be difficult to use the program for commuting, since most of the docking stations were quite close to the trail.
The system downtown was more holistic, with docking stations both spread out and close to tourist destinations. It was difficult to spot the stations, though residents were quick to point us in the direction of the nearest one and there is a bicycle app that shows locations and availability. These stations filled up Sunday afternoon and we visited three before we were able to find a place to dock the two bikes, should have downloaded the app.
The city’s residents are very welcoming to bike riders. Since many of the docking stations are concentrated in tourist areas the traffic pattern forced cars and other vehicles to stick to the slower speed required by the bikes.
As a first-time bike sharer, I viewed it as a reasonable, and fun, alternative to car rental or taxis in San Antonio.
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