Bike-share programs are all the rage, and popping up throughout the country. The idea has been a hit outside the United States for years, or in some cases even decades.
In Texas there’s a little non-profit outfit called Houston BCycle, its location is revealed in the name. I bring this up, because the company’s success has caught everyone by surprise. Annual growth for a bike-share system gets a pat on the back when growth reaches 10%. BCyle’s trips increased 65% in the last year. Okay, the system did double in size, but still, that number jumps off the statistics page.
We’re Talking Houston
Let’s take a moment to realize the significance of BCycle’s story: Houston makes a ton of its money from oil; it dominates the industry. From last year’s census count, it’s a city where less than 7% of people get out of their cars to walk, bike or use public transportation to get to work.
In 2016, with a $3.5 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration delivered through the Texas Department of Transportation, BCycle expanded its network almost three-fold. It went from 33 stations last year to 90 now, and with 33 more stations planned. Ridership exploded from around 165,000 to a projected 250,000 by year’s end.
Shifting the Target
When Henry Morris, Houston BCycle’s director of development and communications, came on to the to the non-profit a year and a half ago, BCycle didn’t really have a focus. It was just happy if people rode period, and 70% of its riders jumped on for recreational purposes. Morris turned to targeting commuters who would otherwise use their cars to get to work or run errands. Once again, BCycle scored a huge success. Fast Company dives into more specifics of the program and its incredible numbers here.
If Houston BCycle can get more Houstonians out of their cars and onto bikes, then perhaps there’s hope for my hometown of Los Angeles.