What Bike Sharing in Houston Might Look Like

Houston sustainability director Laura Spanjian says B-cycle (shown above at Discovery Green earlier today) is just one of the systems the city is considering for its planned bike-sharing project. The city has funding from an EPA “climate showcase” program to install a bike-share kiosk or 2 in yet-to-be-identified locations Downtown — possibly along Buffalo Bayou or near Discovery Green. That first installation would just serve as a demo, says Spanjian. Once it’s in place, the city will look for funding for a more extensive bike-share system. Riders would use a credit card to check out the bikes; rides of half an hour or less would be free.

Photo: Laura Spanjian

57 Comment

  • This would be helpful in the museum district, Heights, Montrose, Rice Village sort of areas. If only there were bike lanes.

  • This would be a great idea if there were any bike lanes or paths in Houston. Even biking from my house on Hazard to the library on Montrose is an adventure considering the clueless drivers and potholes from HELL.

  • I was in Madrid a few months ago and took advantage of a similar system. It was pretty cool.

  • Was just in DC where this system was recently installed. It’s main advantage (outside the District’s considerable density compared to Houston) was that the stations were everwhere. I literally did not walk more than four blocks throughout Columbia Heights, Gallery Place, Capitol Hill, or Shaw without coming across a share rack. Something tells me the Houston version will not be as ubiquitous.

  • Treehugger nonsense! Even for some unrealistic reason I wanted to use a bike, why wouldn’t I just use my own?

  • Used a similar system in Seville, Spain this year. Easy, cheap, convenient, and fun. These systems are all over Europe. Glad to see Houston catching up.

  • On the one hand, in a city as flat as Houston it might make sense. On the other hand, Houston is NOT bicycle friendly (and I don’t really like bicycle friendly cities, they make cars second-class transportation) and it is SOOOOO spread out that the bikes will be a waste.

    In Portland Oregon many years ago they tried a similar system. The bikes were stole, dumped, trucked off and sold elsewhere – bottom line, it’s a dumb idea and a REAL dumb idea in a city with this climate and this spread out. Just anothe WASTE of taxpayer money.

  • Just back from Montreal. There were well over 30 “Bixi” stations, each with racks for at least a couple of dozen bikes. The bikes themselves look clunky, but are perfect for short trips where walking/driving/parking is inconvenient. I saw many people using the bikes on a drizzly day where the temperature was about 40 degrees F. I don’t know if these could be used to the same extent as places like Montreal, but a few stations scattered around downtown might work for tourists and visitors, and maybe even some native Houstonians who may want to take a short ride for lunch at Discovery Green. I do not see much call for use as a commuter system in Houston since there is so little residential density close to the CBD. But, a tourist may desire an easy way to get from Discovery Green to the Aquarium, for example.

  • Update: I just saw on Wiki that there are over 5000 bikes and 400 bike stations in Montreal!

  • “and I don’t really like bicycle friendly cities, they make cars second-class transportation”

    Oh good grief. Yes, it’s horrifying when, as a driver, you have to obey traffic laws related to bicycles and not run them off the road.

    Seems to me that if there are so many bikes that they crowd out cars (a situation that does not exist in any major US city), that would be, dare I saw, bicycles winning in the market as a more useful form of transportation? Oh, wait, it’s only a market choice when you like the outcome. I forgot!

  • I don’t think Houston is ready for this. But, if successful, the bike share would make Houston more world class than the money-pit sorry-ass excuse of a train(which exists to enrich a few at the expense of everyone else.)

  • They have these in Paris where the system is heavily used and awesome… and Paris is a big city like Houston w/out a ton of bike lanes either. The Kiosks were mostly near the train stations, so it would make a lot of sense to put kiosks near the light rail stops and places a little further away that people can ride to. For example, Discovery Green, City Hall, Post Midtown area near Farragos, Bagby at Elgin/Westheimer, Herman Park, Rice Village, Zoo, various locations in Med Center, etc. Pretty much any popular place that’s an easy bike ride away from the light rail is perfect because it helps stretch the reach of the serviceable area of the rail system. Imagine being able to ride a bike from work downtown, to the rail, ride it down to Rice, then ride a bike to Rice Village for dinner.

  • Just so long as this project burns through Federal $, I guess they can try it.

    It will fail because of theft, vandalism, etc.

    I’ve been cycling in Hou. for 25 years, and have practically quit because of cell phones (and texting). Inexperienced cyclists on unfamiliar bikes in Houston is a recipe for ER visits.

    Want to increase cycling in Houston? Build and maintain DECENT bike lanes. Remember, we were supposed to have a W. Alabama bike lane. Tried to ride a bike down W. Ala. lately? Don’t, unless it’s a weekend morning. Cyclists are treated like garbage in Houston.

    I predict failure for this silly effort.

  • You are safer on the side roads than a silly bike lane.

    Why risk your life on Alabama, for example, when you can run so many parallel streets?

  • Those who are comparing foreign cities to Houston in this regard don’t have a clue about the difference in attitude toward the cyclist in Houston, i.e., hatred here, tolerance there.

    It’s as different as their attitudes toward carrying guns in public vs. “our’s”.

  • Craig:

    “Parallel streets”

    Like Richmond and Westheimer?

    What safe parallel streets are you referring to, are were you (hopefully) being facetious?

  • Craig,
    you overestimate the safety of streets with constant 4-way/2-way stops. they also lack a way to cross major thoroughfares safely without doubling back to a main intersection anyhow. you can ride on the parallel streets, but it does take longer which helps negate the whole idea of riding in the first place.

    bike sharing in houston would be a total failure, but i would say the same about the city subsidizing rail transit for those lucky enough to work downtown/uptown and that’s happening regardless. never underestimate what can happen when you can pass the costs on to future generations.

  • Or maybe with more bike lanes & more cyclists awareness that they are there will increase and we’ll see some improvements. And perhaps a bike share program will contribute to this.

    The assumption that everything will always be just like it is now is almost always wrong.

  • John:

    As a cyclist, I can tell you that things are not the way they’ve always been – you’re right about that – they’re FAR WORSE.

    I think that a maintained, extensive bike lane program could help. A tiny, prone-to-abuse, one size-fits-all “bike sharing” program will make no positive difference at all. You need the infrastructure (safe roads) first. Also, see comments in re: theft, vandalism, etc.

    Didn’t this even fail in Austin?

  • @Udunno “Parallel streets? Like Richmond and Westheimer?”

    There are 4 side streets inbetween W. Alabama and Richmond (and side streets between W. Alabama and Westheimer”. Check them out sometime. They’re awesome fo walking/biking.
    Sul Ross, W. Main, Colquitt, Marshall, Branard, Hawthorne, Kipling… None are ‘straight shots’ so you have to zig zag a bit but they’re low traffic, lots of tress, nice houses, etc. At least going through the Montrose area (say, from the Spur to Shephard)

  • Slightly related question for the cyclists. They put the bike lanes in along Nicholson in the Heights. Every time I pass them, I notice that they are mostly used by non-cyclists. People with strollers, people walking dogs, etc. Which I would think makes them really hard to ride on, since you suddenly find yourself approaching a cluster of Heights moms with European baby carriages blocking the way.

    Is this (a) annoying (b) typical for Houston or (c) my imagination?

    This is of course the heights, where people will push a baby carriage out in the street while ignoring a perfectly good sidewalk.

  • Those are the back roads (with zig zag) I was talking about.

    I used to get all over this city on a bike and would never dare take to the main lanes even with a bike lane.

    Bike lanes are only as good as the morons who are driving next to them.

  • Maybe you can ride one these bikes and hide it up in one of these racks near the Downtown Library and see if anyone can find it.


  • @Cody,

    great point, for the life of me I cannot understand why so many cyclists ride the busy streets and I must admit to being less than friendly to those riding on two lane roads at rush hour.

    Our climate makes riding difficult the majority of the year if a shower or pool is not available at your destination (this includes last night).

  • @ John Another – When trails are built to AASHTO standards (these are the standards used for trails built with federal money), the trail is 12 feet wide, which is sufficient for multiple uses. Most Peds are conscious of the fact that bikes are also on the trail, and will move over when they hear ‘on your left’ from a cyclist about to overtake them. I think most cyclists would complain more about the motorists who cut them off, run them into ditches, etc.
    As for the Nicholson trail (and some others), the bigger problem is the number of intersections, which really slow commuting cyclists down.
    Regarding the AASHTO standards, it is interesting to note that the ‘trail’ connecting to the north side of the new Buffalo Bayou/Memorial Drive pedestrian/bicycle bridge east of Studemont is only 5 foot wide. What a bad idea…

  • @Mies – good to know people are sharing well!

  • miles …so true…but its a start.
    houston streets are not bike friendly, lots of bike haters out there.

  • I love how bike riders are constantly complaining about car drivers, yet in my 25 years of driving around the city of Houston, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a cyclist stop at a stop sign unless absolutely forced to by traffic conditions.

    Perhaps when cyclists learn to follow the rules of the road, they will command a bit more respect from drivers.

  • I was also in Montreal recently, and used the bikes on several different occasions. They were very conveniently located (for picking up and dropping off), easy to use, well-priced and in good condition. In the densest areas, there was a bike station every block or two. I traveled almost 30 miles in total on a bike when I was there
    And I would love to have a system here, but that doesn’t mean I think it would work here. In order for it work as in Montreal, you would need a very dense network of bike racks, not just a “string of pearls” arrangement, stringing barely walkable areas together. I think we have the latter in Houston, not the former.
    And even in Montreal, they had to redistribute the bikes by truck – from overstocked areas to understocked ones – a couple times a day. Worse than not being able to rent a bike is not being able to return it.
    I think the theft issue is just F.U.D. Are you really going to steal a bike that you just rented with your own credit card?

  • John, speaking as someone who regularly pushes a stroller in the street in the Heights I would suggest that there are very few “perfectly good” sidewalks there. If it comes to a choice between lifting a stroller up and down a series of 4″ shifts in sidewalk surface or using the street I will use the street thanks.

    The fact that this stops you riding 6 abreast for a few yards as you loudly tell your riding partners about whatever you did last night whilst wearing poorly fitting lycra and pretending you are lance armstrong is tough frankly. Isn’t it great how sweeping generalisations work!

  • Jimbo, I *asked* because I don’t ride on the trail, and wondered if it was a problem, and was told it’s not, so that’s great. Calm down.

    I’m a heavy sidewalk user too. Some of them are appalling. A lot of them aren’t. People don’t use them anyway. My observation, thinking of other cities where I’ve lived, is that Houston’s sidewalk are disgraceful (part of our general disregard for public space & infrastructure in this town) & people tend not to use them, even when they are fine. (I’ve seen people pushing strollers in the travel lanes of 11th Street west of Yale. That’s just foolish and dangerous.)

    This is also the only city I’ve lived where the city didn’t repair and upgrade sidewalks as a routine activity, though.

  • Sorry, fed up of getting the evil eye from people as they drive by. Have counted to ten and taken a deep breath. The people who tend to get most upset with me walking in the street tend to be the ones driving far faster than they should be. Personally I get nervous doing much over 20mph in the Heights and, as the parent of small kids, that suits me just fine.

  • @John(another one)

    I believe that in the COH, property owners are responsible for upkeep/repair to the sidewalks in front of their property.

    In the event that a water main break makes necessary the destruction of a sidewalk, then the city would repair it. In the case of trees etc, the city will not fix.

    But yes, folks pushing baby carriages in the street are putting themselves and their children in danger. What I dislike is that *they* often push 2 or 3 abreast and will absolutely not yield the street.

    And, on the subject of bikes, why is it that bike riders think they don’t have to stop at STOP signs?

  • Bike riders ride on busy streets because, per the law, they belong to them too, and sometimes it is where they need to go. Pedestrians walk in the streets because, per the law, on non-ADA compliant sidewalks they are supposed to walk in the streets if needed (try rolling a wheelchair or stroller down Richmond sidewalks). Houston cannot become more bicycle-friendly or pedestrian-friendly by osmosis – drivers must learn to be aware of pedestrians and cyclists by seeing them and dealing with them. Pedestrians and bicyclists also must be aware of cars and laws and, believe me, the last thing a bike rider wants to do is get mowed down by a car. Regarding stop signs, how many drivers in Houston come to a full stop? I was almost mowed down on my bike twice in one day at 4-way stops, after stopping, by drivers who felt that a bike shouldn’t have right-of-way, on one of those “safe” back streets of Montrose.

  • BenP, my gf was hit at a 4-way stop. a driver in a hurry jumped the gun and she got hit despite having the right-of-way. eye contact is a necessity when riding a bike. the driver just drove off of course.

    P-WAK, that’s why bicyclists probably don’t stop at all stop signs, because the laws of the road are generally not applied to them and they’re not treated as moving vehicles. if you want bicycles to stop at all stop signs then the key is to ensure that laws are followed and bikes are allowed full/safe use of the road as needed. that obviously isn’t the case though and i haven’t seen an out of control bicyclists injure a car driver or cause an accident so i don’t think it should be a big concern for folks.

    in my opinion, bikes and cars appear to coexist quite well in the montrose, but i’ve never seen someone get hit and i’ve heard a lot of bad stories.

  • One thing worse than morons walking in the street are people who jog/run in the street, often down the middle and listening to the iPod. Complete idiots.

  • Too many years of walking around northeastern cities leaves me unable to walk around with an iAnything strapped to me. It just seems like an invitation to get mugged, not hear the car rushing toward you, etc.

  • @BenP, I’m with you. @TheRestofYou, If a cyclist blows through a stop sign into your right-of-way, by all means, hit him. Otherwise, stop trying to kill cyclist who are using lanes that they have a perfectly legal right to use because you may have seen one run a stop sign one time.

  • “one run a stop sign one time”…?

    Get real.

  • Not super happy with Houston, or it’s motorists. My bicycle was hit by an SUV at Chevron (Montrose/West Dallas) just straight backed into my bike, popped the tube, bent the rim and sped off like a bullet out of a gun. It was parked on the grass, well out of the parking area too. Happened so fast I didn’t even get the plate number. Thanks for the hit and run lady, HPD is looking at the store’s tapes/cameras gleefully pressing charges too.

  • Nobody in Houston looks backward when they back up, or checks blind spots when changing lanes. I didn’t grow up in Texas, so I don’t know what they teach in driver ed classes, but it doesn’t appear to be much of anything (those are two points absolutely drilled into me by both the teacher and my dad).

    I’ve lived a bunch of places and while Houston drivers are not as aggressive as those in many cities, they are the most butt-stupid I’ve ever seen.

  • Part of the problem with Houston’s drivers are that so many are IDs, and probably didn’t drive much before they got here.

  • That explains all the white people in Lexuses in River Oaks running through stop signs at red lights, huh.

  • They’re the worst, no turn signals more consumed by their cell phones and starbucks to be considerate drivers — and don’t get me started on the whole let me apply makeup while I drive set. I love BMW’s while I generally loathe the people who drive them. Uh and West Dallas has a zoned bike lane, you want to not honk at cyclists using the road as intended?

  • Those white people in River Oaks are special… y’all didn’t know that?

    They have the special entitlement to do all that stop sign running while talking on the cell and applying face paint. Same w/their offspring and driving under the influence, that would be a “family matter”.

    Just don’t mind the special white people.

  • So PYEWACKET, how many stop signs do I need to run before you will try to kill me?

  • @Flash,
    I have no interest in trying to kill you or any other cyclist. I drive very defensively. I’ll wait you out at an intersection, just so I KNOW where you’re going. I don’t trust you. You have way more maneuverability than I do in my tank.

    I’m surprised that someone such as yourself did not understand what I meant. I’ve seen many many bike riders run stop signs. Not in my neighborhood. But when I venture to Montrose, yes. It’s as if the rules do not apply to them/you.

  • I’ll wait you out at an intersection, just so I KNOW where you’re going.
    Absolute worst thing you can do. The most important thing when dealing with cyclist/auto interaction is predictability. As a cyclist when I come to an intersection… with a car waiting and refusing to go when they have the right-of-way it is very threatening. Are they waiting for me? Are they piddling with something in their car and not paying attention? Are they looking the other direction and getting ready to pull out? As a rider I have no idea. And the consequences for me are pretty damn ugly. Do you think a bike rider trusts a vehicle driver any more than you do?

    I realize folks are just trying to be courteous. But it really makes things difficult.

    Treat ’em as the law requires. Just like any other vehicle. Flash gives great advice. If they pull into your path… they are fair game.

    Otherwise you are abandoning the rules of traffic just as much as a cyclist running a stop sign. You aren’t advancing when you are supposed (and expected) to. Both can be interruptions to traffic flow.

  • Dave McC: you are RIGHT ON on predictability. This was one of the best things my dad taught me about driving: don’t be nice, be predictable. Do exactly what people expect, and nobody smashes into each other.

    This is also why using turn signals ALL THE TIME is good. You don’t really know what the other person is going to do; transmit more information and things will be better.

    So, that’s an issue with cyclists; many of us have had many experiences w/ cyclists randomly changing position within a lane, and how many of us have ever seen a cyclist signal? How many of us would recognize a signal if we saw it?

    See, if I am approaching a four way stop, and so is a cyclist, my assumption is that the cyclist will go through it without stopping (95% of the time I’m right) and without looking (40-50% of the time I’m right) and sadly, even if the cyclist is an idiot, if I hit him/her, there’s going to be a lot of paperwork.

  • And please, cyclists: If a car is parked on the street and cars coming from both directions are patiently taking turns to go around it, you are suppose to wait your turn too, not cut through the middle of the whole dang thing.

    I have had this happen to me three times in the last week alone. Once was a guy who raced through going 30 on a racing bike, and twice was the same mom pulling two kids behind her, riding around the same parked car each morning during rush hour, giving the drivers dirty looks.

  • Yeah, you’re right. I will stop at the stop signs in the neighborhood. I do at lights, etc, but it’s easy to blast down stanford ignorning the stop signs. Guilty as charged. Those morons who ride in the middle of the lanes, or ride the stripes (4 lane roads) etc, have a real death wish. I see this daily on woodway, bumper to bumper traffic and some dufus blasting through the middle avoiding rearview mirrors at about 30 mph, while everyone else is at a complete stop. Definitely a WTF are you thinking moment, there is a sidewalk after all..

  • And what’s with the cyclists talking on the phone? I’ve nearly killed 2 or 3 over the last year or so when they have ridden right in front of me in the middle of traffic. Totally zoned out. Scary.

  • Just don’t hit the normally very considerate guy on the large black trek, thanks. :)

  • How about the city spends some money on fixing the road and less on useless death wish bike lanes. I ride on the sidewalk to avoid being squashed like a squirrel.

  • What about the motorists on the phone/texting?!! I’ve almost been hit countless times by motorists who are engaging in conversations more important than…oh, I don’t know…DRIVING! I’m in my car when this happens. I won’t ride my bike on Houston streets unless it’s with a group – Houstonians, overall, are behind in knowing how to handle cyclists on the road. I love the “ride on the sidewalk” argument. It’s so lame, I won’t even discuss it.

    Honestly, there are rude motorists (which I see more of than anything), cyclists, and pedestrians…just try to be the “other guy” – the nice one. I do.

  • Funny, the other day I nearly killed a cyclist who came flying through a downtown intersection, busy texting, no hands on the handle bars. Good thing I was watching or he’d be a dead man.

    I wonder why people think they can use their phones while driving, biking, walking without totally checking out the physical environment. Dumb.