FORT WORTH — When Gannon Gries pedals home from work, he smells meals being cooked and hears the sounds of the city, from car horns to the laughter of children playing.“I’m always amazed by the number of people I see when I am on the bike,” said Gries, an architect at Bennett Benner Partners who rides a bicycle from his home in the Park Place area to his office downtown almost everyday. “You are moving at a slow enough pace to see what is going on. You can hear things and you can smell things. It is a very different sensory experience,” he said. Gries has been riding a bicycle to work since he moved to Fort Worth in 2004, but he started using the Fort Worth Bike Sharing program when it launched a year ago today because of the convenience. The nonprofit program was started with a $1 million federal grant on April 22, 2013, with 300 bikes and 27 stations. A year later, it has grown to 34 stations. The program will add 10 more stations and 60 bikes with a $554,610 grant awarded in 2013 from the Federal Highway Administration, said Kristen Camareno, executive director. “We are definitely ahead of expectations. When we started the program, my goal was to have 50 stations in three to four years, and we will be really close to that in just a year,” Camareno said. Since the launch, Fort Worth Bike Sharing riders have logged more than 25,000 trips, traveled 100,000 miles, burned 4 million calories and offset 90,000 pounds of carbon. Fort Worth Bike Sharing has slightly more 24-hour riderships than expected, at 14,000, but Camareno hopes to attract more of those casual riders to the annual membership program. The price for a 24-hour membership is $8, and users incur usage fees after the first 30 minutes. The purpose of the program is to complete the “transportation loop” — to provide first- and last-mile connections from public transit stops — and to get people to bike instead of drive for shorter trips, said Camareno. “Our focus is getting people to change their mindset and get them out of their cars for trips that don’t make sense to drive,” she said. “The recreational aspect that comes with it is a bonus.”The bike share program has 489 annual members, and Camareno hopes to double that in the next year. The annual membership, which costs $80, allows riders to keep the bikes longer and allows them to ride for 60 minutes before incurring usage fees. They also are enrolled in a perks program with participating businesses. Annual memberships are also valid in other cities with B-Cycles, such as Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Denver and Nashville. Gries said the bike program saves maintenance costs on his own bike and the hassle of storing the bike at work. “I have really been amazed and encouraged at how many other people have been commuting to work since I moved here,” said Gries, adding that he sees more people riding since the city made an effort to designate on-road bike lanes.Expanding programsDallas, one of the few major Texas cities without a bike share program, plans to launch bike sharing at Fair Park this summer. The Dallas City Council approved giving $125,000 to the nonprofit Friends of Fair Park for the program in March, but a city ordinance requiring residents to wear helmets on bikes could slow the launch. San Antonio, Austin and Houston all have B-cycle programs, and Austin broke the national bike share record on March 14 during South by Southwest, with 2,774 checkouts and an average of 10.1 checkouts per bike. “There is definitely a perception that Texas isn’t the most bike-friendly place. But I think places like Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston and even others are really starting to change that,” Camareno said. In Fort Worth, the City Council has committed to building “complete streets,” planned with cars, cyclists and pedestrians in mind. The new Trinity River Vision bridges, for example, are being built with 10-foot wide sidewalks on either side. The White Settlement and Main Street bridges will have 5-foot wide, striped bike lanes. Camareno said the 10 new stations should be open to the public in the fall. Potential locations include the Panther Island Pavilion, the Stockyards and a couple more on the Trinity Trails. The bicycles, purchased for $1,118 apiece, have baskets and onboard locks, front and rear lights powered by a front-wheel generator, fenders, street tires and seat posts that can be adjusted for different heights. Onboard GPS enables Fort Worth Bike Sharing to keep track of the bikes. Though there have been instances of users keeping the bikes longer than they were supposed to, Camareno said none have been stolen.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst