Cycling around town may soon become an option for more Fort Worth residents -- even those who don't own a bike.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority is looking into possibly starting a bike-sharing program, in which residents would pay a nominal fee in exchange for the right to use bicycles stationed at locking bike racks throughout the city whenever they need a pair of wheels.
News of the T's interest in a bike-sharing program comes as several hundred residents prepare to take to the streets and trails Friday for National Bike to Work Day. The annual event, which concludes with a gathering Friday morning in downtown Fort Worth, encourages people to try riding their bikes to work.
"If you combine a bike ride with a bus trip -- and all our buses have a bicycle rack -- the truth is you can actually get anywhere in Fort Worth," T president Dick Ruddell told board members Wednesday.
Start-up funds needed
The concept of a bike-sharing program is still in the early stages, and the T would likely need grant funds to pay the initial costs, spokeswoman Joan Hunter said. The T's long-term strategic plan adopted last year called for starting a bike-sharing program within five years, but if there is enough interest the program could be up and running in about a year, she said.
"We'd have to get partners in our city and other areas, where people can drop off their bike or pick another one up," she said.
The idea is to make it easy for residents to rent a bike for any number of reasons -- to get to work, run errands, etc.-- instead of climbing into a car.
For example, someone who drives to work downtown might rent a bike for a one-time trip to an appointment in the medical district, rather than losing his or her parking space and wasting fuel on such a short trip, Ruddell said.
A growing trend
Officials at the T recently met with a manufacturer, who explained how bike-sharing programs work in other cities. Generally, a city of Fort Worth's size would need $500,000 to $800,000 to start a program, including the cost of buying approximately 200 three-speed bikes and a few dozen bike racks that could be placed around the city.
Copenhagen, Paris and other European cities have operated bike-sharing programs for years, and the trend is catching on in many U.S. cities -- including San Antonio, which began a bike-sharing program in April.
The main obstacles for many transit agencies are coming up with the initial costs of the bikes, and installing bike racks that are secure enough to discourage theft and vandalism.
Another challenge is connecting various cities that operate their own bike paths into a regional system, sometimes called a veloweb.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796