The BCycle station at 6550 Bertner Ave. is one of a dozen new stations at the Texas Medical Center. Photo by Cody Duty.
The BCycle station at 6550 Bertner Ave. is one of more than a dozen stations at the Texas Medical Center. (Photo credit: Cody Duty)

BCycle ridership is up, despite COVID-19

The bike share program logged a record 26,006 rides in March 2020, but has temporarily closed 12 stations to encourage social distancing

BCycle ridership is up, despite COVID-19

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The BCycle station at 6550 Bertner Ave. is one of a dozen new stations at the Texas Medical Center. Photo by Cody Duty.

During a global pandemic, Houston BCycle logged more rides than ever since its May 2012 inception.

“We had 26,006 rides in March,” said Henry Morris, who oversees development and communications for Houston Bike Share, the nonprofit that operates the BCycle program. “We’ve been predicting that anyway because spring break is lodged in March and we’re bigger than we’ve ever been.”

Although this year’s spring break was consumed by mandates surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak—stay home, work safe and main social distancing—Houston BCycle numbers still surged.

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Even so, the program just closed 12 busy stations near popular Houston parks to discourage the spread of COVID-19.

Ordinarily, BCycle users can rent a bicycle from any station and return it to any other station in the network. One-time users pay $3 for 30 minutes of use, but members pay $13 per month or $79 per year to use the bikes. The annual rate for users affiliated with educational institutions is $60.

But on Friday, April 3, Houston BCycle temporarily closed to the public a dozen stations clustered around Memorial Park, Hermann Park, Buffalo Bayou Park and Stude Park.

“The parks were getting pretty crowded,” Morris said. “Now those 12 stations are only open to Houston BCycle members—to commuters. Those stations have been shut to the general public to encourage social distancing.”

2019 spike

In 2019, Houston BCycle saw a 45 percent spike in ridership, thanks, in part, to a cluster of stations that opened in the Texas Medical Center.

“We are incredibly proud of our partnership with BCycle,” said Abbey Roberson, vice president of planning at the Texas Medical Center. “The bike share program offers an accessible, healthy alternative to driving and further diversifies the mobility choices of our employees, students and visitors.”

Today, Houston BCycle features 109 stations and close to 800 bikes, spread across the city.

Over the past month, the program has stepped up safety and sanitary measures to comply with federal, state and local guidelines designed to protect citizens from contracting or spreading COVID-19. Signs posted at BCycle stations encourage riders to wash hands before and after riding, wear gloves if they can, keep a distance of 6 feet from others and use the program’s mobile app to check out bikes. In addition, field technicians and employees are sanitizing bikes, stations, BCycle vans and the equipment and tools in the BCycle shop.

“We’re sanitizing as much as we can at stations using an alcohol-based disinfectant. Separately, we are also using using Vital Oxide at each station one or two times per week,” Morris said. “And we’ve been completely altering communications to focus on disease prevention techniques.”

Houston BCycle is hiring part-time workers as needed to help with sanitation efforts and is encouraging riders to practice proper hygiene before and after BCycle trips by washing their hands with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

“As much as we can hire extra part-time workers,” Morris said, “we still need riders to do their part.”

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