Four BCycle bike sharing stations arrive, more to come

The Cougar | Michael Slaten

Bike sharing has come to the University this semester with four Houston BCycle stations across campus and more to come.

Houston BCycle is a non-profit bike share program with dozens of stations across Houston. After a year of planning between the University and Houston BCycle, the first stations began operating this semester with the hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“I hope it’s something that provides a valuable service for students,” said Michael Mendoza, sustainability manager at the Office of Sustainability.

The current station locations are near Cougar Village 1, across the street from Cougar Place, outside of Student Center North and at the UH Technology Bridge.

Two more stations are being built near the Fine Arts Building and by the Welcome Center Parking Garage and UH South/University Oaks METRO rail stop. They are expected to reach completion in the coming weeks and bring more than 100 docks to the University as a whole, Mendoza said.

For now, the Office of Sustainability will monitor the use of BCycles before any plans are made to expand, Mendoza said. They will evaluate how BCycles are being used between different stations on campus and how students are connecting with other stations across the city.

The Office of Sustainability chose to bring BCycle to campus because it would allow students to connect to other places in Houston. After a survey was sent out to students, the positive response for adding a bike share program was overwhelming, Mendoza said.

BCycles were originally announced to come to the University in 2016. They only arrived this year after going through the stages of regulatory approval.

There are four BCycle stations at the University of Houston. Two more will be built in the coming weeks. | Michael Slaten/The Cougar

All current planned BCycle stations. The stations near the Welcome Center Garage and the Fine Arts Building are under construction. | Courtesy of The Office of Sustainability

“The Student Center was the number one spot for students,” Mendoza said. “Other than that, it was near housing or near the METRO rail, that way it can be the last mile kind of thing.”

The Office of Sustainability has suggested routes for students to look at on their website.

“Because UH has a large portion of commuter students and has a relatively large campus, we are hoping that students and staff will get to the school, park their car or transit and use BCycle as a micro point A to point B on campus,” said BCycle Marketing and Communications Director Henry Morris.

BCycle’s goal is to have 120 stations in Houston by 2020, Morris said. Right now there are 60 stations and 425 bikes. There is already a station near at the Gateway on Cullen Student Apartments and several at Hermann Park.

“That includes major expansion in Medical Center, TSU, UH Downtown and other areas,” Morris said.

If a student has a mechanical issue with a bike, they can report it to BCycle. Technicians check on every station in the city about once a week, and all bikes go through BCycle’s service shop once a month, Morris said.

Even if the stations at the University have low ridership, BCycle stations likely won’t be taken away as they are built to be permanent in their location, Morris said.

“We think that the college demographic is generally really well suited to pursue things that are healthy and sustainable for community building,” Morris said. “We are hopeful it’s going to be a really beneficial thing for campus.”

BCycle began in 2012 and is funded through federal grants, sponsorships and membership revenue, Morris said.

University students can purchase a student membership for $25 a semester that is prorated if a student signs up late in the semester, according to BCycle’s webpage. BCycle is available in other cities in the United States, but only purchasing an annual membership will allow students to use BCycle in other cities.

With the majority of students commuting to campus in single-rider vehicles, BCycles along with COAST and METRO are alternative forms of transportation UH supports to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Where we are really hoping is it can provide an alternative form of transportation for students,” Mendoza said. “Something I’m really focusing on is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how are we contributing to uplifting our climate presence.”

Henry Morris