Mexico City has initiated a new bike sharing program called “Ecobici.” The program, based on similar systems in many European cities, allows users to access bicycles after paying an annual membership fee. The intent of the program is to encourage the use alternative forms of transportation. The hope is that getting more cars off the road will improve air quality and the general quality of life in the city. Washington DC has a similar system, which was the first such program in the United States. Last month, the city council in San Antonio voted to set up a program in the city’s downtown.
Would such a system work in Houston? It is hard to say. The inner loop area of Houston is just dense enough to make cycling convenient for certain trips. And yet, arguably, Houston has not been very supportive of cycling. When compared to other cities, Houston’s bike lane system is lacking. Most businesses do not provide adequate bicycle racks for cyclists and I don’t believe anything in the city development code requires them (although, the city does have minimum parking standards which shows where their priorities lie).
Perhaps things are changing though. Last week, Metro announced expanded hours where bicycles may be brought onto Metro light rail trains. In 2007, the City of Houston formally implemented a Bikeway Program designed to encourage cycling by providing bicycle paths along certain routes around the city. Perhaps a bike sharing system could be the next step. We shall see.