Cycles hit town as city’s bike-share kicks off

HARLINGEN — They’re racked, stacked and ready to ride.

Harlingen’s new bike-share program is a reality, with 10 shiny-bright commuter bikes now sitting at McKelvey Park and another four bikes at the Regional Academic Health Center on the campus of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The bike-share program allows a user to download an app for a mobile phone, create an account and register a credit card. Then when a user wants to unlock a bike, he or she enters the code and receives a text with a number that unlocks the bike.

The first hour the bike is out is always free, and after that time’s up, the charge is $2 per hour.

The cost to use the Zagster commuter bike system is $35 a year, up from the $20 a year that officials originally said was their target price. But the final deal also includes options to purchase a monthly pass for $15 or a daily pass for $12.

Those fees allow a person to ride a bike any time for free as long as the bike is back in a rack in under an hour.

“It works fine, it works perfect,” said J. Joel Garza Jr., director of the Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization, who said he has personally tested the system and the bikes.

“The seats adjust and the handlebars adjust depending on how tall the person is,” Garza added. “Very nice bikes, with a comfortable, smooth ride.”

The bikes and racks installed Monday were leased from the Zagster company on a two-year contract for $17,100 a year. The cost of the first year of the program is covered by a grant from the UT Health Science Center in Houston.

Initially, Garza said the plan was to lease 20 bikes, but he said when Zagster representatives visited the UTRGV campus they were concerned about whether that location needed all 10 bikes.

“When they came down and surveyed, the student attendance was pretty low, and there were some other factors,” Garza said. “They will increase the number there if usage becomes higher.”

With its bike-share program Harlingen now joins Texas cities like Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, El Paso and McAllen with bike-share programs.

Unlike McAllen, which purchased 80 bikes in a partnership with B-Cycle at a cost of more than $300,000, the Harlingen bikes are leased from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Zagster. A third party vendor is responsible for bike maintenance.