Valley bike-share plan spinning ever closer

WESLACO — The long-delayed Valley bike-share plan is moving ahead, and a contract agreement with a company called BCycle has been received and is being assessed.

Ron Garza, executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, which is leading the bike charge, said last week the new dockless bike-share could be up and running soon.

“The first step is that we have to enter into an agreement between LRGVDC and BCycle,” he told the agency’s board. “The second step is then LRGVDC will enter into a special agreement with the City of McAllen. The City of McAllen’s current infrastructure BCycle will be combined with this regional effort. The third step to this is that we will have an agreement between every city that will partner with this regional effort.”

Anticipating a regional bike-share plan, city officials in Harlingen allowed their Zagster contract to expire a year ago after a two-year run.

The BCycle program, which has been operating in McAllen since 2015, is similar to the Zagster system but has some differences. Both systems employ mobile phone apps which link to a user’s debit or credit card to pay for rides.

But unlike Zagster, cities will actually purchase the BCycle bikes and the LRGVDC will provide repairs and maintenance. It is expected that Harlingen, Brownsville and Edinburg will join McAllen as part of the BCycle family.

BCycle riders using the system can drop off their rental bike at any docking station in any city. In Harlingen, the Parks and Recreation Department board has suggested McKelvey Park, the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum and Lon C. Hill Park. Pendleton Park was chosen as an alternative docking site.

The Harlingen parks board has recommended spending $27,000 for a one-time purchase of the BCycle bikes.

The Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization has committed approximately $400,000 to develop BCycle in Hidalgo County, while the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation has pledged a $250,000 grant for Cameron County to implement the BCycle program.

The City of McAllen also has committed its BCycle program — and the expertise the city has accumulated in almost five years of operating it — to the regional effort. That contribution amounts to about a half-million dollars.

“They haven’t seen a program quite like this across the nation in terms of this type of regional effort and this type of structure,” Garza said of BCycle.

Garza said starting up a new regional bike-share program is similar to starting up a new bus service. The LRGVDC also oversees Valley Metro.

More than a year ago, the LRGVDC thought they had a bike-share deal set with Lime bikes, but were unable to reach a satisfactory agreement for the company’s dockless bike system. Unlike BCycle and Zagster, where there are designated bike racks where a rental bike has to be returned, Lime’s system would have allowed bikes to be dropped anywhere.

Garza said the BCycle docked bike share model will be more manageable than a dockless system.

“We’re very, very close now,” Garza said.

BCycle facts

CITIES — About 40

TEXAS — McAllen, Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston

BIKES — 8-speed Dash and 3-speed 2.0 Bike

DOCKS — Solar-powered

OWNER — Trek Bicycle

COST — About $2 per hour; annual passes from $50 to $80