Parks board approves $27,000 for bike share plan

HARLINGEN — Two-wheeled public transportation in the city has moved a step closer with the Parks and Recreation Department board approving a $27,000 outlay for the Rio Grande Valley BCycle bike-share program.

The plan is to deploy a dozen bikes at three locations in the city, with docking stations at McKelvey Park, the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum and Lon C. Hill Park.

The one-time outlay of $27,000 for the city is about 20 percent of the total cost for the bikes thanks after a $500,000 grant from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation. The City Commission still must approve it.

“The funding has been approved from Valley Baptist and the entity that was awarded the funding was the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council,” said Javier Mendez, parks director. “They’re going to be running the program for the entire Valley.”

The new Valley bike-share using the BCycle model will replace the city’s former bike-share program with Zagster. That deal ran for two years but was terminated a year ago when talk of a Valley-wide bike-share plan began.

The Zagster program cost $17,000 a year, paid for by a grant from the UT School of Public Health grant.

“What I do like about this program is its going to be region-wide. If you wanted to use your bike and pick it up in Harlingen and drop it off in San Benito or La Feria, you could if you wanted to,” J. Joel Garza Jr., the city’s director of special projects, told the board at a meeting this past week. “Technically you could do that, so that’s the unique gist of this program.”

The BCycle program 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 and unlock bikes. The cost averages about $1 per hour of use.

But unlike Zagster, BCycle bikes are actually purchased, and the LRGVDC will be providing repairs and maintenance. BCycle riders using the system can drop off their rental bike at any docking station in any participating city in the Valley.

McAllen has operated the BCycle program for four years. The city generously donated its fleet of BCycles and infrastructure — worth about $500,000 — to the Valley-wide effort to be run by the development council.

Any profits the bikes turn from rider fares in Harlingen or other cities will go back to the council.

“They won’t come to the city,” Mendez told the board. “The funding will go back to the program and what they’ll do is, they have recurring costs for maintenance and everything else. They’re going to be in charge of all that, the liability, the maintenance, everything.”

When some parks and rec board members questioned the high price of the one-time $27,000 outlay, Assistant Parks Director David Arce told the board he estimates that if the city provided its own maintenance for the bikes, the cost of two city workers with transportation would total at least $100,000 a year.


Did you know?

– Proposed locations of BCycle docking stations: McKelvey Park, the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum and Lon C. Hill Park.

– Cost is about $1 per hour for each BCycle bike.

– BCycle mobile phone app, linked to a user’s debit or credit card, is used to pay for rides and unlock bikes.

– For more info: