Yesterday, I wrote about a handful a great, cheap things to do during a short trip to Austin. And luckily, there’s an easy, affordable, and fun way to get to all of those sites: bikes.
More specifically, Austin has a bike share program called B-cycle. When I was there, I used these bikes exclusively to get around town. B-cycle works pretty much like any other bike-sharing program I’ve used (New York, Paris, Denver, Salt Lake City, etc). But in case you’ve never done it, here’s how it works:
Step 1: Find a station. Piece of cake — they’re everywhere!
Step 2: Use the pay station to choose and pay for a bike rental. It costs $8 for a 24 hours pass. The pass allows you to check out a bike for up to 30 minutes at a time as many times as you want within your 24 hour window. After your initial 30 minutes is up (assuming you haven’t re-docked at another station), your card will be charged an additional $4 per 30 minute block.
Step 3: Explore the city like a local on two wheels.
Step 4: Return your bike to any station by sliding the front wheel into an empty dock. A little green light will flash and a tiny beep will sound three times indicating that the bike is locked in and officially returned. I always give it a little tug afterward just to make sure.
Step 5: Repeat. When you’re ready to ride again, just repeat steps one through four. Your credit card acts as your 24 hour pass. So just insert it again to check out a new bike.
Even though it’s pretty intuitive and easy to use, here are a few tips to make your B-cycle experience a smooth ride:
1. Make sure the tires and brakes have good pressure and the overall condition appear good before putting in your card and selecting your bike. Before setting out, adjust the bike seat to your height. Also, if you notice something wonky once you start riding, return it immediately and get a new one. I never had any issues. I used several bikes throughout the day and they were all in great condition.
2. Keep an eye on the clock and redock. It’s easy to avoid the extra charges for having a bike out longer than 30 minutes by simply stopping by any B-cycle station along your route and returning your bike before your 30 minutes is up. As soon as your bike is returned, your session has ended. You can begin a new 30 minute session immediately by inserting your credit card and selecting a bike — it can even be the exact same bike you just returned. The stations are everywhere, and I never ran into problems with extra charges.
3. Use google maps to navigate the city like a pro on bike friendly streets, lanes, and paths. I found Austin to be a very bike-friendly city, even during rush hour. I felt safe because there were always other bicyclists on the road with me, and drivers were conscious and considerate. It’s not quite as good as cycling in Vancouver, but way better than some cities like LA. Overall I’d say its on par with riding in a city like Denver or Salt Lake.
— Laura Rowley