I know there are a lot of people in the Heights that would like to see some bike share kiosks here, but as The Leader News reports, it will be awhile before that happens.
Although running through arguably the most bike-conscious set of communities in Houston, the bike paths along White Oak Bayou and through the Heights into downtown now primarily sustain a ridership of weekend and evening recreational users, walkers and joggers. (It doesn’t help the White Oak trail that 610/290 construction is closing a big chunk of it from south of the North Loop along T.C. Jester to 34th Street for another year.)
The city of Houston’s B-cycle bike share program largely completed its second phase this week ahead of schedule and now boasts 21 stations and 175 bikes – but they’re all in downtown, midtown, Montrose, the East End and the Museum District-Hermann Park area.
And Will Rub, head of the B-cycle program, says when the third phase is funded, it’s likely to focus on the Medical Center area.
“We might start looking along sites along the Washington Avenue Corridor,” he said, “but that’s down the line.” Way down the line is the Heights, he said.
Blake Masters, president of the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood, seems strangely calm about the area being passed over so far for the B-cycle kiosks. But there’s a reason.
As part of a Leadership Houston class, Masters studied putting a bike share into Houston before the group learned that the B-cycle program was already on the drawing boards.
“You do have to start somewhere, and to make it succeed, you have to choose the areas with the heaviest pedestrian traffic and people who need to go short distances on congested streets. So far, they’re doing it right.”
He’s encouraged to hear that the Washington Avenue Corridor, which is in his Super Neighborhood, is on B-cycle’s radar. Parts of the Heights would also be “very logical” locations he said, naming the 19th-20th Street, White Oak and Studewood commercial areas. “We’d have to make sure the neighbors are on board with the plans, though,” he said.
This makes sense to me. Bike sharing is for places to which people travel without cars, or for whom it’s inconvenient to get their parked cars for a short trip. That describes places like downtown and the Medical Center, but not the Heights. The Heights is a destination, not a point of origin, for bike sharing; if you’re in the Heights and you want to get somewhere by bike, you probably already have your bike with you. The downtown bike share network, which is somewhat akin to a transit network, is beginning to build spokes out of downtown, with kiosks in Midtown and parts of Montrose. The Washington Avenue corridor, which is directly accessible from downtown, is a natural future spoke of this network. Once this extended network is robust enough to support spokes being built from other spokes and not from the hub, that’s when it will make sense to look at putting kiosks in the Heights, most likely in the locations suggested by Blake Masters. Alternately, as Metro’s re-architected bus route map gets built, or in the event of future streetcar/BRT/light rail construction along Washington, that may make Heights-area kiosks more attractive and useful. The kiosks are coming, I have no doubt about that, but the network isn’t ready for it yet. If you want it to hurry along, do what you can to make the existing B-Cycle network a success.