El Paso’s bike share program gains speed

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For getting around town, there are numerous options: by car, bus, train, bike, and, soon to come, trolley. El Paso’s SunCycle Bike Share Program, managed by the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, is one option that’s gaining speed.

“Since the downtown is pretty dense, we’re all sharing 150 bikes,” said Cesar Martinez, SunCycle operations director. “We all use them for short trips and we count on plenty of bikes being available.”

SunCycle, the city’s first bike share program, launched in September of 2015 with 80 bikes and eight stations in the downtown and UTEP areas. Today, the program has grown to include 150 bikes and 16 stations.

Those 18 years of age or older may rent a bike at any station and return it to any station, making one-way trips a cinch. The cost is $6 for a day pass. The purchase can be completed at the station or using the BCycle app. In the app, users must pick their current city to get started.

“You have access to the system for 24 hours,” Martinez said. “You can check out any bike at any station as much as you want for the next 24 hours.”

For 24 hours, users can take as many rides as they want but each ride must last no more than 30 minutes or a $2 fee is incurred for each half hour over the time limit. The maximum that can be charged for one day is $65. If the bike is checked into a station every thirty minutes, no extra fees accrue.

Since its launch, the program has been in use by all kinds of bikers: locals, students, tourists, and business personnel working downtown, Martinez said.

“We have a really good cross-section of users right now,” he said. “Local users are using them during the week for recreational use and exercise, and people are using them during their work days for lunch or to just get around the downtown area.”

Bikes in the program are maintained every day and repaired on the spot when needed. For repair, customers can call the phone number on the bike.

“The bikes are inspected every day to make sure they are safe to ride that day,” Martinez said. “If they get a flat tire, we will go out and repair.”

Darlina Marie, a local tribal belly dancer and instructor, can testify to the company’s urgency in making repairs.

“I’ve tried it a few times and I loved it,” she said. “[A friend] and I rode all over downtown one afternoon not too long ago and we had a blast. Also, there was an issue with a flat tire and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I called the help number that was provided on the bike, and the helper was very nice and resolved my problem immediately. I think these bikes are a great edition to our El Paso downtown experience.”

Kalina Gallardo, an AmeriCorps VISTA Member completing her service in El Paso, said she loves the bike share program but finds it to be somewhat pricey and looks forward to discounts.

“There are parts of the city that are beautiful on a bike, and if you don’t have one, the bike share helps out,” Gallardo said. “The bikes are super adjustable to fit most bodies, which gives access to a wide range of people. I’d say they are a bit expensive for low or fixed income families, and free days or discounts would be helpful.”

SunCycle regularly hosts special events that give newcomers and El Pasoans alike a chance to participate in games and take guided tours of Downtown’s art and scenery. This Friday, March 31, users can take part in a Downtown scavenger hunt from 6-9 p.m. starting at the 400 W. San Antonio Ave. in the Union Plaza entertainment district. On Saturday, the following day, SunCycle users are invited to join the El Paso Museum of Art and Chicano muralist Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado on a bike tour of Chicano murals from noon to 4 p.m., meeting at EPMA for a preview of the exhibition “Papel Chicano Dos: Works on Paper.” For the tour, a free public event that requires a reservation with EPMA, participants are asked to bring or rent a bike near the museum. The $2 fee for every extra half hour of continuous use is waived for users who participate in the event.

The spring and upcoming summer months are ripe with events and discounts, Martinez said.

“We have contests and we announce promo codes for free rides,” he said, adding that promotions are posted on the company’s social media accounts.

Alternative transportation, such as biking, is important to the health of El Paso residents and the environment, Martinez said.

“It reduces out carbon footprint and helps everyone burn some calories,” he said.

In the first 14 months of operations, SunCycle users took more than 16,000 rides, which accounted for 84,000 miles ridden, 80,000 pounds of carbon offset, and more than 3,300,000 calories burned.

Martinez said plans are in the works for further expansion of the program.

“Our newest station was installed in November [2017] at Stanton and Cincinnati streets – that was station No. 16,” he said. “Hopefully we get more stations around that area. I certainly hope we have some new stations up this year.”

Learn more online here

Have you used the SunCycle bicycles?  What do you think?

By Meagan O’Toole-Pitts

REW View Pubs
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