The potential loss of San Antonio B-Cycle has the city abuzz with talk of how to save the popular bikeshare program.
A Rivard Report article published on Wednesday, which outlined San Antonio B-Cycle Executive Director Cindi Snell’s plans to step down from the position in September, prompted a strong response from readers and City leadership, worried about the program’s future in San Antonio.
(Read More: San Antonio Could Lose Bikeshare, Too)
“We need to determine what would be the best way to ensure their viability and sustainability,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said Wednesday. “We should be able to find funding.”
Where that funding would come from is yet to be determined, but City leadership seems confident that a solution will be found.
“We will ensure that the program will continue. It’s fabulous. I live downtown, so I see how many people use it,” said City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “We’re committed to make it work.”
Sculley said that City funding could be an option, but that decision would ultimately be left up to City Council.
UPDATED on Thursday, April 9 at 4:45 p.m.:
“We need to become sustainable and the board needs to find an executive director,” she said.
She told friends and colleagues in the cycling community that she is exhausted after four years of unsuccessful efforts to win any major sponsorships and operating on a bare bones budget and pro bono support services to survive.
“I really feel that we have to find a branding sponsor, and I believe our political leadership is in a position to ask for that,” she said. “My hope is that we find one branding sponsor to be the name on every bicycle.”
She said B-Cycle generates money from day-pass users and annual members, but those funds are not enough to support the nonprofit’s operations – finding a branding sponsor would help make these operating costs possible.
In order for B-Cycle to function as it was intended with an adequate number of staff members, Snell said the nonprofit needs $500,000 a year for the next three years. That number is low compared to other large cities with bikeshare programs. Philadelphia received an $8.5 million contribution from Independence Blue Cross to be used over the next five years, and Denver’s bike system is sponsored by health care provider Kaiser Permanente.
She said if B-Cycle finds a branding sponsor, they will add 200 bikes and 21 stations to the downtown and surrounding areas using the $1.2 million Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) grant, which would increase the size of B-Cycle by 40%. She said she hopes to implement the stations in neighborhoods that connect to the core of downtown.
“(Bikeshare) is a mobility option that’s essential,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Douglas Melnick.
Wednesday night, more than 55 people had commented on the original article, most expressing disappointment with the possible closure of the local B-Cycle franchise. Many readers called on San Antonio-based corporations – including Rackspace, USAA, H-E-B, Toyota, Tesoro, NuStar Energy, and others – to step forward with sponsorships.
Reader Chris L commented that the loss of B-Cycle in San Antonio would be major – even more so than ridesharing.
“Far more than just tourists use B-Cycle, and bike sharing signals a trend of residents wanting to find viable alternatives to expensive car ownership. Yes, even here. You may not personally use B-Cycle but it’s a more important part of our city’s fabric than we realize,” he stated.
San Antonio B-Cycle has proven to be a successful method of transportation for community members and tourists who have checked out the bikes more than 275,000 times since its launch in 2011.
Read more about San Antonio B-Cycle’s precarious future here.
Rivard Report Managing Editor Iris Dimmick contributed to this report.
*Featured/top image: The San Antonio B-Cycle hub located at the corner of César Chávez Boulevard and South Alamo Street. Photo by Scott Ball.