B-cycle public bikes at La Villita Historic Arts Village San Antonio (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

B-cycle public bikes at La Villita Historic Arts Village San Antonio (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

When a city offers a lot of things to see but they’re spread out a little bit (or you simply like the feel of gliding along with the wind ruffling your hair) I recommend the B-cycle bike sharing services that are popping up in cities across the U.S.

I’d seen such public bikes in Denver, and something similar in Toronto, but a short visit to San Antonio was my first chance to try them out.

After a lazy morning along the River Walk and a stroll in HemisFair Park, I’d blown most of the cool part of the day (never a smart move during a Texas summer) and still had several places to see, so it was time to either cut down my list or find a magic transportation carpet.

Hello, B-cycle.

You swipe a credit card to buy a 24-hour pass (cost was US$10 in San Antonio – annual passes are available online) and then you can un-rack and ride any of the sturdy bikes you’ll find in the B-cycle racks placed around town. The only requirement is that once you check out a bike, you have 30 minutes to get where you’re going and re-rack it at any bike station before incurring a (small, like $3) usage fee above the daily rate.

The 30 minute deal worried me – I know a little bit about San Antonio, so figured I had a handle on distances between places I wanted to visit, but what if I got turned around and took longer than I expected to get to the next rack?

Well, that’s exactly what happened, and I still made it in 30 minutes.

My first leg was about two miles, from the La Villita arts village to the Pearl Brewery retail/restaurant complex. It should have taken maybe 20 minutes, but I got turned around in a residential area and had to use Google Maps on my phone to sort myself out. I made it in 29.5 minutes, and it was nice to grab my purse out of the bike’s front basket and head off to explore without having to deal with finding parking for a car.

Tip: I should have downloaded the B-cycle app. It maps out all the stations and shows you how many bikes are currently available at each.

After the Pearl, I biked to Market Square – El Mercado, bought a couple of embroidered tops to throw in the bike basket, then rode back into downtown to meet my husband at the Convention Center. In total, I was biking for about an hour, which meant that every meal that day was absolutely guilt-free!

At the B-cycle bike sharing station San Antonio Convention Center (photo by Chris Fancher)

At the B-cycle bike sharing station San Antonio Convention Center (photo by Chris Fancher)

Wear sunscreen when you’re out riding, and drink lots of water. Also, I’ll confess that I did not wear a helmet (how very Dutch of me.) Next time I’ll bring my own, although signs at the racks indicate that you can rent helmets at the central hub B-cycle station.

I’ll definitely use B-cycle again, and when I return to San Antonio I plan to ride a bike to explore the new Mission Trail along the San Antonio River.

Have you used a similar bike-sharing system when you travel? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!

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