Bike Share for Bike Tours?

Here’s some interesting timing, we were just thinking about whether bike share makes sense for a self-guided city tour.  USAToday recently posted this article: 10Best: Bike Share Program to Tour Great Cities (apparently all the “best” cities are in the US).   Our town, Austin, made the list!

So, does bike share make sense for us city bike tour types?  The article says:

Forget a rental car or a taxi: The best way for travelers to explore a city is often on two wheels. And with more than 50 U.S. municipalities offering bike-share programs, it has never been easier for visitors to take to the streets, says Paul DeMaio, a transportation consultant and co-author of the Bike-sharing Blog. “You’re getting to see the sights, see how the city functions and you’re able to cover more ground than by simply walking.”

We certainly agree that two wheels are the way to go and faster than walking. And bike share is a quick, accessible way to get on those two wheels and get moving quickly. For cities like Austin, you can find rental stations within a block or two of most central locations.  That’s a time saver over finding and getting transport to (you could always use the bike share!) a rental shop.

So, what’s the downside?  Well, it could get expensive vs. renting a bike or even taking a tour. For example, in Austin, a day pass is a mere $8 for unlimited 30 minute rides.  That’s a great deal …. BUT, if you wanted to keep that same bike and ride for, say, 4 hours, it would cost you $36. That’s not bad either, but as the day goes on, it could get expensive.  On the other hand, if you make frequent stops and check in/out at each destination, you could literally spend just the initial $8.

Other cities will have different rate structures, so be sure to review your destination city’s plan before you decide.

Another possible minor downside for you, is that shared bikes tend to be heavy and slow (designed to last forever and accommodate many body sizes over winning the Tour de France).

So, here’s our advice:

  • If your city has a bike tour available, take it.  You’ll meet people, get inside tips, and probably see and learn more than you would on your own.
  • If you’re hungry for more, bike share is a great option, just make sure you understand how it works.
  • If you want a nicer/faster/keep-it-for-the-duration bike…rent one at a local shop.  But take the bike share to get you there from your lodgings!

And finally….guess what?  Austin’s B-cycle is starting their own tours! (see bottom of page).