New wheels in Cowtown • Austin-based nonprofit seeks DFW volunteers for home energy app By Julie Thibodeaux
READY TO ROLL
Residents and visitors to Fort Worth will be able to rent wheels to get around town when the first city-wide bike-sharing program in North Texas launches Earth Day, April 22. The program called Fort Worth B-Cycle will offer bus riders, commuters and fitness buffs access to 300 specially designed bicycles, available for checkout from 30 docking stations in Fort Worth.
“We want to provide people with an additional mode of transportation and encourage people to use our bikes for short trips that are too far to walk or too short to justify driving,” said Nick Olivier, business development manager for Fort Worth B-Cycle. Users will be able to check out bikes at kiosks by swiping a credit card, much like movie rental kiosks. The bikes can be taken out for 30 minutes at no charge. According to Olivier, users can recheck bikes throughout the day free as long as they return them within the time limit. Fees for additional time are $1.50 for the first half hour and $3 for each additional half-hour. Passes cost $8 per day and $80 for a year.
The program, seeded by a $1 million federal grant, is operated by the nonprofit Fort Worth Bike Sharing while B-Cycle is providing the equipment. The Madison, Wisc-based company B-Cycle also provides bikes for 16 other cities in the U.S., including Houston and San Antonio. Olivier said B-Cycle is looking into creating a shared membership system, to allow members to use bikes in other cities.
Volunteers are needed to ride the bikes for the kickoff day. To sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, see http://fortworthbikesharing.org/. See a demo video at http://houston.bcycle.com.
Pecan Street Inc., an Austin-based non-profit, has been studying Austin homeowners’ energy usage in order to dream up solutions for delivering energy smarter and greener for future generations. Now, they want to tap North Texas homeowners for input.
The Pecan Street Consortium provides member companies, including Dell, Green Mountain Energy, Oncor, Intel, Lockheed Martin and Sony, with independent research and evaluation conducted from researchers at the University of Texas, Pecan Street, Inc., Environmental Defense Fund and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. So far, the research has been gathered primarily in Austin’s Mueller community, a green-built mixed-use urban redevelopment with one of the highest concentrations of rooftop solar arrays and electric vehicles in the U.S.
While the neighborhood has been ideal for studying cutting-edge home energy models, researchers want to expand their research. Now they’re seeking tech-savvy volunteers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to test a home environmental solutions app and provide feedback on what kind of additional technology would make reducing their carbon footprint simpler and well, more fun. “The goal is get everyone to use energy more wisely,” said Colin Rowan, media relations for Pecan Street Inc. “If something isn’t fun to use, it doesn’t matter how helpful it is to the universe, people won’t use it.”
Homeowners will receive access to a website that enables users to monitor their energy usage. As a result, volunteers must have both internet and smart meters installed to participate. The project is expected to last about 18 months. Rowan said this isn’t for everyone. Volunteers must also be comfortable with researchers snooping into their energy habits. “This is not for people who are worried about privacy. This for people who like trying new stuff and want to help save the planet.”
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Julie Thibodeaux covers environmental issues, green topics and sustainable living for Green Source DFW. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Send your green bulletin items to Julie@greensourcedfw.org. Follow us at Facebook/GreenSourceDFW.com