SLUG Editorial Assistant Esther Merono on a Tern bike at SXSW. See note at bottom of article for back story to this photo. Photo: Angela H. Brown
As part of my SXSW experience, I participated in SXcycles, the new (as of this year) bike share program provided by the festival and Tern bikes. They opened it up to those with badges and wristbands during the Interactive portion of SXSW, and I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of it on Monday and Tuesday.
It's a really cool concept (and execution, for that matter). I grabbed my SX badge at the convention center on Monday and headed across the street to a dirt parking lot with some tents and tables set up next to a pop-up lounge with coffee and couches. They got my info, set me up with the girlie colored (they had a blue and black one they were giving guys, but I was cool with pink) and foldable Tern Link D8, a set of BioLogic lights, a cable lock and an Austin bikeways map. I asked Tern's Andrew McCalla, an Austin local, a few questions about bike laws specific to Austin and a few others things (So … can I take the whole right lane? How much trouble will I get in if my bike gets stolen …. 'cause you just gave me a CABLE lock …) and was on my way! Well, I actually rode around the parking lot a bit 'cause I've been riding my fixie a lot lately and it always throws me off to ride freewheel right after. All was good, though, 'cause the Link D8 was pretty ridable.
I'll tell you more about the bike in a minute, first let me tell you about riding in Austin. I'm not sure if it had to do with the fact SXSW had somehow absorbed every single person in the country from the ages of 19-35 into Austin's downtown, but there are hundreds of cyclists here. The bike lanes are pretty reflective of that, I think. There are some one-way streets with bike lanes on BOTH sides of the street (it's pronounced Guadalu-pEH, people, not Guadaloop), which is super fucking rad. We need something like this on 6th and 5th South, right? I mean, Salt Lake is bike friendly, but Austin's straight up proposing. It was pretty similar to riding in Salt Lake in other ways, though, except the hills in Salt Lake are a little more brutal. And of course, there are still asshole car drivers here, but that's everywhere.
I rode around everywhere for two days, and had a blast. When I wasn't out and about, I stowed the bike in my friend's apartment (the bike rack outside of her building was covered in bike wreckage, so there's no way I was going to trust a cable lock to make it through the night). There was enough room in her apartment that I didn't have to utilize the Link D8's folding capabilities, but Andrew showed me how to, just in case, and that thing is fucking rad. I've always been a little skeptical of folding bikes, 'cause I'm afraid they're gonna fold on me as I'm bombing down a hill or something, and they've always seemed like the afternoon snack of bicycles (they're good for curbing your bike hunger, or maybe commuting somewhere quick, but you're gonna want the real deal come dinner time). Not gonna lie, if I wasn't completely in love with my fixie, or if I lived in NYC or somewhere I needed to be more efficient with my time and space, this would be my main set of wheels. It has gears and everything, and still folds down to this tiny little thing with its own stand! Andrew also made the point that if you fold it up and lock it, it looks like a piece of junk at the bike rack so it's less likely to get stolen. Pretty smart, actually, 'cause folded up that thing would've looked like most of the sad skeletons hanging outside my friend's apartment. The bikes are also pretty affordable: $600 for a new one. Andrew tried to get me to buy it, but I've got my hands full with the Mercier and Haro at the moment, and wasn't going to lug a bike around, no matter how small and convenient, while flying stand-by back to SLC.
Oh yeah, I also want to mention that the bike program provided complimentary, Triple-A style bike servicing by local company Guerilla Cyclewerx. Which means that you'd call them up if you got a flat or something, and they'd come to YOU and fix it like a regular Prince Charming!
I'm hoping that SXcycles was a success this year. Andrew said their goal was to get 150 cars off the road and replace them with bikes, to minimize traffic congestion and help Mother Earth, of course! Brilliant idea, if I ever heard one. Hopefully next year they extend the program during the music portion of SX, 'cause I loved riding around Austin for two days and would've loved it even more for the whole week! Check out some more Tern bikes here.
[Note on photo: So, we totally took a photo on Tuesday when I had a bicycle of my own, but that one was accidentally deleted. Walking back from a venue late on Tuesday, after I'd dropped off my Tern, we came upon this one (locked with a cable lock), pulled it out, took a photo and walked away. If I had some cable cutters on me, I could've ridden away on that thing with Angela Brown sitting on the handlebars, and no one would've noticed. So what can we learn from this? DON'T LOCK YOUR BIKE UP WITH A CABLE LOCK. EVER. Next year I'm bringing my own U-lock with me.]