On Tuesday afternoon, with summer vacation on the wane, a sparse a handful of families could be found at Fair Park's entrance at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, en route to the aquarium or the Texas Discovery Gardens. Further into the park, there was a man sitting on a bench overlooking the lagoon and a carpenter assembling what he confirmed to be tiny crooked houses. "For the fair," he explained.
What weren't there, save for the one ridden by yours truly, were bicycles. This wouldn't normally be surprising, given the triple-digit heat and Fair Park's general lack of human activity, were it not for the fact that there were supposed to be 16 of them. Back in March, the City Council voted to install at Fair Park a miniature bike-share system -- two, eventually maybe three stations -- at a cost of $125,000.
The promise at the time was that the system would be up and running by late May or early June, according to Fair Park's April newsletter. Then, the system was supposed to be unveiled at Fair Park Sparks!, which happened on June 13. Seven weeks later, there are still no bikes.
Councilman Philip Kingston, who argued against the project as a perversion of the bike-share concept (typically done as a system so users can get from point A to point B instead of just from point A to point A) and potentially incompatible with whatever citywide system City Hall eventually puts in place, would prefer it stay that way.
"If there's nothing there, it's at its highest point," he said. "It's only going to get worse from here."
But there will be something there. Fair Park administration punted questions about the program to Friends of Fair Park executive director Craig Holcomb, who says a rollout is on the horizon, or just beyond it.
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"We've put down the deposit on the bikes and got an intellectual property agreement, a digital-service agreement, a user agreement, [and] insurance. We're now to the point where we're ready to get the bikes here and get them assembled."
That's going to happen once the city nails down the precise location for the two stations, one of which will be by the MLK entrance, one by Parry Avenue. Until recently, the plan was to have concrete poured by August, but Holcomb says that now looks unlikely.
September is a possibility, but that's getting awfully close to the State Fair, when the bike-share system won't be in operation because of the large crowds and a desire to prevent fairgoers from getting mowed down by bikes. That leaves November, or eight months after the City Council first approved the Fair Park bike share at least in part because city staff -- and Carolyn Davis -- didn't want to wait the year it would take to implement a program citywide.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.