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  • El Paso bike-share adds seven new stations

    by Selena Madrigal | Oct 05,2016

    El Paso bike-share adds seven new stations

    The SunCycle Bike Share Program is expanding in the Borderland.

    One of the newest SunCycle stations is on the UTEP campus near the softball complex off of Sun Bowl Drive. It’s just one of seven new stations being added around the city.

    The seven new bike-share stations are coming with 80 more bikes, which are expected to be added within the next couple of weeks, according to Raymond Telles, Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority executive director.

    “The original bike share plan was actually a much larger plan; they cut it back. There were some funding issues at that time," said Telles.

    Funding is no longer an issue.

    The Metropolitan Planning Organization came up with additional funds with the help of the city of El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso, according to Telles.

    People who use the bikes say they are seeing the benefits of the bike-share program.

    “It motivates people to exercise at least a little, because you know how we live such a busy life that we really don’t have enough time to exercise as much as we would want to. So I think it’s really cool,” said west side resident Perla Nieto.

    The new stations can be found at San Jacinto Plaza, Southwest University Park, El Paso County Courthouse, Mundy Park, UTEP at the Mike Loya Academic Services Building and along the north and southbound lanes of Sun Bowl Drive.

    “We direct them to our website. We can walk them through transactions if they’re at the screen, or we are just available to answer any questions for them,” said Cesar Martinez with the SunCycle operations. “The bikes are a great option option for transportation and they’re even eco-friendly, with stations running off of solar power.”

  • Field Guide: A Day In El Paso

    by Robert Lopez | Oct 05,2016

    FIELD GUIDE: A DAY IN EL PASO

    Posted on August 24, 2016
    Sacred Heart Mural - El Segundo Barrio

    Everyone has that distant cousin who grew up in another city. When you see them, they look and feel like family, but you can tell they were raised a little different.  McAllen and El Paso are like distant cousins.

    Tale of the Tape: McAllen and El Paso metro areas rank 5th and 6th in Texas, respectively, with the McAllen MSA population at 842,304 and El Paso Metro with 838,972.

    On paper, the two border cities are nearly identical, but I wanted to see what the Sun City was all about. I’ve always thought the best way to explore a city is on foot, so I took to the streets of Downtown El Paso as soon as I had the chance.

    Self Portrait - Downtown El Paso

    Self Portrait – Downtown El Paso

    El Paso has a booming arts scene, and it starts at Las Plazas Arts District where you will find museums, entertainment venues and urban parks. Navigate through the Arts District and discover one of the only digital walls in the world at the El Paso Historical Museum. It’s History Channel meets Minority Report with this interactive touchscreen time machine. You can swipe left and right, pinch and zoom and travel through time at your own pace, learning about the rich history of the West Texas city.

    San Jacinto Plaza is the epicenter of any downtown experience. The newly renovated San Jacinto Plaza is a family attraction located in the heart of downtown. It features a full service café, a splash pad, and plenty of seating, including built-in chess tables and benches. You know you’re there when you spot the larger-than-life sized alligator sculpture created by nationally acclaimed local artist Luis Jimenez that pays homage to the alligators that once inhabited the park from the 1800s to 1960s.

    Alligator Sculpture - San Jacinto Park

    Alligator Sculpture – San Jacinto Park

    All that walking will make you hungry, and there is no shortage of high quality eats in Downtown El Paso. The easy way out is finding a Mexican Restaurant, but putting EP’s culinary culture to the test is way more adventurous. You can scour review sites, ask a local passerby, or you can discover a hidden gem on your own. I prefer the singular experience, so when I spotted Craft & Social from across the street, I jay walked my way to the cozy eatery.

    Craft & Social - El Paso

    Craft & Social – El Paso

    Craft & Social has everything you look for in a lunchtime hot spot. Its hip vibe and simple menu of upscale sandwiches along with its craft beer selection make it the ideal midday stop for provisions. I opted for The Foghorn, which features oven roasted chicken and provolone with avocado, pear and sprouts on a perfectly toasted wheat Panini. Pair it with tangy, marinated cucumber chips and a pint of locally brewed Deadbeach Lager and conquer lunch at this vintage-styled eatery.

    The Foghorn - Craft & Social

    The Foghorn – Craft & Social

    I’m a fan of urban street art, so when I heard about the El Segundo Barrio murals, I had to see for myself. You can make the hike by foot, or immerse yourself in the scene and take advantage of its SunCycle Bike Share Program. I elected to channel my inner PeeWee Herman and take one of the bikes for a cruise through the oldest neighborhood in El Paso because I like to keep a low profile, and a bright red bike outfitted with an oversized basket is the perfect way to blend in in the Barrio.

    El Paso Bcycle Station

    El Paso Bcycle Station

    El Segundo Barrio was established in the 1880s when thousands of Mexicans emigrated to El Paso to start a new life. The murals adorn the facades of church buildings, apartment homes and local markets, telling the story of the community’s deep-rooted Chicano culture through the eyes of its resident artists.  Here are a few snapshots I captured, and this is probably only half of the neighborhood murals.

    El Segundo Barrio mural

    El Segundo Barrio mural

    La Virgen de Guadalupe mural - El Segundo Barrio

    La Virgen de Guadalupe mural – El Segundo Barrio

    mural - El Segundo Barrio

    mural – El Segundo Barrio

    El Corrido del Segundo Barrio mural - El Segundo Barrio

    El Corrido del Segundo Barrio mural – El Segundo Barrio

    Iztaccihuatl & Popocatepetl Mural - El Segundo Barrio

    Iztaccihuatl & Popocatepetl Mural – El Segundo Barrio

    Sacred Heart Mural - El Segundo Barrio

    Sacred Heart Mural – El Segundo Barrio

    unknown urban art - El Paso

    unknown urban art – El Paso

    El Paso Boxing Hall of Fame mural

    El Paso Boxing Hall of Fame mural

    mural El Segundo Barrio

    mural El Segundo Barrio

    urban street mural - El Paso

    urban street mural – El Paso

    El Chuco y Que Mural - El Segundo Barrio

    El Chuco y Que Mural – El Segundo Barrio

    Entelequia/Entelechy Mural - El Segundo Barrio

    Entelequia/Entelechy Mural – El Segundo Barrio

    unknown urban art - El Paso

    unknown urban art – El Paso

    Shhhhhhh

    The urban artistry seeps out of El Segundo and into mainstream culture with each vibrant piece of artwork connecting you to the next, before landing you at Union Square where native crafters can be found at farmer’s markets selling local wares on the weekends.

    Plotting your next step over an expertly handcrafted cocktail is veteran move, and the move here is Anson 11. Located on the ground floor of the historic Anson Mills building, this local cocktailery lives up to the reputation of its namesake, Anson Mills, the founding father of El Paso. With bold beverages like its Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita, Anson 11 is the standard-bearer when it comes to gourmet eats and drinks in Downtown EP.

    Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita - Anson 11

    Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita – Anson 11

    Ending the day snaking up the windy, paved road on the East side of the Franklin Mountains is the way to go. Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest urban state park in the United States, and offers a birds-eye view of the unique borderland below. From the visitors parking area, situated 4,692 feet above sea level, you can catch a glimpse of both worlds, seamlessly connected by a sprawling desert-urban landscape. Views from the top overlook three states and two nations, naturally lit as the sun sets on Sun City, creating a color pallet only Mother Nature could make.

    Wyler Aerial Tramway - photo credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife

    Wyler Aerial Tramway – photo credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife

    Insider Tip: Take the Wyler Aerial Tramway to catch the best views from the top of Ranger Peak. Check the weather and hours of operation to make sure it’s open though.

    You can’t help but notice the cultural similarities between El Paso and McAllen at every turn, yet at the same time, the two cities are equally just as different. I love McAllen, but after spending some time in the West Texas border town, I may have developed a little bit of a crush on El Paso.

    Views from Franklin Mountain State Park

    Views from Franklin Mountain State Park


  • El Paso's bike-share program launching in September

    by David Hernandez - The El Paso Times | Sep 14,2015

     
    El Paso's bike-share program, which has faced delays and setbacks, is slated to launch early next month, officials said.

    The $720,000 program will roll out in early September and will include 80 bikes and eight solar-powered stations throughout Downtown and near the University of Texas at El Paso, said Raymond Telles, director of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, which oversees the project.

    The bicycle system will allow people to rent a bike at one station and return it at any other station, similar to those in other major cities throughout the country that have been lauded as a means to reduce vehicle use, promote air quality and encourage fitness.

    B-cycle stations opened at Mission Espada and Mission County Park this weekend, bringing the bike sharing program’s total number of stations to 52
    B-cycle stations opened at Mission Espada and Mission County Park this weekend, bringing the bike sharing program's total number of stations to 52 across the city. (Jeremy Gerlach)

    El Paso's bike-share program, which has been in the works since 2013, was scheduled to begin in May 2014 and then earlier this year. The delay was primarily due to difficulties in acquiring funds, Telles said.

    Originally a $2 million city-wide initiative, the project was scaled down after the Texas Department of Transportation declined to release $1.6 million from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. The El Paso Metropolitan Organization had approved the project, but TxDOT, which oversees the funds, argued that the program didn't address air quality enough to justify the funds.

    The current budget includes $100,000 from the city, $276,000 from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and $24,000 from University of Texas at El Paso. The rest of the money comes from federal funds TxDOT approved.

    Now in its final stages, the bike-share program is intended for short trips around Downtown. The hope is that it will attract people to the area while reducing traffic congestion, particularly during events such as baseball games at Southwest University Park.

    The mobility authority partnered with B-cycle, a company with bike-share systems primarily in Texas, the Midwest and East Coast, to bring the program to El Paso.

    "We're very excited. It's been a long time coming," said Lee P. Jones, B-cycle's director of sales. "The one fascinating thing that happens when the systems go in is that they really change the dynamics of the city."

    Bike-share programs in other cities have been implemented to address transportation, health and environmental concerns.

    In Austin, the program began as a way to combat the city's growing traffic congestion problem, said Elliot McFadden, executive director of Austin B-cycle. An independent survey in November 2014 found that 27 percent of people used the bike-share program in Austin to replace a car trip and 38 percent had used the bike-share program in conjunction with a bus, rail or other mode of public transportation.

    Members of the media have lunch near at the new B-Cycle station near the Witte Museum after riding from the the San Antonio Zoo. The bike-share program
    Members of the media have lunch near at the new B-Cycle station near the Witte Museum after riding from the the San Antonio Zoo. The bike-share program staff hosted members of the media to kick off the five new B-Cycle stations at the zoo, the Witte Museum, TriPoint, Sunset Station and Ace Mart Restaurant Supply on South St. Mary's Street. (Sarah Tressler)

    In San Antonio, many people who used the bike-share program shared early on stories about losing weight, Jones said.

    Bill Simons, board member of San Antonio B-cycle, said the bike-share system has made people "more cycle-oriented."

    "It's a wonderful thing," he said of the increased bike use.

    The concept of providing bicycles for short-term use around Downtown is not entirely new to El Paso. City employees have had the option of checking out bicycles from City Hall and other city buildings at no cost since 2013. Most of the people who check out bicycles, such as city senior planner Michael McElroy, use them to attend meetings or grab lunch.

    McElroy said it's quicker to go somewhere Downtown on a bike rather than a car, particularly becuase there's no need to worry about traffic or one-way streets.

    The locations outlined for the bike-share program, which targets visitors and residents alike, are San Jacinto Plaza, Oregon Street and University Avenue near UTEP, the university's library, El Paso Community College - Rio Grande Campus, City Hall, Sun Metro Downtown Transfer Center, Cleveland Square Park and the Union Plaza District.

    People will be able to pay at kiosks to rent a bike. B-cycle typically offers daily, weekly, monthly and annual passes, though Telles said fees and membership options haven't been finalized. People are usually charged a few more dollars after 30 minutes because bike-share programs are intended for short-term use.

    While the program and bicycles costs may seem hefty — an aspect some city representatives criticized in the past — Jones said the bikes are not conventional. These, he said, are meant to endure the worst of conditions, such as humidity and rain.

    "They're designed to be very, very rugged," Jones said, adding that bicycles in Denver have been outdoors for six years and continue to function well with maintenance.

    The launch of the eight stations in El Paso is considered a first phase of more to come, Telles said.

    "The first phase will show what stations are popular," he said. "We'll see what's working, what isn't."

    Most cities do expand their programs. San Antonio B-cycle, which began in 2012 with 14 stations and 140 bikes, is up to 55 stations and close to 600 bicycles. Austin, which has 46 stations and 375 bicycles, will add four more stations this week, McFadden said. Austin B-cycle began with 40 stations in 2013.

    Jones said B-cycle encourages cities to seek sponsors so that, along with revenue from users, the program can become sustainable. Telles said the mobility authority will seek sponsorships and grants to expand the program.

    "We'll be looking under every rock," he said.

    A final step for the program to launch requires City Council to approve a license agreement that would allow the bicycle stations, which include docks and kiosks, to be installed on the proposed public sidewalks. The council is scheduled to consider the license agreement Tuesday and make a final decision Aug. 18.

    David Hernandez may be reached at 546-6154.

    Robert Young unlocks a bike from the B-cycle bike sharing system Monday, June 27, 2011 on W. Houston St. by Milam Square. Young is one of the top riders in
    Robert Young unlocks a bike from the B-cycle bike sharing system Monday, June 27, 2011 on W. Houston St. by Milam Square. Young is one of the top riders in the system. (SALLY FINNERAN)

    http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_28612586/el-pasos-bike-share-program-launching-september
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