B-Cycle Set to Launch on Earth Day

The first citywide bike-sharing system to come to the U.S. is due to launch this Thursday in Denver, Colorado. From the press release:

DENVER, April 19 /PRNewswire/ — B-cycle is helping Denver residents increase daily activity and reduce carbon emissions with the country’s first citywide bike-sharing system, Denver B-cycle. On April 22, the program will launch with 500 B-cycles at 50 B-stations around the city, offering a green alternative to cars for short commutes and errands.

“Denver residents embrace healthy and sustainable living, so it’s natural that Denver is now home to the first large-scale bike-sharing system in the U.S.,” said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. “We’re confident that Denver can set an example for the whole country and show that bike-sharing is a viable transportation option to help improve the overall health of Americans and reduce our carbon footprint.”

B-cycle was formed by a partnership between Humana, Trek Bicycle and Crispin Porter + Bogusky based on a shared belief that bicycles should be a vehicle for positive health and environmental change as well as an important part of a community’s transportation ecosystem. Together, the founding partners developed a bike-sharing system designed specifically for U.S. cities, universities and corporate campuses. Denver is B-cycle’s first installation.

I’m jealous. Congats, Denver! We’re rooting for you!

Read the full press release
More about B-Cycle at their website

22 Responses to “B-Cycle Set to Launch on Earth Day”

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Great stuff. Shame PDX wasn’t first, but I guess this may be telling: A poll on our work intranet was titled “how many bikes do you own”, and the options began at one.

  • mhoek says:

    DC’s bike sharing program doesn’t qualify as 1st in the US, eh? Granted it isn’t quite as large as Denver’s program but it should soon eclipse it in size once they complete the planned expansion. http://www.smartbikedc.com

  • Doug says:

    Denver’s program will likely be all marketing and no substance. Sorry to be a drudge on this, but I’ve lived in urban Denver for 5 years, and the Mayor’s office is all about headlines but not that interested in actively working toward a bike friendly city. The focus in this region is recreational paved paths that service open space in the ‘burbs. If you try to use a bicycle for transportation in the city of Denver you are taking a significant level of risk. Motor vehicle operators often blow through stop signs and traffic signals with impunity. The RTD bus service has garnered many notable headlines with deaths to motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists due to lack of safe operation by RTD drivers. Most of the ARRA stimulus funding has been squandered on random bike lane stripes and useless signs that note “Bike Land Ends Here.” The city bicycle master plan has not been updated in the last 10 years. Is there “Hope” and “Yes We Can”? Not that I’ve seen. The mindset in this region is focus on recreation cycling for purely exercise and whimsy (which is fine) and competitive racing (which is also fine). Bicycling as a mode of transportation has not received any serious thought or commitment. The city wide B-Cycle program will likely be a joke, as not many thoughtful individuals would feel safe in riding in the city on “so-called” designated on-street bike routes. I found my 15 years in the Wash/DC area to be far superior in a region where a person can effectively utilize a bicycle for transportation. Oh, have I tried to contribute to make things better? Yes, I’ve applied to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council on more than one occasion and received the perfunctory rejection letter. I do have some relevant background as I’ve previous served on the Board of Directors of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Don’t buy the hype. Mr. Hickenlooper is a business man as well as a mayor and is quite adept at maximizing hype value.

  • Alan says:

    I sure hope you’re wrong, Doug (nothing personal, of course). From my perspective, it’s exciting to see those stations and all those shiny new bikes, but I suppose only time will tell. I’m sure it will be far from perfect (as can be surmised by the issues Paris’ Velib has struggled with), but I can only hope it’s successful because many people are watching to see how it turns out, and if it flops it’s going to be that much harder to get bike sharing implemented in other cities.

    Alan

  • Brent says:

    I’ve lived in Denver for the last 20 years, and while we have a long way to go, I have seen great improvements recently. They put a great new bike lane right outside my front door – they took a three lane street and made it a two lane with a bike lane, the right hand line on the bike lane is painted outside the door zone, so there is no worry about being doored. One street up they took a two lane street and made it a single lane with a bike lane. They have extended new bike lanes through downtown, painted new lanes and Sharrows (though the ones on Sherman are still in the wrong place, last time I went down there.) They are even going to update the Denver Bike Map and start distributing it for free instead of charging for it.

    I’ve also spoken to quite a few police officers who have taken turns patrolling the mall on bicycles – amazing what a few rotations as a bike cop will do to their understanding of our challenges. They start to understand what our rights are, and start to develop empathy for cyclists.

    Now, I think it is absolutely disgraceful that the RTD driver who killed a cyclist recently is only being charged with a misdemeanor. I think the fact that “careless driving resulting in death” is a misdemeanor is shocking – or at least should be. It goes back to that idea that driving is a right and not a privilege.

    I sold my car last fall and use a bike as my primary means of transport (I take the light-rail to work) and I have rarely felt fearful on my bike, but I am also cautious, I slow at intersections where I have the right of way and check for oncoming traffic. I stop at stop-signs and stop lights, and I won’t listen to my iPod while biking like I did when I was a kid (well, it was a Walkman then.) Whether I have the right of way or not, I will not come out ahead if it is me versus car, so I try to be extra aware of my surroundings, and try to light myself up like the City and County Building at X-mas time when I ride at night. I also stick to the side-streets whenever I can.

    Denver has a great climate for biking, even in the winter, and I think it is, at least down town, a pretty easy city to get around in on a bike. Now, I don’t know that I would feel comfortable on my bike down in the Tech Center. But that’s the Tech Center for you – a Whirling Vortex of Suck, and the most car-centric place I have ever been.

    Denver may not be Boulder or Portland, but it is far from the least bike friendly place I have ever been, and I am seeing improvements. I am excited to see how the bike-sharing program goes over!

  • Doug R. says:

    Sacramento take a big “Hint”!

  • Don says:

    These programs are very difficult to make work, so I wish them luck. The system looks beautiful and robust. Is that internal hub some kind of industrial-grade Nexus? I think they need to publicize the cost compared with other forms of transit, the growth plan, and logistical details about how you lock it at destinations other than at the kiosk (does the chip serve as a lock as well?).

    It would seem that scale is a critical component, as well as how to convey commitment to the system over time. I know nothing about Denver politics, but equity among local communities is a pretty universal concern, so if it looks too corporate at the outset, the program needs to be transparent about the justification for a trickle-down strategy.

    I think anything that encourages Americans to share more is noble and positive and therefore vulnerable. As such, this is a lovely and appropriate way to celebrate Earth Day!

    One more aside: Would public bikes be a plausible application for drive shaft/direct drive bikes? Jus’ wond’rin’

  • John says:

    I’m hoping this is successful as well, but I do have my doubts. Seems Denver is really car-centric, and the bigger more wasteful the better. I’ve seen some signs of improvement over the years, it’s just unfortunate that these improvements happen at a snail’s pace!

    John

  • Alan says:

    @John

    “Seems Denver is really car-centric, and the bigger more wasteful the better.”

    Hopefully a high-profile, citywide bike-sharing program will raise awareness and help change perceptions and priorities.

    Alan

  • ontario bacon says:

    Who is going to use this? People who like to bicycle already have their own bikes, and people who don’t aren’t going to use a rented bike. Bicycles are already cheap enough that almost anyone can own one and use it in a way that is much more convenient.

    These bikes look slow and uncomfortable too. Try riding a bike that is the wrong size for even a block or two, it’s not fun or practical. If anything, that will turn people off bicycling fast.

    Plus you can’t really go where you want, only from one bike station to another. And you have to return the bike to the station by the end of the day, or you are charged extra. How do you get home when you are done? How do you get to the station in the first place to get the bike?

    Why not a shoe-sharing system?

    This is a terrible idea. If a municipal government really wanted to promote bicycling, they could designate bike lanes, or even subsidize low cost bicycle purchases. But that is too simple. The B-Cycle company will bring in some money up front, and then disappear when everyone realizes that this makes no sense.

  • Richard says:

    @ Ontario bacon:
    While on the face of it many of your criticisms of the program are valid, the Velib program in Paris did a good job of succeeding in the face of similar expectations. There, the project has been about incorporating bicycles into a wider transportation network that includes buses and the metro as well. It’s not without its problems, but people love it.

  • ontario bacon says:

    Velib in Paris had an initial investment of 115 million dollars. The company that runs it also receives around 30 million dollars per year from advertising space relinquished by the city of Paris.

    So over a five year period, that is 265 million dollars being pumped in to support the program. ( Not revenue generated from the use of the bicycles.)

    You could take that money and buy 265 000 bicycles at 1000 dollars each. These could be used for trips of any length by their owners, and they would be maintained, not trashed and abandoned like a large proportion of the Velib bicycles.

    Velib provides 20 000 bicycles. But, many of them are out of service, and most of the time they are used for trips that could be covered by walking, because the fare system discourages use over 30 minutes. I suspect most of these bikes are being used by tourists who want to take their annual quaint bike ride in the big city.

    How is this economically sustainable? It sounds like a scam to me.

  • Richard says:

    Hi Ontario–

    Not looking to get into an argument of any kind here about the pros and cons of Velib. Just to answer your points, however: the program is economically sustainable because JC Decaux supports it in exchange for billboard space from the city. Taxpayer funds aren’t going into it. And the story about the bikes being vandalized, abandoned, and out of service is a huge exaggeration. Sure, there have been cases of this, but by and large most of the bikes are operable. Finally, the bikes are actually relatively off limits to at least American tourists because the service requires the use of a chip card, which very few American banks issue. So without a European debit or credit card, you’re out of luck. (This is my major beef with the program.)

    Will the program work in Denver? Who knows? I imagine the biggest problem there will be the sprawling layout of the city rather than an inherent flaw in the bike program.

    In any event, happy biking.

  • Alan says:

    I think one of the often overlooked benefits of bike-sharing programs is that they bring attention to the idea of using bicycles for transportation, an idea that is not at all commonplace in the U.S. Just look at how much press Velib has gotten in the mainstream press, and how much attention the new B-Cycle system is receiving.

    Alan

  • thomas says:

    As a Denver resident and a volunteer for this bikeshare i’d thought i’d comment. First thing the city of Denver isn’t paying for this. It is run by a non-profit and payed for through corporate sponsorship, grants and membership fees. Our tax dollars aren’t paying for this. Denver has a way to go to be truly bike-friendly but effort is being made. I would have loved to see the city and especially the downtown area become bike-friendly before the launch of the bikeshare but maybe the bikeshare will encourage the city to speed the process up.

    Who will use this system? if you’re reading this blog you’re probably not the intended market. I commute by bike, don’t own a car and live in Denver. The system isn’t that useful for me. if I worked or went to school downtown and drove or took mass-transit to get there (a lot of people do) this would be a perfect way to get around to run errands, go to lunch, or whatever. The bikeshare would be awesome if you are one of the growing number of folks who live downtown.

    I will join the bikeshare and use it because i believe in these things, bikes and sharing. There is a kiosk 3 blocks from my house. I can take out a bike, ride it downtown or other places and leave it at another kiosk. This takes less than a half hour so there is no charge besides my membership fee. When i want to go home I can find another b-share kiosk and ride another bike back to my neighborhood or I could walk, take the bus or a taxi, or get a ride with a friend and not have to worry about leaving my own bike. The system is not complete. It currently favors the downtown area and will expand with demand. The more kiosks there are the more convenient the system becomes.

    The bikes are well designed. These are highly specialized bikes. There’s a built-in gps unit to track the bikes. The drivetrain is a Nexus 3-speed setup. There are drum brakes that work well and are unaffected by bad weather. The seat-post is highly adjustable to fit most people. The basket sits up too high but can carry 20lbs, has a built in cable lock that doubles as a coffee cup holder and looks like it could fit a 12pack. The bikes are heavy but ride really well. B-cycle tried to get brakeless track bikes instead but realized that the matching Chrome messenger bags would put the system over budget.

  • ontario bacon says:

    Getting more bikes out there is good.

    And Richard, I hope this is not too argumentative, more discussing the merits of an idea with good intentions. It is hard to criticize something that promotes bicycling, and a reduction in car use, without sounding like a grouch.

    But still, it looks like bike sharing costs roughly ten times the amount that it would cost to just give bikes to new bike owners.

    And there is a cost to the taxpayer in Paris. The city owns the advertising space that is given to the advertising company, and the revenue from it, which goes to prop up the bike program, is lost to the city. In itself it is not a bad thing for the city to subsidize a bike program, but the cost seems very high. It will be interesting to see if the city of Paris, and other cities, are willing to keep paying for these programs in the long run.

    And as a regular cyclist already, I can’t see this fitting with any of the ways I use my bicycle: to commute to work, to go to the grocery store, to take me to other activities, and to ride for pleasure with a friend. It wouldn’t work for me for any of these uses.

    What do places that have widespread use of bicycles for transportation have in common? I am thinking of places like China, Holland, or Denmark. Bikes are cheap to use and maintain in these places, cars are relatively expensive or inconvenient, routes are available to ride the bikes on, and the cultures are accepting of bicycle use.

    I don’t see the cost of a bike being the limiting factor in promoting bicycle use in any part of the world. Getting more bikes out there helps, but it is just as important to limit automobile use, and provide reasonable lanes or safe streets to ride the bikes on.

    Finally, on a slightly less serious note, I just can’t see myself on one of those motorless mopeds. The cumbersome heavy look with a cutesy paint job just doesn’t work for me.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Bike Sharing: Yea or Nay? says:

    […] have to say, I was somewhat surprised to see the negative comments under our post about the new B-Cycle bike sharing system that debuted today in Denver. I was also surprised to see the negative comments regarding bike […]

  • dan says:

    I’m taking the train out to Denver next week. I’m excited to be able to try out the bike-share. It should be a great asset for the adventurous visitor. I really like that it’s easy to signup for 24h at a kiosk. I didn’t find Velib as convenient for a visitor.

  • JBeckwith says:

    I also live in Denver and have been a daily bike commuter here for 20 years. The comments about Denver’s focus on recreational riding are definitely correct. However, I have noticed a strong uptick in bike commuting in the last 3 years or so. The city’s Public Works department is slowly getting with the program — starting to designate and mark more routes for instance. You still don’t hear much from the PW Director about bikes and we could be much bolder about building serious bike commuting infrastructure — and reducing lanes for cars. I love the publicity that B-Cycle is getting and I hope it succeeds, but right now I am not sure about the market. It may be two or three steps ahead of its time. Ontario bacon makes some important observations about what places with high levels of bike commuting have in common. More analysis of what really works (and in what order) is needed.

  • Phillip R says:

    Another Denver resident chiming in here….

    Agreed that the greater metro area has focused on recreational paths but they also make great cross-town connectors. I live in the city and travel almost exclusively by bicycle. Denver proper is just fine for getting around on bicycle. Are there clueless drivers, dangerous intersections, clueless cyclists, and randomly placed trails/paths? Sure. There are also friendly, aware drivers & cyclists, well placed bike lanes, new sharrows all the time, etc.
    Many who are bicycle regulars are having a hard time understanding the point of the bike share concept. They want it to be a bike rental system or can’t understand why people don’t just buy a bike to ride. It’s easiest to think about it as a privately operated extension of the public transportation system that doesn’t pollute while encouraging healthier habits and having fun.
    Ontario Bacon asks questions that are frequently brought up by those who struggle with the concept (don’t worry OB, you’re not alone!)
    Why not own a bike or just rent one? Ownership means you have to maintain, store, and commit to having one full time even if you only use it infrequently. Renting one means more investment and likely very limited pickup/dropoff locations and times plus being responsible for it while not using it during the rental period. Owning a bicycle (or even being responsible for one for a full day) is not more convenient for everyone. I saw a woman in her 60s returning a b-cycle and asked her how it was. Grinning a lot and sweating a little she said that this was the best thing ever. She’d been thinking about getting a bike but having not ridden for 40 years she didn’t know if she’d ride one more than a few times or would be too old, scared, or whatever to keep riding it. After a week she’d already ridden b-cycle several times and bought an annual membership. SHe loved the fact that she had all the convenience of “having” a bike without any of the hassle. She turned around and almost skipped off she was so giddy. Who knows, maybe when her membership expires she’ll buy her own bike and not renew. No net loss because meanwhile her energy and enthusiasm are sure to get others who haven’t ridden in 40 years out on a b-cycle to give bikes as transportation a shot.
    The bikes seem heavy/slow/uncomfortable, who would really want to ride a non-racing/mountain/commuter/fixie bike? These things are all subjective so all I can suggest is try one out when you’re in Denver. They’re really comfortable and fun to ride. They do actually work for people 5′ to 6’5″. I’m 6’3″ and I end up with a little more forward lean (weight on the hands/bars) than most do but am still mostly upright. Sure they’re heavier than some bikes and having your chest in the wind is never going to win a race but they’re perfect for short rides in town. The heft provides stability and momentum while absorbing bumps & ruts. The upright seating provides a nice view around you for safety and enjoyment. I guarantee you’ll be grinning ear to ear. They’re also well appointed with generator lights (always on), the large basket, fenders, and other things that help keep the bike a convenient tool instead of a gear-head’s fiddling delight (which definitely also has its place!)
    You can’t go where you want, how do you get to the bike, get home, etc? This is just like every other form of public transportation. Sometimes the bus stop is in front of you house, sometimes it’s several blocks away. People figure it out every day, all day. With a bus if your destination station isn’t close to your actual destination you have to take a cab or find another solution; with b-cycle you just keep your bike & ride to the destination maybe incurring a fee if you’re there for a while. Sometimes the bus is great, sometimes it’s a little inconvenient, sometimes it’s just not an option and bike sharing is in the same spectrum. As mentioned by another poster it gives you the freedom of /not/ having to get your own bike home (then locked outside, carried up stairs, stored blocking the hallway) allowing for multi-modal transportation opportunities.
    It’s a great idea whose time has come. Like the bus, the train, and daily bike commuting bike sharing isn’t for everyone or every locale. It is, however, within reach for everyone (in Denver anyway) capable of riding a bicycle to try out and decide for themselves. More bicycles of any kind on the road will benefit all cyclists. More people pedaling to baseball games will benefit everyones physical and mental health through anti-couchpotatoism, cleaner air, less auto traffic, and more smiling.

  • Eric says:

    I ride almost exclusively in downtown Denver… Park Hill, Capitol Hill, Uptown, LoDo, and I can tell you it is NOT a breeze. I use the so-called “designated” on street bike routes and get cursed at, threatened, and berated at least three times a week on average. I stop at all stop signs and traffic signals. I use hand signals. I practice defensive cycling and have completed 3 or so effective cycling courses from LAB. I have been bicycle commuting for over twenty years in Chicago, DC, Virginia, Maryland, and Denver. I mostly ride with street clothes over my bike shorts and have found motorists to be less aggressive. My town bicycle has plenty of reflectors and lights and flashers. I completed a concealed weapons permit and now consider my 9mm Beretta as mandatory safety equipment, along with a helmet, tool kit, etc. A person on a 30lb bike needs an equalizer when most motorists are rude, inconsiderate, oblivious, distracted, and operating a 3,000lb weapon. Perhaps, B-Cycle should include information on how to apply for a concealed weapons permit? :-)

  • dan says:

    I’m happy to report that B-Cycle was great for visitors. My wife and I were in Denver for a few days, and we did a 24-hr membership. It was very easy to sign up, and it was a fabulous way to get around. It was also nice to meet a fellow working for B-Cycle who was apparently roaming around gauging users responses, and getting feedback.

    I felt that the downtown grid is actually less bike friendly than Sacramento’s, but it is passible. The class 1 trails along the waterways do provide pretty good access to several parts of downtown, but having more than 2 or 3 streets with bike lanes would be a very welcome addition.

    Even owning a few bikes of my own, I know I would, at least occasionally, use a similar system if we had it in Sacramento.

 
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