Thu August 23, 2012

Boulder Bike Sharing to Expand From Federal Grant

Have you seen those retro, cherry red cruiser bikes around Boulder? They're there to share.

Boulder has had B-Cycles for two years, but questions of how to use the bikes are still prevalent. 

The first 60 minutes are free, but after that an hourly usage charge applies, or you can get an annual membership for $55. But even members can only check out the bikes for hour long increments because Boulder B-Cycle is a bike sharing program, not a bike rental. Chris Hazlitt is the board chair of Boulder B-Cycles and says it can be a very expensive mistake people make.

"We are not a rental program, we don't want to be a rental program, we want bike shops to rent bikes. Ours is a bike share system intended for very short trips," said Hazlitt.  

The five dollar per hour charge makes the B-Cycle system very reliant on an infrastructure of stations to keep bikes readily available around town. In order to meet transportation goals set previously by the city, Boulder is spending $110,000 coupled with a $440,000 federal grant to expand the current system from 18 stations to 31 next year.

Hazlitt says people should think of B-Cycle like a bus system, which is a heavily subsidized transportation. Unlike buses though, B-Cycle is closed from mid December to the middle of March, and the new stations will only go as far south as the middle of the CU campus and Broadway to the north, making the range for users just the small central slice of the city.

All of the current stations are within a mile and half of Pearl Street, but that's part of the plan. By putting new stations by existing ones, B-Cycle has found that it increases the use of both because people will just walk a couple blocks to the next if one too full or empty.

The bikes cost over $1,000 a piece, and a station costs about $50,000. Part of the hefty price tag goes to software, enabling B-Cycle to monitor which stations are used more often and how many bikes each station has. Each user has their own profile, and can monitor online how far they've ridden, how many calories they've burned and much carbon they've offset.