A new fleet of bicycles will take to Boulder’s streets on May 20 — shiny, red bikes equipped with baskets and bells — as part of a program designed to make it easier for residents and visitors to make quick trips by bicycle around town.
Boulder B-cycle, a bike-sharing program, allows would-be cyclists to purchase an annual ($50), weekly ($15), or 24-hour ($5) membership, then check out a bike for hourly use.
“With each of those memberships, each of those levels, every ride you take under an hour is free,” says Elizabeth Train, Boulder B-cycle’s director of community engagement. “You can ride all day, if you ride for an hour, dock it, take a new bike, and ride for an hour.”
It is designed to be convenient for running short errands around town connecting between transit stations.
The national B-cycle company provides the equipment and software, but the bike-share program will be run by a local nonprofit. Denver B-cycle’s program, which launched in April 2010, was supported by a donation from the Democratic National Convention.
“Every city that has launched a bike share program in the United States has started with a very large either federal grant, a grant like this one through the DNC, and sometimes in addition a huge amount of money from a presenting sponsor,” Train says. “In Boulder, we didn’t have that. We didn’t have a huge federal grant to start with, and we didn’t have a major corporation behind us, because we’re just a little bit too small to attract that kind of investment from a big corporation. So we had to do a huge community fundraising initiative in order to get our nut to start with.”
The city of Boulder lined up grants, local businesses sponsored baskets and stations (which bear the names of their sponsors), and individuals stepped in to provide funding. Twelve stations are ready, and Train says another six stations will open by the end of the summer.
“We’ve gotten a lot of folks who say, ‘Well, everyone in Boulder already has a bike,’ but these bikes are just so convenient and so secure,” Train says. “When you’ve come to town and you don’t have your bike, you’ve driven your car or you’ve taken the bus, these are just a really great way to get around town for short trips to lunch, errands, that kind of thing. … You can park your car one time and then use a bike for all the short trips you need to take during the day.”
The B-cycle program could ease some of the hassle for commuters who travel between Denver and Boulder; the B-cycle programs in each city are expected to establish reciprocity between their systems by July 1. Boulder members will be able to walk right up to a Denver station and borrow a bike without buying another membership.
Beware, though — Boulder allows an hour of riding free, while Denver B-cycle gives just 30 minutes before charging per-hour rates.
B-cycle “street team” members will be riding around the city in the coming weeks, checking out and returning bikes, educating people about the system.
“We’re very excited to be a part of all of this because we support all access to downtown through our division, not just parking, so this helps provide another option for our downtown employees and customers,” says Donna Jobert, financial manager for Downtown and University Hill Parking Services, which is sponsoring a station at 15th and Pearl. “We’re the smallest city that has launched a bike share program, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how well it’s going to be supported in this community.”
Boulder also ranks with Portland, Ore., and Davis, Calif., as a top city for bicycling, according to the League of American Bicyclists — making it a big deal in the bicycle world, Jobert added.
“We are one of three platinum-level bicycle cities in the United States, so this is one of those things we should be doing as one of those platinum-level cities,” she says. “Not just to sit back on what we’ve achieved, but to be better and better.”
The B-cycle launch party is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on May 19 at Design Within Reach. The launch ride starts assembling at 8 a.m. May 20. Registration is required.