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B-Cycle Comes to Boulder 16 May 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Cycling, Economics.
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Why B-Cycle?

Because when you drop “i” from “bicycle” you can trademark it.

More seriously, you ought to B-cycle because it’s cheap, convenient, and now available in Boulder. Starting this Friday, the People’s Republic will receive the iconic bike-sharing initiative that made Colorado gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes an overnight sensation. Maes, as you’ll recall, considered Denver’s celebrated B-cycle program our city’s first step in aiding a United Nations take over of America. No, really. But if the program’s expansion is any indicator, why Maes may yet see vindication in the form of red bikes flitting all across town.

If this is what U.N. domination looks like, then I’m all for it.

A little more about the program:

Fifty dollars a year gets you a B-cycle membership, which offers unlimited use of the bikes around Boulder, and registration takes place online or at a B-cycle location with a credit card (no debit). Just like a Redbox DVD, you can pick up a bike anywhere and drop it off at any other B-Cycle location in the city. Boulder’s program will start with a dozen docks, most around the Pearl Street mall but planned expansion will bring the total to 15.

If you’re not ready for a year-long commitment, you can opt for a week pass for $15 or a 24-hour pass for $5. Not a bad deal, especially if you’re showing a friend around town and prefer pedal power. Be aware, though, that you’ll need to arrive at your destination within 30 minutes, lest additional charges (up to a daily maximum of $65) will apply. The program also takes care of the maintenance and upkeep of all the bikes, so flats, sticky gears and other ailments of the two-wheeled variety aren’t likely to crop up, and if they do, at least someone else is paying for it.

The bikes themselves seem solid and reliable. They’re Treks, kind of cruiser-y with little basket for toting goodies. They won’t offer road or track bike performance and handling around town, so I don’t expect to see many folks “taking the lane” on a B-cycle. But just the same, these bikes get you around without much fuss.

The need for urban bike sharing (and why it won’t work in Highlands Ranch)

At present, we’re a two-car, five-bike household, and B-cycle still makes sense. Sometimes we only want to make a one-way trip by bike; sometimes we don’t want to worry about theft once we arrive; but all of the time, we live in a city that makes cycling possible. Denver’s (and Boulder’s) density affords those opportunities.

Our trips routinely break down into three types: long-distance pleasure (i.e. skiing), short-distance necessities and pleasure (i.e. getting groceries/going to a bar), and commuting. We still need car to accomplish the first and, for C—, the third, but for all the local trips which comprise the plurality of our outings, we can rely on bikes. Everything is that close.

And that, quite frankly, is the magic of the big city. Population density begets commercial density, which is why in our neighborhood you’ll find two grocery stores within a few blocks of each other. Per capita, I’d imagine we have just as many, perhaps fewer, bars than a place like Arvada. But per square mile, we have more of just about everything, including theaters, museums and restaurants. In that environment, biking to the destination often takes less time and requires less hassle than does driving. Given enough people and enough destinations in the same area, B-cycle seemed an eventuality. The same holds true in Boulder.

On the other hand, uber-planned suburb Highlands Ranch offers precisely nothing within walking or biking distance of the average resident, although I suspect that’s part of the appeal. The West is all about Land, after all, and at 4,548 3,018 people per square mile, Highlands Ranch simply has too much land and too few people to make use of services like B-cycle. So instead, sedans abound, along with the attendant difficulties of traffic and pollution. But the houses are big.

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