Sunday, July 11, 2010

Praise for Denver B-Cycle

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Denver's B-Cycle program is awesome. Simple. Cheap. Efficient. Fun. I just spent a week in a downtown Denver hotel with my family and couldn't resist the funky red bikes I kept seeing in racks around the city. Denver B-Cycle has 500(!) three-speed bicycles parked around the metro area for residents and visitors to ride. With over 300 days of sunshine, Denver is the perfect place for a green bike project like this.

With two kids napping, I finally had an opportunity to sneak out and explore downtown without a stroller. My goal was to see the new Denver Art Museum. The architect is the same guy who designed the first version of the Freedom Tower, which will replace the World Trade Center towers. The multi-faceted facade feels out of place at first, but the edifice's crazy angles actually suit the city's alternative personality.

Anyway, knowing that my me-time was limited, I decided to rent a Denver B-Cycle and see more faster. I'd seen the bike racks all over the place and really wanted to try one. It was so simple!

Members are charged for the time the bike is checked out, similar to a metered cab ride. Non-members just run a credit card, pick a bike, and enjoy cruising the streets for $5/per day. (Update: Courtney from Denver B-Cycle informed me that there are usage fees for rides longer than 30 minutes. Click here for rates.)

The front end was a bit heavy, but I still managed to get over a curb or two. Denver has bike lanes and drivers are respectful, so I didn't have to fight for my right to ride like in most cities.

The three speeds were just enough to keep up with traffic and to get off the line at stoplights. I doubt I could do a wheelie, but my buddy Shark probably could. I think he could pull a wheelie on a recumbent bike if he was challenged to do so. I digress....

So, after seeing the sights I wanted to see, the light rain I had been tolerating picked up and became annoying. A 16th Street Mall security guard politely told me I wasn't allowed to ride in the shuttle lanes, but he didn't know where I could ditch the bike. I rode around for a bit getting wetter and wetter, still having a great time, but finally pulled under an overhang to avoid getting totally soaked. I gave the number printed on the bike a quick call and was given directions to the nearest bike rack by a very helpful human. Turns out I was only a half block away! The rack made a satisfying clicking sound as I pushed the front wheel in and a little light blinked "success." I walked around the corner to my the entrance of my hotel with a smile on my face.

What a great program. Sure, Denver has an excellent climate to support community bikes, but there are plenty of other cities that would benefit from such a service. I saw racks near all the major sightseeing destinations, the convention center, the train station, and at the best spots to grab a beer or a burger.

If you're ever in Denver, rent a red bike and enjoy the city. And if you have any problems, call the customer service number and speak to an actual person! Friendly, too.

UPDATE: http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/traffic/vast-bikeshare-network-coming-to-dc-and-arlington-071610
D.C. is replacing their Smart Bike program with Bikeshare. $5 rides! Excellent!

7 comments:

  1. So cool!!! It sounds like a great trip.

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  2. be sure to not keep a bike out for longer than 30 min. at a time if you don't want to be charged, though! even if you're only a 24hr member!

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  3. Actually, the per-fee day is $65 not $5. You can get memberships for 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days or annually for $65. If you're a resident, $65 is unbeatable price. I agree it's a great program, but they NEED to expand it east and west of central downtown. There are 100K residents in the city center and we don't all live within a few blocks of LODO or the Golden Triangle!

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  4. @Eric, Actually the per day fee is $5, not $65. $65 is for annual memberships.

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  5. Thanks everyone for checking my facts. I've updated the post with a link to the correct rates. As a visitor to Denver, I found renting a bike for $5 bucks amazingly cheap. The additional usage fees wouldn't deter me from renting one again, either. Great experience!

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  6. Just got back from Denver where me and a friend rode to every B-Cycle stop in one day. It was a great way to tour Denver, 42 stops. We ran into a few technical glitches, but for $5 to get an up close tour of the city (and some exercise) it was worth the snafus.

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  7. @Anonymous, B-Cycle should rename a bike rack in your honor. All 42 stops in one day is quite a feat! Congrats and thanks for sharing!

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