Denver's bike-share program launch pushed back to next spring to increase awesomeness

Categories: Business

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Plans call for 40 bike stations in Denver by next year.

Officials in charge of the Denver Bike Sharing Program told members of the City Council yesterday that they've opted to push back the official launch of the pay-per-ride enterprise until the spring of 2010 rather than this summer as originally planned. But when they do, the program's scope will be much larger, allowing citizens to check out 600 bicycles from forty docking stations placed strategically around the city -- giving Denver one of the largest bike-share in the nation.

Steve Sander of the Office of Economic Development explained that the change is due to the sheer legal and physical logistics of building a network large enough and convenient enough that people will actually pay to use it. Consumers will be able to use a credit card to check out a bike from an automated station at a rate of $2.99 an hour. A system of graduated fees will go up after the first hour 30 minutes as an incentive to return them at a check-in station. "We want them to use it for short trips," he said. "The whole point is to keep [the bikes] in use." They will also offer $50-per-month year memberships, which will allow for unlimited bike usage for trips less than thirty minutes.

The program is an outgrowth from the Freewheelin bike share conducted during the Democratic National Convention last August. (Minneapolis is using the momentum from the bike-sharing program utilized during the Republican National Convention to build a citywide network by next spring also.) Internationally, bike sharing programs are becoming more commonplace, with cities like London working on networks with as many as 6,000 bikes and 300 docking stations. Paris provides more than 10,000 bikes at 750 stations.

In Denver, thirty B-cycle bikes from the DNC host committee are currently being used in a pilot bike-sharing program for municipal employees to get to and from work. The future citywide program will be much more ambitious, with 600 bikes specially designed by Trek to include built-in locks, headlights and storage baskets on the handlebars. While planners are still working to determine the locations of the forty "bike stations" where users can check out and drop off the bikes, they are looking for spots that are natural bike-travel destinations, such as RTD transit stops, shopping corridors and workplaces.

Sander said they also plan to locate stations in areas of dense residential centers like Capitol Hill, Five Points and the Highlands neighborhoods. He estimates the total initial cost of the non-profit program at $1.7 million, of which $1.3 million has already been raised through grants and donations. It's will cost approximately $1.5 million a year to run the program. But with user and member fees, grants and sponsorships of bike stations, he believes that the bike-share could bring in at least $1.53 million in annual revenues. "If it's wildly successful, we'll get more revenue and be able to buy more bikes," Sander said.

Council members also heard from representatives of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee, who are looking for ways to integrate cycling into to the new zoning code update and increase bike usage among commuters. The goal is to have bicycling comprise 20 percent of all work commutes in Denver by 2016. BikeDenver Executive Director Piep Van Heuven noted how the advocacy group handled over 6,000 bikes last year through their bike parking program at large events like the Taste of Colorado.

More non-profit "bike recycler" shops are popping up around town too. Along with the Westword profile subject Derailer Collective, Denver now has the Park Hill Bike Depot, at 2825 Fairfax Street, where volunteers offer free bike repair and fix up old bikes that people can "earn" by taking a few classes. Since opening last April, the organization has provided over 600 bikes to people in need of low-cost transport, says Executive Director Christopher Dunn. They are currently looking to expand into other Denver neighborhoods. "It really is a model that people will walk their bikes in because it's their only mode of transportation," Dunn explained. "So it needs to be close to where they live."


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