Boulder B-cycle: Google helps get new bike-sharing program rolling

Categories: News

With the success of Denver's B-cycle program, it was only a matter of time until Boulder, our pedalicous neighbor to the north, would be clamoring, "Me too! Me too!" It turns out Boulderites won't have to wait much longer: A recent Boulder City Council report noted Boulder B-cycle will be rolling out with 25 stations and 200 bikes in April or May of this year, and it will be funded in part by Google.

According to a report on, the Boulder City Council presentation noted Boulder's B-cycle program would feature bikes, stations and prices similar to Denver's version, which was the first of its kind in the country. Denver B-cyclers will also be happy to note their Denver memberships will be honored in Boulder's system, too. As demonstrated by the map below, the initial scheme for Boulder focuses around downtown, with no stations yet on the campus or the Hill -- but there will likely be future expansion.


Such an expansion could be helped by the fact that Boulder B-cycle just announced a $25,000 grant from the Google Community Grants Fund at the Tides Foundation, which is all about using technology to reduce environmental impacts. That's a step in the right direction for the B-cycle program, which is hoping to raise $1 million between now and May to supplement the $250,000 grant it received from the city of Boulder.

Sounds like Boulderites are ready to put the pedal to the metal.

More from our News archive: "B-cycle launches an iPhone app to help you find and return its big red bikes."

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Matt, your reading comprehension is deficient, and your post non-responsive. It should at least be obvious that I am intimately acquainted with B-cycle's evil pricing scheme (and that I have no intention of paying any of its fees) -- I simply pointed out that even the people running B-cycle have admitted that many users have run afoul of its punitive pricing (morons all, no doubt). Your purblind capitalistic bias is complete (a credit card MUST be involved -- you fail even to hint why an obligation to the City like that of borrowing a book from the Denver Public Library could not be substituted); the phrase "government works program" apparently just does not compute -- "buddy, get off your ass and form a non-profit". What I propose instead (and clearly utterly beyond your ken) is to form a division of City government to accomplish the substitution of the use of bicycles for cars to the maximum extent which may be accomplished with minimal investment. There are people using the bikes you so disdain to travel long distances every day to work; what is laughable is the suggestion that inexpensive bicycles could not be used or maintained as the basis for a public system! There are economies realized by purchasing similar durable bikes new, but I have seen any number of highly serviceable used bicycles sell for $50 or less, and paying a student for half an hour to tune up such a bike should not cost much either. The people who are using lousy bicycles to get to work across the greater metropolitan area would be dismayed to learn that their next bicycle would come with a basket, last longer, but cost $1000. I am sure that any number of B-cycle's customers would not want to get on a $50 bike regardless of whether it functioned or not, but I conceive of bike-sharing as a public transportation program, not as a profit-making venture or a consumerist fantasy.

P.S. If you are an employee of B-cycle, you should disclose it.


B-cycle is a predatory, corporate scam, not "bike-sharing"! You may not have heard the interview with B-cycle's "leader", Parry Burnap on CPR. She admitted that very many users failed to realize B-cycle charges punitive, escalating rental rates in addition to its membership fee. The facts are that this program, which cost $70,000 per month to operate last year, charges about the cost of a cheap, new bicycle ($65) for a yearly membership, and for nine hours use of a B-cycle. The scam depends for its substantial operating expenses on taking advantage of people.

We could do so much better. Set up a truly cooperative program of bike-sharing with donated and rehabilitated used bikes. Use small amounts of public funds to train and hire vocational students as bike mechanics. Retain the kiosks, but replace a credit card with a Denver Public Library card. Let users keep bikes for more than half an hour for free, then charge only a modest rate. Such a system would compete with low-end bike rentals from shops -- so what? We could go a long way towards getting people to use alternative transportation to cars with a real program of bike-sharing (we also need to provide safer bike routes throughout the City) -- the cost could be minimal and the payoff enormous.

Joel, you and everyone else who persist in calling B-cycle "bike-sharing", please tell me how someone without a credit card participates. Just because the corporation operating B-cycle is non-profit does not alter the fact that it rents bicycles at very high rates. Whatever you like about it, please stop describing it as "bike-sharing" -- that is an actively misleading description.

If using bicycles instead of cars is a public good, we should consider spending some tax revenue to support cycling. B-cycle costs the taxpayers nothing other than the privilege of occupying and advertising in the public right-of-way, but it also offers nothing to people unable or unwilling to pay its fee(s), and it is a very expensive program overall. We can spend less collectively and put more people on bikes, just by aspiring to do so.


You pick and choose your argument based on whatever you can skew to fit your argument. I called you a moron, rightfully so, I think, because your immediate claim was that Denver B-Cycle relies on this pricing to survive. If you think this was by design and they're out to scam people, you're a moron...simple as that. If you ran afoul of the pricing, you're just not very observant.

There were people who weren't aware of the pricing scheme - sure, and if they called or emailed they were refunded 100%. I'm not sure if you're aware, but it costs money to process/refund a credit card. If B-Cycle were out to make money off these fees, they wouldn't have refunded the money at their expense. The pricing scheme isn't particularly complicated or confusing, people just don't read.

With regards to the library books - we're talking the difference between a $25 (retail) book and a $1,000 dollar bike (actual cost). It's not apples to apples, friend. To call me capitalistic because I want to see the system self-sustaining is just silly. This isn't a charity, it costs money to provide this service. If you don't like it, start your own or don't use it.

What your proposing is great in theory. It won't work in real life. You can sit here and type furiously to try and refute your communistic ideals, but you're pissing in the wind. I'm a left leaning progressive, but when there's no money for government to do the job, I think having a private entity who wants to at least recoup their costs is reasonable.

P.S. I don't have to disclose anything to you.


I'll see your wall of text and raise you a wall of my own:

If most of your b-cycle trips are long enough to warrant additional charges you're doing it wrong. I used the program extensively during this last summer and never racked up a single extra charge. I got free transportation (and a workout!) from highlands to downtown and back the entire summer for $65. I call that a deal, not to mention the free safety class, which was well worth the time out of my day.

To call b-cycle a corporate 'scam' is completely disingenuous. You speak like planning and executing a perfect system at a reasonable cost the first time around is something we should expect, while in reality it's nigh impossible. B-cycle is a step in the right direction, and a very good one if I may say so both as a user and a member of the community. Maybe the good people at B-cycle will even take some of your suggestions into consideration, but at face value both your expectations and your candor are laughable.

To address your specifics: We're in a budget crises. Granted this isn't as big a project as light rail but selling the people of Denver on public transportation and the associated costs took decades, so getting funding, let alone building out the program, don't happen overnight. Additionally CU Boulder has a 'bike-sharing' program as you describe. There's no need for a credit card, or any card, to rent a bike. There's no limit on how long you may keep the bike, and where the bikes can go. This results in no accountability for users, and thus poor availability of bikes since they don't get brought back in a timely way, the bikes get treated like crap and are generally unusable. The cost of replacing the bikes becomes a burden on the program and the program can't continue to provide the same service to as many customers.

It's upsetting that a system not perfect in your eyes get's labeled a 'scam', when in reality I'm sure that you and the folks at b-cycle share many of the same goals.


"If you ran afoul of the pricing ..." -- no, still haven't, and I don't know what it would take to get you to comprehend that my indignation is not motivated by my having been gouged by B-cycle (as many other people have been).

I have made specific proposals for a public bike-sharing system that depends on $50 bikes instead of $1000 bikes (that's how a library card would suffice to secure the lending of them) -- you don't have much to say other than "It won't work in real life". The reason it won't work is because generations of Americans (no doubt including you) have been made to think that their government doesn't work and couldn't work. If the government mustn't operate an efficient public bike-sharing system, then it will not, but any implication based on false premises is true. For someone whose livelihood apparently depends on B-cycle, you make a very poor apologist.


I am not being disingenuous in labelling B-cycle a scam, and I supported my characterization by pointing out that the system relies on hitting people up for exorbitant fees they don't realize they have to pay -- B-cycle charges $1.10 for the 1st hour of use, but that climbs to $8.80 for the third hour (in this arbitrary sense it is "doing it wrong" to keep one for more than thirty minutes), it charges as much as a cheap bike for a day's use, and it charges the same to be a member for a year. B-cycle may help get people (with credit cards) onto bikes more; it may even help with "internodal transportation", but the cost is far too high. (In outline only) I described a system which would require accountability (but not a credit card) and users' fees (though not designed to fund itself through them). A system relying on serviceable used bicycles, operated in conjunction with vocational training and through the coordination of volunteers, funded with a modest appropriation from public funds and donations could exceed all the goals of B-cycle at a fraction of its cost. I would like to see a system that would allow users to check out a bicycle on their DPL card for ten hours without charge, or for 24 hours for $3. It is far from unreasonable given the cost of inexpensive new bikes and large numbers of used bikes that a bike-sharing program be able to place a bike on the road for ~$50 -- B-cycle's solid, uniform bikes cost $1000 if you lose one. What I am talking about is an entirely different model of organization than B-cycle -- a public works project as opposed to one more Denver non-profit, and a cost differential of something like an order of magnitude. A bike program requires more than bicycles, but consider that the operating budget of B-cycle last year for just one month could have bought about one thousand (1,000) cheap bikes new at retail prices. I'm curious what Emily Griffith Opportunity School, e.g. could do with something considerably less than $70K/month by way of operating a vastly expanded bike system relying on a variety of bikes.

P.S. I don't mean to be mean to the people at B-cycle, who undoubtedly share many of my goals, like eating regularly.



The usage fees are listed on the Kiosk before you even start the process of checking out a bike. Then again in the Terms and Conditions, which you must agree to. If you didn't read them, I certainly hope you don't own a house or have a car did read those terms and conditions, right? On top of that, the "30 minutes free" is standard across the board whether you're looking at bike sharing in Minneapolis or Paris.

To simply label the system a scam because you're either:A.) Too stupid to figure out how to use itB.) Not in agreement with their business modelis absolutely idiotic. If you want to rent a bike in the traditional sense of the word, there are places to do so. If you're so convinced your model is ready for the big time, why don't YOU spearhead the project?

Here's some reasons why your idea is not going to work. 1.) Without a credit card, there is NO repercussion for not returning the bike. Amsterdam tried this in the 1960's. Know what happened? All the bikes disappeared. Having a bike tied to a Library Card is not good enough - I know plenty of people who returned books late or not at all and didn't pay the fees. The only way to get it through peoples head is to hit them directly in the pocketbook.

2.) Using retail bicycles is laughable. Fixing up old ones is even more so. Different parts, different technologies...drives up the cost of repair, let along finding someone who knows how to fix all of those bikes. They don't last in a heavy use environment - that's why the B-Cycle bikes are over-engineered and standardized.

Don't like the model? Great! Don't use it, or better yet - start your own. Bike sharing IS a viable alternative to other methods of transportation, even when used in their supposedly "restrictive" ways. With over 100,000 rides last season, Denver B-Cycle did not get to its second year and inspire dozens of spin offs by ripping people off. Have you even spoken to their customer support? They were happy to explain the terms and refund your fees if you felt that you hadn't understood how the system works - and the person you're speaking to is in Denver, even.

People like you will never be happy. You spend your days pissing and moaning about shit on the internet, suggesting that your way is so much better. Well then, buddy, get off your ass and form a non-profit and get to work!

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