B-cycles to be available all winter for first time in Denver

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Big photos below.
B-cycles have now been available in Denver for about four years -- although the actual number of days adds up to something closer to three, since up until now, the bike-rental service has shut down in December and hibernated until the middle of March.

Beginning in 2013, however, B-cycle will be operational twelve months of the year, including throughout the winter -- and Denver B-cycle deputy director Nick Bohnenkamp thinks there are enough hardcore cyclists out there to keep it going strong.

The questions Bohnenkamp and his B-cycle troops asked in regard to expanding included "budgetary constraints: Can we operate over the over the winter successfully from a financial perspective?" he says.

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In coming up with an answer, he continues, "we did some analysis regarding trips that have happened historically in early December and late March -- right before we shut down, and right after we opened up again. That helped us understand what kind of ridership we might have.

"We also looked at our membership. We have a really strong annual membership base -- around 3,200 or so -- and on the yearly surveys we do, we asked them, 'Would you use the system if we stayed open during this window?' And only a small percentage said, 'No, I would not.' Some people said they would use it less frequently, but a lot of other people said, 'We'd like this service to stay open, and we'd use it.'"

This reaction dovetailed with B-cycle's sense of its place in the community at this stage of its development. "We consider ourselves to be transportation," Bohnenkamp notes, "and to solidify bike-sharing as a true transportation option, we need to stay open year round."

Of course, this philosophy needed to jibe with Mother Nature, "so we went on NOAA's website and looked at historical precipitation and snow amounts," Bohnenkamp points out. "And it turns out that the winter of 2012 and the spring of 2013 were good examples of the effects weather can have on us. We had sort of a mild winter and a heavy-snow spring.

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"When we opened in March and April, we saw cooler temperatures and a lot of snow piling up, but snow in Denver generally comes in large amounts and then melts off pretty rapidly. And a lot of times, the snow in the winter does the same -- it goes away quickly. And that should make our system reliable in the winter, too. If users can feel confident they can use the system safely, that's what's going to make it successful."

In this respect, the growing number of Denverites who cycle year-round should give B-cycle a big assist.

Continue for more of our interview with Nick Bohnenkamp about B-cycle.



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