by wil — Aug 31, 2011

My wife discovered the existence of Denver’s 16-month-old B-cycle program — “the nation’s first large-scale citywide bicycle sharing system” — a couple of weeks ago, and we got to check it out in person this past week.

B-cycle is one of those urban bicycle-sharing/rental projects that seem to be popping up all over. You pay a flat fee to rent (the 24-hour rate is $6, but you can also get better-value 7-day, 30-day, and annual passes), plus a per-ride usage fee. The idea is to use the bikes to take short rides between bike stations (currently there are 51 stations in the Denver metro area). If your ride (between rental stations) is under 30 minutes, you aren’t charged a usage fee, but if it’s over 30 minutes, you are charged.

We used the 3-speed bikes to ride between our vacation rental and the Platte River and then further along Cherry Creek. We successfully carried books and groceries in the bike’s handlebar baskets, and we had a blast!

But it can be a problem if you arrive at a rental station to discover that there are not enough open slots for your bikes. This only happened to us once, but it can be an annoying and costly issue (ex: if you take a 30 minute ride to a completely-full station, so you can’t dock your bike, but instead lock it up somewhere with the supplied lock, shop for an hour, then ride another 30 minutes to dock your bike at a different station, the usage fee is $9). Luckily, there’s a handy iPhone/Android app that maps out the stations and tells you how many bikes and open slots are available at any given station.

To sum things up, B-cycle is a lot of fun, but far more cost-effective if you buy a long-term pass, and be sure to check the station occupancy stats with the iPhone/Android app!

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