There is something pretty amazing going on in Denver, and it might just change the world. B-cycle, a nonprofit that provides rental bikes around the city, has found a cheap, fun way to make Denver a cleaner city and its inhabitants and visitors healthier. I spent last weekend playing tourist in Denver and the experience was made so much better, and cleaner, because of the rows of red B-cycle rental bikes around the city. Denver is demonstrating that change really is possible, especially when it’s easy and fun.
Denver is the first U.S. city to do what European, Canadian, Chinese and Mexican cities have already done–share bikes. Here’s how it works. You buy a short or long-term “membership” via credit card online starting at $5. Then grab one of the 500 bikes waiting for you at the 50 kiosks around the city (found through a pretty cool iPhone app) and ride. When you’re done, return it to any of the kiosks, and your card will be charged for the amount of time you rode. The first 30 minutes are free, and it goes up in increments of around $1-2 for each 30 minutes after that.
As tourists, my husband and I found enormous value in B-cycle. Because of the availability of the shared bikes, we decided not to rent a car. By the end of 3 days we had (according to the computers embedded in our bikes) ridden 49 miles, burned 1,944 calories, created a carbon offset of 46 pounds and saved $25.76 in gas money. In addition, we saved about $150 in rental car costs and parking. Our total bike rental fees was only $26. So we saved about $150 in costs, got some fabulous exercise, did not pollute the city, and actually got a much more intimate view of the city than we would ever have by car. Not bad for a holiday weekend.
But it’s not just for tourists, by far. The idea is that Denver residents can climb on a bike “for trips that are too far to walk but too short to drive.” With a shared bike you can run an errand, get out for a bit at lunch, travel from the bus stop to your office, and much more.
Denver’s B-cycle program is actually part of a national B-cycle organization, which is a partnership between Humana, Trek Bicycle and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Denver is B-cycle’s first installation, but according to their online vote of which cities B-cycle should expand to next, they have big plans for growth. And in fact, Boston and Minneapolis are already slated to install bike sharing programs later this year.
Denver’s B-cycle is funded through an impressively diverse mix of corporate sponsorships (like lead sponsor Kaiser Permanente), federal energy block grants (no city funding), foundation grants and earned income (through memberships and usage fees). I haven’t seen their financials, but I’d guess that in a few years when user volume is high enough they could probably become self-sustaining, the holy grail for nonprofit organizations.
What makes me most excited about B-cycle is that it is solving several problems simultaneously, yet it is incredibly simple and fun, making it much more likely that people will adopt the solution. B-cycle truly proves the Fun Theory, that change is possible when it’s fun to change.
Photo Credit: Denver B-Cycle