B-Cycle Bets Pricey Half-Hour Rate, New Pay Structure Will Grow Membership

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Photo: David Sachs

For now, at least, Denver B-Cycle charges more than any bike-share system in the country for a half-hour rental: $7.

The new rate, which applies only to people without memberships, is in a two-month test period. It’s part of a larger change to B-Cycle’s fare structure that Executive Director Nick Bohnenkamp says is meant to grow the nonprofit’s customer base and steer B-Cycle toward a revenue neutral business model. (Last year 76 percent of the company’s revenue came from fees and sponsorship. The remainder came from donations and grants.)

Until recently, if you weren’t a B-Cycle member, it cost $9 for unlimited 30-minute rides in a 24-hour period. So how can charging customers more equate to more people riding B-Cycle instead of driving or taking a Lyft?

According to Bohnenkamp, 60 percent of his non-members — the ones who make one-time payments at a kiosk — use B-Cycle for only one trip. “The idea is that $7 is cheaper than $9, so we could attract a larger pool who might only ride one trip a day, even though we know there’s a small number of people we would alienate,” Bohnenkamp said. The 24-hour rate also confused kiosk customers, he said, 75 percent of which are from out of town. Customers would keep bikes overnight, for example, instead of returning them every half hour.

But the new rate is probably cost prohibitive for the 40 percent of non-members who take two or more trips. They’ll pay $14 or more for a service that used to cost $9. The new expense, ideally, will guide people toward one of B-Cycle’s new memberships:

  • The “Flex Pass” costs $15 a year and charges riders $3 per half-hour.
  • The monthly pass costs $15 a month (plus a one-time $15 fee) for unlimited half-hour rides.
  • The annual pass costs $135 a year for unlimited 60-minute rides.
  • The subsidized pass costs $10 a year for unlimited 60-minute rides.

“We’re trying to take the long view on this and grow our user base to as many people as possible,” Bohnenkamp said.

B-Cycle will collect data on the new price structure to see if it helps or hurts ridership. Some things that would undoubtedly surge ridership? A more complete bike network and a lot more bike-share kiosks throughout the city. The City Council claims it wants to see B-Cycle citywide, but there’s no word on whether it will try to up the city’s allocation.

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