I Started Using B-Cycle’s Free 5280 Program. Here’s How It’s Going

2019-08-18_bcycle_00

This guest commentary was originally published on the DenverUrbanism blog.

Background

Prior to January 2019, I used B-Cycle very sparingly. To me, it seemed like a primitive ancestor of Lime, Bird, and other services that have popped up under the scooter pilot program. When the 5280 Program was announced, I applied and received free B-Cycle rides for the year.

After using the program for a little over half a year, it has both confirmed some assumptions about the B-Cycle program and broken down a few, too. This article will detail my experience with B-Cycle, including general availability, quality of bikes and customer service experience with simple letter grades.

Disclaimer

I am a relatively new adopter of B-Cycle, having only 64 rides under my belt. More experienced riders may have a more informed opinion, given how long they have ridden and how the service has changed over the years.

The B-Cycle station I use at the corner of 13th and Speer to get to work.
The B-Cycle station I use at the corner of 13th and Speer to get to work.

Availability:  B-

Availability of Docks
When I ride out to the office around 6:30 a.m., there are roughly four to five B-Cycles available at my station, which is located close to the heavily trafficked King Soopers at 13th and Speer. When I get to my destination at 15th and Delgany, there are usually about three to four places for me to dock my bike. I have never had issues finding a dock or a bike at a B-Cycle station, outside of the odd station being impacted at peak hours of the day.

The B-Cycle station at 15th and Delgany.
The B-Cycle station at 15th and Delgany.

Station Locations
B-Cycle is fairly convenient if you are trying to get somewhere within a mile of Denver’s Central Business District, with the farthest north station at 39th Avenue and Fox and farthest south station near the Cherry Creek Mall. The northernmost I ever go when I am on a B-Cycle is usually the 30th Street and Lawrence station in RiNo.

The B-Cycle station near the Cherry Creek Mall.
The B-Cycle station near the Cherry Creek Mall.

Service Hours
B-Cycle stations are open from 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. midnight, with maintenance being done on the fleet during off hours.


Reliability of Bikes:  D+
With a large fleet to maintain, B-Cycles feel like clumsy death traps at times. Ripped off bells, shifting that makes one worry of a dropped chain and seats that can be difficult to adjust at times contribute to being worried if your B-Cycle will make it to its destination. Just the other day, I accidentally checked out a B-Cycle that had a half pumped tire, making it to my destination on pure pedal power.


Customer Service:  A-

The one area where B-Cycle as a program shines is its customer service. When a station was having issues, I called the B-Cycle hotline and they quickly reset the station electronically so that I could check out a bike on a wintry day. When I wanted a key fob to check out bikes, they sent me one the day I requested it. The customer service team is superb, and should have their successful model replicated across other departments that Denver B-Cycle has.

My slightly faded B-Cycle fob and my personal ridership statistics.
My slightly faded B-Cycle fob and my personal ridership statistics.

Closing Thoughts

After the free trial, I would sign up for the B-Cycle program if they were able to increase their fleet of mechanics that do maintenance on their bikes. Realistically, I will stick with my own bike or the trains for getting around the metro area once I am finished with the program. To be successful after the free 5280 program, Denver B-Cycle will need to bolster up its fleet of mechanics while trying to find ways of slashing costs if it hopes to survive in the post-scooter landscape.


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  • Ryan Keeney

    I have three thoughts:

    One: The reliability of bikes metric is harsh. I’ve taken a well over hundred trips and can count on one hand the number of times I had a bike with issues so egregious that I decided to switch it out at the origin station. Generally I find that everything works.

    Two: The main utility of B-Cycle for me is that it supports spontaneity. I don’t always have my bike with me. Often I take transit to a destination, and then take B-Cycle home. Or I take B-Cycle and carpool elsewhere with a friend. Endless multi-modal combinations. There is value in one way trips that a personal bicycle cannot provide.

    Three: There is also value in using them to connect to transit. Getting a personal bike onto a train during rush hour is generally an unpleasant experience. Standing with the bike on board is not exactly relaxing and often there are too many bikes on one end of the train car, forcing you to run last minute to the other end. As a Capitol Hill resident I am over a mile from the closest train station. I find it very convenient to ride B-Cycle to 10th and Osage and leave it docked at the station rather than bringing my own personal bike aboard the train.

    Generally I think this is valuable program. If it were to cease operation my car-free lifestyle would be significantly disrupted.

    • TakeFive

      Very interesting to read about how these can be useful and different people’s impressions.

      I don’t want to type-cast Loren as everyone is unique but generally speaking women have different antenna when it comes to feeling secure. Guys tend to have a more devil-may-care attitude about things while things that don’t seem as dependable may be perceived differently by our female friends.

  • TM

    Personally I love the B-cycles. Maybe a dockless bike share could work, but I like the reliability of having stations where I can find a bike. What we could use is more stations, covering a larger area and more frequently within the area they cover now.

    What may be more important is that B-cycle isn’t just a private company like Lime, Jump, etc. With those we run the risk of all the bikes suddenly disappearing. We need a publicly supported system that will be guaranteed to stick around.

    True, the bikes are getting a bit old and beat up, but I’ve mostly found them to be working fine when I needed one. I do like the newer bikes with the less bulky basket, but there aren’t many of them.

    I don’t use them too often, I have my own bike most of the time, but they are great for mixing in with transit trips, bus one way, bike back home, or bike to the train. I’ve really liked the $15 yearly pass that just charges $3 each time I check one out, works well for the random times that I use them.

  • tvdp

    BCycle should follow Pittsburgh and bundle the program with RTD so a bus pass also gets you access to a bike ride for first/last mile. Just my opinion!

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