July 7, 2010

Ready, Set, Bike…Bike Share Decision for Boulder. ~ Katie Feldhaus

UPDATE: The decision was scheduled to be made on Friday, July 2, but we have not been able to find any information on the decision that was made and which vendor was chosen for the Bike Share Program in Boulder. If anyone has heard anything let us know.

With the decision date being pushed back to July 2, the Bike Sharing Program that is going to be implemented in Boulder has hopefully become a hot button issue for those of us concerned with keeping Boulder as sustainable as possible and those of us who would rather hop on the seat of a bike rather than park their butts behind the wheel.

Both programs battling it out to be Boulder’s top choice for bike sharing are, as most elephants hopefully know by now, Bcycle and Gravity Cycles. The Boulder community will be greatly affected by which vendor is chosen, in that both of them have such different concepts to offer when it comes to Boulder Bike Share.

Bcycle, on one hand, is a corporate collaboration of companies, Humana, Trek Bicycle Corporation and  Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Denver Bike Share is an example of the Bcycle corporation at work, with specialized bike stations located through downtown Denver. The technology and capability of Bcycle plays a role in keeping Bcycle so user friendly according to the Chief Marketing Officer, Andrew Davison. The advanced software system keeps track of the bikes helping the city to see how much of a difference the bike share system is making. The bikes are designed for durability, safety on all ends, for all heights from 5’ 0” to about 6’ 4” and have a heavy carrying capacity.

“If Bcycle is chosen we will have an interoperable bike sharing system from Boulder to Denver, which would be the first in the nation,” says Davison.  I thought that this was a really cool aspect to Bcycle, being able to travel from Boulder to Denver, by riding the bike to the bus station, parking it a Bcycle station, then getting on the bus, getting off and grabbing another bike from a Bcycle station and cruising around downtown Denver to shop or work or eat would be a great, valuable feature for me personally.

On the other hand, Gravity cycles seems to be more of Boulder’s style compared to Bcycle, in that they are not a large corporation with numerous employees and company sponsors. Gravity cycle has the freedom to support local businesses and slap stickers and logos on their bikes that focus on promoting from within the local community. Russell Altman, CEO/president of Gravity Cycles feels that advertisers are looking for new ways to promote their businesses and mobile ads are about gaining impressions. “Being a smaller company we can turn a profit by taking less sponsors and promoting local economy,” says Altman. “You could say Bcycle is more corporate, which is good, but Gravity Cycles is more local conscious with grass roots. So which one do you think is more suited for Boulder and its residents?”

One thing that grabbed my attention with Gravity Cycles was their ability to use a multitude of different bikes. I can choose any type of bike that I want to ride that Gravity provides, instead of being obligated to use the same bike. I might be biking on day for a ride on Pearl Street or the other want a durable bike for the trails.

Waylon’s and other concerned bikers main concern with the Bike Share program that is being decided on for Boulder, is how the program is being decided on. There has not been much input from Boulder citizens and I wonder why that is.

“The first proposal of the Bike Share Project to vendors was asking them for their business model on the install, how to own and operate the system, what does it look like, can your software provide metrices we need, whats the plan for capital cost, expenses and revenue,” says Marni Ratzel, bicycle/pedestrian transportation planner for the city of Boulder . “The community feedback for the first forum on June 14, consisted of about 75 people and we got a sense of reactions from a handful of written feedback.” But many people live in Boulder who would love to have a positive program to use every day didn’t seem to be informed. There did not seem to be much notice, as many people that I have spoken to did not even know what bike sharing was, let alone know about the bike share program that was being decided on and would be implemented into their town.

It is understandable that there are a lot of city regulations that need to be considered when it comes to making a big decision like putting in an entire bike sharing system, from sign code for advertising, to kiosk location and permits and cost and grants, like the Federal Department of Energy grant part of the federal stimulus funding of 250,000 to help launch the program, according to Ratzel. But people who will be affected by this and will use it every day should some input, and maybe it was the citizen’s fault for not being more aware, but a more informative approach would have probably been a lot more effective.

When it comes down to choosing between the two vendors, my choice is up in the air. They both provide great incentives and proposals for the city of Boulder and they both may not be Boulder best match, but the city has narrowed it down to two diverse vendors and we will see how it all plays out tomorrow.  Bike Sharing is about getting people out and keeping people active, while decreasing our carbon footprint, and who doesn’t want to stay healthy while keeping the environment healthy too?

Check out the vendor sites, Bcycle and Gravity Cycles, and let us know who you think would be the best fit for Boulder.

Katie Feldhaus is a News & Editorial Journalism student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is an editorial intern at elephantjournal.com. She is currently living in Boulder and is a Colorado native, who loves being active and doing anything outside.

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