Magic Bikes: Boulder Goes B-Cycling

photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

Here’s a new Boulderism: Only in Boulder do as many women use B-cycle bike sharing systems as do men.

That ratio is unheard of in the other 55 cities with bike sharing programs. There, bike share users are typically 70% male, according to Boulder B-cycle’s James Waddell and Kevin Bell, respectively the executive director and marketing and communications manager of Boulder’s nonprofit bike share program.

Boulder B-Cycle's Kevin Bell (left) and James Waddell. Photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

Boulder B-cycle’s Kevin Bell (left) and James Waddell.

Curiously, the 50-50 gender split that Boulder’s B-cyclists boast doesn’t reflect just Boulderites, with their well-known penchant for biking and alternative transportation. It represents visitors to Boulder as well, since only 50 percent of Boulder B-cyclists live locally, while the other half are out-of-towners.

How Does Bike Sharing Work?

Bike sharing in Boulder is about as easy as it can be.

Boulder B-cycle Station. photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

Boulder B-cycle Station. photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

You simply buy a pass, take as many 30 minute trips as you want during the life of that pass, and return your bike to one of the 38 Boulder B-cycle stations until you’re ready to ride again.

The idea—and the way it differs from rental—is that riders check bikes which aren’t being ridden back into the stations. These short duration trips allow a large number of people to share a small number of bikes.

That’s why Kevin Bell calls them “magic bikes.”

“They are there when you need them and not there when you don’t,” he says. “Despite the fact that many people own bikes in Boulder, B-cycle is a very convenient way to get around the city,” adds Bell, citing that a predominant 92% of people who use Boulder B-cycle have their own bikes.

Uber for Hippies

Boulder’s B-cycle is growing rapidly, in part due to commuters using the system to help them get around the city, especially for the first and last mile of their connections.

For example, while 10,000 of Boulder’s 100,000 citizens commute OUT of Boulder to work, many more workers—currently 60,000—commute INTO Boulder.

Executive Director James Waddell notes, “Boulder B-cycle has experienced a 70% expansion from 22 stations, 150 bikes, and 43,000 trips taken in 2014 to 38 stations, 300 bikes, and 80,000 trips projected to be taken in 2015. What’s amazing is that Boulder has the thirteenth largest bike sharing program in the nation despite the small size of the city.”

One major factor for users is reliable availability and information.

Uber for Hippies Campaign photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

Uber for Hippies Campaign photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

Enter local app developer TalentRiot, who developed the B-CycleNow app for real-time bike and station information. The campaign, “Uber for Hippies,” is live now in Boulder and TalentRiot has rolled out the app to other B-cycle cities nationwide.

Boulder B-cycle annual passes also work with Denver B-cycle, so commuters making the Denver-Boulder trek have bikes on both ends.

In addition, Boulder B-cycle members have reciprocity in the more than 25 B-cycle programs across the country, meaning membership in one city enables you to use that membership when you visit another city.

Today, clients of Boulder B-cycle include:

  • CU-Boulder students,
  • Downtown Boulder workers,
  • Tourists, and
  • Clients of Boulder Housing Partners.
Boulder B-Cycle's Executive Director James Waddell. photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

Boulder B-cycle’s Executive Director James Waddell. photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

This year’s usage goal is 50,000 trips, a 25 percent increase over last year’s numbers. Boulder B-cycle is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is funded through a combination of system revenue including passes and overtime fees, as well as sponsorship dollars and grants.

Ultimately, Waddell and Bell have a goal of continually reducing the portion of budget funded by sponsorship and grants, so the aim is to get more people on B-cycles year to year.

Early Days

Bike sharing was introduced at the 2008 National Democratic Convention in Denver when Governor John Hickenlooper set out to make Denver the first city in the country to have a large-scale bike sharing program.

photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

photo courtesy Boulder B-cycle

Boulder B-cycle was established in 2011, making it the 4th B-cycle program in the country. Now, 55 bike sharing programs dot the U.S., more than 25 of which are branded B-cycle.

Alex Bogusky, founder of Crispin Porter, has been a huge supporter and very involved in helping develop the brand and the app campaigns.

For more information

What is Bike Sharing? 

Boulder B-cycle: Who the Heck Are We 

Boulder B-cycle vs. The Gym

Sponsorship Program

Tour de B-cycle

Volunteer Program

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