Republican gubernatorial "nominee" Dan Maes brought a lot of attention to Denver's B-cycle bike-sharing program earlier this month when he theorized that the program was really some sort of hidden propaganda for a secretive United Nations plot. ("This is bigger than it looks on the surface!")
The story made national news and landed Maes in a web of mockery, from the New York Times to Salon's "This Week in Crazy" to Countdown with Keith Olberman. Not to mention Boulder's Alchemist Threadworks, which will start selling a cycling shirt in late September that reads "Bike Share is the Gateway to Sinister World Domination."
It also brought a lot of attention to B-cycle, a nonprofit entity run by the city of Denver, which is close to breaking even for the first time since it started in April.
But Denver marketing manager Steve Sander says the Maes mess didn't lead directly to a better financial picture. "The one thing it did was create a groundswell of support among hardcore bicycling community and people who weren't as supportive before," he explains. "We were encouraged by level of support we go throughout the community."
Instead, Sander credits the fact that after four months, B-cycle is beginning to gain traction. "User fees are close to covering our monthly overhead," he says. In addition to its 2,000 annual members who each paid $65, B-cycle has also logged 20,000 24-hour memberships and a total of 50,000 rides.
Running the program costs about $70,000 a month, but that will decline in the fall when fewer people ride the red bikes; B-cycle will be shut down entirely on December 1 for the worst of the winter and start up again on March 1, 2011.