Of course, for the program to be successful, officials can't just toss the bikes to the masses and tell them to hit the streets. As the plan for B-Cycle comes together, here are a few lessons learned from other bike-sharing efforts.
- Don't make it free. B-Cycle has already announced the bikes will cost a nominal fee per use, and riders will presumably have to offer up their credit card info beforehand so they're liable for lost or damaged bikes. That's good, because while this may seem like a no-brainer, many early bike-share programs, like Denver's Cheker Bike Program and Boulder's Green Bike Program in the '90s, foundered when their benevolently no-strings-attached cycles all ended up in the creek.
- Let them out at night. Sure, LoDo at let-out is already crazy enough without giving the drunkards bicycles. But you have to give people what they want -- and people want to ride at night. D.C.'s SmartBike program has been knocked for its daily 10 p.m. curfew, especially since a quarter of all trips on Paris Velib' program, the mother of all bike-loan programs, occur between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
- Get ready for some hauling. One problem plaguing many bike sharing programs is that all the bikes tend to end up at a handful of rental stations. In Paris, for example, the bikes pile up at the bottom of the hills, since no one wants to ride up them. Here in Denver at the DNC, by the end of each day most of the Freewheelin cycles collected near the Convention hall. There's no easy way to stop this, so B-Cycle should be ready to continually redistribute its fleet. One solution would be to assign the hauling to a few of local pedicab guru Steve Meyer's "Pedal Pickups." That would keep with the whole foot-powered, carbon-neutral theme.
- Spice up the fleet. Just because B-Cycle is all about saving the environment and keeping people healthy and blah blah blah doesn't mean they shouldn't get a little crazy with their offerings. One of the best things about the Freewheelin program this summer was the variety of bikes available. There were mountain bikes, cruisers, automatic shifters, tandems - even one that rocked a 6-pack holder and bottle opener. With options like that, everyone's going to want to look as silly as Hick on the city's new bikes.