| Apr 21,2015
Boulder B-cycle is a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit with 3 full-time and 5 part-time employees. We are not a program of the City of Boulder, and we are not a large corporate franchise.
Pictured: The whole darn operation.
Most people are surprised to learn these facts, so we’d like to take this opportunity to provide some clarity as to how our organization is structured, and what impact that has on you as a rider.
Relationship With The City of Boulder
While we are not a program of the City of Boulder, we do operate under a master agreement with the city. This means that we are beholden to certain standards of operation and key performance measures as established by the city.
You know. The fun stuff.
We also receive some of our operational funding from city programs and departments, including Go Boulder and Boulder Parking Services. As bike share programs have been demonstrated to reduce single occupancy vehicle travel, we have been integrated into the city’s plans to increase total cycling mode share. For more details on how we fit into these plans, see the City of Boulder’s Transportation Master Plan.
B-cycle LLC and the B-cycle Brand
If you’ve spent time in Denver or other cities with bike share systems, you’ve likely noticed that we’re not the only ones running a B-cycle system. More than 25 other cities around the world run B-cycle-branded systems. For the most part, each of these systems is operated as an independent nonprofit, just as we are. As such, Denver B-cycle, Austin B-cycle, Charlotte B-cycle, and all other B-cycle cities are completely separate entities from Boulder B-cycle. While we do often interact with other cities and communicate best operational practices, we share no staff, no business plans, and no central office.
Like a bunch of lone wolves. Who occasionally talk.
So, where does the branding and B-cycle name come from? The answer is our supplier, B-cycle LLC. B-cycle LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trek bikes based out of Waterloo, Wisconsin. On the hardware side, they design and manufacture the bikes and stations found in all B-cycle cities. On the software side, they design the front end software with which users interact, the back end database that all B-cycle systems use, our website platform and the official B-cycle mobile app. Annual membership reciprocity between cities is a benefit of independent operators sharing the same hardware and software.
Boulder B-cycle purchases our bikes and stations from B-cycle LLC and pays them a monthly software fee. It is up to us to locate and maintain all bikes and stations, sell memberships, and provide customer service and member support.
What This Means For You
Whether you realize it or not, the structure of our organization does affect the experience you have as a rider. We frequently hear very valuable feedback from our riders about improvements that could be made to our system. When it comes to changing the way our program is operated, we’ve been happy to take rider suggestions into account when expanding the hours our fleet technicians work, looking for new station locations, increasing our operating hours, and improving member outreach. One of the benefits of being a small organization is that we’re able to be flexible in our practices in pursuit of a better rider experience.
When riders give suggestions for feedback regarding software or hardware, the situation becomes a bit more difficult. To be blunt, there are dozens of improvements that we would love to see made to bikes, stations and software. If the design of our own bikes and software was under our local control, we could implement a range of fixes in the very near future that would significantly improve the customer experience.
Sometimes, we’re able to take matters into our own hands. One of the most frequent complaints we received from riders was that the official B-cycle mobile app, in a word, sucked. We agreed. Rather than waiting for B-cycle LLC to improve the official app, our staff worked one-on-one with TalentRiot, a local software developer, to produce an app called B-cycle Now that met our standards. We’ll be writing more about B-cycle Now and the generous pro-bono contribution of TalentRiot’s staff time shortly.
If you haven't downloaded it yet, do yourself a favor and get it for iOS or Android.
Developing a mobile app is one thing, completely redesigning a bike is another. Know that your concerns about software and hardware are being heard, and that we never hesitate to pass your feedback along to B-cycle LLC when needed. The reality is that our supplier is a subsidiary of a very large company, and as such is not subject to the same nimble startup mentality that we are as a small business.
This having been said, we remain confident that B-cycle LLC is the best provider of bike share equipment in the world—You can read about the trials of systems who selected other vendors here, here and here.
As always, we welcome any and all feedback on how we’re doing. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 303-532-4412