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Boulder B-cycle disinfecting bikes for safety



Our COVID-19 Safety Protocols Continue // May 26, 2020 

 


The safety of our riders is paramount when it comes to the use of our shared bike system. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have put in place protocols to disinfect bikes and stations. These procedures started in mid-March and continue today with the 'Safer At Home' order. We are also keeping a safe environment in our office.

We use two products for disinfecting, an isopropyl alcohol solution and a bleach solution. The first is sprayed on and allowed to evaporate, while the second is allowed to dwell and then wiped off. We’ve identified station and bike touch points, which are being cleaned with one of these methods.

Our station touch points include the area of the button used to activate the card reader at each dock, the touchscreen and credit card reader areas at the kiosk, and the areas of the kiosk handled for maintenance. Our bike touch points include the handlebar grip/shifter/bell area, the area of the handlebar shroud nearest the rider, the seat area, and the seat post collar area. The seat area is disinfected using only the bleach solution as isopropyl alcohol degrades the vinyl. Bikes are being disinfected on the way into and out of the shop, as well as to the greatest extent possible in the field.

We’re encouraging riders to wear their masks while checking out/riding a bike and to wash their hands before and after. Also, we’re highly recommending use of the free BCycle app for bike checkout as this limits touching of the kiosk and docks. Staff handling balancing, maintenance, and inspections in the field are wearing masks/gloves and practicing social distancing when it’s necessary to interact with riders.

In addition to disinfecting in the field, we’re only allowing at maximum one person in our office space and one person in our shop space at a time, separated by a door. Touch points in the office/shop are being disinfected regularly with our isopropyl alcohol solution. When one of our staff members leaves the office/shop, they thoroughly disinfect the surfaces they’ve interacted with on the way out. Touch points in our truck used for balancing and field work are also being disinfected with our isopropyl alcohol solution.

We hope this is helpful for you to feel safe when you pick up one of our magic red bikes to get around town or hit the paths for fresh air and Vit D! As always, feel free to reach out to us for any questions or further information: sara@boulderbcycle.org



Stay healthy and happy out there, Boulder!


Interested in sponsoring Boulder B-cycle or acquiring a corporate membership?  Simply contact: Sara Michaels, Boulder Bike Sharing Marketing, Communications, and Sponsorship Manager, sara@boulderbcycle.org


Thanks and Keep on Spinning!








Free The Streets
Oakland, CA began closing streets to through traffic to make it easier for residents to maintain a safe distance while outside. Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times 


Opening Streets For Safe-Distance Recreation // April 14, 2020 

 


You may have seen it on the news or social media lately.  Cities are closing down streets to allow for more space and therefore, better social distancing for communities to recreate. This includes biking, running, walking, rolling and strolling. Did I miss anything? Oh, dog walking (as dog parks are now closed). As narrow trails become burdened with hikers and parks are looking packed, we need a solution for getting outside in the sun for a healthy physical and mental break – especially as the weather warms and the days get longer. 

Cities from Oakland, CA to Des Moines, IA noticed people having to move into the street to avoid a crowded narrow sidewalk full of others recreating.  With most people following stay-at-home orders and not driving their car as much, it just makes sense to utilize the low-use to empty streets during this stretch of lockdown. Oakland closed 74 miles of roadway to thru-traffic; emergency vehicles and local traffic are still permitted.  

These efforts are helping to limit crowded public areas and could be the key for our community to continue to recreate outdoors while following protocols, and safely use alternative transportation modes for essential trips. 

Stay healthy and happy out there, Boulder!


* You have an opportunity to voice your opinion on the topic of advocating for street closures as City Council meets tonight to decide if the city should move forward on rebalancing some streets. You can email Council and ask them to consider this initiative. 



Interested in sponsoring Boulder B-cycle or acquiring a corporate membership?  Simply contact: Sara Michaels, Boulder Bike Sharing Marketing, Communications, and Sponsorship Manager,
sara@boulderbcycle.org


Thanks and Keep on Spinning!








brian cleaning bcycle kiosk

 

(COVID19) B-cycle Safety Protocols & Pass Updates  // March 23, 2020 

 


We have been thinking about what we can do for our Boulder community in these challenging times. After much discussion, we have decided to offer deals on some of our already high-value pass prices and extend the trip period of our People's Pedaler and Republic Rider passes by 30 minutes. We feel this extended trip period will give you plenty of time to take that long cruise in the warm sun, offering a healthy break from those working at home. Biking is considered a 'safe-distance' activity you can feel good about participating in, while also helping your local non-profit bike share organization.

These updates are designed to be helpful and generous to our local community. We are doing our part to help keep our riders safe and healthy with the following protocols:  Our fleet technicians are wearing face coverings and gloves, while they continue to disinfect all user touch points at the stations and on the bikes, including:  Bike handlebars, brake levers, seat & seat post clamp, touchscreens, dock buttons and RFID readers. There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself when using bike share: Download and use the BCycle App to check out a bike (avoiding the kiosk), wear a face cover, and also gloves as a precaution during set up and riding a bike. Wipe down the bike as you would any public surface you come in contact with, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands before and after riding. If we are all doing our part we can slow the spread and get back to it! 


The below pass adjustments are to better serve both those who need an inexpensive way to get around, as well as people who may want to use biking as a way to recreate. These changes will be in effect until we announce the switch back to our regular plans. 

  • Casual Cruiser (pay-per-trip): $1 for the first 30 minutes (down from $2), still free to register the pass. 

    • We are a mission-oriented nonprofit bike-sharing system and want to make this transportation mode absolutely as affordable as possible, especially for those hit hardest economically.

  • Day Tripper (24 hour): no change

  • People’s Pedaler (monthly): 60-minute free trip period (up from 30 minutes), still $11/month with no commitment.

    • We want to make this pass type an even better value, hopefully inspiring locals to give bike sharing a try for recreation and errands.

  • Republic Rider (annual): 90-minute free trip period (up from 60 minutes), still $88/year.

    • We’re extending the free trip period of this popular pass to give more time for locals and corporate members to get out for fresh air, providing plenty of time to ride and run errands away from centrally-located system stations.

  • CU Boulder Student: no change for now


No need for you to do anything special to enjoy all these added perks - just purchase your pass of choice and cruise away!


Thank you for supporting your local non-profit bike share system. We wish all of you good health and happiness!


Interested in sponsoring Boulder B-cycle or acquiring a corporate membership?  Simply contact: Sara Michaels, Boulder Bike Sharing Marketing, Communications, and Sponsorship Manager, sara@boulderbcycle.org


Thanks and Keep on Spinning!






 



BCycle_Folsom_2019__0052

Boulder Bike Sharing On Track // February 24, 2020 

 


After several rounds of media coverage and many meetings later, Boulder Bike Sharing is on track and grateful to announce that the City of Boulder, CU Environmental Center and Boulder County have all pitched in to help support our organization through 2020.

That said, membership and rider revenues still remain a very important part of the organization’s funding, as well as the generous support of corporate sponsorships.

Currently, our team is hard at work on the Boulder Bike Sharing strategic planning process, which will solicit input from stake holders, identify funding sources and plan for the successful future of micromobility here in Boulder.

Thank you for being on this ride with us! We are excited for what is yet to come...stay tuned!


Interested in sponsoring Boulder B-cycle or acquiring a corporate membership?  Simply contact: Sara Michaels, Boulder Bike Sharing Marketing, Communications, and Sponsorship Manager, sara@boulderbcycle.org


Thanks and Keep on Spinning!







B-cycling on the new Arapahoe underpass!!


Boulder Bike Sharing Funding News // January 27, 2020 

 


As you may have read recently, Boulder City Council is studying funding options for our organization, the nonprofit operator of the city’s bike-sharing system. A City Council study session will take place tomorrow night (Tuesday, 28 January 2020). 


Boulder Bike Sharing is a mission-driven local nonprofit started and run by Boulderites invested in the community’s values of sustainability, safety, and innovation. When the City of Boulder issued a request for proposals in 2010 to operate a local bike sharing system, Boulder Bike’s Sharing plan was selected, and in May 2011 the Boulder B-cycle system launched. At that time it was among the first dock-based bike-sharing systems in the US, and since then it has expanded to 300 bikes at 45 stations, providing over 100,000 trips each year since 2017. While membership and rider revenues are an important part of the organization’s funding, we have and continue to rely on generous support in the form of corporate sponsorships and City operating contributions.


These funding sources have sustained the Boulder B-cycle system for nearly a decade, during which time we’ve become a trusted transportation option for riders and a partner to many of the city’s most prominent institutions, including the City of Boulder, CU, Boulder County, UCAR, Google, and Naropa. Years of demonstrated experience and responsible stewardship of public space are not to be overlooked in the highly-volatile micromobility industry. In 2020, as Boulder Bike Sharing undergoes a thorough strategic planning process, we believe that our invested staff, micromobility industry knowledge and connections, and membership in forward-thinking organizations like the North American Bike Sharing Association demonstrate our nonprofit’s proven ability to offer dependable, high-quality service while planning for the successful future of micromobility in Boulder.


While new devices continue to proliferate, we’re working hard to make sure that the red Boulder B-cycle bikes in service continue the record-setting use that we saw in the last third of 2019. Even though the average Boulder B-cycle trip is less than two miles, the average bike in our fleet is (by mileage) well into its second trip across the US! This simply wouldn’t be possible without our riders, so we’ll leave you with a few key findings from our most recent rider survey: Nearly half of survey respondents say they use the red bikes to connect to public transportation, almost a quarter of them reported household income under $35k, and 30% do not own a personal vehicle.


The Boulder B-cycle team is thrilled that we've been able to make such a significant impact in Boulder due to the sustained support of our riders and partners, and we look forward to keeping our own Boulder version of bike sharing riding strong!



Interested in sponsoring Boulder B-cycle or acquiring a corporate membership?  Simply contact: Sara Michaels, Boulder Bike Sharing Marketing, Communications, and Sponsorship Manager,
sara@boulderbcycle.org


Thanks and Keep on Spinning!





 


BCycle_Folsom_2019__0006


Boulder Bike Sharing Overview // November 21, 2019 

(In Light of Denver B-cycle’s January 2020 Closure)

 

Not everyone knows this, yet we feel it is an important fact to share: Boulder Bike Sharing is the independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Boulder B-cycle system. Our organization is a separate entity from Denver Bike Sharing (nonprofit owner and operator of the Denver B-cycle system), the City of Boulder, and BCycle LLC/Trek of Wisconsin.

In light of the Nov. 21st news that the Denver B-cycle system will be closing in January of 2020, we thought it would be important to clarify what separates us from them and also our status as Boulder’s one and only micromobility transportation option. So here are some more clarifying facts you may/may not know:


  • The Boulder B-cycle system launched in May 2011 and has seen increasing system use each consecutive year since then, with over 100,000 trips and ~15K riders per year since 2017.  

  • Our system has 45 stations and 300 bikes, which is comparatively large and dense for a city of Boulder’s size and population.

  • Records for monthly system use were set in both September and October 2019, helped by the new CU Boulder Student pass, which was launched this fall in partnership with the CU Environmental Center and has introduced more than 1,500 first-time student members to bike sharing.

  • Several new micromobility technologies, including dockless bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters, and electric mopeds have emerged since our system launched in 2011. Though these new and progressive options are exciting and novel, station-based bike-sharing is still presently the model of choice in many US cities, providing predictability and reliability that some free-floating systems do not.


All said, Boulder Bike Sharing actively provides a 24/7 bike share system in earnest and intends to continue operating the Boulder B-cycle system for the foreseeable future while actively investigating new equipment options that could someday best serve the city of Boulder.

Any questions or concerns please contact: Sara Michaels, Boulder Bike Sharing Marketing, Communications, and Sponsorship Manager, sara@boulderbcycle.org.

 

Thanks and Keep on Spinning!


Spring 2019 Station Shift !!

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What is Spring 2019 Station Shift, You Ask?

 

We’re writing with some exciting news as we pursue our mission to operate a valuable, sustainable bike-sharing system here in Boulder. As Boulder B-cycle turns eight this spring (May 20!), we’re able to look back and see that the system’s use has increased every year since its launch in 2011, and with each year a pattern becomes clearer: the most-used stations are in higher-density parts of Boulder where connections to commerce and transit abound.

We’re always striving to make the system more useful and efficient, and this year we’ll be seeking to launch new stations in promising locations around town. As we’ve done in the past, we’ll be relocating some of the system’s least-used stations to make this happen.  While we understand that this may inconvenience some riders, we're confident that the station relocations will offer more bikes in high-traffic areas.

We plan to begin removing the following stations this spring 2019:

  • Gunbarrel North

  • Table Mesa Park’n’Ride

  • 30th & Diagonal Highway

  • Broadway & Iris

  • North Boulder Recreation Center

Work to remove the first two stations on the list above may start as soon as this month (April), and we’ve also notified anyone who has used these stations in the last year so that they know of these upcoming changes.

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions. This work will all be completed by the end of 2019.

Happy Riding!


The B-cycle Team
info@boulderbcycle.org

 




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Where we stand on dockless bike sharing

by Kevin Bell | May 08, 2018

Here at Boulder Bike Sharing (doing business as Boulder B-cycle), we’ve been keeping a close eye on the dockless bike sharing industry since it first came on our radar in 2016. With the City of Boulder currently working on regulations for dockless bike sharing to operate in Boulder, we want to proactively let you know exactly where our organization stands on the issue.

Background:

As Boulder Bike Sharing, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit owner and operator of the Boulder B-cycle station-based bike sharing system, we are an independent, mission-driven nonprofit. We operate under a master agreement with the City of Boulder, and they, along with a collection of generous sponsors and corporate members, contribute around 60% of our total operating budget each year. The remaining 40% comes from riders paying to use the system.

Our mission is as follows: We are dedicated to implementing and operating a community-supported bike-share program that provides Boulder’s residents, commuters and visitors with an environmentally friendly, financially sustainable, and affordable transportation option that’s ideal for short trips resulting in fewer vehicle miles traveled, less pollution and congestion, more personal mobility, and better health and wellness. Since 2011, the Boulder B-cycle program has provided 400,000+ rides, with about one in three of these replacing vehicle trips and most costing riders less than other modes (personal vehicle, transit, and ride-sharing).

Dockless Rising:

Within our mission, we embrace new technologies that can bring biking to more people, and we believe that it’s possible for dockless bike sharing to provide a real benefit to the Boulder community. Dockless bikes are shared bikes that don’t depend on the infrastructure of stations for access. Instead, they are equipped with GPS-enabled, smartphone-activated locks that immobilize the rear wheel of the bike when not in use, though some dockless bike models also tether to fixed objects like bike racks.

We aren’t married to any one particular bike sharing technology, and indeed, the future of bike sharing may be dockless. But it’s by no means guaranteed. Both the dockless bike sharing model itself and the for-profit structure under which all dockless companies currently operate translate into substantial changes to the rider experience and to the relationship between a bike share program and the community it calls home, and it behooves communities exploring dockless bike sharing to consider these changes in full.

Benefits and Drawbacks:

Since May of 2011, we’ve successfully operated a dock-based system here in Boulder with an extremely high level of predictability and accessibility. This is largely due to our commitment to actively redistribute bikes and reward riders for their own rebalancing trips in order ensure availability for riders who want to depend on bike sharing as part of their daily transportation habits. Indeed, the Boulder B-cycle system operates 24 hours a day, its stations are operational in excess of 98% of this time, and they spend less than 4% of that time either full or empty. Dockless bikes de facto avoid full or empty station problems, and they offer riders the appealing feature of ending a trip away from a station, though in order to model the beginning-of-trip predictability of station-based systems, dockless systems will require an equal (if not greater) operational investment due to the need to collect bikes from a much wider range of possible destinations.

As far as the convenience of accessibility is concerned, our docking stations allow riders to check out bikes using a credit card, a membership card, a text message, or a smartphone app. We believe that this level of accessibility is critical to ensuring that as many types of people as possible have access to our bikes. By contrast, dockless companies require either a location-enabled smartphone app, or a charged cell phone to check out bikes. While the market penetration of smartphones is increasing, we believe that limiting checkout methods in this way presents mobility obstacles and ultimately excludes part of the population that would otherwise choose to use bike sharing.

The ability to end a trip anywhere is a positive end-of-trip benefit for riders, though attention to the potential impact to the public right-of-way is needed. While well-run dockless systems aren’t prone to the kinds of worst-case scenario images that are making their way around the internet, they do depend much more on scrupulous behavior by all riders to avoid locked bikes obstructing sidewalks and bike paths. This can occur whether or not dockless bikes are tethered to locking infrastructure, though systems operated in an untethered manner introduce the possibility of non-riders relocating the bikes by simply lifting up the rear wheel. Boulder’s current dock-based system makes use of public right-of-way and private property, but it does so on a fixed basis according to the limited square footage and locations set aside for us in established permits and license agreements.

Notwithstanding these concerns, dockless bike sharing does provide benefits that a dock-based system cannot. In addition to allowing riders to end trips at destinations of their choosing, lower-cost bikes allow companies to deploy many more when launching a system, with these costs borne by private companies and investors. This funding structure could be a boon to cities, potentially eliminating the need to subsidize operations and source grants. However, the long-term financial viability of dockless companies has yet to be tested, and the difference between for-profit and nonprofit business models is perhaps just as important as the docked-versus-dockless discussion.

Behind The Scenes, and Why It Matters:

As a community-based nonprofit, one of our most important values is transparency. We believe that planners, researchers, advocates, and the general public have a right to have access to anonymous bike trip records and our financial information. For that reason, on our website, any member of the public can view and download records of more than half a million bike checkouts since we launched in 2011. Our annual reports and IRS 990 forms detail our finances, showing where our funds originate and how they are spent. And while we’re very open about our organization’s data, we’re also very protective of our user’s personal information; we will never, ever sell our users’ data to a third party.

While for-profit companies have so far stated that they also do not sell rider data, the prevailing wisdom among industry business analysts is that the venture capital investment driving dockless bike sharing companies so far assumes revenue streams beyond simply bike use, including mining user data. Competition between dockless companies could explain why these companies don’t disclose metrics such as actual operating expenses, cost recovery from user fees, and trips per bike per day, but this lack of transparency creates one more obstacle to assessing the viability of this new business model. To be clear, our experience points to bike sharing not being a profitable industry in Boulder.

This brings us to the subject of financial sustainability. We’re entering our eighth year of business here under a consistent business model in which the portion of our operating expenses not covered by user fees is subsidized by a collection of generous local sponsors and an operating grant from the City of Boulder. In 2017, 43% of our operating costs were recovered from user fees; when our corporate membership programs are included, that figure jumps to nearly 60%. Consequently, the Boulder B-cycle system’s per-trip cost and farebox recovery are impressive when compared to transit, and our sponsor-based model means that we have no investors seeking a cash return on investment.

A Dockless Future?

Ultimately, given this current reality, here’s where Boulder Bike Sharing stands on dockless bike sharing: the technology behind it is promising, but communities must be vigilant in ensuring that bike sharing programs continue to provide dependability, accountability, and affordability. This means ensuring adequate operational investment in both rebalancing and maintenance. It means ensuring that data captured by bike sharing operators is shared in a way that benefits the community. It means having a larger conversation about whether or not we’re satisfied to have access to a cheap service in exchange for sacrificing the privacy of our personal data. We would be more than willing to partner with a dockless bike sharing company here in Boulder, provided that company is willing to make the investments and commitments necessary to create a quality program for the Boulder community.

In the long run, our vision for bike sharing in Boulder is one that includes the flexibility and lower capital costs of dockless systems, while maintaining the dependability of station-based systems, and the transparency of nonprofit systems. The closest extant program to this vision to date is Portland’s Biketown program, which operates on a smart bike and geo-fenced simple hub model, allowing riders to pay extra to lock a bike away from a hub, and to receive credits for bringing bikes back to hubs that have been locked up elsewhere.

Whether or not this vision will be fulfilled depends on a number of factors, including regulation, availability of funding, and the will of the Boulder community. In the meantime, we’ll continue running the best bike share program we can with the resources that are at our disposal.

Ride on,

The Boulder B-cycle Team

Where we stand on dockless bike sharing

by Kevin Bell | May 08, 2018

Here at Boulder Bike Sharing (doing business as Boulder B-cycle), we’ve been keeping a close eye on the dockless bike sharing industry since it first came on our radar in 2016. With the City of Boulder currently working on regulations for dockless bike sharing to operate in Boulder, we want to proactively let you know exactly where our organization stands on the issue.

Background:

As Boulder Bike Sharing, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit owner and operator of the Boulder B-cycle station-based bike sharing system, we are an independent, mission-driven nonprofit. We operate under a master agreement with the City of Boulder, and they, along with a collection of generous sponsors and corporate members, contribute around 60% of our total operating budget each year. The remaining 40% comes from riders paying to use the system.

Our mission is as follows: We are dedicated to implementing and operating a community-supported bike-share program that provides Boulder’s residents, commuters and visitors with an environmentally friendly, financially sustainable, and affordable transportation option that’s ideal for short trips resulting in fewer vehicle miles traveled, less pollution and congestion, more personal mobility, and better health and wellness. Since 2011, the Boulder B-cycle program has provided 400,000+ rides, with about one in three of these replacing vehicle trips and most costing riders less than other modes (personal vehicle, transit, and ride-sharing).

Dockless Rising:

Within our mission, we embrace new technologies that can bring biking to more people, and we believe that it’s possible for dockless bike sharing to provide a real benefit to the Boulder community. Dockless bikes are shared bikes that don’t depend on the infrastructure of stations for access. Instead, they are equipped with GPS-enabled, smartphone-activated locks that immobilize the rear wheel of the bike when not in use, though some dockless bike models also tether to fixed objects like bike racks.

We aren’t married to any one particular bike sharing technology, and indeed, the future of bike sharing may be dockless. But it’s by no means guaranteed. Both the dockless bike sharing model itself and the for-profit structure under which all dockless companies currently operate translate into substantial changes to the rider experience and to the relationship between a bike share program and the community it calls home, and it behooves communities exploring dockless bike sharing to consider these changes in full.

Benefits and Drawbacks:

Since May of 2011, we’ve successfully operated a dock-based system here in Boulder with an extremely high level of predictability and accessibility. This is largely due to our commitment to actively redistribute bikes and reward riders for their own rebalancing trips in order ensure availability for riders who want to depend on bike sharing as part of their daily transportation habits. Indeed, the Boulder B-cycle system operates 24 hours a day, its stations are operational in excess of 98% of this time, and they spend less than 4% of that time either full or empty. Dockless bikes de facto avoid full or empty station problems, and they offer riders the appealing feature of ending a trip away from a station, though in order to model the beginning-of-trip predictability of station-based systems, dockless systems will require an equal (if not greater) operational investment due to the need to collect bikes from a much wider range of possible destinations.

As far as the convenience of accessibility is concerned, our docking stations allow riders to check out bikes using a credit card, a membership card, a text message, or a smartphone app. We believe that this level of accessibility is critical to ensuring that as many types of people as possible have access to our bikes. By contrast, dockless companies require either a location-enabled smartphone app, or a charged cell phone to check out bikes. While the market penetration of smartphones is increasing, we believe that limiting checkout methods in this way presents mobility obstacles and ultimately excludes part of the population that would otherwise choose to use bike sharing.

The ability to end a trip anywhere is a positive end-of-trip benefit for riders, though attention to the potential impact to the public right-of-way is needed. While well-run dockless systems aren’t prone to the kinds of worst-case scenario images that are making their way around the internet, they do depend much more on scrupulous behavior by all riders to avoid locked bikes obstructing sidewalks and bike paths. This can occur whether or not dockless bikes are tethered to locking infrastructure, though systems operated in an untethered manner introduce the possibility of non-riders relocating the bikes by simply lifting up the rear wheel. Boulder’s current dock-based system makes use of public right-of-way and private property, but it does so on a fixed basis according to the limited square footage and locations set aside for us in established permits and license agreements.

Notwithstanding these concerns, dockless bike sharing does provide benefits that a dock-based system cannot. In addition to allowing riders to end trips at destinations of their choosing, lower-cost bikes allow companies to deploy many more when launching a system, with these costs borne by private companies and investors. This funding structure could be a boon to cities, potentially eliminating the need to subsidize operations and source grants. However, the long-term financial viability of dockless companies has yet to be tested, and the difference between for-profit and nonprofit business models is perhaps just as important as the docked-versus-dockless discussion.

Behind The Scenes, and Why It Matters:

As a community-based nonprofit, one of our most important values is transparency. We believe that planners, researchers, advocates, and the general public have a right to have access to anonymous bike trip records and our financial information. For that reason, on our website, any member of the public can view and download records of more than half a million bike checkouts since we launched in 2011. Our annual reports and IRS 990 forms detail our finances, showing where our funds originate and how they are spent. And while we’re very open about our organization’s data, we’re also very protective of our user’s personal information; we will never, ever sell our users’ data to a third party.

While for-profit companies have so far stated that they also do not sell rider data, the prevailing wisdom among industry business analysts is that the venture capital investment driving dockless bike sharing companies so far assumes revenue streams beyond simply bike use, including mining user data. Competition between dockless companies could explain why these companies don’t disclose metrics such as actual operating expenses, cost recovery from user fees, and trips per bike per day, but this lack of transparency creates one more obstacle to assessing the viability of this new business model. To be clear, our experience points to bike sharing not being a profitable industry in Boulder.

This brings us to the subject of financial sustainability. We’re entering our eighth year of business here under a consistent business model in which the portion of our operating expenses not covered by user fees is subsidized by a collection of generous local sponsors and an operating grant from the City of Boulder. In 2017, 43% of our operating costs were recovered from user fees; when our corporate membership programs are included, that figure jumps to nearly 60%. Consequently, the Boulder B-cycle system’s per-trip cost and farebox recovery are impressive when compared to transit, and our sponsor-based model means that we have no investors seeking a cash return on investment.

A Dockless Future?

Ultimately, given this current reality, here’s where Boulder Bike Sharing stands on dockless bike sharing: the technology behind it is promising, but communities must be vigilant in ensuring that bike sharing programs continue to provide dependability, accountability, and affordability. This means ensuring adequate operational investment in both rebalancing and maintenance. It means ensuring that data captured by bike sharing operators is shared in a way that benefits the community. It means having a larger conversation about whether or not we’re satisfied to have access to a cheap service in exchange for sacrificing the privacy of our personal data. We would be more than willing to partner with a dockless bike sharing company here in Boulder, provided that company is willing to make the investments and commitments necessary to create a quality program for the Boulder community.

In the long run, our vision for bike sharing in Boulder is one that includes the flexibility and lower capital costs of dockless systems, while maintaining the dependability of station-based systems, and the transparency of nonprofit systems. The closest extant program to this vision to date is Portland’s Biketown program, which operates on a smart bike and geo-fenced simple hub model, allowing riders to pay extra to lock a bike away from a hub, and to receive credits for bringing bikes back to hubs that have been locked up elsewhere.

Whether or not this vision will be fulfilled depends on a number of factors, including regulation, availability of funding, and the will of the Boulder community. In the meantime, we’ll continue running the best bike share program we can with the resources that are at our disposal.

Ride on,

The Boulder B-cycle Team

BroadwayBaseline
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