They’re not dockless and they’re not electric, but Denver’s original (and largest) bike-share system is now free for 5,280 people.
Any Denver resident can get a pass for unlimited free, 60-minute rides starting today by signing up on the B-Cycle website. The nonprofit has 5,280 annual passes to give away on a first-come, first-served basis.
Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver Public Works Executive Director Eulois Cleckley and B-Cycle Executive Director Mike Pletsch announced the news at the 14th and Zuni bike-share station Wednesday.
The city is funding the passes to incentivize biking instead of driving. The decision comes amid Denver’s high rate of commuters who drive solo, a group that accounts for about 68 percent Denver commutes, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
“We are way too high,” Hancock said. “We gotta work diligently to bring that down.”
About 2.2 percent of commuters bike to work.
Public Works will foot the bill of about $400,000, Cleckley said. That’s half of the city’s $800,000 contribution to the nonprofit bike-share company this year. Most of the other half will fund the addition of five or six B-Cycle docks.
Denver gave more money than usual to B-Cycle this year, but only a “small amount” for operations, Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said via email. That’s a break from the norm.
“It’s because of what we’ve heard from folks, that folks want more stations in different neighborhoods,” Cleckley said. “To try to encourage a different mode share, we need to incentivize people and so buying up the service is getting us there.”
The streets department will evaluate how well the give-away worked at the end of this year. There’s no specific ridership goal in mind, but Cleckley said he’d need to see “some incremental increase” to deem the program successful.
Free passes have nothing to do with competition from dockless bike-share companies, Pletsch said.
“The market changing is not affecting our mission, which is to provide the community access to the bike-share,” he said. “We’re not gonna make any jerky, quick decisions to alter anything based on the competition.”
B-Cycle’s 2018 ridership numbers aren’t crunched yet. In 2017, ridership fell for the fourth straight year.