If you've visited our state capitol in the past few weeks, you may have spotted a fleet of shiny red bikes with silver baskets zipping up and down Madison streets. If so, you've witnessed the first wave of a new bicycle-sharing program called B-cycle. Beginning with a launch last April in Denver, Colorado, the B-cycle program currently has bicycle stations in eleven cities across the country, including the most recent installment in Madison. Six stations debuted in the downtown area on May 22 of this year. When the project is completed this fall, there will be 35 stations dotted across Madison with a total of 350 bicycles.
The B-cycle program aims to encourage the use of bicycles to run short errands, commute to work, or take a jaunt across town rather than using less sustainable means of transportation. Annual membership in the Madison B-cycle program is about thirty cents per day. Once users register on the program website, they are free to use bikes at any B-cycle station, anywhere. This open-ended accessibility allows users a no-fuss opportunity to get outside for some fun and exercise without purchasing or maintaining a high-end leisure bicycle. Frequent visitors or those who commute to the city for work can just drop in at any station, swipe a credit card, and pick up a B-cycle for an easy way to get around town.
Madison-based Trek Bicycle Corporation, one of three companies including the Innovation Center at Humana and marketing/communications firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky that came together to make the program a reality, donated the two million dollars in capital needed in order to launch B-cycle in Wisconsin. While the City of Madison—another program partner—was supposed to come up with $100,000 a year for three years in order to maintain the program, due to current budget concerns Trek decided to waive the City's three-year commitment. "This is going to be a great program for the people of Madison, our visitors and B-cycle," says Madison's Mayor Paul Soglin.
The B-cycles are high-tech machines, developed for entry-level riders. With adjustable seat posts, automatic lights, silver baskets and various guards—even a skirt guard—to keep clothing clean and out of moving parts, B-cycles are designed for ease of use and convenience. Plus, even if someone picks up a B-cycle on one side of the city and bikes to the other, there's no need to pedal it all the way back—it can be returned at any docking station.
Several cutting-edge technological features boost B-cycle's personal and environmental benefits. B-cycle stations are all solar powered and the electronic kiosk that facilitates bike check in and check out enables users to buy 24-hour passes; the kiosk also displays real-time information about bike availability at other locations. B-cycle also has integrated mobile applications for iPhone and Android so mobile users can stay updated on bike availability and access station maps.
Better still is an internal GPS in each bike which allows B-cycle members to keep track of not only distance travelled and calories burned, but also the amount of carbon emissions prevented by using a bicycle instead of a car to make the trip. These statistics can also be found online when B-cycle members log into their personal accounts.
For more information on this innovative bicycle-sharing program visit madison.bcycle.com.