This past Wednesday, Mayor Hancock announced that B-Cycle would be offering 5,280 free memberships to Denver B-Cycle for the entirety of 2019. As an avid cyclist and someone that wants to see a culture of cycling grow in the city of Denver, the news was incredibly heartening to me. However, with the recent growth of dockless rideshare and the decline in popularity of B-Cycle, can the 5280 Program help revitalize B-Cycle as a nonprofit?
Crunching the Numbers
While the companies and services in the Dockless Mobility Vehicle Pilot Permit Program haven’t produced a Denver-centric annual report due to the recency of the launch of the program, scooters and electric bikes have become a part of the fabric of the city. Lime, for example, in its overall one year report noted that 6 million rides a month had been reached by June of 2018 worldwide, and the results have been seen throughout Denver and other major cities, where the rideshares proliferate in major urban centers.
B-Cycle in Denver, on the other hand, has been in decline for the past four years, with ridership falling since its peak in 2014 to average a little under 360,000 rides per year, with 344,256 being the most recent figure.
Increasing B-Cycle Ridership by Increasing Annual Subscriptions
Please note: Throughout the next section, I will be mostly focusing on the period between 2014-2017 when it comes to ridership, mainly due to the fact that, outside of the subscription models, overall size of the B-Cycle fleet, number of stations, and days of operation remained relatively constant. I will also be using the words “subscribers” and “riders” interchangeably to refer to people that ride B-cycle, regardless of level of membership. The numbers are based on the 2017 annual report, which can be found here.
The major assumption, which is borne out by comparing annual subscription ridership versus more short-term programs, is that increasing overall annual subscriptions will increase overall ridership, helping to boost the success of the program. The data bear it out as well, as annual riders tend to average about 63–64 rides per year versus about 12 rides for 30-day subscribers, a little under 6 rides for the discontinued 7-day pass program, and 2–3 rides for 24-hour subscribers. The chart below shows the average number of rides each different group of subscribers contributes to the program each year.