Prior to January 2019, I used B-Cycle very sparingly. To me, it seemed like a primitive ancestor of Lime, Bird, and other ridesharing services that have popped up under the scooter pilot program. When the 5280 Program was announced, I applied and was able to get free B-Cycle rides for the year. After doing the program for a little over half a year, it has both confirmed some assumptions that I had about the B-Cycle program and broken down a few too. This article will detail my experience with B-Cycle, including general availability, quality of bikes, and customer service experience—giving simple letter grades for each category.
I am a relatively new adopter of B-Cycle, having only 64 rides under my belt. More experienced riders may have a more informed opinion than me, given how long they have ridden, how service has changed over the years, and how B-Cycle has advanced in their time riding it.
B-Cycle station I use at the corner of 13th and Speer to get to work.
Availability of Docks: When I ride out to the office around 6:30 AM, there are roughly 4–5 B-Cycles available at my station, which is located close to the heavily trafficked King Soopers at 13th and Speer. When I get to my destination at the 15th and Delgany, there are usually about 3–4 places for me to dock my bike. I have never had issues personally finding a dock or a bike at a B-Cycle station, outside of the odd station being impacted at peak hours of the day.
B-Cycle station at 15th and Delgany.
Availability of Stations: B-Cycle is fairly convenient if you are trying to get somewhere within a mile of Denver’s Central Business District, with the farthest north station at 39th Avenue and Fox and farthest south station near the Cherry Creek Mall. The northernmost I ever go when I am on a B-Cycle is usually the 30th Street and Lawrence station in RiNo.
B-Cycle station near the Cherry Creek Mall.
Service Hours: B-Cycle stations are open from 5:00 AM to 12:00 AM midnight, with maintenance being done on the fleet during off hours.
Reliability of Bikes: D+
While it is a fairly large fleet to maintain, B-Cycles feel like clumsy death traps at times. Ripped off bells, shifting that makes one worry of a dropped chain, and seats that can be difficult to adjust at times contribute to being worried if your B-Cycle will make it to its destination. Just the other day, I accidentally checked out a B-Cycle that had a half pumped tire, making it to my destination on pure pedal power.
Customer Service: A-
The one area where B-Cycle as a program shines is its customer service apparatus. When a station was having issues, I called the B-Cycle hotline and they had their IT department reset the station so that I could check out a bike on a wintry day. When I wanted a key fob to check out bikes, they sent me one the day I requested it. The customer service team is superb, and should have their successful model replicated across other departments that Denver B-Cycle has.
My slightly faded B-Cycle fob and my personal ridership statistics.
Were it not for the cost that makes scooters more attractive, I would sign up for the B-Cycle program if they were able to increase their fleet of mechanics that do maintenance on their bikes. Realistically, I will stick with my own bike or the trains for getting around the metro area once I am finished with the program. To be successful post-5280 program, Denver B-Cycle will need to bolster up its fleet of mechanics while trying to find ways of slashing costs if it hopes to survive in the post-scooter landscape.
Thanks for putting in the legwork on this, literally. This part of citizen journalism is necessary for a better-informed city.
I’ve always thought it would be cool to be able to buy a front skewer that would lock into the B-cycle stations. It’s your bike with your desired shifting, seat height, tire pressure etc. but it would simply lock into the station and only your key fob could unlock it. A lot of the maintenance issues would be solved, your bike would always be available, and security would no longer be as much of a concern. They would have to have additional stations, but to me it seems like an easy upgrade to their system.
I have three thoughts:
One, the reliability of bikes metric is harsh. I’ve taken a well over hundred trips and can count on one hand the number of times I had a bike with issues so egregious that I decided to switch it out at the origin station. Generally I find that everything works.
Two: The main utility of B-Cycle for me is that it supports spontaneity. I don’t always have my bike with me. Often I take transit to a destination, and then take B-Cycle home. Or I take B-Cycle and carpool elsewhere with a friend. Endless multi-modal combinations. There is value in one way trips that a personal bicycle cannot provide.
Three: There is also value in using them to connect to transit. Getting a personal bike onto a train during rush hour is generally an unpleasant experience. Standing with the bike on board is not exactly relaxing and often there are too many bikes on one end of the train car, forcing you to run last minute to the other end. As a Capitol Hill resident I am over a mile from the closest train station. I find it very convenient to ride B-Cycle to 10th and Osage and leave it docked at the station rather than bringing my own personal bike aboard the train.
Generally I think this is valuable program. If it were to cease operation my car-free lifestyle would be significantly disrupted.
I’ve used B-Cycle since the service kicked off in 2010, and believe that it’s still the most convenient transportation option downtown — even with the recent advent of scooters. A bit of exercise is part of the appeal, if you ask me. Stations are everywhere, and are very rarely empty or full… the balancing crews do a great job making sure that’s the case. Customer service is incredibly efficient, as you’ve noted. And, apart from the broken bells, maintenance is excellent. Sure, you occasionally need to hand-tweak the little screw that regulates the seat adjustment mechanism, but that’s it!
Will C.: Using the B-Cycle docks as bike racks (for personal bikes) would run counter to the system’s goal of “sharing”. There are plenty of regular racks around, and chains/locks of all sorts are readily available. I occasionally encounter e-scooters parked in B-cycle station slots, and typically remove them. 🙂
Like Ryan, I see the value in one-way trips. Nearly every day, I ride my personal bike to my office downtown. Once it is parked there in the morning, it rarely leaves until it is time to go home. I will take a B-Cycle to meetings. This way I can choose to take the mall ride, scooter, b-cycle, walk, etc for my return trip and I don’t have to worry about locking my bike up everywhere I go.
Since I started using the system this way, my ridership of B-Cycle shot up and I love its availability. That said, most of my meetings and lunches are in or near downtown which is where the system is most effective!