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September 16, 2010

 

By Matt Miller matt@dmcityview.com

 

Get on the bike

 

Des Moines becomes just the fifth city in the

 

United States to introduce B-Cycle program

Des Moines already has a variety of transportation options around the city, and it’s only getting easier. Last week, Des Moines B-Cycle officially took off, highlighted by an introductory news conference of the bicycle-sharing program. Officials such as Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, along with others from Des Moines Bicycle Collective and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, attended the event.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to introduce this program in Des Moines,” said Carl Voss with Des Moines Bicycle Collective. “These bicycles fit here perfectly.”

The pilot program made its unofficial debut two weeks ago, as Des Moines became just the fifth city in the United States to begin the program. Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston and Denver are the others. Internationally, bike-sharing programs have become widely popular in Paris and Barcelona, along with Beijing, Montreal and Mexico City.

The 18-bicycle squadron is sprinkled across four B-stations in Des Moines including Brenton Skating Plaza, Principal Park, Seventh and Grand Avenue and Thirteenth and Grand Avenue. Officials hope users latch onto the concept of the bike-sharing program, similar to a taxicab ride with short trips throughout the city.

“We hope to change Des Moines two wheels at a time,” Voss said. “This is just one way to do it.”

Those interested in the bicycle-sharing program must be 18 years of age or older. Memberships are available for $5 for a day pass, $30 for a monthly pass, and $50 for the year. The first hour is free and the fee is then $1.25 per half hour. Credit-card registration is available for a 24-hour pass and can be processed at any of the B-station kiosks. Online registration is also available at www.desmoinesbcycle.com. The program runs from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily, March 1 to Nov. 30.

“This option is a necessity in with populations that are medium to high density areas,” Voss said. “It works well in conjunction with other transportation, too. You can take the bus to work, then bike somewhere and leave the bike at a station. It’s perfect to use when the distance is just too far to walk.”

While the pilot program is just beginning, Voss and other who operate the program believe the future is bright. They would like to see 100 bicycles and 12 kiosks in Des Moines by next year.

“This is our goal for next year, and there’s no question that we should be able to do that,” Voss said. “We’ve been told that Des Moines could host 600 to 800 bicycles.”

While the bicycles may look “old school” (a basket in front), the program is very much high tech. B-Cycle can track members and bicyclists with GPS (global positioning system) and RFID (radio frequency identification). B-Cycle also allows bikers to interact online with an onboard computer to allow members to track miles they have ridden, calories burned, carbon emissions avoided and money saved.

“Bicycles are a great way to cut down on traffic in the city, plus you’re getting a good workout each time you jump on,” Voss said.

One of the major differences that Voss wants to make clear is that the program is about sharing rather than rental.

“We’ve had a few calls about people who are confused and not sharing,” he said. “The goal is to use it for a short time and then return it to another kiosk so someone else can use it.”

And while the temptation of not returning the bicycle may be a thought, officials report that with the credit-card information they acquire, a $1,000 penalty will be charged if the bicycle is stolen.

“I’m not sure why anyone would want to steal the bicycles,” Voss said. “The program is here for them to benefit.” CV

 

Caption: Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie introduced the B-Cycle program in downtown Des Moines last week. Photo by Matt Miller

 


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