Des Moines on B-Cycle bike share bandwagon

Iowa capital third city with operational B-Cycle program

Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, opened 4 bike-sharing kiosks renting 18 bikes during the week of 30 August. The city is the third to open the B-Cycle program for use, slotting behind Denver and Chicago.

We would very dearly like to have as robust a program as they have in Denver or Minneapolis, but for us we decided that we could start with a pilot program and then build from there,” said Carl Voss, chairman of the Des Moines Bicycle Collective, a non-profit organization. “We hope to gain enough traction to build this out to have 100 bikes and 12 or so kiosks in downtown Des Moines by spring or early summer next year.”

A gaggle of other US cities have committed to the B-Cycle program — which competes with BIXI, a similar bike and kiosk program that recently captured the market in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Washington, DC — but yet to fully install the bikes and kiosks for operation. These include: San Antonio, Texas; Kailua, Hawaii; Broward County, Florida and Boulder, Colorado.

Denver, Colorado was B-Cycle’s inaugural city now offers the rental of roughly 500 bicycles for use from 47 kiosks located citywide.

The Midwestern cities offer more modest programs for 2010 — Chicago runs 6 kiosks with roughly 75 bikes and Des Moines opened its pilot run with four kiosks and 18 bikes. Both cities plan to expand the programs next season and all of three of the operational B-Cycle cities suspend the program over the winter months.

“Both Chicago and Des Moines are pilot programs leading to larger deployments next year,” said Lee Jones, director of sales for B-Cycle. “Denver is a full program, but even the 500 bike installation this year is viewed as phase 1 and the hope is that next year that system will grow to 100 kiosks and 1,000 bikes.”

“This really scales well,” said Voss. “We’re not as big as Denver or Minneapolis but for alternative transportation this can work in a community of any size. I can see this working in several satellite areas of Des Moines.”

The Des Moines B-Cycle program allows users to buy one-day ‘temporary’ passes, which cost $5 for 24-hours or memberships for 30-day for $30 or annual for $50 — which include the first hour within the cost of the membership and charge $2.50 for each half-hour thereafter up to the $40 day maximum. B-Cycle bikes may be returned to any kiosk with an open dock.

B-Cycle rental rates vary from city to city.

B-cycle bikes are advertized to fit people short and tall, thanks to an easy-to-use adjustable seat post. Fenders, skirt guards and chain guards keep your clothes clean. Automatic lights help keep you safe. Three speeds are offer access to the core downtown Des Moines area. The cities do have a say in the color of the bikes and placement of any sponsor logos.

“The bikes are designed specifically for bike sharing,” said Jones. “Our Trek design team did a tear down of all of the competitive products that are available worldwide. It’s not a bike that you’re going to find in the catalogue that you can purchase. It’s built specifically for this application.”

Des Moines is offering free 24-hour passes to B-Cycle through 14 September. Riders must register online and use the promotional code: Karras, in honor of John Karras, co-founder of RAGBRAI and one of the giants of Iowa bicycling. The offer is not available at kiosks.

B-cycle was formed by a partnership between Humana Healthcare, Trek Bicycle and Crispin Porter + Bogusky based on a shared belief that bicycles should be a vehicle for positive health and environmental change as well as an important part of a community’s transportation ecosystem.

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