I took the opportunity to try out Boulder B-cycle as part of the “Gazillion Reasons Why the Nederland EcoPass is So Cool” program series.
The Ned RTD EcoPass is Free for any resident in the Greater Nederland Area within Boulder County. [see details here] The “Gazillion Reason” series is my experiment to intentionally increase my personal use of the Nederland EcoPass in order to explore practical tips and tricks.
As far as the B-cycle goes, at first I thought, “What’s the point in using the B-cycle when it basically goes to other places that RTD goes anyway?”
You’ll have to read the story all the way through, because I found that the answer has something to do with my progress through earlier phases of the “Gazillion Reasons” experiment. Let’s explore the first 4 phases:
Phase I – DIA: From a money-saving standpoint, the easiest use of the Ned EcoPass, is to take the N Bus down to Walnut Station in Boulder, then take the AB Bus to DIA Airport and save the gas, parking fees, etc.
Considering that I was already planning to arrive at the airport two hours before my flight, the process of packing my luggage, and trip planning in general, almost ensured an easy transition to RTD planning. Saving money felt good. Then, I thought, “That was great for me and the planet. What else can I use the Ned EcoPass for?”
Phase II – Low Risk: The next logical step, is to take the kids on the N Bus down to Walnut Station, and walk across the street to the Boulder Farmer’s Market on a Saturday afternoon. This is low risk. There is no complicated transfer to second bus schedules. I don’t have to worry about being late for work. The return trip is easily before the last N Bus back up to Nederland, so there’s no risk in getting stuck in Boulder. Kids love the bus ride.
Phase III – Transfers: Single trips down to Boulder to meet people on Pearl Street was so rewarding, that I began exploring single-transfer rides. By this time, the whole notion of saving gas money, less carbon in the atmosphere, and now a little bit more exercise walking, was just a win-win-win, all the way around.
In practice, it took a bit more pre-planning than I thought, especially if there was a risk in being late. I tried using an iPhone App, but it still didn’t remove the uncertainty.
Phase IV – Bring the Bike: Eventually, I tired of going through the brain damage of pre-planning, so I experimented with taking my bike down to the free day at the Denver Art Museum (every first Saturday is free at DAM).
At the most basic level, it reminded me of the freedom I felt as a middle-school kid, cruising around meeting my friends. Even at slow speeds, bikes are about 4 times faster than walking. So biking for 10 minutes, can get you to the same place as walking for 40 minutes – Big Difference.
The downside to biking, was being tethered to your bike. Putting your bike on the front rack of the bus (or underneath if you are not the lucky first two bike riders). Then, putting your bike on the next bus to Denver, and not being able to take the 16th Street Mall Shuttle. If you meet a friend who offers a ride, so then you have to lock your bike over night, and figure out how to get it later.
Phase V – B-cycle: So, seeing the B-cycle adjacent to bus stops looked intriguing, but I thought, “What’s the point in using the B-cycle when it basically goes to other places that RTD goes anyway?”
Just so people know how it works, here is an interesting video from Boulder Daily Camera’s Ryan Van Duzer (AKA ‘Out There Guy’) cruising around town in 2011 back when B-cycle was Boulder’s new bike share program. He interviews Elizabeth Train about how it works, when she was executive director of Boulder B-cycle.
Since then, James Waddell has transferred from the Denver B-cycle program to become the Boulder B-Cycle Executive Director.
These cruisers are fun to ride. There’s no hassle, the bikes are maintained by other people. The front basket is super convenient. The chain guard protects your pants from oil (and the skirt guard, which I didn’t realize was an issue, but now see as a brilliant idea). The adjustable seat is easy-peasy to modify.
The big benefit for me, is that it takes a lot of pre-planning off my mind. As long as I’m in the central Boulder area, I can pretty much expect a B-cycle station to be near by. The B-cycle iPhone App makes it even more convenient. It shows me the closest B-cycle Station with how many docks and bikes are available.
Maybe I just lucked-out on the timing, because Boulder B-cycle added several new stations this year, and now they have 38 stations. Perhaps only a few months ago, when there were 22 stations, it wasn’t so convenient, and I would have had to do more pre-planning. Now it seems the stations are disbursed all around central Boulder.
It was so much fun, that I couldn’t wait to run an errand in Boulder, just to ride the bike. So, I decided to take “Le Tour de Boulder B-cycle Challenge”, which is to ride to every B-cycle Station in one day. Definitely something I would have wanted to attempt in middle school.
Thirty-Four miles, and four and a half hours of biking time later, I made it onto the “Wall of Fame” for the Tour de B-cycle. [check out the wall here]
Doing the Tour de B-cycle taught me where every B-cycle location is, so that I know where to check-in or check-out a bike just about anywhere in Boulder.
Boulder B-cycle is definitely one of the “Gazillion Reasons Why the Nederland EcoPass is So Cool.”