Editor’s note: This article was originally published July 30, 2013
With a few hours to burn in Boulder, Colo., yesterday, I headed to the nearest B Cycle station to check out a bike. Austin is due to get a similar system later this year. City officials say it will launch with 10 docking stations and about 100 bikes, and eventually expand to 40 stations and 400 bikes. In Boulder, the nearest station was about a block away from my hotel. I walked there in 5 minutes. With a quick slide of a credit card, the docking station released a sturdy red bike with a big metal basket, an adjustable seat and a sticker that said "B-cycles will self destruct when ridden on commercial sidewalks and pedestrian malls." It cost me $7 for a 24-hour pass. (You can also pay $20 for a week or $65 for an entire year.) After that, all trips of 60 minutes or less are free. If you go for a longer ride, it’s $4.50 for every extra 30 minutes. The system is designed to encourage folks to take short trips by bike, which is what I did. I tossed my purse in the basket and took a few tentative pedal strokes. My first reaction? It’s a good thing downtown Boulder is flat, because these bikes are heavy. I chugged up and down a few inclines, gliding past City Hall and the city’s downtown greenspace. Then I headed toward the Boulder Creek Path, where I melded into the flow of bicyclists commuting to work, shops, restaurants and schools. This city is all about biking. I passed at least three bike shops, numerous bike racks, a "Real Estate By Bike" office and several more B Cycle stations. People whizzed past me on road bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes and tricycles. After 30 minutes of exploration, I checked the bike back into a station near the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall. I wandered around a bit, then found another B Cycle station, where I checked out another bike and pedaled back to my hotel. Very convenient, and cheaper than a taxi. I’m looking forward to Austin’s new system. I’m just a little worried about how riders will handle our hills.