Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU will be part of Denver’s new bike sharing project

Starting this summer, the University of Denver will be part of a new citywide bike sharing initiative announced Jan. 14 by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and community partners.

The “Denver B-Cycle” project will distribute 500 bikes at 30–40 kiosks across the city. Most will be in the downtown area, but thanks to efforts by the All Undergraduate Student Association and member Zoee Turrill, the DU campus is expected to host two of the kiosks, both located near student residence halls.

“The great thing about this is there’s no maintenance, no worries about storing a bike or where to lock it up,” Turrill says. “And they’re bikes that are designed to be really, really user friendly.”

Hickenlooper said at a news conference announcing the program that the project in part is the result of positive feedback from a pilot bike sharing program during last summer’s Democratic National Convention. The effort will be managed by a new nonprofit, Denver Bike Sharing, funded with a $1 million startup gift from the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee.

“Our 358 miles of bike routes and trails combined with our 300 days of sunshine make Denver the perfect city in which to launch this citywide bike sharing program,” Hickenlooper said.

While Denver is one of the first cities in the country to launch such a comprehensive program, Turrill says her research shows cities across Europe have wildly successful programs. Paris, for example, has some 1,500 kiosks and 20,000 bikes in circulation.

Turrill and others on the AUSA sustainability committee began looking for a way to encourage bike riding last fall. She says many students she talked with had been to Europe under DU’s Cherrington Global Scholars program and had seen viable bike sharing programs and wanted something similar back home.

At the start, it looked as if DU would have a one-stop pickup and drop off location, a setup actually known as a “bike library,” Turrill says. Then she heard about the city of Denver’s plans, and after a few contacts, found DU right in the middle of the program.

“It was a matter of being at the right place at the right time,” she says.

Under the plan — still in development — frequent users will sign up for memberships, and infrequent users can use a credit card to check bikes out. Borrowers swipe their card at a kiosk, which will unlock a bike. Riders can drop the bike off at any kiosk in town. The bikes will be free for short, half-hour trips, with a nominal fee for longer usage.

“Won’t it be cool when a student living at J-Mac [Johnson-McFarlane Hall] can pick up a bike, ride it around, take it on the light rail, maybe ride it around town, then drop it off somewhere else?” Turrill says. “I want people to be really excited about this.”

Turrill is hoping to have a kiosk and bikes to display at DU’s May Days celebrations, and then be ready for students when they return in the fall.

Turrill, a 22-year-old senior with a dual major in international studies and Spanish, says she’s enjoyed working on the program so much that she hopes to continue after graduation, maybe with a job at the newly created Denver Bike Sharing group.

Organizers say this year’s introduction is just the start. By 2010 they hope to have 1,000 bikes on the streets with kiosks integrated into the existing multimodal transit system, including the 16th Street Mall, Denver’s Union Station, Market Street Station and FasTracks in a 3–4 mile radius around downtown.

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