Swarms of shiny red bikes will hit Denver streets on Thursday, making it one of the few U.S. cities to boast a bicycle-sharing program. Starting on Earth Day, residents of the Mile High City looking for a more eco-friendly commute or a stationary bike alternative will have access to hundreds of B-cycle bikes stationed throughout the city.
For commuters, the rental fee might be cheaper than gas. A 24-hour rental is $5, a 7-day rental is $20, and a 30-day rental is $30. Commuters can join the annual program for $65, giving them access to bikes for 365 days.
If a biker can pick up and return their bicycle to any station within 30 minutes, the rental is free.
At Denver B-cycle's launch, 400 bicycles will be available, making Denver host to the largest bike-sharing program in the country. Up next is Washington, D.C.'s SmartBike program, which distributes 120 bicycles.
But B-cycle isn't only renting out bikes; it's aiming to build community, too. "Denver B-cycle members will have their own personal account page, which will track total miles, carbon offset, calories burned, money saved, and trip details, among other things. Members will have the ability to share this information on Facebook and Twitter with a simple click of a button," Brent Tongco, B-cycle's spokesperson from the city and county of Denver, told CNET.
Social networking is becoming an important element in exercise, as dedicated social tools are proliferating on the Net. The iPhone application RunKeeper, for example, records runners' speeds and distances, and tracks their route on a map. Users can access their maps and stats on RunKeeper.com and share their activity with friends on other social networks. The app also tracks activities like cycling, hiking, and swimming.
"Social networking will play an important role for Denver B-cycle," Toncgo said. "It is...a great way for the public to interact with Denver B-cycle, whether it is commenting on the system, posting images of themselves on a B-cycle or sharing news--it is a very open form of communication where one's creativity is his/her limit."
The social-networking feature may drive activity, as a strong and interactive online community can translate into real-life actions. Tracking calories, miles, and routes is rewarding, but being able to brag about those successes with a network of friends can be even better.
B-cycle plans to release a mobile app this summer, but no specifics are available right now. We're guessing the app may incorporate things like checking rental availability at B-cycle stations, or accessing tracked stats on the go.
During the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Freewheelin' distributed 1,000 bicycles for Denver residents and visitors to use for free. According to Westword, the event was a hit, and all but 50 bicycles were returned safely.
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Updated 6:55 p.m. PDT to correct spelling of Westword and the 30-minute rule. Riders may pick up a bike and return it to any station within 30 minutes for free.