Dockless scooter boom pressures city-supported Denver bike-share program to reach more people

DENVER – These days the options seem limitless: you can get around on an Uber bike, coast downtown on a Lime bike, or book it on a Bird scooter. But before these fancy newcomers swept our city off it's feet, there was it's first love: the B-cycle.

Are the old-school bikes still holding their own, or being left in the dust?  While they are wonderful to get around town, if you're not near a docking station they're possibly out of sight and out of mind. That has a city council member asking B-cycle to keep up with the latest competition: dockless scooters.

Nikola Shishkovski, originally from Macedonia, lives and works in Denver. He has used the B-cycle to get familiar with the city.

"It’s pretty cheap and it’s very good actually. You skip all the traffic. It’s really good,' said Shishkovski.

The city-supported bike-share program is fairly popular and useful if you live and work near a docking station. According to Denver Public Works spokesperson Nancy Kuhn, more than 344,000 B-Cycle rides were taken in 2017.

"They serve me well, so I'm satisfied with these bicycles,” said Shishkovski.

But once you move out of downtown Denver, the docking stations are located fewer and farther between. That's got city councilman Paul Lopez asking questions.

"I’ve always been loud and outspoken about making sure those docks are everywhere," said Lopez.

Now that its time for Denver B-cycle's contract renewal, which last year included a $400,000 subsidy, Lopez wants the company to make those bikes available to all who need them, not just those who can easily find them.

"I want to make sure that no matter what zip code you live in, you're able to access this bike share," said Lopez. "There are working people in Denver that could use this. There are students all throughout Denver that could use access to something like this."

Lopez acknowledged the dockless scooters seem to be doing something right.

"As long as people are not throwing them in rivers and leaving them in the middle of the street," said Lopez.

B-cycle Executive Director Mike Pletsch provided Denver7 the following statement:

"We are watching the introduction of dockless systems very carefully. We welcome the idea of increased micro-mobility options in our community and avoiding use of personal cars whenever possible--for all the obvious reasons from decreased traffic to improved air quality and improved personal health. Our hope is these new companies will operate to the full permit program guidelines with a commitment to best serve the Denver community.”

In response to Councilman Lopez’ concerns, he said:

"We share the same goal as Councilman Lopez.  We would welcome the opportunity to serve the entire city. We evaluate opportunities to grow and serve more neighborhoods on an ongoing basis. And we offer a $10 subsidized pass to make our product available to all communities. Our capability to expand is a function of both available resources and potential ridership. As with many shared bicycle systems around the country that were on the cutting edge of this concept, and Denver B-cycle was among the first in the country, we started in the downtown core where we serve the tens of thousands of commuters who come to the city every day and to the growing residential population as well. Like any public transit system, we are a dynamic operation that will meet demand where it exists and when it makes economic sense to do so."

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