Next week, Aspen becomes the first mountain town on the continent to launch a self-service bike-sharing program, the 27th such program in the United States.
Thirteen bike-sharing stations are being installed around town, and the bicycles will be tested between now and the launch party on June 5. On June 6, the public will have its first chance to actually ride the new three-speed WE-Cycles designed especially for Aspen.
“Our community has been primed over the years as a recreational biking community, but now we’re truly becoming a transit-oriented and commuter-oriented biking community,” said Mirte Mallory, WE-Cycle’s co-founder and director.
Installation of the $500,000 system designed by PBSC Urban Solutions was funded by a list of public and private partners, including the Aspen Institute, Aspen Meadows Resort, Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Valley Hospital, the city of Aspen, Genshaft Cramer LLC, the MyersRoberts Collective, the Nick DeWolf Foundation, Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. Aspen-Snowmass Sotheby’s is the program’s title sponsor.
In accordance with the considerable cost, Aspen will receive an integrated electronic system that goes far beyond traditional bike racks with free cruisers available to borrow (and leave behind).
The WE-Cycle system is supposed to work in a simple but sophisticated four-step fashion: Join, ride, return, repeat.
To join, riders must purchase either a daily or seasonal pass. One-day, three-day and seven-day passes ($7, $15 and $25, respectively) can be purchased by using a credit or debit card at a bike station, and season passes are available online at www.we-cycle.org/signup.
To ride, use a pass to check out a WE-Cycle at one of 13 stations. A map of stations is available at www.we-cycle.org.
To return a bike, ride to any of the 13 stations in less than 30 minutes. Beyond that time limit, fees accrue at $2 for the first 15 minutes and $5 for each additional 15-minute interval.
To repeat, just return to a station and check out another WE-Cycle for the duration of the pass period.
The WE-Cycle system, like most other modern-day bike-sharing programs, is designed for short, local trips. The fees after the 30-minute period give riders a strong incentive to return the bikes, but there is no limit on the number of trips per day or per pass.
Mallory said the system should meet the needs of all three of Aspen’s key groups: locals, commuters and visitors. For locals, the WE-Cycles are the perfect town bikes for a quick errand or to meet friends without the hassle and expense of parking a car. Commuters will have an easy way to get around town after car pooling or riding RFTA to Aspen. And, if all goes according to plan, visitors will find that WE-Cycles are easier than driving a car to the Benedict Music Tent or downtown for dinner.
“It’s meant to be a commuter bike,” Mallory said.
In other words, WE-Cycle is not a rental-bike program. If you want to ride a bike all day long, then a local bike shop is the place to go. But for short, in-town trips, bike-sharing is an affordable, healthy and energy-saving alternative to the automobile.
“It’s just a plethora of benefits,” Mallory said, referring to the reduction in car traffic, gas consumption, noise and pollution.
These perceived positives are becoming apparent in bike-sharing communities around the country, including New York City, which launched the nation’s largest program on Monday. The public responded with 6,050 trips and 13,768 miles on the inaugural day, and advocates pronounced Citi Bike the latest addition to New York’s elaborate transit system of subways, buses and ferries. Of course, there were glitches and controversies associated with the launch of Citi Bike (so named for Citigroup, the program’s $41 million lead sponsor), but at this point the ins and outs of urban bike-sharing programs are well-understood.
Denver and Boulder have bike-sharing systems, along with cities such as Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; Miami; and Portland, Ore. Chicago and San Francisco are scheduled to debut new systems this summer. Some 534 bike-sharing programs exist worldwide, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the world’s largest in Hangzhou, China, includes 69,500 bicycles at 3,000 docking stations.
Through June 6, discounted WE-Cycle season passes (the “season” runs from June 6 to whenever the snow flies) are available at www.we-cycle.org/signup for the price of $50. A free WE-Cycle T-shirt is part of the promotion.