Gallagher: Give WE-cycle a ride | AspenTimes.com

Gallagher: Give WE-cycle a ride

RJ Gallagher
Philantopia

"What worries me most is that when I die my wife will sell my bicycles for how much I told her they cost." — RJ Gallagher

Admit it: If you're into two wheels, that could easily be your quote. No matter if you ride a ton or a townie, you know that you have spent a pretty penny for your ride. Or rides. A bicycle is a prized possession. It's an extension of your personality, and it's a lifestyle investment that will always have a very strong rate of return as long as no one knows how much you have actually invested. See above quote.

Speaking of a strong rate or cycle of return, let's talk WE-cycle. WE-cycle is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing bike sharing to Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley as part of a public/private partnership. WE-cycle was founded to give everyone in Aspen — living, working or visiting — access to a cool townie to hop on and cruise around our old mining town.

WE-cycle has a lofty mission statement: "To build on the enthusiastic bike culture and transit infrastructure that exists in our valley today and help transform Aspen's transportation landscape into one that prioritizes bicycles and pedestrians over fossil-fuel-consumptive vehicles."

I have a simpler mission statement. It's a hoot to ride a bike to and from anywhere in Aspen, and because of WE-cycle, everyone should saddle up and give a hoot. More bikes mean fewer cars. Fewer cars mean less congestion and a reduction in carbon emissions. But you already knew that. WE-cycle was born as a collective means of pedaling toward a clean, bright and healthy future. One errand at a time. One sightseeing trip at a time. One small-town character at a time. One Music Tent trip at a time. One dining experience at a time. One Tuesday Cruise Day at a time. You get my point.

I have been aware of WE-cycle since its inception. But I really just came to know it this past week as I did my discovery for this column. As stated earlier, WE-cycle is a nonprofit. I stress nonprofit. It is a dynamic organization and community effort that is funded through public and private partnerships. By the way, the term "public and private partnership" is just a fancy way to say that anyone and everyone can get involved in one way or another and help support the program and keep it sustainable. And with a program like WE-cycle, it really does take anyone and everyone to make a difference in order to keep the wheels rolling round and round.

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Gov. John Hickenlooper recently took a WE-cycle ride through Aspen and called the WE-cycle ridership "impressive!" And he's right. When WE-cycle opened in June 2013, it was the first small-town bike share in North America.

Since its iconic silver bikes rolled onto Aspen's streets, 5,000 individuals have taken more than 25,000 rides totaling more than 50,000 miles. Their pedaling has avoided an estimated 35,000 pounds of carbon emissions from entering our mountain air, and they have collectively burned more than 2 million calories.

WE-cycle currently has 450 season-pass holders who use the bikes daily to run errands, get to work, connect to the bus and ride to events. Passholders say that 42 percent of their WE-cycle rides replace what would otherwise have been a car trip. The end result is that in its two short seasons of operation, WE-cycle is on a roll, and its vision has already become a reality.

WE-cycle came to fruition through a collaborative effort of organizations and individuals committed to taking action toward sustainable solutions for our community. WE-cycle's founding partners helped pay for the capital infrastructure, such as high-tech, prefabricated stations, bikes and operating technology. Now that the bike-sharing program is up and running, WE-cycle day-to-day operations are supported through pass fees, late fees and the annual sponsorship on bikes and stations. A shout-out here to Aspen Snowmass Sotheby's International and Related Colorado for taking the ride here.

So come on, Aspen and beyond, let's do our part to keep a too-good-to-be-true program alive and well. Buy a pass for you and your family members. Buy a few passes for guests in town to use as a welcome-to-Aspen gift. Name a bike in honor of someone you love. Take a trip or 200 yourselves. Business owners, come discover that perfect fit with WE-cycle for your community relation's plan. Let your minds wander and I'm sure everyone can find a natural alignment with WE-cycle. Because as far as I can tell, WE-cycle is a one-size-fits-all program.

For more information, check out the WE-cycle website at we-cycle.org. Or reach out to Mirte Mallory, the hub and director of WE-cycle. She can share with you the many reasons why you should consider taking a ride with WE-cycle. Saddle up.

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He proudly serves on numerous nonprofit boards including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. "Philantopia" is a monthly column in The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.'s always open for ideas. You can reach out to him at rjg@forteinternational.net.

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