Take that, Detroit: Denver starts new bike-loan program

Another city has implemented a program that allows free bicycles for anyone who wants to borrow one. This time, it's Denver, a city that is relatively compact, beautifully sited, and an ideal place to enjoy a bike ride. There are already some 358 miles of bike routes ready to be used.

The concept began last year when the Democratic National Convention gave a $1 million grant to make 1,000 bikes available to delegates. Over the four days of the convention, the bikes racked up some 26,416 of miles, and the city realized it was onto something.

So this permanent "Denver B-Cycle" program, the first in a major American city, is being readied for a summer opening. Funded by a third party with no city money, new stations are being installed near hotels, museums, and the convention center. Anyone who wants to borrow one of 500 bikes need only swipe their credit card as a guarantee that they will return it, which must be done by 10am on the next business day. Each bike will come with a basket that carries up to 30 pounds.As with so many good ideas nowadays, it started not in America, which is supposed to be the place where such brilliant solutions are born, but in Europe. Similar ideas have been rolling around there for a few years now. Paris' program, Velib', now boasts 20,000 bikes which ride some 150,000 miles a day. There, the bikes are free if you use them for a half an hour, and after an hour, a €1 fee kicks in. Denver's prices are projected to be similar.

The program, B-Cycle, is sort of a franchise for bike sharing. Once users have established a profile with the program, sensors automatically track the distance traveled and the calories burned, and the information is stored for your personal reference.

Denver's mayor joked that he expected the bikes to be so popular that the city would wind up losing revenue from parking tickets. Certainly Detroit should be nervous about the directions in which cultural winds are blowing.

Also read about D.C.'s bike sharing program
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