Bike Sharing in Denver
It started in the summer of 2007 in Denver. No, scratch that. It started well in advance of that summer, with the Denver bike community’s decades of patient, persistent efforts to make Denver a more bike-friendly city. These efforts prepared Denver to take advantage of a historic opportunity presented by the city’s hosting of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Then, in 2007, in response to Mayor John W. Hickenlooper’s challenge to make the 2008 Convention the “greenest in the history of mankind,” a group of local sustainability advocates met to brainstorm how to rise to that challenge. A member of that group from the Governor’s Energy office offered “Hmm, I think I know someone who can help us find bikes to help our guests get around.” One thing led to another, resulting in connections to Bikes Belong and Humana Health. Within weeks, Humana and Bikes Belong committed to donate 1,000 bicycles and countless man hours of program development to Denver’s Greening Initiative. They made the same offer to the Republican National Convention. Fast forward to late summer 2008, past a year of cooperative, hard work by a team of local bike advocates, transportation planners, Host Committee staff, Greenprint Denver, and Department of Public Works staff, Bikes Belong, and Humana. The 1,000 bikes made up a short-term bike sharing program, Freewheelin’. The Freewheelin’ bikes were used throughout the City, with participants logging 5,552 rides totaling 26,463 miles, burning an estimated 818,899 calories and preventing approximately 9.3 metric tons of carbon.
The Freewheelin’ effort became a signature success for the Host Committee, not just for the greening work but as a reflection of the local community’s overall support for the entire convention. With Mayor Hickenlooper’s support and increased investments in bicycle infrastructure, Denver emerged as a perfect fit for a large-scale bike sharing system. When the accounts closed on the convention, the Host Committee found itself with an unexpected surplus, available to “give back” to the community. The Executive Committee, comprised of local elected officials, selected bike sharing as a special legacy program to receive $1,000,000. Community leaders and the City formed Denver Bike Sharing, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to take charge of the project.
In the meantime, Humana, Trek Bicycle Corporation and Crispin Porter + Bogusky created B-cycle, LLC to design and manufacture the first fully web-enabled, credit card-operated bike sharing system based in the United States. Denver Bike Sharing purchased the B-cycle as its bike sharing system provider and on April 22, 2010, Denver Bike Sharing together with B-cycle brought bike sharing to the Mile High City with Denver B-cycle.
Mayor Hickenlooper has announced a far reaching and ambitious goal to increase the percentage of bicycling commuters from 1.6% to 10% by August 2018. Denver’s vision is to change the culture of transportation – from moving automobiles to moving people. Implementing bike sharing moves us toward this goal while reinforcing the innovative and environmentally-focused way Denver and its leadership are working to reduce obesity, lower carbon emissions, and provide affordable, alternative transportation. Bike sharing supports the City’s Strategic Transportation Plan and Greenprint, Denver’s Climate Action Plan. It has been integrated into a comprehensive, diverse, multi-modal accessible and active transportation system that supports walking, bikes, carpools, shared cars, and mass transit, including buses and light rail.