Thursday, August 11, 2011

Madison B-Cycle Bike Sharing System

I just got back from the lovely town of Madison, Wisconsin where I was busy getting the inside scoop on what Trek has in the works at an annual conference called Trek World. While I was there, I got to check out Madison B-cycle, the city's bike sharing system. The system is pretty slick.

As a Trek World attendee, I got a complimentary 7-day access pass to the system but I did have to register a credit card because the credit card becomes the key that identifies a user to the system. Also, the system is optimal for short trips and to encourage this, trips under 30 minutes are free. If I'd opted to keep a bike for a longer period, that usage would be billed to my credit card. Using the system for a couple of days, I only did the short trips and never incurred any fees.

If you go to the B-cycle website, you'll get a full explanation of how things work, so I won't fully explain it all again here. What I will say is that the system works well, the bikes are fun & functional and the system is very easy to use.

There are a bunch of places where you can grab a bike, and maps showing you where other stations are and giving someone like me, who was new in town, a good orientation of where things are at.

The kiosk is like an ATM. Slide your card in follow a few prompts and in 30 seconds you have a bike.

Once you've swiped your card and made your choice, the racks unlocks the bike you've chosen.

The bikes feature a three-speed hub (fine for fairly flat Madison), a quick release seat clamp so you can easily adjust saddle height, full fenders, tough tires, a basket and a bike lock. The bikes also have a an electrical generator built into the front hub. If the bike is rolling, its lights are on.

You can return the bike to any B-cycle station and every time I returned a bike, I got a nice email informing me the return really worked. I never had a problem finding a bike when I needed one but I did ride by one completely empty rack at one point in my visit.

The B-cycle was a great asset to me as a visitor to the town. I got to see more, do more and have more fun in Madison than I ever could by walking or driving. If you ever are visiting a town that has a bike share system, check it out.

I'm very happy that Madison has a B-cycle system so I could keep rolling while I was in town.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
now back in Issaquah WA USA and thinking we should get a B-cycle system here.

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