When we are trying to live more responsibly, consuming less, burning less greenhouse gasses – bikes keep popping up as an integral piece of the puzzle.

Just think how much more space would it take at the train station in Den Haag, Netherlands, if all these people had arrived by auto? (photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjungling/34572489/

There was a great article in Monday’s NYTimes on biking in the Netherlands.   The Netherlands is bike heaven.  Doug and I loved the more sane pace that bikes bring to that country when we lived there during Doug’s postdoc.

In the Netherlands EVERYONE rides bikes from tiny tots to gray-haired grandparents, from school kids to bankers in business suits.  Sure there are cars, but cars are the alternative not the default, and drivers respect bikes because the next time they could be the ones on two wheels.

Coming to the Netherlands from Madison, Doug and I found it easy to plug in.  Doug biked 7 miles, ferrying across the Rhine River to work, rain or snow along with a mass of fellow bikers.  Dutch bikers keep their seats a little lower, which makes it easy to put your feet on stable ground in slippery conditions.  Along busier roads, there are two-way bike lanes everywhere.

The first place we lived when we returned to the States was Indiana.  No way was Doug going to bike to work along the equivalent country roads in Indiana.  There was no such thing as a bike lane.  There wasn’t even a shoulder.  But the most dangerous part was the attitude of drivers – a kind of belligerence about having to share the road with bikes, move over, or heaven forbid – slow down and wait for a safe chance to pass.

The area we moved to north of Chicago had a good set of bike trails, and we were able to use our bikes a lot more for fun and business there, but we are now back in an oasis of biking bliss.  Madison Wisconsin.

I’ve blogged about the bike boulevards that Madison is incorporating.  We have an amazing set of bike trails here, and now we have B-cycles, a bike sharing system where you can pay by the ride for a bike where and when you need it.

Trek Bicycle has donated a full B-cycle bike sharing system to Madison.  Here’s what Trek has to say about it:

“Madison is our home and Trek is committed to making it a world-class bike city,” said Trek president John Burke. “We are very excited to be able to give this gift to the city.” The initial Trek capital investment of $1.4 million will include all of the 35 stations and 350 bikes that will be placed throughout the city while the company will contribute $700,000 per year to cover the operational costs throughout the 5 year contract.

The investment also adds two years to the original agreement, ensuring that Madison residents and visitors are guaranteed to enjoy the benefits of B-cycle for a longer period of time. “This is going to be a great program for the people of Madison, our visitors and B-cycle,” said Madison’s Mayor Paul Soglin.

B-cycle is a next-generation bicycle sharing system that replaces the need for a car for short trips in, and around, urban areas. Since debuting in Denver, CO in 2010, B-cycle has been utilized over 100,000 times, 43% of which replaced a car trip in the city’s downtown area. In addition to Denver, B-cycle is currently operational in Chicago, IL, Des Moines, IA, San Antonio, TX, and Kailua, HI and will soon appear in Broward County, FL, Boulder, CO, Omaha, NE, Spartanburg, SC, and Madison, WI.

How it works is you can walk up to any B-cycle use your charge card to check out a bike for a quick trip.

And the system is solar powered.

Here’s how the Wisconsin State Journal describes it:

• An annual pass for unlimited rides under 30 minutes costs $65, or $45 for students. Weekly passes with unlimited rides under 30 minutes are $30. A daily pass with unlimited rides under 30 minutes is $10. For all passes, a second 30 minutes costs $2, the third 30 minutes $5, and subsequent 30-minute intervals $5 each.

• B-cycle hours are from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Bikes can be returned at any time and the system will log the appropriate charge. A new bike cannot, however, be checked out after 11 p.m.

• Because each bike is equipped with a GPS, B-cycle officials know where each bike is and can go out at any time to make room at full stations and bring new bikes to stations without any.

• The bikes come with software that measures the distance traveled, calories burned and the estimated carbon footprint offset by the ride. 

• B-cycle bikes come equipped with a basket, lock and lights, but riders are encouraged to bring a helmet.

The system has its detractors.  It is probably more expensive than owning a bike if you use it often,  so we’ll see how it goes.

Any move to make it easy for people to get on a bike and move around

is a move in the right direction!


8 replies

  1. Bike heaven was also Denmark, we just didn’t need a car, we had a transport system and our Christiania bike (http://thejourneytosomewhere.blogspot.com/2011/05/oh-we-know-how-to-have-fun.html) that could hold a week’s worth of shopping easily and had a cover for when it rains – well for the shopping at least. We carried all sorts of things back from shops in that bike, even a very long piece of guttering once, it had to rest on Ian’s shoulders.

    I think it is better for bike use if its integrated with public transport and that is sadly lacking in the States, even in Colorado where we used to live, Fort Collins at least had bike lanes though. I found I had to use the car to get close enough to think about using a bike, although Ian used to cycle to work which was about 10 miles away, but that’s too far for me on a regular basis.

    • Hey Joanna,
      What a great hauling bike! What were the hills like in Denmark? Having just gotten back from an hour of exercise/fun biking around Madison, I’m not sure I could have gotten that bike up some of the hills. And, again, it’s the attitude of the drivers — even in Madison, such a wide bike would make a lot of drivers mad. Isn’t that sad?
      Madison does have another neat thing for bikers. You can put it on a rack on the front of the public buses and combine the two where necessary.

      • On the hills it wasn’t too bad as the gearing was very good. There aren’t that many hills in Copenhagen admittedly, but there were a few steep climbs in places near us. Unfortunately the bike is now down in our basement and we can’t get it out but when our barn is built we intend taking it out onto our land as it will be great for ferrying around gardening equipment.

  2. Well, this post is timely for me. I’ve spent the past two days shopping for a new bike. Am going out again today. For me, it’s a great way to spend time with my husband, enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise. Looking forward to spending lots of time on my new bike!

  3. Great to hear from you, Lorijo,
    I just came back from a great bike ride myself. Since Doug’s heart attack in April, we have been alternating morning runs and bike rides to start the day right. I prefer the bike rides. I’ve always felt biking is as close to flying as we humans will ever come.
    I hope you checked the link the the NYT article on Dutch biking.It’s worth a read.
    I’d love to know what kind of bike you choose and why.
    Have a free-wheeling summer!

    • Gearing is what makes biking so great. It is pretty hilly around here, and I really appreciate my gears for getting the most out of the downhills and breaking the uphills into something I can handle.
      Your bike will make an excellent way to move messy handfulls of tools and other gear around.

  4. I love the concept of the B-cycles in Madison, but with the price to use them so high, I’m wondering if they will last very long. They certainly aren’t within my budget! ;o(

  5. Valid point, Monique. That’s always the catch. It might turn out to be worth it in a pinch sometime, but I know what you mean.
    I doubt if I will use them because if I want to go somewhere by bike, I just get on my bike.
    The Cap Times article suggested that people who have driven to an area and then want to move without parking hassles and while getting a little exercise and just seeing the world from the back of a bike will be the users.
    Biking is a great way to explore a neighborhood. So maybe people will be using them that way.
    It’s going to be interesting.
    I really want to see bike use go up and auto use go down, but it’s a challenge in our auto-driven society.

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