Last Friday I finally got a chance to use the B-cycle system in Madison. I had a series of meetings, the first of which was at Shine Advertising. Luckily there were conveniently located B-cycle stations near the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin‘s current Madison office (we are moving SOON, call the Madison office if you can help) and the advertising agency’s office, so Kevin Hardman, Amanda White and I were easily able to use the bike sharing system to get to our meeting.
The 24 station, 230 bike system is growing all the time and will eventually be complete with 350 bikes and more stations. The full system is expected to be up and running later this year, but in the mean time, I found the current 24 bike station worked very well. In fact, I thought it was easier to find B-cycle stations in our State Capital than it was to find Capital Bikeshare stations when I was using the longer running Capital Bikeshare system in Washington, D.C.
Certainly one of the keys to a successful bikeshare system is density, but there is more to it than that from a user perspective. Most people will judge their experience based on the ease of use when they approach the kiosks and how they like riding the bikes.
From that perspective I rate the B-cycle system excellent. It was super easy to register my membership, download the mobile app to my iPhone, and check out a bike. Once on the bike, I was able to put my bag in the well-designed front basket much more easily than the bent hook-like rack worked on the Washington, D.C. system. I really had absolutely no complaints about my experience with B-cycle, whereas I didn’t like the front rack and bungy on the Capital Bikeshare system in D.C.
I also had a real problem downloading the mobile app for the Capital Bikeshare system. This was more than a little glitch in my experience in Washington, because their stations were not placed close enough to make them easy to find. After walking aimlessly for a while looking for a station, I called a friend sitting in his DC office to ask him to direct me to a station because the mobile app would not download. This may have been as much an AT&T/iPhone problem as it was a Capital Bikeshare problem, but from a system user perspective it felt like a problem with the bikeshare.
The proximity to B-cycle headquarters in Waterloo, makes it ideal to use Madison as a test lab to some degree. As new innovations and upgrades are made to the bikes, kiosks and operating system, you can expect them tried out first in the real-world environment of Madison’s bikeshare system.
I asked Madison B-cycle program manager Brian Conger how things have been going and he was cautiously up-beat. The program has not been entirely without problems. The biggest issue has been users not understanding that the bikeshare is great for short trips, but not designed as an all-day rental. Some people have taken bikes home and kept them in their garage to use for the weekend. Then they call B-cycle hollering that they were charged hundreds of dollars. B-cycle has refunded the money in those situations and expects that as understanding of the rate system improves they will have less of that.
Currently the B-cycle pricing system is designed only for bike sharing. A 24 hour pass is only $10, but hourly rates still apply. What that means is for $10, you can check out a B-cycle as many times as you want and you will not be charged as long as you return it to another station in less than 30 minutes. Trips longer than 30 minutes are billed at a moderated rate scale.
Available at stations or online
$10 credit towards your Annual Membership with purchase of 24-Hour Pass at any B-station
Sign up online – includes personal online profile
with ride tracking
|First 30 Mins.of Each Trip||Included||First 30 Mins.of Each Trip||Included|
|30 – 60 Mins.||$2||30 – 60 Mins.||$2|
|Every Additional 30 Mins.||$5||Every Additional 30 Mins.||$5|
|Max. Charge per Day||$75||Max. Charge per Day||$75|
As of July 23rd, there were a few shy of 1,600 memberships sold and about 3,500 trips logged on the partial system in Madison. Those numbers are a bit below projections, but in light of our summer heat and the incomplete system, B-cycle is pretty happy so far. There have been a few problems with stations not operating correctly, either not charging, not turning on, etc., but those glitches have been few and far between. Overall the other B-cycle systems around the country have been operating pretty smoothly, but no system is perfect, which is why B-cycle wanted to use Madison to improve their products.
If you have been using the B-cycle system or watching it grow, please write your comments below. Did you like the bikes or not? Do you have suggestions to improve the system? Where would you like to see a new station?