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Ready to Bcycle

By: Pete Patten

The city of Madison initiated a bike sharing program that is open to anybody who wishes to participate. The program, called B-cycle, started a soft launch of the bikes in May of 2011. The official start date of the program began in late-July of 2011. This programs aims to boost the local economy along with increase the health benefits of biking. This program is also a “green” decision as people using a bike to cruise through the city is better than a car. Madison is known to be at the forefront of “going green” and the B-cycle fits that mold.

Newly elected Mayor Paul Soglin wasn’t keen on the original contract that was made between the City of Madison and Trek, who supplies the bikes and stations. Back in April, Soglin and Trek modified the contract which reduced the city’s cost from $100,000 annually down to $1 annually. In return for the reduced cost, the city extended the contract out to five years. Cutting down the cost to the city was a key issue that needed to be taken care of considering the tight budgets and today’s economy.
According to B-Cycle, the bikes have software installed on them that calculates the distance traveled. The software also measures how many calories are burned as well as the estimated carbon footprint offset by the ride. There is also a GPS unit on each bike that allows B-cycle officials to know where each bike is located at any moment.

A bike helmet

Image via Wikipedia

Helmets are not provided through the program but bicyclists are recommended to bring their own helmet. The bright red bikes have a basket on the front along with a light and a lock.
The bikes are scattered throughout the downtown area with stations also on campus for students to use.
 Students who become members receive a discount of $20 for an annual pass. Non-student members can
get an annual pass for $65 a year. All rides must be limited to 30 minutes. If a trip lasts for more than the 30 minutes, there is an additional charge. For people that don’t want to become a member, a daily pass will cost $10 per day for unlimited rides under 30 minutes.
Madison has long promoted bicycling. The Capital City State Trail that runs through Madison has over 17 miles of bike paths. This trail provides an opportunity for cyclists to view the scenic landscape of Madison and surrounding areas as it connects to the Glacial Drumlin State Trail.
City officials believe this program will help boost the local economy. Students, friends, and families of any size can enjoy the unique downtown setting of Madison while getting exercise and reducing carbon emissions.
Mother Nature needs to cooperate in order to make this program successful. The spring and fall seasons can be very unpredictable in Wisconsin. Summer months in the Capitol city can bring sticky, humid weather.
Madison remains confident that the bike program will prove beneficial to not only the health of the public, but also all of the small retail shops and restaurants that are in the downtown area.
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