DENVER — DENVER – Denver’s B-Cycle is the O.G. of bike-sharing in Denver.
For those of you wondering what an O.G. is, it stands for original gangster, a hip way of saying they were the first. I’ll stop trying to be hip for the rest of this story.
B-Cycle is about to face its first serious competition in the non-profit’s eight-year history in Denver from the likes of dockless scooters and bikes.
Lime, Bird, Lyft, Spin, and Razor plan to bring scooters. Lyft, Zagster and Jump plan to bring bikes.
The 2,900 scooters and bikes planned to swamp Denver in the coming weeks would triple the 700-plus in B-Cycle’s current fleet.
But, without much experience with the new wave of alternative transit options, B-Cycle executive director Nick Bohnenkamp isn’t sure if his group’s bottom line will feel any impact.
“I think the short term and long term answer is we don’t exactly know yet,” he said.
When Lime and Byrd dropped scooters in Denver earlier this year without the city’s permission, Bohnenkamp said B-Cycle didn’t appear to lose any money to them.
“We didn’t see that much of a hit from a revenue perspective – and so at least from a short term perspective we’re not making any knee-jerk reaction,” he said.
And the executive director appears to be more worried about the health of his competitors as they try to make a profit in a business that’s barely kept his non-profit afloat.
“If we believe bike-sharing is a source of public transportation, it’s going to need public subsidy to exist. There’s a reason, that’s why we’re a non-profit,” he told Next.
And B-Cycle gets that subsidy.
“Right now, a lot of that is venture capital-backed,” Bohnenkamp said of the other companies flocking to Denver. “They have the ability to burn cash, enter markets to try and understand costs and change their business model as they go.”
Bohnenkamp isn’t sure where those companies will land when the venture capital money dries up.
“What we don’t want to see is a race to the bottom, so to speak, in other words to be profitable you have to cut as many costs as possible, cut labor and just really try to flood the market with bikes but not service them or move them or really handle the ancillary effects of operating in the public right of way,” he said.
What he does worry about is the perception of bike sharing with some of the problems these dockless bike companies have already faced.
Many people have complained to the companies and their home cities about parking, citing that many of the bikes and scooters were parked in inappropriate places.
Bohnenkamp said B-Cycle has received calls from neighbors demanding the other companies’ bikes be moved.
“What we’re hoping is that we don’t see a public backlash on bike sharing and some of these services that really brings the bike down as a transportation alternative,” he said.
Next spotted one ofo bike on its side near a McDonalds restaurant near 35th and Quebec. Depending on who you ask, that bike has been there for anywhere from three weeks to three months.
Bohnenkamp claims that doesn’t appeal to the average commuter.
“They don’t have to open an app and hunt a bike down or wonder if that bike will actually be where the app says it is,” he said.
B-Cycle requires its fleet to be docked at any of 83 stations across the city.
“We really feel we’re competing based on the quality of our bikes, how we maintain them, our ability to make sure they’re at stations and available for riders,” he said.