B-cycle, known widely as the Charlotte bicycle sharing program, is actually not the only bike player in town.
This week, Texas-based VBikes rolled nearly a dozen bikes into Uptown, offering a different model for those who want to combine cardio and going green with commuting.
Additionally, for the past year or so, the Rail Trail has popped with a new blue hue in the form of cruiser bikes sporting the Spectrum Southend Apartments logo. The company offers their residents bike checkouts for free.
For new riders who don’t yet have a bike to call their own, Charlotte Spokes People, funded by Charlotte Bicycle Benefits, has a bike library located at Advent Coworking — yes, you can check out a bike. For free.
And UNC Charlotte even got in on the action with its Charlotte Wheels Bike Share program that launched this month.
Nationally, the competition among bicycle sharing services seems to be heating up, with New York, Seattle and Dallas reporting new companies arriving. Dallas Magazine even wrote a story about how VBikes employees started placing bikes around the city without permission – yet the city of Dallas welcomed them with open arms.
Is the Queen City the next new spot for a bike sharing race?
Here are the options:
By far the largest player in town, B-Cycle has 200 bikes at 24 stations across the city.
How it works: Purchase a 24-hour access pass for $8 using the BCycle app or a kiosk at a station. Bike between Charlotte’s B-Cycle stations — most of them are located along the Rail Trail and the greenways. Trips 30 minutes or less are free; if you hold onto your bike for longer than 30 minutes at a time, it’s $4 additional each half hour. Annual passes and student discounts are available.
Charlotte Five Editor Corey Inscoe even wrote about how to do this on the cheap and not end up paying the max price of $75 for a day.
“It’s an easy program and it’s growing; it’s going to be a lot of places people want to be. We want bikes all around,” said Steven Cole of Charlotte Center City Partners. “The nice thing about B-Cycles is you can ride to a station on the Blue Line, check your bike back in, take the Blue Line; and then check a bike back out at Seventh Street Public Market and ride it to the Square.”
This company doesn’t rely on stations but on GPS locaters for its bikes. These bikes use flat-free tires, meaning no tire tubes (and less maintenance, company representatives said.)
How it works: Use the VBikes app to look for the closest available bike. The web site mentions a required refundable deposit of $99, although business developer Matthew Morris said the company is currently reconsidering its deposit. Press the start button on the app and wave your phone in front of the bike you want to unlock. Pay $1 per hour for a bike rental.
UPDATE: VBike no longer implements the $99 deposit. Existing users can update to the latest app and click “refund deposit” in the wallet tab to receive a refund.
Leave the bike outside of your apartment or workplace when you’re finished riding, giving someone else the chance to come along and ride. Ten VBikes are currently in the Queen City, and Morris will be in town next week to meet with the City of Charlotte to discuss details for the arrival of a full fleet.
This UNC Charlotte program, powered by Gotcha Bike, launched July 31 with 100 bikes spread over 10 on-campus hubs.
How it works: Reserve a bike using the Social Bicycles app or website. Use a four-digit code to unlock the bike and start riding, and return it to a hub when you’re done. It’s free for an hour per day, and $6 for each additional hour. You can also pay for a $30 annual membership that gives you two hours of ride time each day with a $4 per hour overage fee.
Charlotte Spokes People bike library
Located at Advent Coworking, bikes are available with a $20 cash or check refundable deposit or a reference from someone familiar with the program. Spokes People founder Pam Murray has been lending out her bikes for the past year, and and she said loaner bikes are great for new riders who aren’t certain if they enjoy cycling. “This way, they don’t have to go out and buy a bike just to see if they like it,” she said.
How it works: Contact Murray via email (email@example.com) in order to reserve a bike. A notice of 24 hours or more is suggested. Bikes must be locked at all times when not in use, and helmets and lights are available if needed.
Spectrum Southend Apartments
Well, first, you have to become a resident. But those who live there get to check out the apartment’s bikes for free, seven days a week during office hours.
“People use them for exercise or to go into downtown,” said leasing agent Kayla Beaudoin. “It’s a really neat idea; a lot of other places should do it, too. Sometimes people just don’t want to take their cars, especially in traffic.”
Bike wars or bike shares?
How crowded is Charlotte’s bike sharing scene becoming? There’s plenty of space for everyone, VBikes’ Morris said. “Charlotte seems to be a very welcoming city for this kind of innovation.”
“We aren’t looking to compete with B-Cycle,” Morris added. “We’re looking to provide another transportation solution to riders and help grow bike culture even more. … The station-less (concept) provides people the opportunity to ride it to their place of work or their apartment complex. It can fit in with the daily commute.”
Center City Partners encourages cycling of all kinds, not just B-Cycles.
“Bikes are good for business, even, and when people ride bikes, businesses on the ground floor, retail benefit from more pedestrians and more bikers,” Cole said. “Obviously there are health benefits to it; people want to live in a community that’s more bikeable, more walkable, more urban,” Cole said. “Bike infrastructure is a big part of that.”
Photos: Alex Cason; Courtesy of Spectrum