Charlotte B-Cycle can be a cheap, quick and efficient way to get around uptown and surrounding areas — if you use it correctly. If you do it wrong, it can be the most expensive three-hour bike ride of your life.
Several times I’ve heard people complain about how expensive B-Cycle is, only to find they didn’t exactly understand how it works (Katie Toussaint included. She encouraged me to write this). To be fair, the directions at B-stations can be confusing.
Too often I watch someone wheel up to a brewery, lean the B-Cycle against the wall, and go inside and drink for two hours. That’s one expensive brewery trip. More expensive if the bike gets stolen, since a replacement bike costs $1,200.
If you use it correctly, you can pay just $8 to bike around Charlotte all day. Here’s how to use it correctly:
(1) First — understand its purpose.
Charlotte B-Cycle launched in Charlotte in 2012 and has 24 stations scattered around uptown, stretching between the New Bern light rail station, UNC Charlotte Center City, Johnson C. Smith and Freedom Park. (Scroll toward the bottom for a map.)
Not the purpose: To rent for the whole day and take on a three-hour joyride.
It’s a bike share, not a bike rental.
I’ve used it many times when I’ve needed to quickly get from one end of uptown to the other. Faster than walking, and easier (and sometimes cheaper) than getting in the car, driving and finding parking.
(2) Buy a pass.
You have three options:
– A 24-hour pass ($8)
– An annual membership ($65)
– A student membership ($15)
You can buy the passes online or at any B-Cycle station (24 hour passes only). Either way you need a debit/credit card.
The kiosks are pretty easy to use: Just bring your credit/debit card, follow the on-screen instructions, choose the dock of the bike you want to check out and off you go. (More detailed instructions here.)
Here’s the part that trips people up. Remember how I said that this is meant for short point-to-point trips? This is what I’m takling about.
When you buy a pass, the first 30 minutes (60 minutes, if you’re an annual or student member) of each ride is free, and you get an unlimited amount of rides for the duration of the pass. So check your bike into a station at least every 30 minutes.
Example: You pay $8 for your 24-hour pass. You check the bike out at 1:30 p.m., ride it, and check it into a different B-Cycle station before 2 p.m. Then you can immediately go through the process of selecting another bike, check it out at, say, 2 p.m., ride it and check it back in before 2:30 p.m.. And again, and again and again. You can do that as many times as you want for 24 hours and it will cost you a total of $8.
BUT if you keep the bike check out for longer than 30 minutes you’ll get charged $4 for each additional 30 minutes that you don’t check it back in (max $75 per day). That’s how it gets expensive.
So again: Check the bike into a B-Cycle station every 30 minutes and you’re good to go.
(4) Plan ahead.
Since you have to check the bike in every 30 minutes, you’re gonna want to know where the stations are and where you’re trying to go, so you can get there in time. There’s an app (iTunes and Google Play) that has all the stations. You can also check out the map below. (Click here for an interactive map.)
Oh, and bring a helmet. Safety first.
Biking around town is fun. Some fun trips you could take:
– Little Sugar Creek Greenway from the Metropolitan to Freedom Park for a scenic ride.
– The Charlotte Rail Trail to Sycamore and Triple C Brewing for a beer.
– From the Bechtler Museum to lunch in Elizabeth.
– From Romare Bearden Park (and the Charlotte Knights stadium) to Time Warner Cable Arena for a Hornets game.
– From 7th Street Public Market to The Green for a picnic (each bike has a basket on front).
More questions? Check out the B-Cycle FAQs.
Photos: Observer file photos; Corey Inscoe