Recently I spent several weeks in Aspen, the Colorado resort town that has its own bike-share program called We-Cycle. Even though I had my own road bike with me, I bought a 30-day pass so I could use We-Cycle bikes for short trips - from the lodge where I stayed to the supermarket, to concerts and to other spots that were not suitable for locking up my own bicycle.
As a New York City resident, I have bought a membership in Citi Bike. Yet I used the Aspen We-Cycle system more in a single month than I had used Citi Bike in 12 months.
The reason? Convenience.
Aspen does not have many docking stations for We-Cycle but they are strategically located near key spots, such as the main Aspen bus station, the gondola that takes visitors to the top of Aspen Mountain, the Aspen Music Festival tent, the Aspen Institute, and most importantly a park that was a three-minute walk from my lodge.
Unfortunately, in New York, the Citi Bike system has no docking stations within 12 blocks of my Manhattan home. That’s far enough away to make it inconvenient. My understanding was that a year after introducing Citi Bikes, there would be docking stations added on the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Not so. We uptowners still await Citi Bike. In midtown and downtown, there seem to be docking stations every few blocks, which make them quite accessible to tourists and to downtown residents and even some Brooklynites, but not to us. It’s frustrating.
New York is gigantic compared to Aspen, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I found the Aspen system so much handier. As for the We-Cycle bicycles themselves, they feel as though they weigh 50 pounds. So, the toughest part was removing them from their docking stations in order to ride, and then pushing them with enough oomph to dock them properly when I arrived at my destination. These bikes would be uncomfortable to ride for more than 30 minutes at a time. After 30 minutes, there are overage charges, as is common with many bike-share systems.
However, in almost any bike-share operation, the aim is not recreational riding but transportation. Aspen’s system accomplishes that goal quite well. The prices are reasonable: a 24-hour pass costs $8. (New York charges about $10 for the same period.) The 30-day Aspen pass was $30. I definitely got my money’s worth.
Now if only I could use New York’s Citi Bikes this easily, I’d be thrilled.