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June 2001

Blue bikes: Another transportation alternative

Dino Zarzi (MMM) is one of the visitors taking advantage of UCAR's blue-bike fleet. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Visitors from all over the world come to UCAR/NCAR for periods ranging from a day or two to many months. UCAR has long helped its visitors find short-term housing, but what about transportation? Until recently, this problem was left to the visitor to solve. Now, however, there's at least one ready-made solution: blue bikes.

In the spring of 1999, after discussion by members of the Transportation Alternatives Program, UCAR started an experimental program of providing a small fleet of bicycles for people to use as needed. There are now more than a dozen bikes in the fleet. "The first few bikes were donated to us, and a few more were gathered as abandoned bikes from the bike lockers," says Karl Hanzel (COMET), who has spearheaded the blue-bike effort. "At first, a couple of us on the staff volunteered to bring the bikes to a state where they could be used. We stripped, prepped, painted, and re-assembled the bikes, but maintaining them has been a problem. Now, with nominal UCAR funding, we're hiring the work out to the high school students who maintain the city of Boulder's green bikes." (In the longest-running program of its kind in the nation, the city has roughly 80 bright green bicycles stationed around downtown, free for people to use and drop off as they like. See GettingThere.)

Who may borrow a bike

Any staff member may check out a bike for short-term use, and visitors seeking commuter transportation may check them out for as long as needed. "I arrived here from Italy on April 7th, and didn't have a car," says blue-bike user Dino Zardi (visiting MMM). Since I'm going to be here until the end of July, Rich Rotunno encouraged me to use one of the bikes." Dino lives near the Basemar Shopping Center and loves commuting to the Foothills Lab by bike. "I'm trying different ways of going and I like riding along Boulder Creek best. There's lots of wildlife." And when the weather's bad? "Usually Rich gives me a lift. Otherwise, the SKIP goes from Basemar to Table Mesa and Broadway, and then I take the shuttle."

How to borrow a bike

At the moment, the bikes are available only from the FL reception desk and only on a first-come, first-served basis. All users must sign a waiver of liability before the bikes can be borrowed. Each blue bike comes with a lock, and some helmets and basic tools are available at FL and ML, including bicycle pumps.

"We hope eventually to have more bikes and to have day-use-only bikes available at the Mesa Lab and Jeffco. The problem is finding storage areas," Karl explains. "We don't want to expose the bikes to continuous weathering, and they need to be close to a reception area where they can be signed in and out. Pearl Street now has a bike that they keep indoors, but we're having trouble finding storage areas at other sites. We would like to double the size of our blue-bike fleet to about 30 bikes, but first we would need more funds." While UCAR did agree to pay for bike maintenance, the funding only covers the current fleet.

If you'd like to donate a usable bike now gathering dust in your garage, or if you'd like any other information on the program, contact Karl at ext. 8479 or karl@ucar.edu.

• Sally Bates

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
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Last revised: Thu Jun 21 11:00:53 MDT 2001