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Bike sharing rolls into Kansas City

B-cycle, a self-service rental program, will offer 12 docking stations in downtown areas.

By MATT CAMPBELL
The Kansas City Star

The pedaling population of Kansas City is expected to increase with the arrival of a bike-sharing program that has been a success in other cities.

Ninety sturdy bicycles will come rolling into downtown today to inaugurate B-cycle, a program intended to make it easier for people to get exercise while reducing automobile pollution.

The bikes will be parked at 12 docking stations sprinkled throughout downtown and will be available to anyone with a credit card.

“It’s a self-service bicycle rental system,” said Eric Rogers, executive director of BikeWalkKC, an organization promoting B-cycle. “The idea is basically like Redbox, but for bikes.”

The docking stations were installed last week. Volunteers will do a ceremonial ride across the Heart of America Bridge on the B-cycle bikes about 11:30 a.m. today. The bikes should all be at the docking stations and ready to use by the public by about 2 p.m.

The bikes are designed for short trips downtown. The first half hour is free and each subsequent half hour costs $2. Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly passes are available.

“If you’re working downtown and want to go to lunch, you don’t have to deal with parking or getting out of the garage,” Rogers said.

People who live downtown can use them for quick errands.

And visitors who may be staying in a hotel near Barney Allis Plaza can use them to get to the Power & Light District or Union Station.

The initial docking stations are all downtown, from the River Market at Third Street and Grand Boulevard to Crown Center near Grand and Pershing Road. Organizers hope to expand to the West Side, east to the jazz district and south to Westport, the Country Club Plaza, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Rockhurst University.

The bikes are not for racing and they aren’t fancy. They are built by Trek and meant for utilitarian, urban transportation. Volunteers have equipped each one with a basket for carrying purchases or other items. They have chain guards so men and women in business attire don’t have to worry about getting their clothes dirty.

Here’s how it works: You can either go online to kansascity.bcycle.com and buy a membership or long-term pass, or you can buy a daily pass at the docking station. For people who plan to use the bikes frequently, a yearly pass for $65 is the best deal. Annual members will receive a B-card to use to check out a bike.

A daily pass will cost $7. You can get one at the docking station by swiping your credit card.

Bikes can be returned at any docking station, each of which has a map showing the other locations. Each station has a kiosk with instructions for unlocking and locking the rental bikes.

The bikes will be available seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight for at least nine months of the year.

B-cycle is sponsored primarily by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, but other sponsors are welcomed.

BikeWalkKC wants to encourage people to free themselves from their automobiles, both for their own health and that of the environment.

Each bike has a GPS tracking system that will allow users to go online and view their history. They will even be able to see calculations of calories burned and carbon dioxide emissions saved through pedal power.

“The small choices we make every day have a huge impact on our overall wellness,” said David Gentile, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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