KEVIN COLLISON

B-cycle on a roll, plans to expand beyond downtown KC

Updated: 2013-11-12T23:23:57Z

By KEVIN COLLISON

The Kansas City Star

If you like what B-cycle has done so far to promote bicycling in downtown Kansas City, the plan to begin rolling it into the Country Club Plaza, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and as far south as Waldo should really ring your bell.

That’s the ambitious game plan that Sarah Shipley, B-cycle spokeswoman, presented to the Downtown Council last week. The bike rental program, launched with a dozen downtown docking stations and 90 bicycles in July 2012, is embarking on an expansion throughout the urban core that it wants to complete over the next three years.

“We wanted to provide the model in Kansas City and proved it worked,” Shipley said.

“We came to the market with the minimal viable product, and put ourselves downtown because of the new residential and the streetcar coming. But we know where the intensity and density we need is: the Plaza and UMKC.”

On its website, Kansas City B-cycle said expanding to south to midtown, the Country Club Plaza, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Brookside and Waldo areas, east to the 18th and Vine district, and west to the University of Kansas Medical Center would create a “sustainable system.”

“Imagine a Kansas City where a B station is never far from reach,” the website proclaims. “Imagine using it for shopping trips on the Plaza, happy hour in Westport or weekend visits to museum. Imagine B-cycle being there where you need it most.”

So far bicycles have been checked out more than 9,600 times from the dozen downtown stations, with riders logging 29,000 miles. The self-service program requires a credit card. Users can either go online to kansascity.bcycle.com to buy a membership or long-term pass, or rent directly at the station.

The first half-hour is free, and each subsequent half-hour costs $2. A daily pass is available for $7. So far the stations at Third Street and Grand Boulevard in the River Market and at Barney Allis Plaza have been the busiest. Shipley also told the Downtown Council that all 12 downtown stations would remain open this winter for the first time.

The expansion plan, called “Be a Player,” will need some major sponsors. Each docking station costs about $50,000 to install, and the plan calls for building almost three dozen more. B-cycle says the total price tag — less than $2 million — would be a “minimal expense when compared with costs for other modes of transportation.”

The breakdown calls for the Armour Boulevard Zone to have four stations; Hospital Hill, one; Jazz District, one; KU Med, four; South Plaza, two; University, four; Union Hill, three; Westside, two; Museum, four; Westport, five; and Plaza, five.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City was the primary sponsor for the downtown stations. Shipley said the Kauffman Foundation and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art have already agreed to sponsor expansion stations, and discussions are underway with other potential sponsors.

“The community has been amazingly supportive,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without that. A lot of volunteer hours also have been involved.

“People all over the country are looking at our model to see if they can do it in their city as well.”

To reach Kevin Collison, call 816-234-4289 or send email to kcollison@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/kckansascity.

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