Eric Heltne arrived for an interview for this story riding a new, white Boulder BCycle e-bike, equipped with front and rear lights, fenders, a basket and adjustable seat.
The CU employee was using one of the pedal-assist bikes available to CU students, faculty and staff through an annual bikeshare membership with Boulder BCycle.
Heltne is a CU alumnus and IT professional in the integrative physiology department. Almost every day he rides a BCycle bike to commute, run errands in town and to get around on campus.
An electric bike ridden is better than a conventional bike that is not ridden not at all. For some people, a pedal-assist is the difference that will get them out riding.”
Heltne has logged over 8,000 miles and more than 1,890 trips on BCycle bikes. He has saved more than $9,900 using the bike-share membership rather than driving a car. Riders can track their biking stats on the BCycle app.
Heltne used to ride an old steel-frame mountain bike around town. After breaking his collar bone––and his bike––he gave B-Cycle (as it was spelled then) a try. He was instantly sold on the upright geometry of the bike and other aspects of the system.
“After I tried BCycle, there really was no reason for me to go back to riding my old bike,” he said. “For me, it has always been a quality-of-life issue. You don’t have to sit in traffic. You get exercise and fresh air. On a bike, you can see things you miss in a car, and you can go in and out of streets and alleys. Also, one less car on the road means a little less pollution and traffic for everyone."
With a bike station close to Heltne’s home, using the system is convenient. When he’s done riding, he returns the bike to one of the BCycle racks located around campus and Boulder.
Three years ago, the engine in his car died. Rather than immediately having it repaired, Heltne considered what his life would be like to go without it. As an experiment, he biked around town and campus exclusively. The benefits clearly outweighed the drawbacks. He got so used to not driving a car, he now relies on a bike as his primary transportation.
“Riding a bike is a quick and easy way for me to get around,” Heltne said. “Since BCycle introduced the electrics, that’s a whole other dimension of riding. I get on the electric bikes and I think, ‘This is awesome.’ You can go faster, further, easier. Some people think riding an electric bike is lazy. But an electric bike with pedal assist still requires some physical effort.”
“Ten years ago the student-run Environmental Board voted to fund the first BCycle station on campus through a sustainable CU grant,” said Brandon Smith, assistant director of the sustainable transportation program at CU Boulder.
“In August and September of 2021, CU students broke all previous ridership records and rode BCycle bikes for a total of 62,000 trips,” he said. “I look forward to growing this ridership even more to increase the positive impact for our community’s health and air quality.”
There are more than 10,000 active CU BCycle memberships. The free student annual passes are made possible through a partnership with the CU Environmental Center and Boulder BCycle. Memberships are discounted for faculty and staff.
The annual memberships provide unlimited 60-minute trips 365/24/7. Riders are charged overtime fees if they ride longer.
Boulder BCycle's fleet includes 150 electric bikes and 150 standard bikes, and more than 48 stations around the city with 18 stations serving CU's Boulder campuses. Members of the program can check out bikes from any station and return them to any station.
The new pedal-assist electric bicycles are like pedal bikes but are equipped with a battery and motor. Pedaling is still required. Riders can choose to pedal the bike with no assistance.
“We’ve been a local bike share for more than 10 years,” said Sara Michaels, Boulder BCycle marketing and business development specialist. “The classic red pedal bikes have been on the street since 2011. In March 2021, we released the white e-bikes into our fleet. Plans are underway to expand coverage in east Boulder. The old red bikes will be replaced, and by the end of the year we will have a fully electric fleet making it even easier to find one and get around town.”
Heltne heartily recommends the bike share as a healthy and convenient way to get around town.
As he mounted his BCycle bike to ride back across campus, Heltne said, “An electric bike ridden is better than a conventional bike that is not ridden not at all. For some people, a pedal-assist is the difference that will get them out riding.”