Tuesday, September 30, 2014
By Susan A. Sistare, produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
I’ll admit, when I first saw the row of cute little red bikes with baskets on them downtown, a twinge of nostalgia hit me. I used to ride one just like that when I lived in Osaka, Japan. I missed being able to scoot up to a little market and throw some fresh veggies in my basket, ding my little bell and wave to little old lady neighbors as I pedaled on home to my citified twelfth-floor apartment. They always waved back.
Spartanburg may not be an urban metropolis like Osaka, but renting a B-cycle bike (with a basket on it!) can be just as fun.
My friend Andrew agreed to spend a morning on the town showing me the ropes of the B-Cycle program. After all, he was “B-Cycle King” of 2012 (meaning he had logged the most miles) and even let me wear his crown helmet with a giant B on it (which I joked now stood for “Blogger.”) And off we went!
We checked out our bikes at the Morgan Square station near the Hub City Bookshop. For people with yearly or monthly passes ($30 and $15, respectively), a simple swipe of the membership card is all that’s needed at the kiosk to begin the journey. For others interested in a day pass, the cost is $5. The first hour for all membership categories is free, and additional time is a dollar per half hour. (This is to discourage people from hogging the bikes by taking them home. But who besides me would do that?) Seniors and college students can obtain a promo code for a discounted rate. One can get a daily membership at any B-Cycle kiosk, and all lengths of membership can be purchased here as well as from Partners for Active Living, located behind the main post office on the corner of Spring Street and Henry Street.
And it’s a good thing their office was so close. Not only was the staff courteous enough to give me all the information I wanted about the program, they even pumped up a tire for us! (Which leads to a good question: what does a rider do when there’s a problem with a B-Cycle bike? If you notice a problem right off, you can simply exchange it for another one using the kiosk system. If you need assistance, there is a phone number located on each bike, and help is on the way. The bikes are monitored very closely, though, so problems such as flat tires are not very common.)
The program started in 2011 and membership continues to grow each year. There are currently five stations: Morgan Square (downtown), Rail Trail (by Ricky’s Drive-In), Wofford College, Converse College, and one in the Northside at Harvest Park & the Monarch Cafe, near VCOM on Howard Street. Spartanburg’s B-Cycle program even has one trike for rental, in case anyone is not quite comfortable on a two-wheeler.
In the coming years, the goal is to have an integrated network of trails and safer riding conditions (such as an increased number of bike lanes) so that one can rent a B-Cycle bike and ride anywhere in Spartanburg easily and safely. Most B-Cycle programs are located in larger cities such as Denver and Houston, so little ol’ Spartanburg is among the progressive!
On this particularly hot day, we rode all around downtown Spartanburg on our B-Cycle bikes, enjoyed the bike lanes of Hampton Heights and the Rail Trail, and ended up pooped and starving on Kennedy Street near Spartanburg Community College’s downtown campus. I imagine riding in cooler weather to be much more pleasant, and now that fall has arrived, I definitely plan to go again soon.
Speaking of Spartanburg Community College, their latest partnership with Partners for Active Living is bringing 11 dockless BCycles to downtown Spartanburg beginning March 19, 2019.
This new phase in bike-sharing efforts—called Dash—will allow you to check out and return these bikes via smartphone without having to visit a physical docking station. Just look for the white bikes with the Spartanburg BCycle logo, follow the rental instructions, and take off on your adventure.
So my BCycle experience wasn’t quite like riding around Japan. The durable basket made the bike front-heavy (which actually didn’t take long to get used to) and I never put any vegetables in it from a tiny Asian market. There were no skyscrapers to marvel at, and it didn’t have the same little bell that my Japanese bike did.
But it was still a lot of fun, just be-bopping around my hometown on a bike (with a basket on it!) And I did wave at an old lady or two, who always waved back.
Susan A. Sistare, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Susan A. Sistare is a local author, skydiver, and teacher. She lives in Spartanburg with four cats and too many roommates.