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I had no idea that the city had a Bike ‘n Ride program until recently. The MAX line has been very popular, but so many cyclists were using the system that some were getting turned away because all of the onboard bike racks were already full. In order to encourage people to park their bikes, rather than bring them on board, the Fort Collins Bike ‘n Ride program was born. For a $20 a year membership fee, and a $10 refundable deposit for an access card, you can park your bike in either of the two bike cages that are currently in place in the city (with two more to come).

There’s a brand new bike cage at the South Transit Center (see photo above), but I was surprised to learn that there’s been a locked storage area for bikes in the Civic Center parking structure (at the corner of Laporte and Mason) since the parking structure was built.

I decided to check them both out. I stopped by the Civic Center bike box first, and once I saw it, I realized that I had seen it before. But it looked so utterly uninviting, that I figured it was only for use by certain people, and they must not be particularly happy people.

Old grumpy sign still on the Civic Center garage Bike 'N Ride box.

Old grumpy sign still on the Civic Center garage Bike ‘n Ride box.

With the addition of the second bike cage on the south end of town, the City has also added some kinder, gentler branding, that’s not nearly as grumpy as the sign above.

New Fort Collins Bike 'N Ride sign.

New Fort Collins Bike ‘n Ride sign.

One neat thing about the system is that you could potentially park a bicycle in each of the cages so that you’d have one at the south end of town that you use to get to and from home, and a second on the north end of town that you can use either to get you along the last mile to work, or to have on hand for errand running during your lunch break.

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I’ve only peeked into the cages, I haven’t actually used them, so it’s quite possible that I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, but…. The rack in the Civic Center bike cage looks hard to use. If you park your bike on the bottom, you have to crawl in a bit to lock it up. If you don’t want to crawl under, then you have to hoist over. I’d be curious to hear what past users have thought of the rack. I suspect it could use a bit of an update.

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The Bike ‘n Ride on the south end of town, on the other hand, has three types of parking, and one of those is the familiar U-shaped bars that are sometimes seen about town.

DSC03162There’s also an under-level of parking that looks both easier to guide your bicycle into and a little more spacious for getting in and locking your bike up.

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And there’s an upper level that looks like it moves around somehow. I didn’t see any directions posted on how to use these, and I suspect a tutorial of some sort might be helpful. (I did a quick Google search and found a lot about attaching a bicycle to a bus rack, but I couldn’t find anything on a second level bike rack.)

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The new Bike ‘n Ride can be seen from the alley off of Mason Street.

I’m a little surprised the downtown bike cage isn’t used more. For folks that drive or use public transit to get to work, it would be nice to have a bicycle on hand for errand running. And the bike can be left for days at a time without worry. There’s also the added advantage of having a snow-free bike available for winter biking, or a dry bike after a rainy day.

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I would think that having a dry bike available after a long day at work would also be a plus on the south end of town, although there is also a fair bit of covered bike parking already available. So on the south end, the biggest plus might just be worry free parking.

There are two more bike cages in the works — one at the Downtown Transit Center and one at University Station on the CSU Campus (which is a very busy MAX stop as I found out during a trip today when the bus nearly emptied at that point as we headed north).

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Covered cage-free parking can be found right across the way from the bike cage. But the higher roof might allow snow to drift in among the cage-free bikes in winter.

If you’re interested in getting a yearly membership, you can do so at the Downtown Transit Center, the CSU Transit Center, the South Transit Center, or through the City’s Parking Services. Or if you just want to find out more about the city’s Bike ‘n Ride program, you can call Transfort customer service at 970.221.6620. (Click here for locations and operating hours for all three Transit Centers.)