By RUSSELL SKORINA
There is a new craze sweeping America, and it comes on two wheels. From Seattle to Houston, neon bikes have become a staple of the urban landscape. As of June 26, Colorado Springs is now a part of the purple PikeRide system. As students, we have unique access to these bikes. Colorado College provides us with a promotional code to wave the annual fee. They have also built a parking station on the south side of Tutt Library.
I’ve seen hundreds of people walk past the bikes, but only a couple dare to ride them. This feels like a missed opportunity. One gorgeous Saturday evening, my friends and I had to pick up our sleeping bags from a nearby storage unit. We decided to forgo the Uber, slap on backpacks, and see what the new bikes have to offer.
As is true of all good adventures, we started with Google. A quick search for “PikeRide registration Colorado College” turned up answers. The CC website has a step-by-step procedure on how students can take advantage of the new program. Unfortunately, we almost immediately started running into problems.
The signup process didn’t ask for a CC email. It required a functional email ending in ‘@coloradocollege.edu.’ This means anyone can create a PikeRide account using my email, my roommate’s email, or ‘firstname.lastname@example.org,’ for example. On its own, this isn’t always a problem. However, it set alarm bells ringing. Especially when the PikeRide website requests my credit card information.
That was our first discovery: even with the promo code, PikeRide isn’t free. After CC pays the annual membership of $97.43, it becomes free in the same way many phone games are free. You have to pay for convenience. The annual membership doesn’t give unfettered access. It allows 60-minute rides between stations within a couple of miles from campus. If you keep the bike unlocked for more than an hour, $5 fine. Park the bike anywhere but the specified station: $1 charge. Lock the bike outside the specified area (highlighted in purple on the phone app): $20 down the drain. More malicious is the auto-renew function. The default setting is to automatically renew the membership. While CC pays the $100 for the first year, your credit card will get charged for the next. To disable it, log in on the PikeRide website, go to the ‘my profile’ tab, click the edit button, and disable auto-renew.
Before we even sat down on the bike, we were already distracted thinking about how not to get charged. The phone app doesn’t make this any easier. The app is supposed to make it easy to find the nearest open bike and navigate around the town. This is only half true. The application conveniently highlights the nearest available bikes, but it sent us in search of a bike that was already taken. The map is also supposed to replace Google Maps, but the application kept crashing. After five minutes we got fed up and used Google Maps anyway.
Once we got riding, everything was a little easier. The bikes themselves are standard purple cruisers. They are heavier than expected and don’t come with a helmet, but they get the job done. We set off up the gravel part of the Tiger Trail. The low center of mass made it a little more challenging to ride, but it was never unusable. One of the seats had a broken latch and kept sliding down to the lowest position. Other than that small hiccup, the hardware was solid. It was slow-going but an enjoyable experience.
Upon reaching our destination, we discovered that we were outside the specified area. To avoid a $20 fine, we rode the bikes to the nearest drop off point. Then, we walked outside the boundary and picked up our sleeping bags. Adventure complete.
The best part of the whole process was the riding. The problem with the PikeRide is everything else: managing the poorly optimized app, avoiding unnecessary fees, and staying within the specified boundary. If you want to have a nice evening ride with friends or a quick pedal downtown, give PikeRide a try. But if you’re going to go anywhere else, it’s probably more convenient to walk. I know that PikeRide is still in its trial run, and the program still has to work out the kinks, but its current form isn’t good enough. Biking is fun, and it should be as accessible as possible.
The most telling part of my little adventure was the ending. After picking up the sleeping bags and realizing we had to get back, we took a quick vote. The unanimous decision was to walk back to campus. It was a beautiful Saturday evening, and PikeRide wasn’t worth the hassle.