In Your Shoes is a series by Sun Sentinel columnist Daniel Vasquez. He takes turns every week doing and writing about some of the most intriguing and iconic activities in and around South Florida.
B-Cycle, Broward County's fledgling bike-share program, is either a not-so-cheap bike rental service for tourists or a fun way for locals to explore South Florida. It really depends on your perspective.
I took a B-Cycle out for a spin to check it out for myself. I am in the latter category above.
I hopped onto one of the sleek signature blue cruisers at the edge of the Himmarshee Village neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale. Across the county, the fleet of 175-plus bikes are adorned with baskets (big enough to carry suntan lotion, a light coat and fixings for a modest picnic) and built-in cable-and-lock systems. There is a similar program in Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach County is exploring the idea. They should give it a shot.
So should you. Along the way, you may stumble across strawberry-mango muffins, scoops of homemade salted caramel ice cream, or an ice-cold drink at a table outside the famed bar Elbo Room. All courtesy of a 90-minute bike ride.
I made the most of my ride: I chatted up a bridge operator on the Intracoastal, where I met the only thing close to a hill on my route. I came across a family of three from New York City shopping for trinkets and memorabilia. And I was nearly run down by two motorists.
These were real people, doing real things. Each ready to greet me — in their own way — as I escaped the insulated bubble that is my car and breathed in the scene and sounds.
Little did I know my joyride would turn heads. I was departing O-B House on Southwest Second Street when I got my first gawker. Note: I had only pedaled about a 100 yards before stumbling across my first impromptu stop, this joint that serves strawberry-mango muffins and breakfast fare until 2 p.m.
"What is that thing you are riding?" yelled out Amy Coates of North Lauderdale, as I rode past her and two gal pals from Pompano Beach.
I made a fast U-turn to stop and say hi, and to explain what I was doing.
"I heard about these bikes; they seem cool," Coates said. Her interest sparked, I offered my seat on the B-Cycle. She happily jumped on.
"I haven't road a bike for 30 years!" she screamed, pedaling in a wobbly circle as her friends laughed at her expense.
Coates loved the ride — until I told her about the bill. For a casual user, a 24-hour pass costs $5 per day, in addition to a rental fee. The first half hour is only 50 cents, but each subsequent half-hour costs $3; so a two-hour ride racks up a $14.50 bill.
"That's kinda expensive," Coates said, with a pout.
Felzi Riggio, of Deerfield Beach, who asked about the B-Cycle bike as I parked in front of Kilwin's Chocolates and Ice Cream (where, by the way, I discovered the joy that is coconut with dark chocolate ice cream and waffle cone combined), had the same gripe.
"I think the program is a good idea," he offered. "But I think they should bring the cost down."
Sigh. It's true, B-Cycle ain't cheap.
An annual pass costs $45, and with membership the first 30 minutes of each ride is free. The longer you ride, the more you pay. No getting around that. My advice: Skip the monthly pass. A couple of hours each week, and you will have spent more than enough in a year to buy your own bike. If you go with the annual pass, check out broward.bcycle.com for a $10-off deal when you type "Bikemonth" at checkout.
But like life, you get out of B-Cycle what you put in.
To enjoy B-Cycle, you just need a sunny day and the will to ride. Clear nights work too, given the program's round-the-clock accessibility.
There are about two-dozen bike kiosks along a scenic 23-mile stretch spanning from Pompano Beach to Hollywood Beach. And the solar-powered, cash-or-credit-card-enabled bike stations are strategically located at a variety of must-see spots, such as historic downtown Fort Lauderdale, downtown Hollywood and the Dania Beach Pier. You get the picture.
Or maybe you don't. It's not the same thing to drive to these places. Forget the cost of gas and the parking space chase. On two wheels, you get a better chance of getting up close and personal with local neighborhoods and the folks who live, work and visit here.
Was it worth the roughly $11.50 I paid for my ride? Absolutely.
While there are similar programs in New York City, San Francisco andWashington, D.C., they lack the range of flat and easy trails to ride and the year-round riding weather that South Florida offers. Even humidity becomes an ally when you're biking here, hydrating your body as your skin soaks up free sun-supplied Vitamin D.
I don't own a bike. But now I share one with the rest of you. And that makes me like this place even more.