Mayor Michael B. Hancock, followed by Daniel Shurz, Sr. Vice President, Commercial, for Frontier Airlines, ride B-cycles towards the Denver Museum of
Mayor Michael B. Hancock, followed by Daniel Shurz, Sr. Vice President, Commercial, for Frontier Airlines, ride B-cycles towards the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to inaugurate the 2013 Denver B-cycle season March 14, 2013. (Mahala Gaylord, The Denver Post)

About $1.4 million in grants and gifts will allow Denver B-Cycle to install 30 new bike stations this spring at high-profile locations, like the Denver Zoo, the Museum of Nature and Science and the Auraria Campus, and also in neighborhoods within pedaling distance of a bus or light-rail stop.

The number of B-Cycle stations will increase to 83, giving more people a chance to ride a bike, shed pounds and help the environment, said city and B-Cycle officials said Thursday.

"We plan to take this program to the next level," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said after he and some city councilmembers cycled to the museum from the zoo. "Riding a bike is better for our environment and better for our collective fitness and Denver B-Cycle is playing a major role on both of these important issues."

The museum station is one of three new bike-borrowing kiosks that will be open when the 2013 B-Cycle season starts on Monday.

The others are at the zoo and on the Auraria Campus, which will serve a student body already in tune with bike riding, said Denver B-Cycle executive director Parry Burnap.

"We will be able to connect students to downtown and other parts of the city," Burnap said. "This is our goal to be as accessible as we can."

In fact, Burnap said, the new station locations have been selected specifically to complement high-use transit locations. Most are close to or within a mile of a bus or light rail stop.

The Denver neighborhoods that will be home to one or more new stations are: West Highland, Highland, Jefferson Park, Union Station, Five Points, North Capitol Hill, City Park West, City Park, Congress Park, Cheesman Park, Capitol Hill, Lincoln Park, Baker, Speer and Auraria.

A membership in B-Cycle starts with your first bike check-out. You may take unlimited 30 minute trips for the duration of your membership — 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or one year. Rides of 31 to 60 minutes cost $1, rides over 61 minutes cost $4 for every 30 minutes.

B-cycles can be returned to any of the stations in the network.Total memberships in 2012 were 43,750, down from 44,995 in 2011.

B-Cycle spokeswoman Sue Baldwin blamed the decline on too-few bike stations and on the blistering-hot weather.

"The summer was so hot and I think people didn't want to spend a lot of time on a bike," Baldwin said.

B-Cycle has been criticized for not having stations in lower income and minority neighborhoods. Burnap said this spring's expansion reaches into more diverse areas, with more stations coming but at a careful pace.

"We don't want to just leapfrog into a neighborhood, that usually leads to failure," Burnap said. "We have to have funding and we are studying ways to make something like this a success."

That includes looking at B-Cycle's fee structures and the cultural barriers that prevent some from using B-cycles, she said.

The $1.3 million funding for 27 of the new stations comes from two public grants matched by local foundations: Transportation, Community and System Prevention Program awarded by the Federal Highway Administration, and Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery (FASTER) awarded by the Colorado Transportation Commission. Denver's Anschutz Foundation and Gates Family Foundation provided the local match.

Private donations from the Walton Family Foundation, the Piton Foundation, Encana, the zoo and the museum covered the cost of the City Park stations. The Auraria station was funded by the campus Sustainable Campus Program. Each station costs $50,000 to $55,000, Burnap said.

Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907, mwhaley@denverpost.com or twitter.com/montewhaley

Video. See the launch of B-Cycle 2013 denverpost.com/mediacenter