AURORA | With a loud snap, the lock on the bright yellow bike flew open and a few seconds later Alan Ramos hopped on starting cruising home.
“It’s faster than walking,” Ramos said before he rode off.
The Aurora Central High School freshman’s ride home on a bike from the Ofo bike share company was one of about 8,000 taken in Aurora since the first dockless bike share bikes hit the streets last fall.
Considering that the program launched at the start of the winter months, city of Aurora Planner Brenden Paradies, who has helped launch the bike share program, said he has been happy with the growth.
Each month since the first bikes from Lime Bike rolled out in October has seen more riders than the prior month, he said.
“That was really great to see even in the winter months,” he said.
The majority of rides are short, about a mile or a mile and a half, he said, and hubs of activity have been libraries and light rail stops.
City officials see the bikes as a way to bridge the so-called “first mile, last mile” challenge that bedevils transportation planners. That means the mile between a commuter’s home and their options for public transit.
Paradies said the data means many of the users are opting for a bike share to tackle that issue.
Looking ahead to the summer, Paradies said he sees the bike share program growing even further as the warm weather brings out more riders.
For now, the bikes are largely limited to the Aurora city limits. If someone drives from Aurora across the border into Denver they can leave the bike, but a representative from one of the companies will likely hustle over there, pick it up and return it to Aurora. Denver, which has its own B-Cycle bike share program, has not issued permits for the dockless companies Aurora has.
A spokesperson for B-Cycle did not respond to a request for comment. Paradies said he hopes the companies are able to grow into other jurisdictions, something he said would make the program much more popular.
“It would just allow a greater opportunity for the riders and I think as a region it would pull everybody together too,” he said.
Aurora announced three companies operating last fall — Ofo, Lime Bike and Spin.
Ofo and Lime Bikes have hundreds scattered around town, but bikes from Spin — the company with the bright-orange bikes — are harder to find right now. The app this week showed zero Spin bikes available around town.
Brian No, a Spin spokesman, said the company “paused” its Aurora operations this month, but plans to add more bikes to Aurora this week.
“We consider it to be an active market still,” he said.
Chandra Morando, regional general manager for Ofo, said that company launched in Lone Tree this week and hopes to keep growing around the metro area.
“We are seeing users who are making more of a habit out of using these,” she said.
The bikes have proven popular among high school students and local schools regularly have dozens of the hard-to-miss cycles parked on campus.
On a recent Tuesday, an Overland High School sophomore named Nick walked a yellow Ofo bike to a secret spot near his home after school.
Nick, who declined to give his last name because he didn’t want the company to come looking for the bike, said he tries to leave it somewhere semi-hidden each night so it’s there for him to ride to school in the morning.
So far, he only uses the bikes for school, but said he will likely ride it other places when the weather improves.
“It’s a great idea,” he said of the concept.