With unmistakable bright yellow wheels, VBikes are now in downtown Denton.
The bike share service, based in Garland, dropped off six bikes in Denton this week to begin testing the market and allow people to ride rental bikes around town.
Here's how it works: First, download the VBikes app on a smartphone and pay $99 ($49 if you're a student) as a deposit. Then, find the bike closest to your location. Once there, hit "start" on the application and it will unlock the digital lock on the bike. Head to your destination, lock up the bike and get information on your ride, like how long it took and how many calories it burned.
Rental costs $1 per hour. As for the deposit, users can either leave it in their VBikes account for next time, or get the money back at the end of the ride.
"Our goal is to increase ridership, healthy living — and this is environmentally friendly transportation for people," said Matthew Morris, who works in business development for the company. "Earlier this week we brought a few bikes up to generate interest and see what people think. We have more on hand we hope to bring up soon from Garland."
VBikes is a new take on bike share programs. Most in other cities are based on stations that are placed at popular intersections and destinations. Users always have to return bikes to designated stations. With VBikes, users can park their bikes wherever they want, affording more flexibility.
With the new approach, company leaders hope to expand nationwide to 100,000 bikes, Morris said.
Julie Anderson, the city's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said more bikes downtown is a good thing for Denton and residents.
"I like the idea of giving people more access to bicycles," she said. "We're building the infrastructure so we like that there's more bikes on the road to use that."
The bikes themselves are also designed to stand out for brand recognition. A lot of the features are also functional, like tires that can't go flat and no exposed chains to catch clothing.
"When we went to design this, we wanted to do something that people would notice and look different than a bike-share bike or personal bike, to generate some curiosity so people go up to it," Morris said. "Everything about the bike was designed with reducing maintenance in mind on our end and making it easiest to use for the rider on their end."
Residents can expect to see more VBikes around Denton in the future. They envision the bikes being a way to connect college students at the University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University with downtown Denton, Morris said.
"Denton has a lot of young people who are new adopters of tech and willing to try VBikes," he said. "That’s why we see it as a community we wanted to be in as soon as possible."
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.
FEATURED PHOTO: A VBike waits for a user to come and take it for a ride near the Courthouse on the Square in downtown Denton. VBikes is a new bike sharing service that launched in Denton this week.