Bike sharing flourishes in city

Video by Jenny Zhang, JCamp reporter

By Katie Lamont, JCamp reporter

A row of cherry red bicycles wait at the ready on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Dupont Circle.

A brunette straps her purple yoga mat to the bike’s basket and pushes off slowly down the sidewalk.

A man in a full brown suit and tie rolls up, parks the bike and speed-walks away.

Capital Bikeshare isn’t your typical form of public transportation.

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Until about five years ago, couriers and speed races dominated Washington’s cycling community. Everyone else was either stuck in traffic or a pedestrian.

Bike sharing is becoming a go-to mode for getting around as more people become eco-conscious and look for a way to save some money or time.

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Boris Willis, of Arlington, said the program appears to be working after a previous failed attempt by the city to implement similar systems. The city’s last initiative, SmartBike D.C., popped up in 2008, but its high cost and inconvenient locations aggravated residents. Three years later, it was replaced by the city’s current publicly-funded model.

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“I had seen D.C try other bike-sharing programs and thought that they weren’t that great, but when I saw this one I thought, ‘Well you know, I’ll give it a try,’ ” said Willis, who uses the system to go commute to work.”The bikes were better and there were more locations.”

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Capital Bikeshare began in 2010 and is the largest program of its kind in the United States. There are plans to expand. The program is funded in part by taxpayer money and membership fees. It is cooperatively operated by local government.

The Federal Highway Administration and Virginia Department of Transportation are two of those local partners, which provide more than 1,800 bicycles at more than 200 locations around the metropolitan area.

Although the program is membership-based, it does afford users the option of renting the bikes hourly.

Registered members pay $75 a year for anytime. Others can buy a three-day pass for $15 or rent a bike by the hour.

The program, paid for by Washington, costs about $7.3 million, a cost that Capital Bikeshare hopes to recover from fees.

Beverly Bates, who works near the National Mall, said without the city’s help, they wouldn’t be able to charge such a low fee. “[Without funding], it would be $10 per use and $500 a year,” Bates said.

The only downside, she said, sometimes there are not enough bicycles.

“There’s always the supply and demand issue,” Bates said. “But you know I can say that about taxi cabs in the rain, I can say that about transit rush hour….”

The 2012 Bikeshare Member Survey found their members reduced 4.4 million driving miles every year. Furthering their eco-friendly premise, each charging station is powered by solar panels.