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DC’s Bike Share Proliferation

by Stacey Moses

DC is quickly becoming one of the most progressive bike share cities in the US.  It hasn’t been the smoothest road, but in less than a year, the Nation’s capital has made great strides in improving access to bikes for residents and tourists.

In March of 2010, Revolution Cycles, an independent bicycle retailer with four shops in the DC metro area, opened its fifth location with the intention of focusing on people-managed bike sharing in this Arlington, Virginia-based store.  Known as the Revolution Cycles City Hub, this innovative concept has one hundred Trek Allant bikes (cruiser-style, equipped with fenders, handlebar bags, and locks) on hand that are available both for renters and bike sharers.  Initially, the bike share program was only accessible for residents and employees that lived and worked within the official boundaries of Crystal City, Virginia, the neighborhood in which the shop is located.  However, the City Hub’s reach grew exponentially last week with the official announcement of a partnership between Revolution Cycles and Kettler Management, one of the DC area’s largest private real estate and property management companies.

Trek Allants at the Hub

Image Credit: Revolution Cycles

Kettler, which manages more 65 buildings that house more than 15,000 apartment units, is the first property management company in the DC metro area to bring bike share access to all of its residents as well as employees.  The employees get the best deal: no cost access to a bike at the Hub for up to three hours each day, seven days a week.  The added benefit for residents isn’t too shabby, either: low cost access to the program that was previously only offered to people living or working in Crystal City.  The partnership is great news for Revolution and for Kettler.  Revolution is getting more people on bikes, which was the goal when the company decided to open the City Hub a year ago.  And Kettler, known for providing exceptional amenities to its communities, is offering another environmentally friendly perk to its residents. “We feel that the Revolution Cycles bike share program is the perfect fit for our residents and employees,” said Karen Kossow, vice president of sales and marketing for Kettler. “Many DC apartment renters don’t own their own bikes and this program will allow them to enjoy all of the fabulous trails that the DC area has to offer.”  The Hub is not intended to provide commuters with point-to-point bike access, but the people-managed bike share program that is offered at this retail location is perfect for using a bike to explore DC or to run errands without needing to put the key in the ignition.

Capital Bikeshare Bikes

Image Credit: goDCgo

Launched this September, Capital Bikeshare is also underway in DC.  Operated by Alta Bicycle Share, Capital Bikeshare has 1,100 bikes floating (or rolling) between more than 110 stations in the DC metro area.  With the purchase of a membership, which can be for a single day, a month, or a year, the first thirty minutes of riding on one of these big red bikes is free.  The idea is to get from point A to point B, and after the first thirty minutes, fees begin to accumulate.  Capital Bikeshare has come a long way from DC’s first attempt at automated bike sharing a few years ago.  The District went from offering 120 bikes to 1,100 and expanded the scope of the program to include Arlington, Virginia.  And, with improved technology in the stations as well as online and on your phone (yes, there’s an app for that), the number of red bikes that can be seen all over the city continues to grow.

These two bike share programs are completely different.  The Hub has bike enthusiasts sending people out on bikes, and these people can help adjust the saddle height or give a quick lesson in shifting gears (and they provide the helmet).  However, the bikes leave and return to the same location, so although the program is fantastic for hopping on a paved trail to tour the city, for taking an hour-long spin during a lunch break, and for running errands around the neighborhood, it won’t help you get from your apartment in Arlington to your office in DC everyday.  Capital Bikeshare is great for people that want to cover the distance between the metro and the office on a bike and for tourists that want to use a bike to navigate the city one bike share station at a time, but you get thirty minutes, not three hours, so the joy riding is generally kept to a minimum.  That both of these programs can exist and thrive within the same city, complementing each other more than competing with one another, give hope to people that want to believe that DC is on its way to becoming one of the nation’s great cycling cities.

Revolution Cycles City Hub

Image Credit: Revolution Cycles

 
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5 Responses to “DC’s Bike Share Proliferation”

  1. darren says:

    to be overly technical, making bicycles available to a limited population with a single pickup/dropoff station is a bike fleet, not bike sharing

  2. Ted Johnson says:

    Stacey:

    Two questions:

    Have these two programs prioritized placing their locations near WMATA Metro stations?

    Have either of these programs intentions of also providing bike trailers?

    Living car-free in the DC area would be made much easier if a bike trailer option were made available with these bikes for grocery trips, Home Depot runs, and other errands.

    When I lived in DC, these were the occasions when I would use FlexCar (now ZipCar).

  3. Stacey Moses says:

    Hi Darren- I’m going to respectfully disagree that a fleet of bikes that is available for use on a membership basis doesn’t qualify as bike share. The term is a rather general term and most programs, especially the well-publicized programs, are automated and multi-station. However, the people-managed system that I have written about is a collection of bikes owned and managed by a single entity and shared with members of the community who would not have a bicycle otherwise, which I believe qualifies as bike sharing.

    I’ve searched many times for a strict definition of bike sharing and I don’t think that one even exists (if I’m incorrect, please share- no pun intended). The Bike-Sharing Blog offers a two-part definition, and the second part of the definition is as simple as stating that bike share is “bicycle transit,” which leads me to believe that the term is flexible. I think that terming this concept a “bike fleet” is limiting, as the bikes are available to an entire community as well as people that live and work in Kettler Communities all over the city and not simply for use within a single facility.

  4. Stacey Moses says:

    Ted- yes and yes for your first question. The City Hub is about a block away from the Crystal City metro station, and another block and a half from the Mt. Vernon trail, which is a fantastic paved trail that leads both into the heart of DC and out into Virginia. The Capital Bikeshare stations are also positioned in high traffic areas near metros.

    As for the trailer option, I honestly don’t know. I’d say that it is much more likely with the people-managed City Hub, but I can’t say for sure. It is a great idea, and would definitely make utility cycling more realistic for people in the area. Right now, the Hub offers pedal trailers for kids, so it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility in the future.

  5. darren says:

    Stacy,

    I don’t mean to shortchange this program by calling it a bike fleet — many employers have made use of such programs to great effect for years, and actively reaching out to place, operate, and maintain fleets where people live is great. Heck, Humana’s bike fleet gave rise to B-cycle, the bike sharing system now in use in Denver.

    But bike sharing is defined by the differences you highlight. Anybody can buy a ticket, take one-way trip(s), bicycles available in many places, quick checkout, quick securing at your destination when you stop.

    Functionally, it most closely resembles transit. Thus, the bike-sharing.blogspot.com full definition — “1: short-term bicycle rental available at a network of unattended locations; 2: bicycle transit.”

    So, I’d have to disagree that bike-sharing is vaguely defined. Every system considered bike-sharing has been defined by all of the attributes I described, and summarized in the quoted definition.

    Making bicycles available for extended round-trip travel at reasonable rates, providing variety in bike sizes, having a live body there to provide guidance, all of these things are complementary.

    But they’re definitely different. Different trips, different people, different needs, different purpose. Branding this service as ‘people-managed bike sharing’ confuses the issue.

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