November 08, 2010 - 8:46 am

Sharing in LeDroit Park

Pick a Bike

Construction is still moving along at the park on the site of the former Gage-Eckington School. In addition to the dog park, playground equipment, picnic tables, and field, there are two more amenities on their way to the site: bike sharing and car sharing. DDOT’s assistance in integrating both car sharing spaces and its own Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) system is a good example of collaboration between different city agencies.

ZipCar is a subscription service that places cars throughout several cities worldwide and rents the cars to members by the hour. The rental fee includes the cost of gas and insurance and each car has a reserved “home” parking space to which it must be returned at the end of the reservation. These spaces are in public streets, public alleys and in private parking lots and garages.

We occasionally rent ZipCars when we need to haul heavy items or need to travel to transit-inaccessible destinations. This arrangement is far cheaper than owning a car and relieves us of the normal hassles of car ownership, e.g. parking, maintenance, washing, fuel costs, and insurance costs.

CaBi is another subscription service and is a joint venture between DDOT and Arlington County. CaBi bikes are parked at numerous racks throughout DC and Arlington and more are on the way. A member inserts his key into the bike dock and the bike unlocks. The member has 30 minutes to ride the bike for free before returning it to any dock in DC or Arlington.  CaBi is perfect for short one-way trips and we routinely use the CaBi station at Seventh and T Streets to commute to work downtown.  It’s also useful for occasional trips to Whole Foods or Dupont Circle, which are just minutes away by bike.

Both bike sharing and car sharing benefit residents who don’t even use the services. The existence of these services reduces the pressure to own a car and thus reduces the parking demand placed on our streets. For those who would live car-less regardless of these services, it provides us with two more mobility options located close to home.  Bike sharing and car sharing are welcome additions to the park site.

Photo: “Pick a Bike” by M. V. Jantzen

November 25, 2009 - 1:30 pm

Bike Sharing


One wonderful feature of living in LeDroit Park is not only its proximity to downtown, but the variety of options in getting downtown.

A cab ride to Chinatown is only about $5.50.  A walk is only 25 minutes. The Green and Yellow lines stop at 7th and S Streets in Shaw.  Numerous buses run along 7th Street and Georgia Avenue toward downtown.  For those of us who can’t tolerate the 70s buses that stop every block, the limited-stop 79 stops at 7th and T Streets, just two stops before downtown.

Yet there is another frequently overlooked option: picking up a SmartBike at 7th and T Streets and riding downtown to another bike station.

SmartBike was established by the advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor as a quid-pro-quo for having the right to advertise in the city’s bus shelters. For a flat, annual $40 fee, subscribers receive an RFID card (just like a SmarTrip card) that they wave at a station, which then unlocks a bike in response.  A member may use the bike for up to three hours and can return it to any station.

When the weather is nice, your author frequently picks up a bike at 7th & T Streets and rides it to work near Metro Center.  He returns it to a station located on his office’s block at 12th and G Streets (across the street from Macy’s).  Since the cost is a flat $40 per year, there is no additional cost for each ride.

DDOT, which pushed Clear Channel for this program, is ultimately responsible for bringing the idea to the District.  DDOT Director Gabe Klein, formerly a Zipcar executive, promises to expand the program by next spring.  Currently there are only ten stations, which limits the program’s utility for many residents.  Since a bike must be returned to a station, but may be returned to any station, SmartBike is subject to something akin to the the network effect, i.e. the more stations there are, the more inherently useful the system is.

Though Mr. Klein did not specify if the SmartBike expansion would use a new bike vendor, Greater Greater Washington noticed that the Montréal newspaper Le Soleil (The Sun) is reporting that their hometown bike-sharing champion, named Bixi, is preparing to sign a deal with the District, presumably replacing the current Clear Channel arrangement.  The main advantage of the Bixi bikes is that their stations are solar-powered and can be deployed virtually anywhere, whereas the current stations require the costly (and often complicated) installation of power lines under existing sidewalks downtown.

Hopefully by next spring we will be able to pick up a bike and tool on over to places other than downtown.