November 25, 2009

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.

Categories: Transportation
Tags: , ,

2 Replies

  1. You can’t ride a bike when you’re drunk.

    Chris - November 25, 2009 @ 7:29 pm
  2. Another advantage of the Bixi system is that no prior subscription is required (though it is available); thus it’s possible for tourists or one-timers to use the bikes simply by swiping a debit/credit card and getting an access code at pay stations built into the bike stations.

    Neil - December 2, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

Leave a comment