I am in love with Capital Bikeshare and I want to shout it from the mountain tops! The bikeshare system, called CaBi (still not sure how that is pronounced…Bee or Bye?) is an update of DC’s previous attempt at bikeshare called SmartBike DC (of which I was not a member). It was the first of its kind in the US, and modeled after Paris’s Velib and Montreal’s Bixi. Other bikesharing systems have since popped up in the US including Minneapolis’ Nice Ride and the oh-so-cleverly named Denver Bike Sharing.
The premise is much like ZipCar if you are familiar with that. Basically, throughout the city 1,100 bright red bikes sit on the sidewalks just begging to be used. You can buy a daily, monthly or yearly pass (which I have), insert the fob or code and borrow a bike. Take it wherever you like. The first 30 minutes are free and really, any where you want to go will take less than 30 minutes, and you have the option to put the bike up and get another bike halfway through your trip if you need to. When you are done, find the nearest station and secure the bike and you are on your way.
I like this system for so many reasons.
1. Transportation Options. Yes, I have my own bike and commute with it most days. But some mornings I have meetings that are metro accessible but not really bike accessible, so I’ll end up at work without a bike. Easy. I’ll just take one from the rack out the back door of the office. I can get most of the way home and have a .40 mile walk which is nothing to complain about. The bikes are perfect for short trips around my neighborhood, too, because to get around my areas of play requires Metrorail transfers and general out-of-the-wayness…this is so much faster. And fun!!
Sometimes I meet up with friends and it just isn’t easy to say, bar hop, while moving my bike around the city. Or if I know a cab ride is needed at some point in the evening. Kind of like that obnoxious commercial, you “set it and forget it”. You know sometimes when you park your car it is always in the back of your head where you’ve parked it? Well, that never happens with CaBi. You can fill your head with other stuff.
2. User Stats!! I love the user stats that I’ve found on the internet. You know I’m addicted to my own blog stats, but this is just as bad, mixing my professional love of transportation and logistics and efficiency. Exactly the reason I got into planning and especially parking. I love this Bike-o-Meter that compares real time bike sharing system usage throughout the world. Some mornings right after I wake up, I roll over in bed, grab the phone and look at the usage maps because I want to capture the pre-commute patterns. I’m such a dork.
3. Mobile device apps. To really be able to use CaBi in an efficient way, you need to be able to see the real time stats of each station. I use SpotCycle (free app), which seems to be the favorite, though there are others. Why is this almost necessary? Using my phone I know where there are available bikes and available spots at that exact moment. During the infancy of the system, some racks are 100% full or 100% empty while they work out the kinks. Usually there is another station not far away, but if I did not know ahead of time that would be extremely frustrating to show up needing a bike and there wasn’t one. Some days throughout the day I just check in with the app map even though I have no intention of riding at that moment…I just like to see what the travel trends are. Yes, I’m clearly in the right profession.
4. The bikes. The entire user interface is pretty easy to use. Slip the fob in, it gives you a green light, you take the bike (sometimes I have trouble pulling it out, but I get it eventually). So easy they should be worried that the monkeys at the National Zoo might take them for a spin because there is a station so close. But the bikes are pretty easy to use, too. All bikes have lights, a bell and a basket area to hold stuff. They come with front and back lights that just light up when it is needed. Magic! It is also DC law to have a bell, and I think that’s one of my favorite parts! Seriously, these are fab. They only have three gears, and I’ve never used two of them since I mostly stay in the flat areas. And they are heavy and sturdy and some men have told me that the seats sit funny on their man-parts, but of course I do not have that problem.
There are already 3,000 users and climbing each day. I follow Greater, Greater Washington for my news and updates about the success of the system and attempts to get them on the National Mall and other National Park Service land (apparently a lot harder than you would think). Now that the Union Station CaBi stations are installed, Corey has been preaching the good word, so I’ve been getting news from him, too. At two parties this weekend I could hear him across the room proselytizing and trying to convince people to sign up. And if you live in the DC area and are not signed up, what are you waiting for? The $50 per year deal ends in a few days, so hurry it up! And if you are just visiting, think about getting a day pass and seeing the city on a bike.
One question…I found this station (below) in the secure area of the White House, yet they are not available for public use and are not shown on my app. And the station map clearly says “White House” so they are not being stored for later. What is this about? I think it’s cool that enough folks working at the White House would require a station of their own and I’m all about awareness for such a great system on a Federal level, but really, what gives?