By Taylor Muckerman
In a city known for its use of public transit and foot travel, Washington, DC, is finally revving up its efforts to increase pedal power. On September 20, 2010, Capital Bikeshare took a major step towards placing an American city on the same stage as many cities across the European continent. 1,100 bikes are now readily available at 49 stations scattered across DC and Arlington, VA. The new venture is a great improvement on the city’s last attempt at this bike sharing.
The inspiration and blueprint for the Capital Bikeshare project was laid out in August of 2008, when DC made their first crude attempt at instituting a bike share program. This came at the heels of Paris unveiling its 10,000 bike network. So, what was it that our capital countered with? A measly 100 bikes spread across a paltry ten stations. Needless to say, this system did not last long due to limited availability and access limited to those with a yearly subscription. What it did do, however, was alert the general population to the practicality of a bike sharing network if run efficiently.
The purpose of a bike share program is to make bicycles more accessible to those without the resources or long-term need to purchase one. A commuter, tourist or someone just looking for a way to exercise need only put $5 into one of the 49 DC or Arlington stations and take a bike for a day. Monthly and yearly subscriptions are also available. Only need it for 30 minutes or less? You can take one for free, but your card will be charged for any additional minutes used after that. The bike can be returned at any one of the kiosks as long as there is space available for it.
It is the hope of the DOT that commuters’ use of bicycles will increase from the nominal 1.63% that was reported in 2008. In order to make this a reality, Gabe Klein, D.C.’s Director of Transportation, wants to increase the number of bikes to 2,200 within a year. At the event’s kick-off, Mayor Adrian Fenty said, “We are staking our claim, and we are going after Montréal and anywhere else in the country — in the world! — that may have a few more bicycles than we.” Making them more readily available to a greater percentage of the population is critical to achieving that goal.
Seeing the capital city putting such an emphasis on bike sharing might even spur other metropolitan areas to take a look at this great idea that is running rampant in Europe. It is now the largest system of its kind in the United States, and the visions of grandeur are taking dead aim at becoming the largest in the world.
Taylor Muckerman is a first year MBA student at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He has a background in Corporate Finance as a Financial Analyst and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a BS in Business Administration, majoring in Finance and Accountancy.