Capital Bikeshare (Washington, DC)

DC bike laneI’ve spent this week in Washington, DC at the annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) Conference which brings together transportation professionals from all over the world to discuss the state-of-the-art and the state to which it’s heading in the future.  Topics ranging from innovative pavement materials, livability, community involvement and many others have been covered. This afternoon, after spending all morning in a session about context-sensitive solutions, one of my colleagues and I decided to try out DC’s Capital Bikeshare (side note: check out this map of bike usage).  I have to admit, my initial experiences with the system left a lot to be desired; the first station we tried to rent from had a completely faulty payment collector.  We had to walk 4 or 5 blocks to the next station to rent from another station.  Had we not been so interested in trying out the product (after all, we’re here for a transportation conference), I’m sure this issue would have been enough to turn us away not only today but in the future as well.

Once we figured out the payment structure ($5 for a 24-hour membership plus fees for any rides over 30 minutes long), we checked out our bikes and were on our way.  Despite the below freezing temperatures in DC today, the rest of the ride was a joy.  DC has implemented new bicycle infrastructure all over the city.  And for the US, much of it is quite innovative.  On Pennsylvania Avenue, for example (see the photo above), they have arranged a partially separated, two-way bike path that runs down the center of the roadway.  This is supposed to avoid conflicts with vehicles that frequently pull over to the curb (buses, taxis, delivery vehicles), but we found it was still plagued by blockages (again, see the photo – that is actually a police vehicle blocking the way).  Elsewhere, we had to leave the protection of the separated lane to swerve around a taxi and a post office vehicle literally parked in the lane, without anyone sitting inside the vehicle.  With these new treatments, enforcement will be a necessary add-on.

With more studies showing that even minimal bicycle infrastructure like “sharrows” can induce cyclists to ride more safely, I think DC has done a good job to encourage and foster cycling not only downtown but also in the suburbs near metro stops.  Let us know your feedback if you’ve used Capital Bikeshare as well.

-Terra Curtis