Capital Bikeshare Launches Summertime Competition to Reward “Reverse Riders”

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Do you think this competition/reward is a good (enough) incentive for a “reverse rider”?

“At the end of the contest, the individual with the highest number of points will win a one-year extension of his or her Capital Bikeshare membership, while everyone who makes it into the top ten will receive one-month extensions. Five raffle prize winners will also receive one-month extensions.”

Full press release from DDOT:

Don’t go with the flow this summer—do the opposite and it could pay off. That’s what Capital Bikeshare will be telling its members soon. The regional bikesharing network is launching a Reverse Rider Rewards competition on June 1 to support the system’s rebalancing and redistribution efforts.

The goal is to enlist the help of Capital Bikeshare annual members to help redistribute bicycles throughout the bikesharing system during the peak hours of 8am-10am, Mondays through Fridays, and provide incentives to do so.

“Like any transportation system, Capital Bikeshare has a rush hour when demand spikes,” said Terry Bellamy, Acting Director of the District Department of Transportation. “Rebalancing crews are constantly moving the bikes around to keep up, but any additional help provided by members could help ensure there’s a bike available when you want it.”

Capital Bikeshare membership has increased dramatically in recent months and is currently up to 13,835 annual members and climbing. In response to member suggestions, the Reverse Rider Rewards program was conceived as a way to supplement the efforts of Alta, the company responsible for servicing bike stations and keeping them balanced with enough bicycles and docking spaces. Rebalancing incentive programs have been used in other bikesharing programs with success, including Veìlib in Paris.

Members who elect to participate will earn points for taking bicycles from any of the “typically full” stations to “typically empty” stations. Each trip will earn participants one point, as well as one entry into a raffle. At the end of the contest, the individual with the highest number of points will win a one-year extension of his or her Capital Bikeshare membership, while everyone who makes it into the top ten will receive one-month extensions. Five raffle prize winners will also receive one-month extensions.

Reverse Rider Rewards officially launches on Wednesday, June 1, and will run through Wednesday, August 31. Winners will be posted on the 5th of each month. For complete information about the rules, prizes and eligible stations visit

19 Comment

  • Probably wont work since competing for 75 bucks isnt going to induce anyone to radically change their driving habits. However, that capitol bikeshare user who lives on Capitol Hill and works at the CH Target just got really excited…

  • Nope, it’s got to be a guaranteed reward. Say you gain a point for every reverse ride and then at a predetermined amount you get free months or other benefits. 50 points gets you a free month, 500 a free year, 1000 gets you a free helmet or whatever.

    • Another option would be to emulate the Paris model and reward users with 15 minutes of credit every time they ride against the grain, so to speak.

      That way users happily build up a buffer for those times when they need a bike for a little longer than half an hour, but don’t want to pay high fees.

  • claire

    I like that they’re doing *something* for this, and I suspect if this is successful, they may expand it. What I’d really like though is for this to apply at any time and be based on the current station statuses. That is, instead of having designated “typically full” and “typically empty” stations for the morning commute, just have it be point accumulation for any time you take a bike from a completely full station (or maybe even a station with only one empty slot) to a completely empty station (or a station with only one bike). As for the prizes, I agree that it’d be nicer if your points were directly correlated with eventual rewards, but I don’t necessarily mind the way they’re currently planning on doing it.

  • yeah this won’t work at all. not a good enough reward (it is almost mathematically provable that any individual has a zero percent chance of winnning — unless they plan to do like 20,000 reverse rides).

    the last competition was dominated by people who just biked around all day on weekends to win. that isn’t really what we are going for here i don’t think.

    the points system would work, good idea.

    it amazes me that with a program so successful, in a town full over overeducated people, they can’t get the bikes back up the hill. they made so much money this year, spend some of it to make it better!

  • It will be mildly successful, probably a handful of bikes transferred to empty stations which will allow a handful more people to ride back in to work. It will obviously benefit those very few whose normal commute takes them on one of these routes (Union Station to Howard? West End to 14th/U corridor?). For such a low cost to CaBi to implement it will be nothing but upside.

    However, I think it will impact select stations heavily. There is a small subset of people who will eat this up. They will bike in to work *early* so that they can ferry a bike to an outer station and then walk back in. I guarantee it. Look for the 18th/M and 17th/Corcoran stations to see a lot of action (that is like a 3 minute bike and a 10 minute reverse walk).

    Could it have been done better? Sure, but it would have cost a lot more. At the meeting they said that there were technical limitations to providing the credit-based “uphill ride” system that Paris uses right now. Maybe it will come in the future; this will give them data points to see if that is worthwhile and it will cost them practically nothing.

  • They’ve got 14,000 members and this is all they’re offering? Not going to work needs to be greater incentive, and an incentive that appeals to the average rider to bike up rather than bus up.

  • Sweet, I’ll just skip work and ride their bikes all over the city for a nominal reward.

    I’ve been looking for something to do…

    • It worked for the Winter Warrior contest, why not here? A handful of people *did* ride CaBi all over the city for a nominal reward. The same group will participate in this.

      • I did the winter weather warrior contest – I wasn’t in the top 10 or anything like that, but I enjoyed the competition aspect and ended up having fun.

        However, I can’t imagine many scenarios in which I’d end up participating in this one – not that I wouldn’t be interested, but my 8am-10am time slot is otherwise filled with breakfast/commute/work. And unfortunately the l’enfant/smithsonian stations near my office are no where near any TES.

        One other question – if someone brings a bike from a TFS to a TES during the time frame, what is to stop them from using the same bike to go back to where they started from? Is this scenario built into the rules?

  • *yawns*

    I don’t think this will have a significant impact. First of all, it only affects a very small subset of members: those who have a commute that runs opposite the typical direction and who also can easily take metro or bus.

    I think it’s a hard sell, because uphill biking requires a shower before work. Horrible trade off for a prize you (most likely) won’t get.

    They should have worked on manipulating the post work commuters. Most people go to the gym after work, right? They’re in a workout mode. Get those people to ride the bikes up the hills. You’d be utilizing an overwhelmingly large proportion of CaBi membership — those who commute in the typical direction — as opposed to the minuscule percentage who don’t.

    • I think the goal here is to re-fill popular stations that get cleared out in the morning by early commuters. Many of these are completely wiped out before 8:00, leaving nothing for the second wave of potential users who might want to get to work closer to 9:00. I don’t see this as an attempt to solve the entirety of the re-balancing problem. Ideally those afternoon commuters are *already* using CaBi to get back uphill, but maybe they need the extra kick in the pants to actually do it? It’s an experiment. Hopefully they’ll expand it later once they’ve figured out a better incentive system; I agree that the current rewards won’t appeal to everybody.

      • The awards are lame — just above the gold sticker level. I honestly don’t see why someone would change their commuting habits to get a free 1 month membership whose value is $6.25 — or on a daily basis (the amount it saves you off your daily work commute) about $.025.

        Two and a half cents (or really, the chance to win 2.5 cents) isn’t going to change behavior. Yes, a small number of people will be enticed by the idea of something for free. My position is that still they aren’t dealing with the problem aggressively enough.

        What CaBi member received this email and thought, “Great. For a small chance to win a free month’s membership, I’d be willing to bike rather than bus uphill — despite the fact that I’ll have to use the shower which is conveniently provided at my place of work”?

        They need to add bikes to accommodate all those who want to commute in the typical direction, while adding a surcharge for 8 – 10am bike usage to pay for those new bikes. Then create an incentive program to get people to bike uphill home after work — allow people to make back the surcharge.

  • Welcome back Dan, and congratulations! Photo above is actually mine, you’ve got it credited to someone else. Thanks!

  • I’m glad they are trying to reward this kind of behavior but I don’t think it will have any real effect. What about the weekends when you can’t find a bike north of U street for hours?

  • That’s dumb. Why not let the member take the bike for free if riding in a reverse direction.

  • As a retiree, I’d LOVE to participate in shuffling bikes around, but as I no longer have a credit card and don’t want another one, I can’t get into the system. Dang!

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