PoP-Ed. “A peloton in the city” by Christopher Cordingley

bikeshare
Photo by PoPville flickr user Phil

Christopher Cordingley lives in Penn Quarter.

PoP-Ed. posts may be written about anything related to the District and submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

Leaving work last Wednesday, I got on a Capital Bikeshare and headed up to Capitol Hill. Crossing 7th Street NW and turning onto Pennsylvania Avenue something unfamiliar happened on this regular commute. I had to wait to enter the bike lane; there were six solo riders in line heading east. I would expect this kind of traffic on the National Mall a block south, but not on Penn. I prefer riding on Pennsylvania Avenue versus the Mall because it feels more mechanical; it offers a direct comparison to a car and I like it.

When Metro shut down for 24 hours to do inspections on the system, locals griped about riding the bus and surging Uber prices. But there was one system that was working to help the community stay connected, Capital Bikeshare. Since becoming a member, in August of 2013, I have taken 835 trips totaling 1,384 miles, burning an estimated 59,526 calories and saving 57.4 gallons of gas. As a quite dismal and fortunately retired bike racer, it’s not surprising that I would choose to bike over ride a bus, metro, or taxi. A bike has always been an opportunity to turn the aggravating task of commuting into a stimulating chance to work hard, be aware, and breathe fresh air. That is why I commute by bike. You should join me.

When Metro shut down, this was no doubt problematic for many. While safety inspections are a good cause for pause, closures and track work are seemingly endless in public transport. Certainly there is merit in fixing current public transportation systems so that they are more reliable, interconnected, and cost-effective. While not perfect, bikeshare programs can help, especially for those who live outside of a start-to-finish bike accessible commute. According to the 2014 Capital Bikeshare Member Survey Report, “nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said at least one of the bikeshare trips they made last month either started or ended at a Metrorail station; 21% had used bikeshare six or more times for this purpose. About a quarter (24%) of respondents used Capital Bikeshare to access a bus in the past month.”

Commuting by bike offers significant financial savings well beyond the cost of gas and taxi fares. A 2012 Parking Rate Survey by Colliers International found that DC averaged $270/month in parking cost. With a bikesharing system that has potential to grow, DC commuters should take this opportunity.

When Metro closed, Capital Bikeshare offered a free 24-hour membership so Washingtonians can continue their day unimpeded. This is a perfect example of what a true sharing economy should be. A service that helps fill a void when there is another failure, especially when the infrastructure is already in existence at practically no detriment to their regular users. Bikesharing systems become more efficient with more riders. And it’s enjoyable.

The 2014 Capital Bikeshare Member Survey Report states that “eighty-six percent of respondents increased their use of bicycling since joining Capital Bikeshare and 50% said they ride a bike much more often. By comparison, respondents reduced use of all other transportation modes; 55% drove a car less often; 59% used a taxi less often; 58% rode Metrorail less often, 52% rode a bus less often, and 51% decreased their reliance on walking, suggesting some shifts to each of these modes to biking.” By utilizing the opportunity to help more riders when typical transport was not an option, Capital Bikeshare expands the sharing community and increases the efficiency of our city. Just as you get more efficient and faster with each ride.

Wednesday night, waiting to join the peloton of riders in Pennsylvania Avenue was not a nuisance as you would feel waiting in traffic in a car, but instead a fostered a feeling of community. As I waited at a red light, resting my leg on a metal traffic post, a father with a two year old in a “kid seat” stopped at 3rd Street. The boy kicked his leg over the side of his seat and mimicked how I was balancing.

It’s not about getting to work, it’s about finding a way to value the in between time and that is easily done when there are more in the community to share it with.

Sunshine also helps.

16 Comment

  • Ashy Oldlady

    On the day Metro shut down, I took a regular cab where I needed to go when it was too far to walk. It ended up being cheaper than Uber or Lyft.

  • 90% of the time I want to use bikeshare they dock at my point of origin is empty or the destination dock is full.
    .
    Bikeshare is awesome but they really need to get it together and open up new dockspace. Next year I’ll probably drop my membership and just ride my own bike.

    • heh, do you live in Columbia Heights? I find that unless I’m out before 7:30 any given morning (including weekends) there are no bikes within a half mile radius of me, a distance which includes 4-6 stations. I finally got my own bike this year because it is so completely useless during normal hours of the day.

      • gotryit

        Your own bike can also be soo much more enjoyable to ride than one of those tanks.

      • They need to figure out a way, other than one-off contests, to incentivize people to ride up the hill. I figure I’m not the only one who routinely takes bike share from columbia heights, rides down the hill, and then returns by bus, metro, or cab when i don’t feel like pushing that tank back up the hill.

        • This would be pretty easily fixed by more efficient rebalancing. We don’t seem to have this issue to as large a degree on the Hill.

      • Capital Bikeshare must love me since I ride into Columbia Heights every weekday morning! Many times I dock the bike at a completely empty station and sometimes someone takes it right away!

  • As a member, I was actually kind of ticked that they opened up bikeshare to anyone last Wednesday when Metro shut down. It was a day that their paying customers needed the service the most, and couldn’t use it because they’d decided to allow non-paying customers to use instead of me.
    .
    I also agree with the above comment that they need to install more docks, or do a better job of transferring bikes during critical traffic periods. In Columbia Heights after 8 a.m. on a weekday, you’d be lucky to find anything available. More often than not if the app shows a bike available it’s out of service or gone within the 1-2 minutes it takes me to get there. I’ve also had a lot of trouble finding a bike on weekend mid-mornings. I know these are peak times, but why would I pay for something I can never use? That’s why I let my Zipcar membership go – because I had to book too far in advance for it to be of any real use. So, I will be considering the value on offer from Capital Bikeshare when it’s time to renew or cancel.

    • +1000 I don’t mind the bike lanes being crowded, but I am pretty sick of not being able to reliably use a service I’m paying for (bikeshare)

    • I’m not sure I get great “value” from my bike share membership (I have my own bike) but I do like having it and supporting the system. The original post makes me sad as I’m recovering from knee surgery and haven’t been able to ride yet this spring.

  • While I agree that many times the docks are empty when you need a bike, that also means that so many people are utilizing the system. It’s a good problem, and from what I have gathered by following them on social media and reading their reports, Capital Bikeshare is doing a good job in analyzing the data to decide where to add how many docks. They are also extremely responsive to emails.

    I use CBikeShare for my commute and even if I can’t find a bike in my preferred dock, I’ll walk in the opposite direction to find one, and it’s still faster than other means of transportation. Plus all the added benefits mentioned in the original post.

    One reason they’re expanding cautiously is that they are not profitable. I hope they can find a way to increase margins, or that there cacan be public programs that keep subsidizing.

    For uphill rides, I think I read that they’re looking into adding electric bikes. Or that was just my hope maybe! 🙂

  • I think it’s a good service. However, if you want to use for commuting regularly from a residential area, you have to be able to leave earlier in the morning. I live by H st and the closest dock to me is almost always empty by 830 – but if I leave before 8, it’s pretty reliable.

  • mellodcd

    I don’t bikeshare to commute (it would be a long ride from DC to Reston), but my fiancé and I use it a ton on the weekends and in the early mornings as part of our workout regimen (who needs a gym membership when you’ve got a city to explore?). We’re lucky in that there are multiple stations around our home, but for those of you further out there’s a crowdsourcing map on Capitol Bikeshare’s website to suggest locations for stations (http://www.bikearlington.com/pages/bikesharing/capital-bikeshare-crowdsourcing-map/). I really want to see the National Arboretum station happen!

    • mellodcd

      Side Note: I called Capital Bikeshare customer service last night around 10pm (expecting to just leave a message) but was connected to an actual, knowledgeable person that helped resolve my billing issue… very impressed!

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