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

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.

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