DC’s Bike Share


Photo Credit: Eric Gilliland via Flickr

Last week I traveled to Washington DC with my wife and daughter. While my wife was in conference, and our baby was with family, I had the opportunity to try out DC’s Bike Share program. I was completely impressed at how tourist friendly this service is compared to traditional stand-alone bike rental facilities, which is what I utilized on my last DC trip. A rundown of the positives of this program:

  • Cost.  With a mere $5 for a 24 hour membership, I was able to hop on a total of 4 different bikes on 2 separate days, and I believe that I only exceeded the 30-minute free period one time.
  • Flexibility.  I was staying across the Potomac in Crystal City, but this didn’t mean that I couldn’t take advantage of the bike sharing service.  Also, pick a major tourist site or Metro station, and you can rest assured that a bike station will be nearby.
  • The bike itself.  Ok, so it wasn’t fancy, but it did the job.  It’s smartly designed to look iconic and unique, without shouting “hey, I’m a tourist”.  Locals use these bikes too, as seen in this video posted on the Infrastructurist website.  I struggled to make it up the few hills I found, but I imagine my fitness is more in question than the bike itself.  3 speeds should be more than enough for most situations in mostly flat DC.
  • Practicality.  No need to carry a lock with you.  Find a station and park the bike there, and then pick it (or another bike) back up at a later time.  The biggest problem I can see is that the rider who wishes to wear a helmet would need to carry it with them.  The large maps located at the stations helpfully pinpoint places where one can purchase a helmet.
  • Promotes urban living.  When I lived in an apartment in downtown Indianapolis, I needed to find space in my tiny unit to store  my bike, as well as lug it up and down a flight of stairs.  With a bike share membership, a person living in a tiny unit downtown could potentially sell their bike to free up some valuable floor space.

I think bike sharing could work in Indianapolis.  If I were visiting downtown Indy for a convention or sports event, I’d note that many of the better local restaurants and major attractions (such as the IMA and Children’s Museum) are too far for a walk.  Cabs are expensive and pretty rare.  The transit system among the least comprehensive in the country.

On the plus side, we’re completing an amazing separated bike path that already connects with the Monon Trail.  We’re a flat city.  Fountain Square is at a perfect bicycling distance for the casual rider, while Broad Ripple beckons for longer rides.   Garfield Park could finally get the respect it deserves as the best park in the city.  East 10th Street is adding sharrows, and bike lanes are popping up in many places.  A good portion of the momentum of the city seems to be coalescing towards becoming a bicycling-friendly place.  I would like to think that Indianapolis can take the next step and implement our own Bike Share program.

Comments 6

  • I was in DC recently and saw this program in action.very cool..The good thing is that the gangstas cannot get to the bikes,

  • I’d really like to see a bikeshare program get off the ground here in Indy. Nice post Kevin. I like how user friendly it seems that the DC system is. And how available stations appear to be near activity centers. That will be key in making something similar work here.

  • I’m an Indy native, but live in DC now. I’ve been a member of the program for about 8 months now and it has changed my life. First, for annual members I bought my YEAR pass for $50 (now up to $75). So I use this bike everyday to get back and forth to the Metro stations. With that said, they’ve placed stations ALL OVER the city so residents use this as a commuter system and it has allowed people to live farther from metro stations that previously practical (and with way lower rents).

    Best thing to happen to DC ever. Ballard would probably only approve 5 stations and put them in places where people wouldn’t use them… just so he could kill the program. I mean… it would be a crime if people didn’t have to drive, pay parking fees to his friends in ACS.

  • I saw a similar program in Denver and was quite impressed with it. If Indy were to ever consider such a system, I think some of the locations for the stations would be around the new bike lanes throughout the city and in regions such as Downtown, Mass Ave, Fountain Square, East 10th Street, Irvington, Northside neighborhoods between Downtown and Meridian-Kessler, and Broad Ripple and its envions as a starter, not to mention along various points on the Monon Trail. Of course, I’m probably dreaming of such a concept for all those locations, but if were to start getting serious about bike infrastructure in this city those would be logical choices.

  • These bikeshare programs aren’t great for everyone… I am originally from Indianapolis and currently live in South Beach/Miami, where I operate (what was once) a thriving bicycle rental shop. Our rates have always been very competitive at $10/hour or $24/day which includes a handlebar storage pack, keyed lock with chain and any required protective gear. After the city (with very little public input) partnered with DecoBike to place one of their “share stations” on nearly every block on the beach, I saw my business plummet by nearly 75%. As a result, I have had to let go of several of my valued employees. And I am not alone…. tourism is, obviously, a very big thing here in South Beach and myself, along with the owners of several other local bike rental shops, depend heavily on these visitors for a good chunk of our profits. And it’s not as though the bike share program offers any real benefits over my service. They require a larger deposit, have the silly requirement that bikes be checked into a station every 30 minutes or else pay a “late fee”, come with no protective gear or way to secure the bike and offer no insurance to the renter to cover the possibility of loss or damage. I can certainly see how bike share programs might benefit certain cities (like Indianapolis), but generally I feel that this is something that should be left to small businesses and public enterprises, not “for profit” deals between government and a single entity.

  • I live in DC and bikeshare is used heavily by residents. DC is on a rapid movement of installing bike lanes and the bikeshare is following the craze – People are snatching up memberships and it’s hard for bikeshare to keep up. They are constantly installing new stations in several neighborhoods throughout the city – – There is even a small station inside the White House grounds. Very cool and it’s the largest bikeshare in the country and one of the largest in the world!

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