Seeing Red

Affectionately called CaBi in Washington D.C., Capital Bikeshare celebrated its first birthday September 20th.  The occasion also coincided with the system’s millionth rider.  What a gift!  Capital Bikeshare enjoyed a successful first year and soon the city will see more red bicycles as they strive to meet demand and  branch the bikeshare system to surrounding areas.  There are already stations nearby in Arlington, VA; but the majority of stations exist within D.C.

Capital Bikeshare was one of America’s earliest bikeshare systems.  It started in September of 2010 following the mildly received SmartBike D.C. in ’08.  CaBi’s launch was much more successful, due in part to their 114 stations and 1,100 bikes compared to SmartBike’s 10 stations and 120 bikes.  According to the CaBi website, 1,600 people joined SmartBike D.C. in its first two years; Capital Bikeshare attracted more than 18,000 members in their first year.  At the system’s launch over a year ago, they estimated 500,000 rides and 8,000 memberships in their first year.  They greatly exceeded those numbers and are now looking to add 60 more stations within the next 6 months.  Additionally, Capital Bikeshare may expand into surrounding suburbs Alexandria and Rockville.

The impressive ridership doesn’t just prove the demand for bikeshare, it also benefits CaBi’s business.  More ridership means more revenue.  Memberships can be purchased for a year, a month, five-days, or one day.  These memberships allow riders to check out bikes for 30 minutes at a time; additional fees apply after 30 minutes.  The D.C. Department of Transportation reported collecting $770,000 just from overages.

The rapid growth and widespread usage of Capital Bikeshare proves the viability of bikeshare in a major city.  The success of CaBi’s inaugural year can be seen in its community impact: Capital Bikeshare is being explored in a mental health study as a possible therapy treatment.  If D.C. continues to develop and expand its bikeshare network, other cities should keep a close eye on this pioneering program.

Washington Post author Stephanie Merry argues that riding a bike is more pleasant than the experience of the “Orange Line crush.”  We’re on a different orange line here in Boston, but I’ve certainly thought of alternative transportation while experiencing my own orange line crush.  If D.C. commuters continue to embrace cycling, perhaps they’ll stop seeing red and start seeing red bicycles.

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