Larger bike-sharing program to debut in D.C., Arlington

A new regional bike-sharing system is set to begin in the D.C. area later this year and could become the largest program of its kind in the U.S.

A partnership between D.C.’s Department of Transportation and BikeArlington created Capital Bikeshare, which earned its name in June after an online vote by Arlington County and D.C. residents in May.

Federal, state and local funds will be used to run the program and to install new equipment in Arlington and D.C., replacing the current self-service rental system, SmartBike D.C.

“We hope to start installing [additions for the program] in August and be done by the end of the year,” said DDOT Transportation Planner Jim Sebastian.

Sebastian said another U.S. city has implemented a similar project: Denver, Colo. launched its program in May and now has 40 stations.

“[Denver is] now the largest in the U.S., but we will have 100 [bike stations] by the end of the year, so hopefully we will become the largest again,” Sebastian said.

Since August 2008, D.C. residents have been able to purchase subscriptions to use bicycles through SmartBike D.C. at 10 stations across the city.

Sebastian said the regional program will expand to Arlington, where more than 100 bikes will be placed at the King Street Metro station.

Sebastian said this year instead of having 100 bikes at 10 stations, there will be more than 1,000 bikes to rent at more than 100 stations. Of the 114 total bike stations, 14 will be in Arlington.

Users will be able to rent a bike and return it to any of the stations. The system will be operated by the company Alta Bicycle Share.

Subscription prices will change from the SmartBike D.C. rates, though, which gave customers a year of use for $40.

“The new system is $80 for 10 times the amount of bikes. Instead of being three hours for free, it will be a half hour for free and there will be charges for every subsequent half an hour,” Sebastian said.

Memberships will be available for $5 per day, $30 per month or $80 per year.

“I think it’s great for users as well as for the city transportation system,” Sebastian added. “The number of trips will increase dramatically. Today we get one to two trips per bike, per day, and in the future we hope to get five trips per bike per day.”

Reaction from biking enthusiasts has been positive so far.

“I am excited about it. I think it’s a great way to offer people transportation options within the city and the region, as well as healthy and convenient transportation options,” said Caron Whitaker, the campaign director for America Bikes.

Whitaker’s nonprofit organization advocates for bike and pedestrian initiatives under the federal transportation bill. She said programs like the ones around D.C. are becoming more common.

“We are seeing bike programs springing up around the country,” Whitaker said. “It is definitely a natural phenomenon and it will change the way people get around cities.”

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