Bike-Share Debuts in Washington D.C.

8_14_08_washington.jpgPublic bike-share in the U.S. hit a milestone yesterday when SmartBike DC, the first program of its kind in an American city, launched in full. Coverage in the Washington Post was heavy on the implications for D.C.’s image:

Today the city will join the ranks of Paris and Barcelona with the
launch of the first high-tech public bike-sharing program in the United
States, forcing such cities as San Francisco and Chicago to look here
to see chic alternative transportation in action in America.

One critical difference between SmartBike and its European counterparts is the size of the network. When Vélib debuted in Paris, it provided 10,000 bikes at 750 locations. The SmartBike planners are taking a gradualist approach, starting off with 120 bikes stationed at 10 sites concentrated near downtown D.C. So far, 150 memberships have been sold, the Post reports.

The fact that D.C. has cleared the hurdles of getting a system up and running is piquing the interest of other cities, according to the outdoor advertising firm that sponsors SmartBike:

"We’re getting inquiries from all around the country to see if they
can take the same program and implement it in their city," said Steve
Ginsburg of Clear Channel Outdoor.

Which American city will go live with public bike-share next? New York recently signaled its interest in a bike-share program, and Portland is actively pursuing one, despite some setbacks. The highly informative Bike-Sharing Blog has put together a Google Maps mashup showing where programs exist, and where ones are in various stages of study and planning. By my count, 14 cities are in the running to follow D.C.

Photo of a SmartBike DC station: afagen/Flickr

  • The Militant isn’t sure bikeshares will fly here in Los Angeles; bicycle culture may be a reaction against autocentrism, but in a way it’s also an adaptation of it: many cyclists identify with what they ride, through either status, creativity or self-expression. Those DC bikes, personally speaking, look decidedly uncool…heh.

  • johnny

    True what you’re saying about cyclists identifying with their ride, Militant. I saw some pretty badass low rider bikes on display myself at the Central Ave. jazz fest a few weeks back. However, i still think a bikeshare program would be useful here, for out of towners and people who don’t feel like hauling their bike onto the metro among others. I hope it happens someday.

    As for the DC bikes, their ironic charm will probably go unappreciated by the K street crowd but they’re sure to be a hit with folks in Adams-Morgan.

  • Oh bikeshare will fly here — about three feet off the ground and crookedly. In fact what I expect is a program called Flexbike will gain a toehold and over the next several years will barely stay alive building up a loyal user base until a company called Zipbike will swallow them up, come in and relocate all the bikes people had come to depend on to DeVry locations in Woodland Hills, Temecula, Baker, and the Salton Sea.

    I am a bitter, bitter man.

    PS. I’m totally with MA: those beltway bikes are bogus to behold.

  • The bikes aren’t that bad. A bit heavy, but they include a rack, generator lights, chaincase, a three-speed drivetrain, and fenders. The only thing missing is some kind of integrated lock, though it’s arguable how effective anything included would be anyway. The two different wheel sizes doesn’t make sense, either, for repair and maintenance.

    A bigger problem is availability. These programs only work if you are always only about 1000 feet from a bike station. I know they’re trying to start slow, but how will they know how effective it is unless they deploy it on a scale that makes sense?

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