The program has been made simple to use. Membership costs $75 for a year, $25 for a month, $15 for five days and $5 for 24 hours. Long-term members get a key to unlock a bike from the docking station; short-term members get a five-digit code for the same task. The first 30 minutes of riding are free. Fees kick in after that until the bike is returned to another docking station.
With more than a thousand bikes and more than 100 stations, and with membership growing rapidly, the District and Arlington are pretty pleased with the response. The District, after a successful membership promotion with a social-buying Web site, has 8,707 members. Arlington has 738, and the balance of the 10,727 members live elsewhere. By contrast, bike-crazy Montreal had more bikes to offer and enlisted 10,000 members during the first year of its program.
“Capital Bikeshare’s success right out of the gate has far exceeded our expectations,” said program director Terry Bellamy.
The commuter cycling culture, always a transportation mainstay in Europe, has flourished in the Washington area in recent years. During last year’s nuclear summit meeting in Washington, when many workers were given a day off and everyone was discouraged from driving, because motorcades were roaring all over town, the depth of the cycling option became evident. With streets stripped of most cars, bikes that normally blend fairly invisibly into the street scape seemed to be everywhere.
The growth of bike-only lanes
has served to embolden cyclists who might otherwise have feared doing battle with cars and trucks on congested streets. Office buildings
in the District and elsewhere, and local governments, have made more bike racks available to those who ride their own bikes.
Sara Wilson said cycling has expanded horizons for her one-car household, and with parking scarce in her Northeast Washington neighborhood, it’s a better option for errands. “Yesterday I got my dry cleaning — there’s never any parking there — and today I got my rack of lamb.”