Although the District and Arlington have reported growing interest in cycling as they have opened 116 sharing stations over the past year, neither jurisdiction has been allowed to launch stations on National Park Service property accessible to the public, including the Mall and Anacostia Park.
Park Service officials have cited existing contracts with bicycle rental companies and concerns about whether the stations would interfere with the historical significance of its property in the Washington region.
As a result, Capital Bikeshare users wanting to go to the Mall to sightsee or for recreational activities such as softball games have been forced to drop off and pick up bicycles at stations in other areas downtown, which can be up to a half-mile away from some popular tourist and recreational attractions.
But after discussions between city and federal officials, there is growing agreement that the bike-share desert in the heart of the District could soon come to an end.
“There are still a number of issues we need to work out, but we are hoping we can resolve those issues so we can start it up early next year,” said Carol Johnson, a spokeswoman for the National Mall and Memorials Park branch of the National Park Service. “Earlier, we were looking at whether they can get on the Mall, but now we are looking for a way to get them on the Mall.”
Johnson’s statements reflect an effort by officials across the Washington region to prepare for future growth in what is already the nation’s largest bike-sharing system. Since it launched a year ago, the system has grown to 17,400 members, who pay an annual fee. Combined with 60,000 daily rentals, about 920,0000 trips have been taken in the past year.
In the fall, the District and Arlington will spend $4 million to start adding 32 more stations in the city and 30 in Arlington. Federal grant money has been secured to open 20 stations in Rockville and Shady Grove.
Last week, Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) wrote county leaders urging additional funding to also install stations in the Bethesda business district. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has been trying, so far unsuccessfully, to obtain grant money to open stations in College Park.
Alexandria officials are also debating whether that city should link into Capital Bikeshare, which allows users to rent and return bicycles to any station in the system for a daily or extended-usage fee.
“It’s made my life easier, and I don’t have to use the bus as much,” Peter Davidson, 25, said Friday as he picked up a bike at the Van Ness Metro station in Northwest. “It’s really convenient. My gym is downtown, but I go to school up here, so I just bike up here when I can.”