Expanded bike-sharing program to link D.C., Arlington

Bike to Work Day draws seasoned and new commuters from all over the Washington metropolitan area. The Washington Post follows route #7 - Mt. Pleasant to Freedom Plaza along with veteran bicyclist and retired message courier, Shawn Bega.
By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 23, 2010

The District and Arlington County are expanding a bike-sharing program to create the largest regional network in the United States, transportation officials announced Friday.

Arlington County will create 15 bike-sharing stations in the Pentagon City and Crystal City areas. The District will update its 10 stations and add 90 more in all eight wards. About 1,100 bikes will be available this fall.

Residents will be able to "pick up a bike in Arlington and drop it off in D.C.," Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said to fellow bike enthusiasts in Rosslyn at a Bike to Work Day pit stop. "It is a great system to promote cycling and promote health in Washington."

The expanded program will replace the SmartBike D.C. bike network, created in 2008.

"The response to the bike-sharing program has been unprecedented, and we are pleased to be able to join with Arlington in our expansion efforts," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said in a statement.

The District program has 1,500 members making more than 100 trips a day on 100 bikes, said James R. Sebastian, a city transportation planner. He said the current network is "maxed out" and that the city is "trying to meet that demand with this new system."

The expansion, which features solar-powered bike-sharing stations, will be supplied by BIXI, which has had great success in Montreal, according to Charlie Denney with Alta Bicycle Share, the operating company. Riders will be able to use a credit card to charge a rental at the station, in addition to memberships available online, he said.

The installation and equipment will cost the District about $6 million in the first year and Arlington about $850,000. A combination of federal, state and local funding will pay for the program.

Both jurisdictions think they will recapture much of the expense through membership revenue, bike advertising and station sponsorship in the coming years. Memberships will be $5 a day, $30 a month or $80 a year.

Chris Hamilton, Arlington's commuter services chief, said the way the county's contract is written, other jurisdictions can easily be added. Montgomery County and Alexandria officials were part of the county's contract selection committee, he said.

"We plan to get 4,000 to 5,000 [bikes] in a few years," Hamilton said.

Arlington plans to start that process in 2011 by adding more bike stations in the Rosslyn area, Fisette said.

"Washington joins the big leagues," Hamilton said. "We join the cities where people enjoy the urban core without a car . . . and that is the future. That is where we are going."

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