The most successful bikeshare systems in the world have dense networks with stations every few blocks, according to bikeshare guru Jon Orcutt. That suggests that as Capital Bikeshare expands, the agency should focus on adding small infill stations rather than adding more docks to make existing stations bigger.
In a recent Streetsblog interview, Orcutt points out there’s a clear (and probably causal) correlation between bikeshare station density and bike usage. He cites the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy’s (ITDP) bikeshare planning guide, which bluntly states “increasing station density will yield increased market penetration.”
Simply put, systems with denser networks get more riders per bike per day.
That makes sense. Most bikeshare trips cover short distances, so the closer stations are to cyclists’ final destinations, the better. Conversely, it’s a major disincentive if riders have to walk more than a block or two to get to a station, and dockblocking is much more painful when the next closest station is many blocks away instead of right around the corner.
Since there are destinations on every block, the ideal bikeshare network would have stations on every block. That’s probably not practical even in the densest part of the city, but the best bikesharing networks seem to be those that come the closest. ITDP’s guide says to shoot for 10 to 16 stations per square kilometer.
And though Capital Bikeshare is one of the United States’ leading bikeshare systems, CaBi and nearly all its U.S. peers lag world leaders in station density. That strongly suggests U.S. bikeshare networks aren’t attracting as many riders as they could.
Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.