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Capital Bikeshare arrives in Montgomery County

Bike sharing rolled into Montgomery County on Friday as Capital Bikeshare’s first stations in Maryland opened for business.

“These little red bikes are a great symbol of change,” said County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large), one of more than a dozen local and state officials who spoke before the ceremonial ribbon cutting of a 15-dock station at the corner of Maryland and Montgomery avenues in Rockville.

More than a dozen stations in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Rockville and Friendship Heights are now up and running.

Plans call for the 14 initial stations to eventually be part of a network of 51 stations across the county. The goal is to have 21 stations holding 250 bikes in the Rockville and Shady Grove areas and another 30 stations with 250 bikes at Red Line Metro stations inside the Capital Beltway.

“It’s a natural extension of the very successful program in Washington,” said Al Roshdieh, deputy director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

Expansion is key in a region where so many people live in one jurisdiction but work or socialize in another. Bikeshare members may not necessarily all use the red bikes to travel from city to city, but they can use them at the beginning or the end of their trips.

“We have a lot of people that might take Metro or a bus or a different mode to go between the jurisdictions but then use Bikeshare for that last mile,” said Chris Eatough, program manager for Bike Arlington.

Bikeshare members can use the same key fob at all the stations across the region, making it a “seamless” system, said Kim Lucas, who manages bike sharing for the D.C. Department of Transportation.

“Suppose you live in Arlington and you work in Montgomery County,” Lucas said. “Now you can use a bike at home and at work with the same key.”

Bikeshare’s arrival in Montgomery came about after years of discussion and debate with public and private-sector landowners to place the bike stations. The initiative was boosted by a $1 million grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

“I’m sad to say it took too long to get to this point,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), adding that he was proud the day had finally arrived.

Last week, Bikeshare celebrated its third anniversary. The ever-expanding program launched in September 2010 with nearly 50 stations in the District and Arlington. Attention gradually turned to Washington’s suburbs, as stations were added to Alexandria and parts of Arlington that don’t have Metro stations.

There are now more than 250 Bikeshare stations and about 2,000 sturdy red bikes roaming the region’s streets.

This post has been updated.