College Park is launching its own bike-share system Wednesday, delivering on a long-delayed promise to expand the city’s bike infrastructure and make biking a bigger part of its transit network.
The program, known as mBike, brings 125 bicycles to 14 stations within the city and the University of Maryland College Park campus. City officials say it complements efforts to make the area more bike-friendly and reduce traffic along the Route 1 corridor. Bike stations will be available at the College Park and Greenbelt Metro stations.
“College Park is a natural place for bike share. It will help the student population get around, but will also be useful to a lot of residents,” College Park Mayor Patrick L. Wojahn said. “The more easily people are able to find alternatives to cars, the better that will be for our community.”
Zagster, a Massachusetts-based company that runs about 130 bike-share programs across the U.S., has a three-year contract to operate mBike. Zagster runs systems at Ohio State, Princeton, Yale and the University of Nebraska.
So how does mBike work?
Just like the region’s bike system, Capital Bikeshare, mBike members will be able to pick up and return a bike at any of the 14 available stations. Trips of less than an hour are free with a membership; each additional hour will cost $3. The annual membership is $65, but you can sign up for a $6 day pass or a $25 monthly pass.
You can join through the Android or iPhone Zagster app starting Wednesday, or online at zagster.com/mbike.
The Zagster racks are smaller and lightweight compared to Capital Bikeshare. Each bike has a traditional U-lock. Users will find the key to the lock in a lock box mounted to the rear of the bike. When you reserve a bike, you will get the code to unlock the box and access the key. This system allows you to lock up the bike during a quick stop for coffee without having to go to a bike station.
This Zagster map shows the 14 mBike stations.
The agreement with Zagster came after plans to join Capital Bikeshare fell apart a couple of years ago when the system’s main bike vendor went bankrupt. Now College Park says the city will get more for its money than it would have with the more expensive Capital Bikeshare.
Officials say the program will complement other efforts to promote cycling, including work on a trail system that parallels Route 1, and a plan that will target specific streets to make them more bicycle friendly. That, along with the bike-share system, will eventually make it “much easier and more convenient and much safer for people to bike around,” Wojahn said.
At the University of Maryland, where between 10 and 15 percent of the population bikes, officials are projecting mBike program will not only lead to more biking on campus, but also better connectivity between the university facilities and the city, particularly the downtown areas and Metro stations.
Still, some bike advocates and officials lament College Park’s decision not to join the regional system that many residents are already familiar with. Capital Bikeshare has more than 3,000 bikes and 350 stations across the District and Alexandria, and Arlington and Montgomery counties. Fairfax County is launching a program in Reston this year.
Prince George’s County is studying whether to bring the Capital Bikeshare system to some communities like Greenbelt and National Harbor. College Park and the Route 1 corridor, is viewed as a strong market for bike sharing because it has the demographics and density that has made the program successful in other parts of the region, officials said.
Officials with the College Park project say there is a strong demand for travel options between the Metro stations and the university campus and for commuting between new housing developments along the corridor to the university, which is the largest employer in the city.