Have you used Capital Bikeshare this winter and had trouble checking a bike out or returning it?
The popular bike-share system has experienced service disruptions in recent weeks, according to some frequent riders who say they have been unable to check out a bike on first try and have had to make multiple attempts. In some cases, entire stations have been completely offline. Returning bikes has also been a problem for some who say the system has shown the bikes still being in their possession even after they are locked back into the docks.
Capital Bikeshare said there have been isolated station outages but no widespread problems. The bike network did, however, have a significant software glitch last month that affected about 10 percent of its stations. Capital Bikeshare officials said operations returned to normal within two days.
“The Capital Bikeshare system is up and running as normal, with thousands of rides occurring each day despite the chilly winter weather,” a Capital Bikeshare spokesman said in a statement.
But several users report that problems continue at Bikeshare stations in popular areas such as Cleveland Park, Union Station and Shaw.
“I couldn’t access any bike at that dock this morning,” Max Luken tweeted Feb. 25, reporting a failing station at 15th and W streets in Northwest.
A daily Bikeshare commuter, Luken said he has experienced many problems with the system in recent months, including chronic shortages of bikes (not uncommon), difficulties finding a working dock to return a bike and dock connection problems.
“An entire dock can be offline,” he said. “There is no obvious indicator of offline status, leading to frustrating moments of trying and failing to rent a bike. I once needed to appeal a significant overcharge fee for docking a bike at an offline dock.”
Capital Bikeshare said there are sporadic cases where stations go offline for a few hours, generally because of power issues. The stations are powered by solar energy, and when they don’t get enough, a manual battery change is needed, officials said. That can take a few hours and may be inconvenient for a few riders, but it doesn’t affect thousands of users, the company said.
On a recent day, 99 percent of the system’s 532 stations were fully operational, a program spokesman said, noting that a handful of stations could have been undergoing maintenance.
Kiera Zitelman, another frequent Bikeshare user who has been a member for five years, said she recently had trouble returning a bike at the station closest to her home in Cleveland Park. She tried returning it to three open docks and ultimately had to ride it to another station.
She’s had issues before, like difficulty finding available bikes or broken docks, but lately the problems seem more frequent, she said.
“It’s probably fortunate that this is happening in February and March, when usage is probably down, because it’s so cold. Hopefully they can figure it out by the time it warms up again,” she said.
Capital Bikeshare has stations across the Washington region. More than 60 percent of the equipment is in the District, where usage fees have made the program nearly self-sustainable, according to officials. The bike program is a collaborative venture of the member jurisdictions, who under a joint agreement hired New York-based Motivate — recently acquired by Lyft — to run Capital Bikeshare operations.
The bike-share program is one of the most successful in the country, and city transportation officials say it has continued to grow despite an influx of new personal mobility services, including shared electric scooters last year. The program has about 30,000 members and last year marked 20 million trips. During the winter months, the system has an average daily ridership of 6,000 and rises to about 12,000 in the warmer months, according to data provided by Capital Bikeshare.
A recent addition of e-bikes to the fleet has been so successful that the District is slated to add more e-bikes this year, Jeff Marootian, the director of the District Department of Transportation, told the city council last month.
Marootian said the program continues to see steady ridership numbers and that plans are online for a “significant expansion” of e-bikes in coming months. The District is also planning to launch an adaptive Bikeshare program that would make recumbent tricycles, hand tricycles and cargo tricycles available.
Bikeshare users says they like the additions, and the continued expansion of shared bikes across the region, and that overall the system remains pretty reliable.
But they say the problems with offline stations and broken docks are “a little annoying” and “frustrating.” Zitelman said if she could grade the service, she’d downgrade it a bit in recent weeks.
“Maybe it’s moved from an A to a B,” she said. “I do hope that it becomes a little bit more reliable.”