Greater Greater Washington

Bike news

The DC Bicycle Advisory Council met on Wednesday, and DDOT revealed lots of interesting news, which WashCycle kindly wrote up in great detail. Some of the highlights:


Bixi in Montreal. Photo by guybrariang.

South Capitol bike trail: DDOT hired Toole Design to investigate the possibility of closing one lane along South Capitol Street, to convert to a bike trail. If Maryland continues the trail it would enable cyclists to reach the new Wilson Bridge bike lane and Alexandria.

Pennsylvania Ave bike lane: DDOT is talking to NPS about adding a bike lane to Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The designs for Capitol Hill Town Square also proposed a bike lane on Pennyslvania Avenue, SE. No word whether NPS is being at all accommodating about this idea.

Summer Streets in Fort Dupont: Since Petworth turned down the idea, DDOT will instead organize a Summer Streets event in Fort Dupont Park, in River East. That's a great idea, and River East should have a Summer Streets every year. Apparently, unlike some of his or her colleagues, "NPS's new lead in the area is eager to find ways to get people into the parks." In addition to closing streets, NPS will offer rental bikes and possibly free pedicabs.

DDOT "is hoping to do more locations next year." Better yet, let's do one spanning most of the city and multiple quadrants. How about all of Pennsylvania Avenue, or the length of North Capitol and South Capitol with a nice scenic ride past the Capitol?

SmartBike: We recently discussed how DDOT is considering dumping Clear Channel for SmartBike. They're still talking to Clear Channel, though I also heard confirmation from another source that Clear Channel is just not interested in SmartBike amid a general downturn in their business. DDOT is also looking at Montreal's Bixi, which uses solar powered stations. Those are quicker to install because PEPCO isn't involved, and easier to reposition if needed. However, the bikes are heaver and "the stations are less streamlined." DDOT also has "some sort of regional agreement" with Arlington, which is applying for federal funding for bike sharing.

Legislation: The BAC plans to focus on Complete Streets legislation and laws allowing people to bring bicycles into their office buildings. They also discussed whether the planned bicycle-mounted enforcement squad would primarily target cyclists and pedestrians and give insufficient attention to dangerous driver behavior.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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After looking into it, I'm 99 percent positive that buying a Bixi system is the way to go. The system is infinitely expandable and interoperable, so theoretically you could check out a bike in DC and drop it off in Montreal, assuming the cities coordinated their programming. But more realistically, DC can go ahead and buy it, and in three or four years or whenever other nearby municipalities can get on board and buy their own stations. the only coordination necessary is making sure that the total bicycle population is shared between DC/MD/VA, and making sure the stations can communicate with each other. No advertising revenue problems that would scuttle an orangeton expansion. No (as you mentioned) work necessary with PEPCO, etc. Plus, and this is a big plus, the work is already done! All design and R&D has been paid for. the GGW area would not have to commission any sort of study outside of the fun part of figuring out where to put stations. That saves us a lot of money and time. The 1 percent that holds me back is figuring out how DC/MD/VA would coordinate maintenance of the bikes and facilities, but I would venture to guess that this is something Bixi reps could work out as part of the purchases. Gabe Klein could propel bike share and multimodalism far ahead by committing money to this.

by JTS on Jul 3, 2009 1:26 pm • linkreport

I agree with JTS. I like the Bixi bikes. So what if they're heavier? To me, that's a good thing. The current bicycles are flimsy and ride like they're from the 19th century.

by Adam L on Jul 3, 2009 2:30 pm • linkreport

A couple of other points about Bixi vs. Smartbike. DDOT is sensitive to the fact that they're still the only N.American City to go with SmartBike, which they deem as a riskier situation. Bixi is owned by Montreal's parking authority - and it seems is priced to capture all the money Montreal put into it. That was another downside ($$$).

by washcycle on Jul 3, 2009 3:29 pm • linkreport

Montreal spent about $15M (Canadian) on Bixi (covering -- thickly -- an area maybe 5 miles by 3). But they spent four or five times that building bike paths that people can use the Bixi bikes on. Without the paths, there wouldn't be the demand for the 3000 bikes they've deployed. So I wouldn't worry too much about the cost of the Bixi system (as compared to Smartbike). I would worry about DC's (or Arlington's) commitment to creating the necessary infrastructure -- not just striping.

by jim on Jul 3, 2009 5:40 pm • linkreport

I'm going to Montréal next week and plan to try Bixi -- I'll let you know how it goes :)

I don't know whether Bixi's pricing model would be exported or if it could be changed, but it's different from SmartBike in two important ways:

First, it offers a by-the-day option, so tourists can use it. (There's also a monthly option.)

Second, it also charges fees per use, in addition to your membership fee: the first half hour is free, but after that you pay, with prices escalating as time goes on (eventually to $12/hour). If you have high usage and want to encourage turnover, that's good. If usage is relatively low, though, fees per use could discourage use.

by Gavin Baker on Jul 3, 2009 6:09 pm • linkreport

P.S. It seems like a long distance in my mind, but it's only about 5 mi from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the Anacostia up S. Capitol. That's not such a long distance on a bike.

by Gavin Baker on Jul 3, 2009 6:17 pm • linkreport

I use Penn Ave NW for commuting, and I'm curious how they'd put in a bike lane. I actually find it easiest to bike in the center of the street, since there is no median, just a marked-off strip in the middle of the pavement.

Also, why would DDOT be talking to NPS? Do they have some kind of rights to Pennsylvania Ave?

by John Mitchell on Jul 3, 2009 9:53 pm • linkreport

Speaking of biking, check out this New York Times article on how deserted streets in Detroit are a boon for cyclists: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/opinion/05barlow.html?em

by Kathy on Jul 5, 2009 11:28 pm • linkreport

I also reccommend the NYT article on biking in Detroit, I mean deTroit.

by Bianchi on Jul 6, 2009 9:27 am • linkreport

Question, I thought DC got some stimulus money to expand this program. No?

Totally selfish here, but I really, really hope this works out. I go to NYC a few times a month and have visions of myself picking up a bike at Eastern Market at 5:30 AM and scooting through the empty streets to Union Station to catch the 6:00 AM Acela.

by dcdc on Jul 7, 2009 1:44 pm • linkreport

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