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Will bike sharing get a boost from TIGER II?

When Capital Bikeshare launches later this year it will have about 1,100 bikes. That's going to be great, but how much better does a 3,600-bike system sound?

Photo by San Diego Shooter on Flickr.

On Friday the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) submitted a grant request through the TIGER II program to dramatically expand Capital Bikeshare. In addition to the 1,000 bikes in DC and 100 in Arlington that will launch the system, TPB's proposal would add approximately:

  • Another 1,000 new bikes to the District, for a total of 2,000
  • 900 new bikes in Arlington, for a total of around 1,000
  • 150 bikes in Alexandria
  • 100 bikes in Reston
  • 250 bikes in Montgomery County, in and around downtowns Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Rockville
  • 50 bikes in College Park
  • In addition to bikesharing, the proposal requests funds for new bike stations in Reston and Silver Spring

Bikesharing has the potential to revolutionize intra-urban travel. Cities that have rolled out large networks have seen dramatic increases in cycling as transportation. But the size of the system really matters. SmartBikeDC was clearly far too small, and while Capital Bikeshare's 1,100 bike system is a good start that will have dramatic effects in a few key neighborhoods, we're going to need a much larger system if we want to see Paris-like results. This TIGER grant, if we get it, would be a fantastic step towards that goal.

Last year the TPB submitted a much larger multi-modal TIGER request that included bikesharing, but was only awarded funds for bus improvements. This year's submission is focused completely on cycling.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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If it comes to the R-B area I will sign up!

by Arlington1 on Aug 24, 2010 2:13 pm • linkreport

This insidious UN plot ( to take control of our cities is wrapping its tentacles around our nationÂ’s capital.

by Ben on Aug 24, 2010 2:13 pm • linkreport

What ever happened to the proposal to allow people to use SmartBenefits for membership in this program?

by Ben on Aug 24, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

Do the current Capital Bikeshare plans call for bikestations at each Metro, MARC and VRE station?

by Andy Peters on Aug 24, 2010 2:21 pm • linkreport

Would love if I could swipe my SmartTrip card in order to use Bike Sharing Ala Cart. If a station were by the silver spring metro I would totally ride home from work on nice days. Would also love if 16th Street had a dedicated and seperated bike lane. But thats a pipe dream.

by Anon on Aug 24, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

Why Reston? That just seems set up to fail. It's not that dense, it doesn't have metro you could bike to (for another 3 years), and its too far out to bike into Arlington or Alexandria within the 30 minute free period. It seems like those bikes could be better served closer in.

by arlucbo on Aug 24, 2010 2:42 pm • linkreport

Reston is along the W&OD. There is actually a decent-sized bike commuting crowd from there to Arlington.

Not sure if you can do it in 1/2 hour though.

by BeyondDC on Aug 24, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

100 Bikes in Reston could be very useful for circulation within Reston.

by Alex B. on Aug 24, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport

I could see it working in Reston because there are some areas outside of the town center that could much more easily be reached by bike (like the shopping center with barnes and noble or the part around lake anne) not to mention that there are a lot of bike paths that go around the lakes and lead in and around the w & od. It would be awesome then to eventually see bike sharing in vienna and falls church as well since they are linked by the w&od.

by Canaan on Aug 24, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

Really struggling with the notion of a bike sharing program that is in a location not well served public transit.

Okay, so you could go from town center to a shopping mall outside town center, if you wanted.

How did you get to Town Center in the first place?

If you live there, why not just ride your own bike? Who would ever walk some distance to borrow a bike, then just have to walk home again, with any regularity when you can own your own cheap bike for the princely sum of approximately one month's membership fee?

I want to love bike sharing, I really do. I can see how, if the availability reached a critical mass, it could be useful intown. E.g., maybe Metro doesn't go quite where you really want to end up, so you metro in, and hop on a shared bike for the remainder of your trip. Or for commuting, along those lines, if there's a station near wherever you get off and also near your work.

But Reston? Please explain the plausible use scenarios.

by Jamie on Aug 24, 2010 3:21 pm • linkreport

What is the plan for helmets?

by mtp on Aug 24, 2010 3:24 pm • linkreport


One year's membership is 75 dollars (50 dollars if you sign up now). What kind of bike are you going to buy for $6.25?

In Reston, bike sharing can also work as a daily circulator for workers who have parked their car once for the day. It can be used by residents to connect Reston's various villages to the Town Center. It can serve as a placeholder system that will eventually offer a connection between the Wiehle Ave Metro station (when it opens in a few years) and the Town Center (less than 1.5 miles away via the W&OD trail).

by Alex B. on Aug 24, 2010 3:27 pm • linkreport

If I go to reston I'll most likely drive but since I only want to drive and park once I'm going to be enticed by the fact that I can use a bike for a little while to get around a little farther than I normally could. Plus there are plenty of people who, you know, live in reston.

by Canaan on Aug 24, 2010 3:27 pm • linkreport

I was going to point out that the area in question is only 20 miles from DC on the W&OD. Just get on one of those rental bikes, and off you go.

But BeyondDC beat me to it. And with less irony...


by oboe on Aug 24, 2010 3:29 pm • linkreport

Looks like nothing for the R-B corridor? What gives?

by JTS on Aug 24, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport


If the region wins this grant and Arlington gets another 900 bikes to place, I can guarantee that you'll see a bunch of them in the R-B corridor.

by Alex B. on Aug 24, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

BTW, let's not miss the forest for the trees here. Those Reston bikes account for 3.7% of the TIGER request, and a whopping 2.6% of the entire bikesharing network. This will hardly succeed or fail based on Reston.

But more to the point, for 2.6%, we can say that the most populous jurisdiction in the region (Fairfax County) is a project partner. That's important.

by BeyondDC on Aug 24, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

JTS: Look again.

by BeyondDC on Aug 24, 2010 3:38 pm • linkreport

"One year's membership is 75 dollars (50 dollars if you sign up now). What kind of bike are you going to buy for $6.25?"

I one for free from craig's list a year ago that I use as an around-town bike, which I don't care if it gets stolen.

"daily circulator for workers who have parked their car once for the day"

I am not going to say that would never happen.

"It can be used by residents to connect Reston's various villages to the Town Center"

Again, why? There is no rational reason to use a bike sharing program when your start and end points are your home.


Um. Okay.

by Jamie on Aug 24, 2010 3:42 pm • linkreport

Ah I see, referring to R-B corridor as "Orange Line Corridors." My bad.

by JTS on Aug 24, 2010 3:43 pm • linkreport

Why use bikeshare? Because maybe they don't want the hassle of maintaining a beater bike. Maybe they don't want the hassle of locking up a nice bike on the street. Maybe they only want to take a one-way trip via bike.

by Alex B. on Aug 24, 2010 3:45 pm • linkreport

"BTW, let's not miss the forest for the trees"

I agree, it just seems very odd.

On the other hand, the bikestation they are proposing for Reston would presumably weigh in at around $4 million if it's anything like the one at Union Station, tipping those scales a bit.

by Jamie on Aug 24, 2010 3:45 pm • linkreport

They are asking for $80,000 for the Reston bike station.

See Table 1 in the grant request document.

by BeyondDC on Aug 24, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

Sorry one other thing (slow day):

On page 14 of the first .pdf of the proposal, they are estimating that the system will have generated over 650 billion bicycle trips b/t 2011-2030 and have 180k daily users by 2030.

That number seems quite high. If you (liberally) say 180k people are using it four times a day, 365 days a year for the next 19 years you get something like 5 billion trips. Anyone care to help me understand where 650 billion trips comes from?

by JTS on Aug 24, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

"Because maybe they don't want the hassle of maintaining a beater bike. Maybe they don't want the hassle of locking up a nice bike on the street. Maybe they only want to take a one-way trip via bike."

Well, none of these make a lot of sense to me.

Unless you are fortunate enough to have a bikeshare station at your start and end points, you're still going to have to lock it up wherever you go.

Hassle of maintaining a beater bike?? Are you joking? What is there to maintain on a beater? You spray some WD40 on the chain once a year and put some air in the tires. Mine has coaster brakes so there aren't even brakes to worry about.

One way trip by bike? Only a terrorist would do that.

Look, I know you can think of a hundred possible reasons why people might use them in a place like Reston. But possible is not typical.

Anyhoo, as BeyonDC says, it's not much money, so really doesn't much matter. I hope that they will be studying usage patterns as this project moves forward in order most effectively drive future placement of these facilities.

by Jamie on Aug 24, 2010 3:54 pm • linkreport

Reston's a red herring: DC needs the bikes. The rollout next month is too small to cover the whole city (even though it tries, which it probably shouldn't have). The highest-density areas have fewer stations than the lowest-density areas of Montreal's network.

Look at it this way: The prime distance for a bikeshare trip is a mile or two, right? (Anything shorter and you'll walk; longer and you'll use another mode.) But if stations are far apart, they might not be near your destination. If you're going somewhere 1.5 mi away, but you have to walk half a mile to get a bike, then walk another half mile to return it, it's useless.

I joined CaBi, but until densities pick up in core areas I'm concerned about how useful it'll be.

by Gavin on Aug 24, 2010 4:04 pm • linkreport

Looking at the Capital Bikeshare station map ... unless the map is not accurate, it does not look like very many bike stations are located at Metro stations. Maybe I'm missing something, but that seems like a major mistake.

by Andy Peters on Aug 24, 2010 4:04 pm • linkreport


The bikeshare isn't designed for you to take a bike, ride it somewhere, lock it up, and then unlock and ride it back. A trip is only free if its under 30 minutes and only really cheap if it's under an hour.

by MLD on Aug 24, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

It's probably not a lot of money, but I can see it easily becoming disproportionately expensive to maintain. For example If one or two Restonians commute into the core using bikeshare and catch a carpool coming back, CB has to regularly send a van out to Reston to restock the bikes. And the key to keeping the cost of this low is to keep that sort of deadheading to a minimum, especially considering how long it would take to get a van out there.

Also, with only 100 bikes, it only takes one or two people to get the system notably out of whack, and considering the W&OD is downhill so I can imagine 1 way riders won't be balanced.

And again, this isn't going to bankrupt the system, but it'll probably cost more than it's worth.

by arlucbo on Aug 24, 2010 4:13 pm • linkreport


A Washcycle discussion of bike helmets discussed reasons the bikeshare is very unlikely to include helmets.

by Jim on Aug 24, 2010 4:30 pm • linkreport

@Andy Peters

Most of the Metro stations I see have bikes right at the station. Some exceptions:

Capitol South
Waterfront (though it's just up the block)

The little "M" on Google maps isn't always even on one of the entrances (e.g. U Street)

by MLD on Aug 24, 2010 4:31 pm • linkreport

Echoing Gavin's sentiments. Hopefully the grant will come through.

by andrew on Aug 24, 2010 5:13 pm • linkreport

ok, that's good. I know Google Maps is usually deeply flawed, but the map that Capital Bikeshare provides of its bike stations using Google Maps, so that's the one I used. As long as the bike stations are at most of the Metro stations, that's a good thing.

by Andy Peters on Aug 24, 2010 5:26 pm • linkreport

15 stations is not nearly enough for Alexandria. I can't make it cover even Old Town between King St metro (and VRE) station and the waterfront. This is, I fear, gesture politics.

by jim on Aug 24, 2010 8:00 pm • linkreport

Jim: I believe T&ES had a reason why they're starting slow, but I can't recall the reason offhand. I'll ask Yon or Rich at next week's transportation commission meeting.

by Froggie on Aug 24, 2010 8:44 pm • linkreport

Slightly off topic, but has anyone received their key from Capital Bikeshare yet?

by dcd on Aug 25, 2010 8:30 am • linkreport

@dcd They told us early September when we signed up.

by andrew on Aug 25, 2010 9:26 am • linkreport

BikeSharing is one of those zombie planner's dreams that just won't die.

It's easy to own a bike, whether a 99-buck walmart beater or a cheap bike shop bike.

But NO, far too many bike advocates and utopian planner think that the way to get people cycling is to place 45 pound, poorly-fitting computerized clunkers at big, ugly kiosks, and tie them to multinational billboard and video-billboard companies.

People bike where there is safe infrastructure and controls on sprawl and hostile drivers.

But BikeShare sounds simple, someone else (namely cities that get blighted by billboards and taxpayers who fund these programs) pays for it, and it's good for a few jobs.

Talk to any BikeShare proponent, and they always run down urban cycling as if it was climbing Everest, saying "it's impossible, it's expensive, they get stolen!" ... then they go out and unlock their personal bike which they have tuned up every three years.

--Michael McGettigan/trophy bikes phila
and yes, I know that my revenues would go up if BikeShare came to Philadelphia --but I'd rather see a real cycling culture than "bikefare" for a few center city dwellers at huge expense.

by Michael McGettigan on Aug 25, 2010 12:51 pm • linkreport

@Michael I think you're missing the point. BikeShare isn't intended to replace or compete with traditional bicycle usage patterns (namely: biking from home to work, or to local destinations within a mile or two of your home). It's intended to close the gap between the metro station and your final destination, or for short one-way trips.

I own a bike that I use every day to commute to work, but also bought a CaBi membership. I don't expect to use my personal bike any less, but do expect CaBi to greatly reduce my dependence on my car by making public transportation a viable option for more trips.

by andrew on Aug 25, 2010 1:02 pm • linkreport

I, for one, would prefer more bikes and less bike culture. Can't remember where I read this, but someone compared bike culture in Copenhagen to toaster culture in Copenhagen - namely, there isn't one. Bikes are appliances.

Give me a bunch of people puttering along on these things over speeding SUVs any day.

by JTS on Aug 25, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

Will you be able to reserve online a bike at a specific bikestation for a specific time?

by Andy Peters on Aug 25, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

Or a better question, will there actually be any bikes left after a year or so?

What I really mean by that is, have we planned budgeted for the operational expenses that this program will incur?

According to that article, Paris repairs 1,500 bikes every day from their fleet of 20,000 and had to replace 80% of them in the first two years. So we should expect to repair 150 bikes a day and replace upwards of 800 a year.

Now it's hard to say exactly what DC's experience will be, but I'd be pretty surprised if it was substantially better.

by Jamie on Aug 25, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

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