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Bike Sharing

Written by Nickel - 11 Comments

Bike Sharing

I recently had the chance to visit Washington, DC on business. While there, I noticed something new (or at least new to me)… The “Capital Bikeshare” program. This is similar to ZipCar (albeit for bikes), which I likewise discovered while on a trip to DC (though that was years ago).

In short, they have over 175 “bike docks” (fancy bike racks that let you securely borrow a bike and track your usage) all around the DC metro area. For anywhere from $7/day to $75/year you can join and have access to borrow and return bikes anywhere within their network.

Intrigued, I did a bit of digging online. It seems that the 1st 30 minutes of each ride is free with the next 30 minutes costing $1.50 (for longer term plans; $2 for the 24 hour or 3 day plan), and going up from there. The prices do add up on lengthy rentals, so this isn’t a good solution if you need a bike for a length period of time. But if you occasionally need a bike to hop around town and you don’t want to store the bike when not in use, this sounds like a great solution.

A possible hassle with these things is the possibility that the bike dock at your destination might be full. In such cases, you can punch in your number to get an extra 15 minutes for free (and also look up space availability at surrounding docks) so you can return it without incurring extra fees — but there is the issue of time if you’re in a rush.

Also: The bikes appear rather utilitarian so they may not provide the most comfortable ride (I didn’t try them out). While they claim the bikes adjust to fit a wide range of heights, I suspect people like me (6′5″) might be on the outside edge of that range.

Anyway, this struck me as a very interesting idea and the pricing structure seemed reasonable for what you’re getting. Have you ever tried out a bike sharing program? Or a car sharing program (like ZipCar), for that matter? If so, what did you think? Good deal? Or does it wind up being more trouble than it’s worth?

Published on September 7th, 2012
Modified on September 18th, 2012 - 11 Comments
Filed under: Miscellany

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11 Responses to “Bike Sharing”

  1. 1
    anna Says:

    we used similar program in montreal, worked great, i think their program is a lot bigger than dc (from wiki dc-1,670 bikes, montreal -5000 bikes) so there were stations everywhere and we had no problems picking up bikes and leaving them at the stations. we used bikes for 2 days for a total of about 10-15 trips. i highly recommend the program in montreal and i would think DC works in similar way.

  2. 2
    Christian L. Says:

    I was in D.C. in June and had the chance to use these bikes. It’s a bit unnerving at first because the program draws $100 deposit against your card. It’s repaid after you return the bike, but it took a few days for my bank account to return that $100.

    Also, it did get pricey. It cost me about $35 to ride for two and a half hours. The silly part is I had a bike in D.C., we just didn’t leave our crash pad with the bikes that traveled with us.

    They’re heavy bikes with squishy brakes, designed for casual riders. They get the job done though.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  3. 3
    Mase Says:

    Your pricing is slightly inaccurate. With a day, month, or year pass, the first half-hour of each ride is free. Each 1/2 after that has increasingly expensive pricing.

    As you mention, it’s meant for short trips. You can “daisy chain” your ride to dock just before the half-hour is up and then take it put again (think there is a wait for the same bike)

    The spot cycle app is great to see where docks are and how many bikes/docks are available. Other US cities (Mpls, Boston, etc)are on the same app.

    Great cheap way to really explore a city you visit.

  4. 4
    Alan Says:

    I live in DC, and got in on a Bikeshare membership during a LivingSocial (also based in DC) deal, so I didn’t have to worry about deposits and such since I was a member. The bikes are pretty comfortable, and while the pricing is a little steep if you’re trying to go on a bike tour of downtown or something, they’re just right if you’re just trying to make your way across town or from dock to dock. If you commute in the city, or want to get from your home to the market, it’s a perfect way to do it without getting on Metro, or going between stations.

    Mase is absolutely right – it’s not the kind of service you say “oh, I’ll take the bike out for the day,” it’s “I’ll grab this bike and dock it down by the cherry blossoms and then walk around the basin for a few hours, grab another one and bike home.” Great service, and happy to have it here!

  5. 5
    First Step Says:

    My friend, who is 6′5″, lives in DC and uses the bikes frequently. He lives near Capitol Hill and used a bike to meet us near Federal Triangle and another to ride home. I don’t think he would use the bikes if he was uncomfortable while riding, especially on a hot day like when we visited. If he’s a member, the bikes are probably cheaper than riding Metro, even at non-rush pricing.

  6. 6
    Momma and boys living on a budget Says:

    Boston has a similar bike rental program as well. If you don’t want to walk to take the train or a taxi it is a good way to get around time. Pricing is similar to what DC has .

  7. 7
    MITBeta Says:

    Boston (and now Cambridge) introduced this last summer and it has succeeded beyond all expectations.

  8. 8
    Kurt @ Money Counselor Says:

    I’ve helped found two nonprofit carsharing organizations. Carsharing works best, and can save a ton of money compared to owning a car, if:
    - you don’t need a car to commute
    - you drive fewer than 10,000 miles per year
    - you’ve got at least one carsharing hub near your home
    - you have access to a good transit system
    Carsharing is not a substitute for owning a car. Combined with transit, biking, walking, taxis, and conventional rental car, to me carsharing is the crucial piece of the mobility puzzle that makes living car ownership-free a viable alternative.

  9. 9
    Andrew Says:

    We noticed something similar to this while we were in Dublin, but didn’t look into what it cost or the logistics of it… it’d be a neat idea, if it was anywhere near me.

  10. 10
    Beth Says:

    I live in DC and it’s an overwhelmingly popular program. Another interesting factoid…there are vans that drive around during the day and “re-balance” the bike stations. It’s a great way to get around the city if you’re just here for the weekend.

  11. 11
    BC Says:

    As someone said already Boston/Cambridge in MA has a similar program. As a regular commuter on my own bike, the roads are really tougher to ride than everyone says. As great as an idea this sharing is, I rarely see a helmet on a bike sharing rider. I’ve been doored… side swiped and almost run over a few times.

    I sometimes see the bikes stacked outside a Starbucks. I wonder if the renters know if it was stolen I think the last time I checked it was $500 or a $1000? Cannot remember.

    Ride safely everyone.

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