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?