Best Way to Roll
various locations, smartbikedc.com
Planning nerds in D.C. have always had a hard time looking cool. But support for walkable communities didn't achieve the apogee of awkwardness until May 2008, when the D.C. Department of Transportation and Clear Channel launched Smartbike DC. The shared-ride bikes are clumsily proportioned and painted a red that quickly faded. But the bikes’ ugliness doesn't mean they aren't good for D.C. Still, the limited number of stations (just 10) hampers the program’s usefulness. Plans to build more stations foundered on DDOT's agreement with Clear Channel, which gave Clear Channel control over advertising at bus stations in exchange for operating the bike program. Since Clear Channel had already built the agreed-upon number of stations, the company refused to build more. It seemed like Smartbike had a flat before it even started rolling, but there may be hope yet. DDOT Director Gabe Klein’s prediction of 100 stations by this spring has proven too optimistic, but transportation planner Jim Sebastian thinks that there’s a better than 50 percent chance Washington will have 100 stations by the end of the year. Sebastian also says a bike share program that extends to Arlington is a possibility.