City Desk

Capital Bikeshare Riders: Younger, Whiter, More Male than D.C. Average

Capital Bikeshare is out with a new survey of its users, and things are pretty rosy in the world of the bike-sharing service. Users are opting more for Bikeshare trips over other forms of transportation, and their most serious concern seems to be getting more stops.

Bikeshare members think that a Bikeshare membership means a big help for their wallets, reporting an average of $800 yearly savings in transportation. Riders were positive about aspects of the service—the worst-rated feature was nighttime lighting at stations, and even that received positive ratings from 55 percent of respondents.

One problem persists for the service, though: It's not reaching all of D.C. Bikeshare users—or at least those that responded to the survey—are different from the average Washingtonian. They're younger, more likely to be male, and better educated than the average District resident.

Bikeshare users are also whiter than the rest of the city—the survey notes that only 3.5 percent of users of the service are black, while black people made up 50.7 percent of the city's population in the 2010 census. Ward 7 residents make up only 0.8 percent of users, while Ward 8 is even less represented, at 0.4 percent of users, a demographic disparity that drew the ire of Reason Magazine libertarians last year.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Tom M

    Riders are "whiter?" The survey suggests the service has almost but exclusively white client base.

  • http://www.RonaldRHanna.com SEAuthor

    From a native SE biker (who doesn't use Bikeshare: I LOVE my Jamis 24-speed racing bike!) Man, I see the Bikeshare sites at Good Hope Road and on Pa. Ave. & Minn. but...question: You ever pumped the HILLS in SE? Good Hope Road? King Ave? Naylor Road? I used to bike to work from Georgetown Hospital to my FAR...FAR Southeast home (three blocks from the Maryland line). No way to get there on BIKE without pumping a miles-long Good Hope or Naylor or King Ave! Now 60 and weigh 190 pounds. Back then (at 22 - 25) weighed 170!!! That was AFTER riding home. But going? Downhill all the way to the bridges!!!

  • Mrs. Blackwell

    It is true. I looked at biking into work and I live in Ward 8 SE and there are no trails or real way to bike from SE to NW-where I work and send my son to school. It would help if DC could work on that concern. The race gap is there since we don't have access to trails and can only take our bikes on the train after rush hour.

  • cminus

    @Tom M., I'd hardly say it's "exclusively" white; the survey reported that one out of five riders was non-white.

  • http://www.elfboxes.com Elf Moving Boxes Boca

    I think if they want to make it more accessible, CaBi should do another Groupon for 1/2 off a 1 year membership. maybe they could reach out to local businesses and have them offer memberships to workers as a perk instead of, or in addition to, metro subsidies.

  • Tom M.

    @cminus - 3.5% of users were "black" in a city where the African American or Black population is over 50%. Also in the nine page executive summary of the users survey, the authors don't include the words "Black", "African American", "Asian", "Hispanic" or "Latino." The only racial or ethnic term is Caucasian. The findings on racial/ethnic disparity are also kind of buried in the report. Mostly good news. (Don't look behind the curtain....)

  • cminus

    @Tom M, only 3.5% of users are black, but not this does not mean that 96.5% are white. There are people who are not black but are not white either, and enough of them use Capital Bikeshare that the service would have a significant presence among non-whites even if no black people ever used it.

    I would also suggest that comparing the ridership numbers to the ethnic makeup of DC is not a true apples-to-apples comparison, since there are stations elsewhere in the region and the survey indicates that almost a quarter of riders don't live in DC. Although non-white riders are still underrepresented among riders even when you look at the region as a whole (except for mixed-race/other, who are actually even more overrepresented among riders relative to their numbers in the region than whites but may not represent a large enough sample size to draw any useful conclusions from), the difference becomes much less dramatic, especially for Asians and Hispanics.

  • noodlez

    I THINK THE MUST SEE IN DC IS LOOKING AT A BIKE SHARE RIDING TWITTY'S FACE (ESPECIALLY AFTER ONE HAS HAD A FEW LOCAL CRAFTY'S)WHEN THEY RIDE UP AND SEE THERE ARE NO MORE PARKING SPOTS AT DESIGNATED RIDE SHARE BIKE RACK.

    WHAT IS EVEN MORE FUNNY IS THE DRAMATIZATION THEY GIVE UP WHEN THEY REALIZE THEY HAVE TO RIDE EVEN FURTHER THAN EXPECTED TO PARK THE LUMBERING HUNK OF METAL AND WALK BACK. CLASSIC!

  • EmJay

    I suspect there's a bit of a survey bias that should be factored into this as well. Though it doesn't describe the methodology, if I recall correctly, this survey was done online. As with many online surveys, the people most likely to respond are those with access to computers on personal time. - which would correspond with the demographic groups who overwhelmingly responded.

  • SEis4ME

    This really shouldn't surprise anyone. Just look at GGW

  • http://westnorth.com PCC

    Not only is almost all of Ward 8 built upon bluffs overlooking the city, but the only good gap between the hills is Suitland Parkway, which doesn't connect to what's above it. Biking up to Ward 8's neighborhoods will remain a challenge until there are better connections to and across the Anacostia river, more trails heading into the neighborhoods like Marvin Gaye, and good ways of getting up the hills. Switchback ramps, stairs with bike channels, uphill bike lanes, or even powered assists could be useful at key spots.

    As Congress Heights & St. E's gain more mixed uses, it'll be interesting to see whether bikeshare becomes useful for trips within that plateau.

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