Housing Complex

Verdict on Capital Bikeshare: Go Take a Ride!

Capital Bikeshare Review: Go Ride!

Bikeshare station in Petworth

Most of the time, I ride my bike to City Paper's Adams Morgan office from my house in Petworth. Last night, though, I left my bike here to go see a former colleague read at Politics and Prose. In the past, that would have meant I had to take Metro or walk to work this morning. But thanks to Capital Bikeshare, which launched yesterday, I could still commute on two wheels.

So how was the ride?

The Bike: You won't win any races on these things. You won't even want to try. My steel-frame usual ride isn't exactly a speed demon, but I still felt slow riding this morning. The Bikeshare cruiser, designed to fit just about anyone comfortably, lumbers along the road with fat, knobby tires (then again, I barely noticed the potholes on New Hampshire Avenue).

The bike has three gears, though I only bothered with two of them, and front and rear brakes. Out of habit, I rolled my pants legs up, but since the frame has a built-in chain guard, there was no chance of getting dirty or stuck in the mechanics of the bike while I rode. The pedals were sturdy, the frame felt stable, and the lights turned on automatically once I started pedaling. As long as you're not in a hurry, the bike is perfect for what it's designed for—short trips around the city. The bikes are done up in the same red-and-yellow color scheme DDOT used for the D.C. Circulator (and may use, eventually, for streetcars), so if you really think you're going slowly, just pretend you're driving a bus.

The System: So simple, even an alt-weekly editor could do it. The Petworth station, across New Hampshire Avenue from the Georgia Avenue Metro stop, is only two blocks southwest from my house. I walked over, picked one of the four bikes at the station, inserted my Bikeshare key into the lock, and pulled it off the rack. The seat needed a minor adjustment, but the quick-release bracket made that a breeze. Returning the bike to the Bikeshare station in Adams Morgan, at Columbia Road and Adams Mill, was just as easy as taking it out had been.

Using Bikeshare felt a lot like using Zipcar, right down to the vaguely uneasy feeling that Gabe Klein could track my movements. There were plenty of bikes available both in Petworth and Adams Morgan (and also at the Mt. Pleasant station, in Lamont Park, which I passed en route). I had registered online a few weeks ago, but there seems to be some glitch with the system that's preventing it from taking my password; I had to call the Bikeshare customer service line to activate my key, and I still can't log in to my account, nor can Bikeshare reset my information. But since I was still able to rent a bike, that's a minor problem for now. The ride to work took fewer than 30 minutes, which means it was free.

The Verdict: All around, excellent. Only two minor worries nagged at me. Normally, I wear a helmet whenever I ride; last night, I had left mine at the office, along with my bike, which meant I was bare-headed this morning. But that's easily solved—next time, bring a helmet. The other issue? The bikes don't seem to have locks on them, so if you take one out to go somewhere where there's no station nearby—running errands, for instance—it's a little unclear how you're supposed to secure them during the rental. If one disappears while it's in your care, you're out $1,000.

Otherwise, though, the whole thing worked exactly the way it's supposed to. It could really take off; on a vacation to Barcelona a couple years ago, on practically every corner I saw people taking out, and riding, bikes from Bicing, the bike-sharing system that, like Bikeshare, was inspired by Paris' Vélib. Bikeshare may soon become part of the District's culture in the same way, especially once the full array of bikes are deployed around the city.

What do you think? If you've tried Bikeshare out, leave your review in the comments.

Photo by Mike Madden

  • Carlos

    To answer your question: The absence of locks is deliberate. The system is designed to keep a maximum of bikes available at all times. They are meant to be used from station to station, so that anytime they aren't being ridden, they are available for the next user. Locking it to a post (for more than just a few minutes) takes the bike out of circulation, so this is openly discouraged by way of the fees that you incur the longer you keep the bike.

  • Mike Madden

    Thanks, Carlos. So they're meant to be just used for getting from point A to point B? You're not supposed to be able to grab one to go run to a store and back?

  • Chad

    yeah, I'm sure they didn't add locks on purpose, but if you're using it for this purpose just remember a U lock. No big deal. What's the difference between riding 30 minutes or riding 10, locking 10, riding 10 back?

    Hopefully, once all of the stations are in place this will be moot.

  • MultiModalDC

    I hope they don't stop with 114 stations. This thing needs density to work. Look at the maps for Paris and Montreal to see what I mean. With that kind of density you could run to the store, dock the bike, and undock again after shopping.

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    @Mike Madden

    Ideally, there will be a station at the store you want to go to. So, you ride from Point A to the next station near that store, dock the bike at the station, run your errand, come back out and grab another bike.

  • CW Anderson

    This bicycle program is a joke and anyone who supports it is tool (corporate) or brain dead (hey they go together, don't they?). First of all you note that "The System" is 'so simple even [an idiot?] could use it.' Perhaps true, but there is no mention of how to join the program, which requires a bank account. Do you think everybody has a bank account, is employed, and has direct deposit? Not so easy then is it?

    Furthermore, I don't doubt the the bikes are the same color as the Circulator bus system, which was created to privatize the bus 'system,' and eliminate the decent jobs). Similarly, BikeShare' is the first step to in figuring out a way to make us pay regularly for our bicycle trips, and enjoyment. Nevermind the prescient Orwellian elements to put bikes into the same corral as cars (i.e., registering , licensing, etc.) to better monitor (control) how the population moves about.

    Add the fact that you mention the bikes ride like buses [suck] and what do you have? Much ado about nothing. Just another flagrant example of our government working with private interests to curtail our freedoms, and an eyesore everywhere. I say, Thanks but No Thanks. You make no mention of who put money into this thing. Thanks Mike.

    ps. To Mr. Multi Modal who thinks "the thing needs density to work," I can only say he was either paid to write that comment or is carrying enough density within himself to carry the System single-handedly.

  • John Dough

    CW Anderson: Dang, did the girl who just dumped you work for Capital Bikeshare, or what? Let's try and analyze exactly what you find fault with:

    1. You need a bank account. And this is a problem... why? Better question: why the hell WOULDN'T a normal adult making a daily commute that requires a bike have a bank account? Perhaps you just don't want to have "corporate tools" hold onto your money? Don't worry - the NSA is monitoring all your communications, and they will be over to get the cash out of your mattress momentarily.

    2. Capital Bikeshare wants "to make us pay regularly for our bicycle trips and enjoyment." Well, no, they are offering people an alternative to paying for and maintaining their own bikes for a nominal fee. Not everyone has $500 to drop on a bike, usually only to have it stolen. (Not even "tools" with bank accounts!)

    3. The bikes "suck." Well, considering that they are designed for getting from point A to point B, rather than leisure riding, they don't have to be the best. They just have to be sufficient. Case in point: I've never seen a Jaguar or Mercedes Zipcar.

    I'm not sure how offering a bike rental service is an "example of the government working with private interests to curtail our freedoms," any more than renting a car at Hertz is. On the contrary, it gives many more people the freedom to travel distances they might not otherwise be able to afford.

    I'm not a member of Capital Bikeshare, and I only came to this article after doing a Google search of "capital bikeshare reviews," but I wanna thank you, CW, for your inexplicable paranoia and poorly disguised personal grudge with someone at CB has shown me the shining benefits to becoming a member. Maybe someday you'll be able to work through your issues, get some therapy, and work up the raw courage to open a free checking account. Then maybe you'll realize that all of your paranoid objections and hyperbole are really "much ado about nothing."

  • CW Anderson

    To Mr. Dough,

    Thanks for your analysis, ....I will have more to say, but for now let me zero in on your "freedom," reference, and ask how free we willl feel when we accidentally fail to return our wonderful zombie trike within 24 hours and have our credit cards docked 1000 dollars for the privilage. Your analysis needs some work.
    Thanks for your support.