Council Begins Bikeshare Discussion

Alexandria officials expected to vote on joining Capital Bikeshare program in October.

A decision on whether Alexandria will join the Capital Bikeshare program currently in use in Arlington and the District of Columbia will not be made by City Council until October at the earliest, but discussion of the program has emerged at recent meetings at City Hall.

On Tuesday night, City Council discussed the bikeshare program among preliminary recommendations for congestion mitigation and air quality improvement projects funded by federal allocations.

Capital Bikeshare, , is currently the largest bikesharing program in the United States. According to a report from Alexandria city staff, annual membership goals in Arlington and the District were met in the first six months of operation. Revenues in the District have covered operating costs. The bikes have also proven popular modes of transportation with tourists.

“They’re seeing success in the District [with bikeshare], they’re seeing success in Arlington and I think we would be suited well here with our Metro locations and other things,” Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said.

According to a memo from city staff, projected usage in Alexandria is expected to be even higher than Arlington County because of tourism in Old Town, the already high existing number of bicycle commuters and the immediate connectivity to the system in Arlington. Capital Bikeshare’s southern-most station is close to the Arlington-Alexandria border, just north of Potomac Yard next to the Harris Teeter on Jefferson Davis Highway.

“I do think regionally it has been very successful,” Councilman Rob Krupicka said. “We lead the Northern Virginia area in terms of the percentage of people who bike to work everyday. We do have the basic spines to make it possible. You see some fairly substantial areas of the city that aren’t too far away from each other that would be well suited for bike trips back and forth.”

At September’s Planning Commission meeting, the approval of the Braddock Gateway development near the Braddock Road Metro station was contingent on developer Jaguar Development LC making several monetary contributions to the city, including $40,000 to be used toward the creation of a Capital Bikeshare station containing 10 to 12 bikes (The bikeshare condition was eventually removed from the agreement).

During the discussion, Abi Lerner, a deputy director with the city’s Transportation and Environmental Services Department, said the high cost per station is due to the electronic infrastructure needed to checkout and return bicycles. Lerner also said the heavy duty bicycles are expensive.

“The main motivation [of bikeshare] is to provide additional means of transportation,” Lerner said at the Sept. 18 meeting. “The cost per user is significantly less than a ride on a DASH bus—50 percent [less].”

Councilman Frank Fannon asked T&ES Director Rich Baier to take a more detailed look into bikeshare costs and projected routes and stations before the docket item comes forward next month. He also asked if there was any preliminary commitment from riders in the city.

“The thing that makes it successful in D.C. and Arlington, [riders are] going to actual destinations… and there are actually dedicated lanes and that’s what I think is making those programs successful,” Councilman Paul Smedberg said. “I think the challenges we face is if we’re going to have the same kind of lanes and spots that people visit.”

Baier said his department has been working very closely with officials in Arlington County and the District. He believes placing bikeshare stations near Metro stations would be very important.

“We are looking at key destinations and Metros," he said. “It will be one more thing at King Street that people can use.”

According to a city memo, a pilot network with six stations in the Old Town-Carlyle area is already funded with federal money previously set aside. Extension would then be expected to move into the Braddock area.

Jacques September 29, 2011 at 01:13 PM
I'd be interested to hear from the bike shop and bike rental places in DC about how this has impacted their business. I can imagine that bike rental places have taken a bit of a hit, although they remain a much better option for people who want all day bike riding options. On the other hand, I think that most bike shops have probably seen a big increase in traffic, whether from people coming in to buy helmets/gloves, or people (like me) who had Bikeshare open my eyes to the possibility of bike commuting in DC, and have since spent $200+ on a used hybrid from Bike & Roll, and another $150+ in parts, accessories, and service at bike shops in DC. (And since most rental places also sell parts/services, they're probably recouping any lost rental income). I think the best thing that Capital Bikeshare does for bike shops is to create more bicyclists, both those on bikeshares, and some portion of those riders who graduate to their own bikes.
Sarah Wholey September 29, 2011 at 01:44 PM
YAY! Del Ray wants it too!
Mark Blacknell September 29, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Really glad to see this. @Jaques - you should get in touch with Revolution Cycles for their view. They're a big supporter of Capital Bikeshare AND they have a bike rental business quite near some of the Crystal City CaBi stations. They're just different markets (and as you mention, CaBi has a tendency to turn the curious into the converted - good for business).
Jacques September 29, 2011 at 08:43 PM
@Mark Blacknell -- I've definitely gotten the sense that many of the bike places in the area are on-board with CaBi. (Afterall, a bigger biking population is a bigger market), but to the extent that companies will be willing to share, I'll be interested to hear how their 2011 revenues compare to 2010, once the year is in the books.
bluegreenbiker October 01, 2011 at 12:51 AM
Join the "Alexandrians for Capital Bikeshare" Facebook page to show your support!!


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