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Rolling on Capital Bikeshare with Oregon’s advocacy team

Posted by on March 22nd, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Bike share ride with Oregon team-23
Kenji Sugahara, Michael O’Leary, Tom Archer, and other Oregon advocates, take the lane on Constitution Avenue with the National Cherry Blossoms in the background.

During a break between meetings on Capitol Hill today, I joined several members of Oregon’s bike advocacy team here at the National Bike Summit for a spin on D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare.

With Portland’s bike share system coming soon, this was a great preview of what’s in store.

We found a rental station near the Hill right outside Union Station. For the few people that had key fobs, they simply walked up and grabbed a bike. For the rest of us, we ran our credit cards (a day pass costs $7, rides under 30 minutes are free), got a passcode, and off we went. It’s really warm and humid here in D.C., so the biking-generated breeze was a welcome relief from walking around in our suits and slacks.

Bike share ride with Oregon team-1
Bike share ride with Oregon team-3
Tom Archer
Bike share ride with Oregon team-4
Kenji Sugahara

Joining me on the ride was: Kenji Sugahara, executive director of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association; Chris Distefano of Rapha Apparel; Paul Thomasberg of Central Oregon Trail Alliance; Tom Archer of Northwest Trail Alliance; Michael O’ Leary of Bike Walk Vote; and Brian Potwin of Commute Options in Bend.

Planet Bike is the official sponsor of our Bike Summit coverage.

Everyone I’ve talked to about bike share seems thrilled with it. Even self-described skeptics, who have finally tried it for themselves, are now believers. What’s not to like? The bikes are solid and reliable and they’ve got all the essential creature comforts — a bell, a kickstand, lights, a front rack, and fenders. The system itself is easy to use and convenient.

Once everyone was ready to go, we rolled onto the new, two-way protected bike lanes smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue…

Bike share ride with Oregon team-9
Bike share ride with Oregon team-12
Bike share ride with Oregon team-13
Bike share ride with Oregon team-15

We headed west toward the White House and the Washington Monument. After posing for a few photos, we rolled over to the cherry blossoms…

Bike share ride with Oregon team-17
Bike share ride with Oregon team-19
White House!
Bike share ride with Oregon team-24
Bike share ride with Oregon team-22

The blossoms are out in full force, and so are the crowds! After being a bit overwhelmed by the throngs of tourists, we headed back toward Union Station. We took the lane on Independence Avenue and then rode onto Constitution Ave. (It was a striking contrast between the pleasant, protected bikeway on Pennsylvania and the stressful, car-centric environment just one block over on Constitution Ave.)

What a great way to see the sights around D.C.! My perspective on bike share has only gotten more positive after my experiences using it in the past few days. I can’t wait to see how it does in Portland.

Bike share ride with Oregon team-25

— This is ongoing coverage of the 2012 National Bike Summit, which is being brought to you by Planet Bike.

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  • 9watts March 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    “What’s not to like? ”
    I may come around yet. But what I am still curious about is who uses these? For what sort of trips? How do they interface with other modes (get to/from the bike)? Walk? Drive? Bus? Subway?
    You folks are tourists in D.C., or at least you became tourists when you swiped your credit card to rent the bike. I can see this as fun for tourists, but I thought I’ve understood that these systems are meant to offset driving somehow–and not just imagined driving by tourists–and I’m still not understanding the demographics and micro-logistics of how these bikes accomplish that.

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    • Paul Souders March 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      Instead of “offset driving” substitute “augment walking.” Bike sharing expands the circle of potential activity during a lunch hour or a night out (for example). It makes doing business by transit in dense districts like downtown, NW 21st/23rd, or Hawthorne a lot easier.

      I used the bikeshare in DC last year and had the same reaction as Jonathan.

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    • Carl March 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      It’s surprisingly hard to grasp the awesomeness of bike share is until you’ve tried it, Reuben.

      There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about bike sharing. That it’s only for tourists is a common falsehood. 75% of Capital Bikeshare users are annual passholders.

      This is a pretty good write up about common misconceptions: http://www.gjel.com/blog/top-5-bikeshare-myths.html

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      • 9watts March 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm

        Thanks, Carl, for the link.
        Of the five myths on that particular list I was only familiar with one–the one we’re talking about here. Maybe I need to rephrase my question: Granted bikeshare is by most accounts popular in the cities it has been set up in, and granted it introduces people to biking, has anyone tried to tease apart the ‘it’s fun and convenient and healthy’ claims from the ‘it reduces our dependence on fossil fuels’ claim? I appreciate that this could be tricky to disentangle, but I’ll admit to being skeptical about this last claim.
        “Increasing bicycle use reduces traffic congestion, fossil fuel use and air emissions, and provides an additional and affordable form of access to destinations throughout the park.”
        http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=39234

        I’ll be curious to see how it works in our town.

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    • cycler March 23, 2012 at 8:19 am

      I was a little skeptical when they came to Boston. I bought a membership a bit as a charitable donation since I ride my own bike to work most days. I thought that most people who are willing to bike in the city are also enough into it to have their own bikes. But even as someone with 6 personal bikes (!) I’ve used it a surprising amount. There are days where for whatever reason, I can’t ride one leg of my commute, and I can combine them with the train. They’re also a good backup for those days when you find out you have a flat on your commuter as you’re leaving the house.

      They did a story on the 3 most frequent renters, and they all were people using them for their commutes- they all didn’t see themselves as “bicyclists” and at least one of them didn’t own a personal bike, but they’d found that a borrowed bike really worked for them.

      The station I use most often is right next to a major train station (subway and commuter rail) and there’s a fairly steady stream of people in business attire coming out of the station and hopping on the bikes.

      Our office also has an “office membership” so that if someone needs to run an errand that’s too far to walk, they can jump on the bike. We’re downtown where there are a lot of stations, and everyone arrives either by bike or public transportation because there’s no place to park.

      It helps that Boston has been rolling out bike lanes in a big way recently (trying to play catch-up after a decade of VC dominated policy) Interestingly bike share has itself become a topic/ issue in advocacy discussions, with people commenting that “we have to plan (this bridge, this intersection etc) for the Hubway riders who’ll be coming through from X on their way to Y. They’re a good shorthand for “traffic intolerant, slightly naive casual cyclists”

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    • jimmy March 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

      I ride them to work and home (I live downtown DC). Was a skeptic, total convert now. They have enough stations around town that I can pretty much completely avoid the Metro or Taxis, and don’t have to worry about locking up my weekend ride, which is an old steel frame that I baby more than I should. I keep an extra helmet in my office. It makes a ton of sense for commuters who have less than a 30 min ride, as there is no cost other than the annual fee of $75.

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      • 9watts March 23, 2012 at 12:29 pm

        This has been a really helpful conversation. I particularly appreciate the insights from folks who use them regularly. Thanks!

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        • DC Resident March 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

          I also live in the DC area and commute on my own bike to work. I am a Capital Bikeshare member and use CaBi for lunchtime errands because it is easier to grab a bike at a dock and go (and reverse the process on the other end) than to get my bike out of the garage, hassle with locks on both ends, etc. I also use it for errands at the end of the work day if I have not commuted on my own bike for some reason. Before we had Bikeshare, I would have used the bus or possibly metro for all these errands, so I guess it is reducing use of fossil fuels to some extent.

          I think some people have described it as the “gateway drug” for cycling and I know several people who began bike commuting with CaBi and went on to buy their own bikes as they got more into it.

          I’m glad the weather was so nice and the cherry blossoms were at peak for your visitors last week!

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    • Steve Hoyt-McBeth - PBOT March 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Types of trips: the majority of trips on major US bike share systems are commute and work-related.

      Auto trip replacement: Nice Ride Minnesota’s 2010 survey of its annual and monthly subscribers showed a 19% SOV (drive-alone) trip replacement with bike share. (Note this survey does not include casual users).

      I also wanted to comment on Carl’s link, which says bike share is not for cyclists. I don’t think this is accurate. Over 75% of Nice Ride members own a bike.

      A lot of people who consider themselves cyclists don’t use a bike for all of their trips. The convenience of bike share allows people to make unplanned, spontaneous trips. With this afternoon’s gorgeous weather I imagine a lot of people who took the bus to work would love to jump on a bike share bike to ride home.

      Nice Ride 2010 survey results: http://appv3.sgizmo.com/reportsview/?key=102593-416326-6d13ea0276ea0822c9f59f4411b6c779

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  • Erin March 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Awesome! Looks like fun. And good to note that one reason people use bike-sharing is because they might be traveling and not have access to a bicycle of their own. Where are the women in your pictures, though? I know Oregon has some women at the summit.

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  • Kiel Johnson March 22, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have ridden a bike share and those who have not.

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  • jim March 23, 2012 at 6:35 am

    They don’t give you a helmet with the rental?
    Some cheap foam and plastic can’t cost very much, it should be something you could get at the dollar store. Is portland going to have helmets at their bike share stations?
    It’s good to see we still have Constitution avenue. There are a couple of people in office right now that don’t believe in it and I think they would rather not have it. sigh

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    • cycler March 23, 2012 at 8:24 am

      Boston is working with some MIT students to develop a prototype helmet dispenser. They’re supposed to have the first prototype online this summer
      http://articles.boston.com/2011-12-31/news/30577182_1_bike-helmets-purchase-helmets-vending-machine

      Although I normally bike with a helmet, I will admit that sometimes when I’m only riding 10 blocks from the train station to work on a slow moving traffic street downtown on a hubway, I don’t bother to wear one.

      I do see a fair number of people on the T carrying helmets though, presumably to ride the hubway at their destination.

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  • Jacques March 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

    One of the other benefits of bikeshare for locals (speaking as a DC local) is that it provides a bit of a “gateway drug” function, getting people who don’t have bikes, or wouldn’t consider riding in the city, used to the idea of cycling for transportation, not just recreation.

    I’d lived in DC for a decade, but didn’t start riding until Capital Bikeshare opened up in September 2010. I started riding for errands, then on my 4-mile commute, and after a few months, bought my own bike when I realized how much cycling had become part of my everyday routine. Even now, though I ride my own bike to the office 3-4 days a week, I’ll hop a bikeshare for a quick cross-town errand, or when I’m not heading home after the office (e.g., happy hour or dinner plans in a different part of town), or to ride on the weekends with my wife, who doesn’t own her own bike.

    To me, the best part of Bikeshare is that it expands the universe of potential cyclists in the metro area, building a political voice for not only more bikeshare stations, but better and more infrastructure for all bicycles/bicyclists. (The number of offices offering indoor bike storage/shower facilities in DC has really started to grow in recent years as a result).

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  • Lois March 23, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Re: Capital BikeShare – another positive thing to note is the phone / computer App which shows available bikes and available docking places in real time. The technology behind the system is great and makes the system really easy and convenient.

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  • Kristen March 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Love these photos, it looks like a lot of fun– and much better weather than we’re having! Make sure you guys bring some of that back with you, eh?

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  • Brian March 23, 2012 at 10:49 am

    My favorite part about this write-up is seeing local mountain bike advocates in the picture! Nice work guys. Time to educate the decision-makers about the economic and health benefits of mountain biking.

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    • Kenji March 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

      We were totally on it. Paul, Tom, Mike, Woody – we were all on it. Kristen and I were able to talk to Walden about how much mountain biking benefited his district! Paul, Tom and Woody had a great interaction with Wyden. Zero Net Loss is the next big thing.

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    • Kenji March 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

      We were totally on it. Paul, Tom, Mike, Woody – we were all on it. Kristin and I were able to talk to Walden about how much mountain biking benefited his district! Paul, Tom and Woody had a great interaction with Wyden. Zero Net Loss is the next big thing.

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  • middle of the road guy March 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I DO miss DC in the Spring.

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    • matt picio March 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      So do I – nice to be there before it gets *really* hot & humid. I’m sure it felt hot & humid to Jonathan, but in July we’re talking 97 degrees with 98% humidity. D.C. in March is a welcome change from “50 and rainy” in Portland. (though the last few days here have been outstanding)

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  • GlowBoy March 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve used bikesharing before. I used the free bikes in Copenhagen when I was there a few years ago. And my wife and I were in Minneapolis at the time of the 2008 Republican Convention (we were not there FOR the convention!), and were able to ride all over town using a demo bikeshare program (which DID include helmets) that was briefly offered. Both programs were nice … but the lousy quality of the Copenhagen bikes and the fact that the “nicer” demo-program rentals cost money have left me skeptical that these programs could actually catch on here.

    But like 9watts I’ve found the above conversation helpful. I wasn’t aware that bikesharing was actually starting to catch on elsewhere. That means it would probably do so here too, and I like the idea that it might increase the political base of local cyclists.

    And I also like cycler’s point that the existence of such a program might prod transportation engineers to plan more around what he refers to as the “traffic intolerant, slightly naive casual cyclists” who use bikeshare. And having more facilities designed for those cyclists would help bring out more of the huge “interested but concerned” demographic in our community, even those who don’t end up using bikesharing.

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  • washcycle March 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    9watts, in answer to your first question – lots of people use it. Commuters, shoppers, tourists, people out for a night on the town. I live near a station and I see all kinds of people riding, almost always in street clothes, who I might not see riding a bike otherwise. The use by women is much higher for CaBi than bikes are normally in the city. Lots of users were not cyclists prior to CaBi. The membership skews a little white and a lot educated (more than half have advanced degrees I believe).

    As to reducing fuel use etc… According to a survey, about 13% of trips replaced car trips. Plus the survey showed that since becoming a CaBi member people reported using transit more than they had before. Another large group of people moved off of transit, which – if economics is accurate – means that some other people moved in to take their place to maintain equilibrium.

    So yes, bicycle sharing does “reduce traffic congestion, fossil fuel use and air emissions.”

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  • was carless March 23, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Boy, this sounds awesome. That bike lane in the middle street is pretty nifty too – reminds me of E Stark street with the center bike turn lanes, but better.

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    • Champs March 23, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      Funny, I came here expecting a knee-jerk freakout over the central bike lanes. They’re really quite nice, actually. No right-hook accidents, and you’re quite visible to people in cars turning left.

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      • Kyle G. March 26, 2012 at 8:36 am

        In general, I like the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes, but it’s inaccurate to call them “protected”… especially since they didn’t “protect” me from the valet driver who u-turn-hooked me last month. Without bollards along the entire length, it’s up to the police to enforce the no u-turn laws and I don’t see that happening. (At least the police cited the driver in my crash).

        As for bikeshare, I’m of the same mindset as “DC Resident” above. I own three bikes, but I still have a bikeshare membership for many reasons – including those days when I’m meeting a friend for lunch and don’t want to go to the garage and deal with unlocking/locking my own bike.

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  • Kenji March 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    This whole outing was actually really funny. We had all gotten out of the Merkley meeting and we’re sitting downstairs in the lobby of the one of the senate buildings. Veronica said she had to take off. CD is piping up about going to get coffee in Chinatown. Paul is chatting about food. I’m saying coffee too. So we’re all standing around being clueless and Rob pipes up lets go use the bike share and motor around. Jonathan says I gotta check this out so we all motored over to union station.

    We got on our bikes- Paul being the mountain bike guy of course was a goof and tried to wheelie (unsuccessfully) and as a Shimano guy was putting the bike through its paces. Tom looked hilarious since he looked like a secret service agent. So we tooled off down the cycle track in the 75 degree weather.

    I was having a blast as you can see from the pictures. The cycle track was a pretty neat way to get down. It was nice not having to worry about getting squeezed. We then went over to the Washington monument where we took some pictures. After that it was onto the tidal basin where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Amazing!

    We then turned around and decided to go back. Our fearless leader of the ride who shall remain unnamed said lets go back this way! So we ended on the three lane road. I’m yelling choose a lane- and we were good citizens and singled up. On the way back Rob and I were squeezed by one not nice driver. Other that incident drivers were super cool.

    I gotta say that the bike share was an awesome thing and really convenient. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who were riding around on them. Even random people who weren’t affiliated with the bike summit were talking about them. There were also a decent number of bike commuters tooling around town. Great job DC!

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  • Troy March 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

    My brother’s a serious racer in DC, and a daily bike commuter. Because it’s so convenient, he’s started commuting to work by Bikeshare. No worries about locking up his bike.

    When I go to visit, I use it exclusively. I was in DC last year at this time, and was blown away by how it’s completely changing the culture of DC: red bikes and clueless riders are everywhere! I rode from his place in Logan Circle to airport, with my bag strapped to the front.

    The first time I rode the Velib in Paris, I was a convert to bikesharing. Dramatically improves the quality of life in a city, and my thought then was: this is the future for all major US cities. The one qualification is that you need sufficient density of stations. Otherwise, you have this worry that there won’t be a space available at a particular station, and you have a long trip to the next one, and then a long walk. So it has to be done right if it’s done at all.

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    • Joseph E March 24, 2012 at 9:15 am

      “The one qualification is that you need sufficient density of stations. Otherwise, you have this worry that there won’t be a space available at a particular station, and you have a long trip to the next one, and then a long walk. So it has to be done right if it’s done at all.”

      This is the key. Most successful cities have over 20 station per square mile, usually 30 or 40 per square mile in the center of the city. The DC system manages fairly good density in the center of town, but on the edges the stations are too spread out, and some of those stations (esp. those east of the river) are not very well used.

      Portland should keep the stations concentrated in the central city, to start.

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  • Jonathan Gordon March 24, 2012 at 10:22 am

    $7/day?! Wow.

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  • Charles Ross March 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

    As tourists in D.C. last year we rented Bikeshare bicycles for a day and have a couple of observations:
    The big advantage of Bikeshare for someone who currently owns a bike is that once you reach your destination and dock the bike your responsibility ends. As someone who owns a moderately priced Trek 520 and worries constantly that it will be there when I return this is a huge plus.
    The bikes are rideable but, well, theres no better word, clunky. The yoke is what locks the bike into the dock and is heavy. The bike must weigh @ 40# and has three speeds. What does this mean? It may well not be worth the expense to put a station in a place like Hillsdale because the bikes would migrate down the hill into Portland and never return.
    Related to this is the fact that at certain times of the day and week stations might be either empty or full. We had problems on that one day finding bikes to rent and finding a place to dock them when done.
    Lastly, one has to be careful when docking the bikes. Once you push the bikes into the locking mechanism they can appear to be locked but not secured. We had the experience of picking up the rear of a secured bike about of foot off the ground, dropping it and having the bike roll out of the dock.
    We own bikes, often use them but would find a bike share system, comparable to D.C.s’, useful should it become available here in Portland.

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