First Ride: Capital Bike Share

Posted on August 24, 2012 · Posted in Bikes, Travel

On a trip last week to Washington, D.C for my brother’s wedding (congrats, Tommy and Monica – it was about time!), I decidedly to try out DC’s bike share system. Seattle is apparently going to get such a system next year, so I was curious to see how it works out.

My first concern going in was the weather. After all, DC in August has in the past driven me to take a cab to go 5 blocks (and I love walking nearly as much as I love riding a bike). Fortunately, it was mid-80′s and – crucially – relatively low humidity.

The system itself is easy to use and ubiquitous, with 150 stations around town. The idea is to be able to ride around from station to station; short rides are encouraged via a system that only charges for rides exceeding 30 minutes. Locals pay an annual fee for access; for tourists a day pass goes for $7.

I grabbed a bike at Union Station and meandered through town to Dupont Circle. Getting the bike is as simple as inserting a credit card, getting a code and unlocking a bike. The bikes are sturdy step-through 3-speeds, easy to maneuver on wide tires. The gearing felt a little low – being used to riding single-speed in hilly Seattle, even the top gear on a bike share ride felt too light. But it probably helped slow me down to enjoy the sights.

The biggest revelation was how DC has plowed forward with bike share despite abysmal bike infrastructure. Outside of a slightly-terrifying two-way bike lane running right down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue (often occupied by pedestrians and emergency vehicles), any nod to bikes is exceedingly hard to find. Indeed, most everyone just chooses to ride on DC’s wide sidewalks. It gives me hope that Seattle’s system will work as well – and maybe even accelerate the process of making downtown more bike-friendly.

All told, I loved Capital Bikeshare as a way to easily get around town and see the sights. I’ll do a three-day pass the next time I’m in town.

Unless that trip is in July . . .