WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN)—The District of Columbia plans to unveil a public bike-sharing program in mid May, becoming the first of its kind in the United States.
Emeka Moneme, director of D.C.’s department of transportation, attended the National Bike Summit last March, where he made the announcement. But more details have become available since then.
The program mimics automated public bike-share programs that have proliferated in European cities like Paris and Barcelona where tight space and rising congestion have prompted officials to encourage cycling for short trips.
Called SmartBike DC, it will offer 120 bikes across 10 locations and would require that users sign up online and pay a $40 annual membership to gain access to computerized racks. Users would be able to check out the bikes for up to three hours at a time via a SmartBike DC user card. The bikes could be returned at any SmartBike station.
The city partnered with Clear Channel Outdoor, an outdoor advertising company that runs several successful bike-sharing programs in European cities including Barcelona. Clear Channel provides the rental program as part of its citywide bus shelter program for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and all revenues from subscriptions and usage fees are paid to the DDOT.
“For nearly 25 years now, Clear Channel Outdoor has had a tremendous relationship with the District Department of Transportation for our bus shelter franchise,” said Steve Ginsburg, general manager for Clear Channel Outdoor, Washington/Baltimore. “It's a natural extension of that relationship to bring a bike-sharing program to D.C. residents that is quick, reliable, easy to use and available seven days a week.”
Moneme said the city would like to eventually expand the program regionally to include Virginia and Maryland. He cited several reasons for being the first to launch a program stateside. “It’s a way to combat climate change, a way to encourage fitness, and cycling is becoming a way of life here,” he said.
Moneme said 35 percent of households don’t own a car; more than 50 percent use non-vehicular methods to get to work; and bike commuting is up 50 percent since 2000.
To encourage cycling, the city has installed 700 new bike racks since 2001 and spent $10 million on paved trails, he said. Five miles of paved trails were added in 2007 alone, bringing the total miles of paved trails in the region to 30, he added.
U.S. cities have been slow to follow on Europe’s model of bike sharing, citing insurmountable costs and liability as major hurdles. Some private-sector companies, however, have successfully launched programs for their employees, providing real-world examples.