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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 05/21/2010

More bike sharing should foster more bike stations

By Washington Post editors

A new bike-sharing system based on Montreal's Bixi will have 1,100 bikes spanning 100 stations in the District and 14 in Arlington, replacing D.C.'s existing SmartBike system, leaders announced this morning,

The change has been widely rumored for months, since Cyberpresse reported a deal was in the works. U.S. company Alta Bicycle Share will operate the system with its own workers. The system should launch in the fall.

Clear Channel created the SmartBike system as part of a contract to place advertising in D.C. bus shelters, but that relationship ran into trouble because Clear Channel was not interested in an arrangement under which local governments would pay directly for bike-sharing system expansions. The company was only running the bike-sharing program to grow its core business of outdoor advertising.

The new system will allow a wider range of membership opportunities. Annual memberships will cost $80, double the current SmartBike rate of $40, though for a much better service. People can also purchase monthly memberships for $30 or daily ones for $5. All memberships allow unlimited bike rentals, free for the first 30 minutes with usage fees (levels not yet specified) after 30 minutes.

The exact locations haven't been released yet, but Arlington is concentrating its in the Pentagon City/Crystal City/Potomac Yard area (the Blue and Yellow Line corridor). The Crystal City Business Improvement District helped pay for this portion.

Focusing on one area will also allow for a sufficient density of stations to maximize ridership. Bike sharing is best for short trips rather than very long ones, especially because the bikes are designed for comfortable shorter rides rather than longer, faster ones. Arlington hopes to next add the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Hopefully the Park Service will allow a number of bike stations on the Mall. With poor transportation around much of the Mall, bike sharing could be a perfect way to help many people bridge the gaps if there could be stations at most major attractions (so riders can return the bikes quickly upon reaching a desired memorial).

Mall stations are also close to Arlington, and a connected bike share system could let someone ride, for example, from Crystal City to Arlington Cemetery, drop off the bike, see the cemetery, pick up another bike to go to the FDR Memorial, drop the bike off, get another to go to downtown D.C., and so on.

Last year, we made a map together of potential locations for the new bike-sharing system.

The system won't be called SmartBike, which is a Clear Channel brand name. The District and Arlington wll conduct a survey to choose among names including WeCycle, UCycle, Capital Bixi, ZoomBike, Velo2Go, Bike Around, Bikington and more.

Station costs range from about $35,000 for a small station (seven bikes and 11 docking spaces) to $52,000 for a large 13-bike, 19-dock station. The operating cost will be $155 per bike, not counting memberships; the membership revenue that the District and Arlington get will go to offset each jurisdiction's contribution to operating costs.

It's great that jurisdictions were able to cooperate to create this regional system. Arlington has always been a national leader in "smart growth" and sustainable practices, and county board members Jay Fisette and Chris Zimmerman provided strong leadership for the project. The D.C. Department of Transportation under Gabe Klein is quickly implementing some of the most cutting-edge transportation ideas. Together, the system can be better than either's alone.

[Continue reading David Alpert's piece at Greater Greater Washington here].

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Washington Post editors  | May 21, 2010; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Arlington, D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, transportation  
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