Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On Capital Bikeshare

photo © Bill Crandall

DCC interview with Chris Holben, DDOT Project Manager for Capital Bikeshare:

How did Capital Bikeshare come to be? What was your particular role? CaBi is the expansion of the Smartbike DC program. Started 2 years ago, Smartbike was very successful except for its limited size. DDOT wanted to expand right from the start and it took about 2 years to make that happen. We partnered with Arlington County to make the first regional system and now the largest system in the US. Also, we switched to a new system, Public Bike Share or Bixi, that is solar powered, modular and extremely easy to install. My role was to manage (as part of a great team) that two year period of expansion including the contracts, station siting and installation, and now operations.

How were sites chosen for stations? The sites were chosen from a few different methods including a Smartbike member survey, a GIS location suitability matrix, a crowd sourcing exercise, DDOT staff knowledge, and common sense.

Is CaBi designed as a bike rental system or a transit system? We think of it as one option in the large offering of transportation options: a self-service bicycle transit system. It is complementary with bus, train, walking, taxi, and soon to be streetcar.

Who are the target users? Anyone 16 and over!  Really, we want them all:  the daily commuter; the fair weather rider; the rider who “needs to go to the further away grocery store that is too far to walk but not too far to ride”; the downtown office worker who can run errands, go to lunch, go to meetings quicker and cheaper than a taxi; and day users: tourists, friends of bikers who need an extra bike, need to get to Union Station but don’t want to deal with your own bike, etc. Really, everyone.

What are the most common arguments by critics and naysayers, and what is your response? Occasionally, I hear “I already have a bike, no thanks”. My response is that there are times when you want a bike and don’t have yours with you or you don’t want yours with you or you don’t want to deal with yours (lock, messy weather, etc). CaBi allows for an opportunistic ride or a very specific one way ride where you don’t necessarily want your own bike.

How does CaBi plan to deal with keeping bikes evenly distributed according to usage and need? Our contractor, Alta Bicycle Share, is tasked to do this with redistribution vehicles. Also, as we add more stations to the system, the redistribution happens more naturally by riders. The members shift more bikes around and there are more stations to go to and more stations to take bikes from.

Have you had many issues with vandalism and/or stolen bikes so far? We have had some general graffiti and minor bike vandalism but that was to be expected with an unattended publicly accessible system. We have cleaned/repaired the bikes and stations quickly to show that we won’t allow the system to degrade and attract more of the same. Soon everyone will get used to seeing these bikes and stations around town and we hope that they will become as commonplace as bus shelters.

Personally, what city in the world is your ideal biking city? I am a pretty experienced city rider so I like to explore all new cities by bike if I can. But I spent some time in Bangkok and really liked biking there. Granted it was always late late at night. During the day would be no fun!

Do you ride CaBi yourself? Oh yes! I was a more or less daily bike commuter but I have been actively using CaBi since the Petworth station was installed. I have a couple of my regular trips:  Petworth to 14th and U (work commute); 14th and U to Columbia Heights (pick up kids from school); 14th and U to Dupont Circle (lunch); 14th and U to 4th and M, SW (work meetings). I average 2-3 trips a day. All under 30 minutes.

When will we see more protected bike lanes? We are constructing the 15th street, NW cycle track right now! It will be a 2 way bike way that will eventually run from Euclid Street down to Pennsylvania Avenue. Also, we are starting to plan the L and M Street, NW cycle tracks.   

Which comes first, more bike infrastructure or more bikers? Same time! We have been building trails and bike lanes for the last 10 years as the number of riders has been increasing as well. I think with CaBi, you will see, and more importantly, be aware of many more cyclists on the road.  

Check out the website for more info: www.capitalbikeshare.com

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