Monday, April 28, 2008

Bike Sharing in D.C.

I'm taking a quick break from writing my dissertation proposal to point out this great idea: Washington D.C. is following the example of Velib (oops, their website's english pages turn out to be in french!) in Paris, France to set up a bicycle exchange program. SmartBike DC is the name of the public/private program wherein, ClearChannel gets an advertising monopoly on bus shelters in exchange for running the low-cost program. $40/yr gets you a membership entitling you to a 3-hr no-additional-cost rental of a 3-speed bike to get around the city. The stated purpose of the program is to relieve pressure on the congested transit system, so it's aimed more at residents and people who work in the area and need to get around the central business district than at tourists who want to see the sights. The rental locations and fee structure are clearly geared toward this market segment.
Presumably someone has studied this and decided that is the most important market at present, but with the number of tourists in D.C., it seems crazy not to set up a bunch of stations around the main mall and make a short-term membership available to out-of-town visitors, too.
All in all, I'm happy to see the program. More people are becoming interested in human-powered transportation as gas prices go up. Maybe we'll see this model in more and more cities.

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