Capital Bikeshare

According to a recent article in the Washigton Post, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare has been a great success, going beyond all expectations since its launch in September of last year. So far, over 300,000 trips have been logged, with an average of 3,000 per day last month. Membership is hovering near 11,000, with 1,100 bikes in circulation and 110 stations spread around D.C. and Arlington. According to program director Terry Bellamy, “Capital Bikeshare’s success right out of the gate has far exceeded our expectations.”

Capital Bikeshare

13 Responses to “Capital Bikeshare”

  • dweendaddy says:

    I am glad to hear that people are using it.
    I would love to know:
    1. How much did it cost? On wikipedia it said it coust $5million to plan and start and $2.3 million the first year.
    2. How many bikes are there? They said originally 1100, but plans for more.

    So, that is $6300 per bike, but those costs will go down with time, since a big chunk was for the planning. That said, even $2.3 million per year would be $2000 per bike to maintain per year.
    The article said 300,000 rides since the program started. That would be $24 per ride so far, but that cost will go down the more people use it…

    I really like the idea, but I do think these bike shares have the risk of being too costly compared to other bike-related interventions.

  • Alan says:


    Like most other systems, a portion of the ongoing costs will be covered by membership fees and advertising (they’re estimating $500,000 annually from ad revenue).

  • Pete says:

    $5M does buy a lot of bike lanes, but I think of bike share as public transit, not bicycle infrastructure. So I would compare it to buses and light rail, which are a good bit more costly. But, of course, nobody gets drunk and throws a bus into the river! :)

  • Nick says:

    Great that it has been a success. It’s only a matter of time, however, before Mike Rubbo jumps all over the badgering in the video: “And don’t forget your helmet!”

    I anxiously await the introduction of the tiny bike share system due to be introduced in Ottawa this year.

  • Alan says:


    It would be interesting to know what percentage of D.C. Bikeshare users choose to wear helmets. The difference being that helmets are required in Melbourne and optional in D.C.

    It’s great that bike sharing is coming to Ottawa. Congrats!

  • Lee Trampleasure says:

    I just returned from a week in France. I rented bikes in Avignon (me on my rental bike: Nice. Both were simple three speed bikes, that I was happy to have for a short trip across town (ah, the freedom a bike provides), but not the type of bike I’d want to ride for an hour or more. A brief summary of each:

    Both had three registration options: 1 Euro (about $1.60 now) for one day, 5 Euros for a week, and some higher number for a year (I didn’t pay much attention to that amount). Both check your card for 150 Euros (the amount charged if you don’t return the bike).

    Both bikes have excellent front and rear lights that are dynamo powered (Paris’ bikes also have great dynamo lights, but I didn’t get to rent in Paris.)

    Avignon: I used my credit card at the machine. Upon registering, your code is sent to your mobile phone via an SMS text message (or you can write it down from the screen). Then you log in, and a door on the machine opens and you are told to “take the [some color] key.” You take the key, the door closes, and you put the key in the bike to release it from the stand. You must leave the key in the lock (on the bike), or the steering mechanism locks. If you need to lock the bike, there is a cable that works with the key you have. Upon returning the bike, you log back in with your number, the door opens, with one of the key slots flashing.

    Nice: You can register online or using your phone. When you register, you give them your mobile phone number. When you arrive at a bike station, you push start on the machine and it gives you a phone number to call to rent a bike. They do not answer the phone, but just recognize it is you by your phone number. The machine then releases one of the bikes, and gives you a combination for the cable lock that stays on the bike. When you return, you tell the machine you are returning it, and push the locking cable into a socket–the machine recognizes the bike based on the cable.

    While I did not rent a bike in Paris, I know that they have a big infrastructure that includes small motorized trucks with a long trailer that they use to redistribute bikes around the city–at least they had these three years ago, not sure if they still do, but I imagine they need them. (When I was returning my bike in Avignon, the station I wanted to return to was full, and I had to ride about 1/4 mile to find the next station that had plenty of spaces.)

    I took about 100 photos of bicycles and cyclists in France (including some night shots showing the rental bike headlights); if anyone wants to see them, you can visit

  • Lee Trampleasure says:

    PS. This photo is in Nimes, France (, but you can see the key lockers like the ones in Avignon.

  • Beth H. says:

    My husband and I took our kids to D.C. last week and we saw the Capital Bikeshare bikes EVERYWHERE. It was really cool to see people all over town riding on them.

  • Seven Stars says:

    dweendaddy- A group of students @ Duke University are trying to start a bikeshare program, they were told $4800 per bike, but I don’t know how much the docking stations cost.

  • Zach says:

    I think the cost per bike looks staggering at first blush, but when we consider the utility derived from the cost, the cost begins to appear reasonable.

    The benefit to businesses and tourism is huge, it reduces traffic congestion, and it increases bicycle awareness.

    Yes, quite a bit of money was spent to get the program started, but we had a smaller initiative in DC that has not been as successful. The new capital bikeshare’s network is expansive, covering the entire DC metro area. It really is easy to grab a bike ride it a couple miles, hop on the metro, get off, and pick up another bike to ride to your next destination. It increases a person’s access to transportation, and really opens up the DC area to commuters and tourists. I thought bike shares were quirky at first, but when you are exposed to them, the benefits are huge. Try it, you’ll love it.

  • Pete says:

    Helmets and bike share are don’t really go together. Unless you rent helmets with the bikes, which is not very appealing from a hygiene perspective, who would just happen to have a helmet with them when they needed to hop on a bike?
    I don’t imagine (though I don’t know for certain) that share bikes are used by residents who use a bike as regular transportation. Rather, they are more like taxis – you grab one as needed. Tourists and other short-term visitors would use them too, but, again, who brings their bike helmet if they are in DC for the day on business?

  • Lee Trampleasure says:

    I would agree with Pete that many renters will not use helmets. I ALWAYS use a helmet when on my bike, but in France I was comfortable to ride a rental without a helmet. I think the “grab your helmet” should be taken out of the promo video, since it is unrealistic to think that many tourists will bring their helmets with them. (Not to raise the helmet debate again–as I said I am a regular helmet user, but see the need to accept that most users of these short-term bike rentals will probably not use a helmet, nor should the promo imply that you need to.)

  • Rob Halligan says:

    I didn’t start bicycling in DC’ til about 4 years ago – until the number of potholes got tolerable. I’ve been active in DC politics for about 9 years. In that time, the DC local government has embraced the concepts of Smart Growth and Transit-Oriented Development. Capital Bikeshare is just one part of a bigger plan and movement. covers these trends. BTW, there was a preceding effort to run a bikeshare program; I hear it crumbled when it’s public-private partnership with Clear Channel fell apart. Bikeshare is said to be the gateway drug to buying a commuter bike.

    Here’s a thought-provoking TED presentation on how helmet wearing campaigns actually reduce ridership. (I don’t endorse the opinion but find it interesting):

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