Bringing Capital Bikeshare to Montgomery County and its Impact on our Future
Some of you may have read that there is strong interest in bringing a capital bikeshare network to Montgomery County. I thought we’d take this opportunity to discuss capital bikeshare, what it could mean for our future, and what we need to make a program like this a success.
The Chevy Chase Land Company has committed to helping get a bikeshare network on the ground in Montgomery County by funding the capital costs of two bikeshare stations, one in Friendship Heights and one in Bethesda. To read our letter that we sent to the County Executive regarding bikeshare, click here.
What is Capital Bikeshare?
Capital Bikeshare is a bike transit operation that has 116 stations throughout DC and Arlington. Bike transit is designed to service relatively short, point to point trips on bikes that are specially designed for commuters and frequent use. The program is operated by Alta Planning, who works on a contract with the DC and Arlington governments that fund the program.
Members can join for $75 a year, or for $7 if they would just like access for 24 hours. Therefore, Capital Bikeshare serves both daily transit commuters as well as Washington region tourists. The first 30 minutes on each of the bikes is free, and riders incur charges after 30 minutes. Due to the short duration of most trips, the large majority of trips taken via bikeshare are free.
How Successful Has it Been in the Region?
Since launching in September of 2010, Capital Bikeshare has rapidly grown. The system has over 18,000 annual and daily members and has had over 1 million bike trips taken! The success of the program has been due to just the right mix of committed local governments, picking the right locations, and commuters buying in early to the use of the program. So this begs the question, can we replicate bikeshare’s success in Montgomery County? And if so, what are the key components to doing so?
How and Where Can Bikeshare Work in Montgomery County?
First, Montgomery County has a long tradition of active transit riders as well as active bike users. Many studies that have been done show the demand and usage of bikes could be as high in certain parts of Montgomery County as it is in D.C. That said, there are key components to being sure that a MoCo network will be just as successful as our other counterparts in the region:
A sufficient network in the right locations – The recipe for success has been in selecting locations that are close to public transportation, in high density areas, and are supported by a network of bike infrastructure (which can be bike lanes, trails, etc). This is why much of the downcounty is a perfect candidate for growing bikeshare. Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Silver Spring and Takoma Park all have very active bike users already because of the presence of many trails, and the proximity to Metro’s Red line. These locations will also help us to build on the successful network that already exists in D.C. DC has found that the ideal distance between stations is about an 8 minutes ride, this is ideal for the “trip chaining” that has made bikeshare so popular.
An improved bike infrastructure that promotes safety – We have an amazing trail network in Montgomery County, although our other forms of bike infrastructure could use improvement. We don’t have a significant network of bike lanes that protect riders from vehicular traffic and often riders have to be on the sidewalk, competing with pedestrians. Beyond bikeshare stations, the County should continue to pursue policies that provide a safe and enjoyable transportation experience for pedestrians, transit riders, and drivers alike.
A marketing plan that promotes how easy it is to use and ride bikeshare – A large scale kick-off event, combined with an ongoing marketing program will be key to getting the word out. It will help build off of many other successful events, like Bike to Work Day. Events such as this and a strong coalition of partners in the bike community will increase the likelihood of success for bikeshare.
So how is this related to Chevy Chase Lake?
While we think that places like Friendship Heights and Bethesda are the best locations for immediate bikeshare locations, it is also important for us to identify future locations around transit stops that could encourage residents to get out of their cars and bike, walk, or ride transit. The location of Chevy Chase Lake on the trail and on the purple line make it an ideal spot for a future bikeshare station.
For more information about capital bikeshare, visit their website at www.capitalbikeshare.com.
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