D.C. Gears Up for Bike-Sharing Program

Posted May 9, 2008 at 3:31pm

As the price of oil rises higher and higher and concern for the environment increases, the District Department of Transportation has found a way to make getting around the city a little easier with the introduction of SmartBikeDC, and the House is planning a similar program.

The city program is set to kick off by the end of the month and will make 120 bicycles available in 10 areas throughout downtown. The program is similar to Zipcar in that members will pay an annual fee and then make appointments to use the bikes via phone and computer. Bicycles are rented for three hours free of charge.

“People have been beating down our doors to learn more about this,” said Jim Sebastian, D.C.’s bike coordinator.

The public-private program will be in partnership with DDOT and Clear Channel Adshel and will be based on a European program used in such cities as Barcelona, Spain, and Oslo, Norway. Bikes can be rented from one location and returned to another, giving Washingtonians many options for their routes. Bicycling Magazine recently called Washington, D.C., the No. 1 most improved city for biking, due in part to this new program.

“The end goal is to reduce motor vehicle trips and really provide another transportation option for D.C. residents and workers, and also to reduce congestion and pollution,” Sebastian said. “We hope, once we get the bugs worked out, to expand it so we can really make a dent in the traffic and pollution downtown.”

The House is set to start a similar bicycle program, though it is only in the early stages of development. The program, called Wheels4Wellness, will put 30 bikes at various locations on the House side of the Capitol campus. The bikes will be available for staffers to use at their leisure.

“The goal of the program is to really encourage House employees to take bikes. It’s a wellness measure for us,” said Carisa Marcum, assistant press secretary for the House Chief Administrator’s Office. “The idea is, if people need to run errands during the day or they want to have lunch at Union Station, they’ll be able to [check out] the bikes.”