Bloomberg Government Insider

D.C.'s Bike Shares: A Capital Idea


D.C.'s Bike Shares: A Capital Idea

They’re not stylish. But they seem to be everywhere in Washington. Even actor Owen Wilson has been spied riding one of the 47-pound, fire-engine-red bikes.

Since September 2010, Capital Bikeshare has dispersed more than 1,500 bikes for rent across the city. And residents are demanding even more as they use the two-wheelers to commute to work, run errands, or, as in Wilson’s case, cruise to a Sunday brunch. Alta Bicycle Share, the Portland (Ore.) company that was awarded the contract to run the program, has installed 165 solar-powered docking stations throughout the District and Arlington, Va., where anyone can check out a bike. The first 30 minutes are free, and then an hourly fee of $7 kicks in. Most people opt for the $75 annual membership.

The program recorded its 2 millionth ride in May, 20 months after opening. Now with more than 200,000 rides clocked each month and 16,000 annual members, District Department of Transportation manager Josh Moskowitz calls Capital Bikeshare a “huge, huge, huge success.”

Better yet, the program pays for itself: Maintenance and operating costs totaled $3.5 million in 2011, while fees collected were $4.1 million. Minneapolis and New York are starting similar programs, and Chicago, Portland, and Los Angeles are not far behind.

Walsh is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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