At 7:15 Tuesday morning, Eugene Morris checked out a bicycle from Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC. It was an uneventful 15-minute ride, but for Capital Bikeshare--funded in part by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration--it was a perfectly timed milestone. His ride was the one millionth logged by the nation's most popular bike-sharing program, and it occured on the program's one-year anniversary.
As Capital Bikeshare turns 1-year old, Washington Post columnist Mike DeBonis asks, "Has any previous government initiative this cheap affected the municipal landscape so dramatically in such a short time?"
For Washington area residents, Capital Bikeshare's 1,100 red bikes have become a familiar sight this past year. But if you don't live around here, Capital Bikeshare works like this: the more than 18,000 members pay an annual fee (there are also single-day and 5-day options) and can check out bikes from any of the 114 stations in DC and Arlington, Virginia. Stations are conveniently located near popular destinations, like transit stations and office buildings. Trips under a half-hour are free, and members pay a nominal rental fee for longer rides.
And last night Capital Bikeshare, known by members as CaBi, threw itself a festive first birthday party to celebrate its remarkable success. In addition to Morris, the program honored the five members who logged the most rides, including Theodore Melahropoulos, who checked out a Capital Bikeshare bicycle 1,258 times in one year--that's an average of nearly four times a day.
The event was emceed by a young man known only as Car-Free Matt, since winning a contest last summer for car-free diet skeptics who were challenged to live without their cars for an entire month.
Capital Bikeshare Board member Jay Fisette roused the crowd by reminding them that the biggest achievement of the program's first year was introducing urban bicycling to the everyday person and dispelling the myth of specialized gear and technology:
"It's not about spandex shorts. It's not about spending thousands of dollars on the latest gadget. It's about every day on your way to work. It's about a basket with milk and other groceries."
Fisette also made the key point that Capital Bikeshare is a regional program jointly operated by Arlington County and DC's DOT, "two jurisdictions coming together to launch the largest bike sharing program in North America."
That kind of regional cooperation is something worth celebrating. And, with plans to expand to five jurisdictions, that regionalism is poised to grow even stronger.
Capital Bikeshare also seeks to double its number of bikes by the end of 2012. But, as they enter their second year, they will face more competition as our nation's most successful bike-share. New York City has recently launched a bike-sharing program of its own, and Chicago is not far behind.
Imagine, communities across America competing to see who offers the most popular bike-sharing program. I call that a remarkable transportation innovation, and whether they retain their crown or not, much of the credit must go to Capital Bikeshare for establishing a model that has worked so successfully this year.
Congratulations, CaBi, for putting something special in motion.