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Bicycle Built For More Than Two: SmartBike Hits DC

Washington DC is strapping on a helmet and gearing up to offer a bike sharing program hailed as one solution in the battle against urban traffic congestion and the growing stress on the transit system. Starting as early as next month, citizens in the nation’s capital can join SmartBike DC and rent one of one hundred and twenty shared bikes for the low price of forty dollars a month.

The bikes will be available from ten locations citywide, and members will be able to swipe a card and release a bike to ride for up to three hours. Although this is not the first of its kind, the use of better technology may be the key to its success. Paul DeMaio, a Washington-area bike-sharing consultant (Do they have consultants for everything in DC?) said: “...studies showed that many bikes would get stolen in a day, or within a few weeks. In Amsterdam (Netherlands) they would often find them in the canals.” Because of this and other reasons, European programs found themselves paying up to four thousand five hundred dollars per bike without private funding.

The idea isn't a ten-speed disaster everywhere — the Velib program is a hit in Paris and Barcelona — both cities started free-wheeling around a year ago and could grow to thousands of bicycles. SmartBike is looking to expand to San Francisco, Chicago and Portland, OR depending on success and their ability to attract private bucks to make it work.

Is sharing a bike with your fellow city-dwellers a good idea? Has the technology surpassed human nature to make a communal idea like this work? Is it something the government should be funding?


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