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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?


Join The Conversation
MisterPinkNoTip MisterPinkNoTip 9 years
This is ridiculous. How could this possibly work? Wouldn't all the bikes be stolen in a matter of hours?
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Pedastrians are the same way Harmony. You should take my advice: "If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk!"
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
I can't stand bikers in Chicago. I'm sorry if that offends anyone. It's like they assume you won't hit them because they're on a bike, so they are completely reckless. Most of them don't wear helmets. We don't have bike lanes on our roads so we're just sharing the same lane. I've even seen bikers on Lake Shore Drive. (a small highway)I certainly have no intention of ever hitting anyone on a bike, but I can't tell you how many people I've almost hit and I'm a really cautious driver. It stresses me out! Luckily during the week I just take the metra to work, but if I have errands to run or something it's like an extremely dangerous obstacle course.
julieulie julieulie 9 years
$40/month seems REALLY steep to me. As far as the issue of having nowhere to store a bike, at least amongst all the apartments I have lived in while in DC and where my friends have lived, we've all either had a balcony that you can leave your bike on (if someone could climb to a 4th floor balcony and climb back down with my bike they deserve to have it) or had an underground parking lot with bike storage -- both my current condo and previous building had bike storage (one place for free, one for $5/month, in a locked garage with access only to residents).
shanimalcracker shanimalcracker 9 years
This bike-renting practice has already become a big deal in Paris, so it's exciting to see it implemented in the U.S. I am not entirely familiar with what bike riding would be like in D.C., but the concept at least is a good one if people utilize it!
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
storing 1 bike not so bad... a family of 6, finding storage for bicycles can be rather difficult.
ISUjules ISUjules 9 years
I must second the comments on why you wouldn't just buy your own bike. Bike storage can't be that hard to find.
syako syako 9 years
:rotfl: kim, good point!
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
True alsw. I wonder how many people will drive their cars to the pick up locations to use their bicycles? lol
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
ALSW ALSW 9 years
Maybe it's less a problem with buying than bike than where to store the bike...
syako syako 9 years
I agree with ms. monster, couldn't you just buy a bike? Or am I missing something?
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
I'm too scared to ride a bike around here the way people drive...
Jillness Jillness 9 years
I agree Meg! I LOVE riding a bike. Love it. I just get very scared when bikes are supposed to mix with traffic. My bf saw a dead man in the street in Boston who had flipped over a bike...and all the people in cars were cussing at the police to get the dead guy out of the road. A month ago I was walking down the street and a bike zoomed past me and ran into a car. They flipped in the air, and I saw bones coming out of their body. SCARY! I really wish there were bike lanes that were more than painted lines on the street. If it was safer, I would gladly give up my car for most trips.
i-heart-monster i-heart-monster 9 years
I can see sharing a car - they cost mega money and insurance and gas, etc. Sharing a bike for $40/month when you can purchase a decent bicycle for around $200-250 doesn't make sense to me. Rent for 5-6 months and you could have purchased your own. Don't get me wrong, I think we should absolutely bike anywhere we can, but I'm not sure that bike-sharing is a responsible choice in these financially unstable times.
kia kia 9 years
These sort of programs are good in bike-friendly places or areas with safe bike trails. If the safety of the bikers can be elevated then bike programs serve as a compliment to other urban forms of transportation. The government should help fund these programs if their compliment works and funding should be approved based on the case studies from the European predecessors. The only place I lived where something like this happened was Missoula, Montana with the Green Bike program there. That one was all volunteer and sometimes the bikes rode like crap. However you got where you needed to go and was convenient if you didn't have your own bike. You would need bikes working well for this to work... and at $40/month the bikes better work well.
supercharger5150 supercharger5150 9 years
I've never been to DC, but I think this is a program that should be in place everywhere- similar to in European cities. Not only does it help with car congestion and pollution but it's also a good way for people to be getting some exercise.
stephley stephley 9 years
DC had perfectly good bus and subway systems when I lived there - I didn't own a car for my last five years. There are bike paths and if bikes become more common on the road, people would get better at dealing with them in traffic. If the government can save money on air pollution issues and repairing roadways, why not divert the savings to bicycles?
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I won't be riding a bike anywhere near DC while Robert Byrd still has his driver's license.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
why in the world would the government pay for this? and I don't know, how about improving public transportation, like buses?
megnmac megnmac 9 years
I was scared to bike while in DC, too many buses and bad drivers, there just seemed to be a lot of bike related accidents...
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