The influx of app-based alternatives to Capital Bikeshare appears to have reached Arlington County.
A reader sent in the above photo of a Spin Bikeshare bike parked near a Capital Bikeshare station in Arlington. Spin is one of four new alternatives in the D.C. metro area.
Spin requires you to download a smartphone app, and uses your phone’s GPS to locate a nearby bike to use.
They are dockless – unlike Capital Bikeshare, which requires you to leave it at a designated station – but have locks that immobilize the bike until someone checks it out using the app. Spin costs $1 per half hour of riding, and can be parked “anywhere responsible,” according to its website.
Photo via Sean K.
The two page list shows proposed station locations, broken down by area. Among the areas that might get new Bikeshare stations are Shirlington, Arlington Cemetery and numerous neighborhoods along Columbia Pike.
Each of the 40 entries is accompanied by an aerial and a ground level photo of the location. Public comments about the proposed stations are being accepted via the online map, or by emailing [email protected]
BikeArlington’s Chris Eatough stresses that the locations listed are still preliminary, but the public feedback will help to devise the final list, which should be released sometime in the fall.
Although some residents have offered suggestions for stations in outlying areas, organizers say that doesn’t work with how the system is set up. The overall plan involves adding more docking stations in areas that already have Bikeshare, then gradually expanding outward. Because users need to dock bikes frequently, new stations wouldn’t be useful if they’re positioned far from existing stations.
“If you don’t have alternatives close by, people can get stranded, basically,” Eatough said. “We have to connect to the existing network.”
Eatough says devising the list is just part of the extensive transportation planning process that’s been ongoing since early this year. While continuously collecting public comments, there have also been numerous meetings and work sessions to come up with a longer term comprehensive plan for Bikeshare in Arlington.
“We do feel like we’ve done our due diligence and outreach, and continue to do it,” said Eatough. “For a bike sharing program, this is pretty groundbreaking stuff. Nobody has a long range plan for bike sharing in the country right now.”
The program has only been around for about two years, but much effort is spent on helping the public to consider it a legitimate mode of public transportation. In becoming more recognized and validated, the hope is to bring in additional funding sources.
Even though expansion of the program has been explosive and the stations are well used, the newness of Capital Bikeshare means there’s still some confusion about how it works. For example, Eatough says some people initially think it might be a good idea to rent a bike for a few hours to get some exercise or see the sights. However, the program is actually intended to be a point-to-point option for short trips and commuting. Regular users quickly learn that keeping trips to 30 minutes or less is the most cost-effective way to do bike sharing, based on the current pricing system.
“If you want exercise or to go on the trails, those kind of longer trips are really not the purpose of Capital Bikeshare. Users can make a series of trips all day long and if each one is 30 minutes or less, then you’ve got several useful trips and that’s of no additional cost. That’s why we put docking stations all over the place,” Eatough said. “It’s kind of a new way of getting around, so there is a learning curve for people.”
The long term plan for Capital Bikeshare is just one of the several biking improvements getting praise in Arlington. Eatough also pointed out the county’s recent widening of certain bike lanes and painting portions of bike lanes green.
“They’re all just a sign that our streets are evolving little bit. Whether you’re driving or biking or walking, everyone has interactions and has their role to play in these interactions,” Eatough said. “We have to help each other. It’s really about people rather than mode.”
Right now, it’s unclear when the dozens of new Bikeshare docking stations will be installed. Once the list of proposed stations is finalized, there’s a permitting process, and the County Board has to give approval. After that, the stations can typically be installed at a rate of three per day, and only take about two hours to get up and running.
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At a Bike to Work Day event at Gateway Park in Rosslyn, Fisette called the program “a great system to help us promote cycling and promote health in Arlington.”
Initially launching in Crystal City this fall, the Arlington-DC bike share system will feature 1,100 bikes that will be available for rent at docking stations located primarily around transit centers. Bike usage will cost $5 per day or $80 for a year. Fisette said the county hopes to eventually expand the system to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
County officials say the program will be similar to successful bike sharing systems in Montreal and Paris. Like Montreal, the Arlington and DC will use bikes with enclosed chains and brake cables, built by Quebec-based BIXI.
The program will be funded by the county and by state and federal grants. Some of the operational funding will be provided by the program’s own revenue.