Monday, October 29, 2007

Arlington, VA to join the ranks of Berlin, Copenhagen, Paris in bike sharing?

On October 22, I attended a bike sharing presentation by Paul DeMaio, who owns MetroBike LLC, an organization devoted to bike sharing and bike planning. He covered the old experiments in bike sharing where governments/communities would basically make bikes available to the public for free for the purpose of getting around. A lot of these bikes were comfort-type bikes in brightly colored designs. These experiments ended badly with these bikes either being stolen or discarded in a local river or lake.

A proposal that Paul is forwarding is a new “smart” bike sharing system that has been pioneered in European cities where rental bikes are “locked” to a number of locations and are rented, at a very minimal charge, to people typically covering short distances. They are rented with a credit card, or in the case for us here in the Washington DC area, a fare card that is now used on the subway, subway parking lots and buses. Bikes would be for local citizens not tourists.

To me, the most intriguing part of the presentation was the low costs that would be incurred by citizens wanting to borrow a bike. Paul said that bikes would be free to rent for the first ½ hour and $1-2 for additional ½ hour increments. Most of the costs (maintenance, cost of bikes, building stations etc.) would be borne by large media conglomerates presumably to advertise at renting stations or on the bikes themselves.

My hometown, Arlington, VA, will decide whether to establish a pilot program in an upcoming County board meeting. The District of Columbia government is also rolling out a small bike sharing program. I hope the Arlington county government approves it. I am all for more people on bikes. For more information about bike sharing, check out Paul’s bike sharing blog at

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