Capital Bikeshare in Arlington: One Year Later
It’s been one year – and one million trips – for the biggest bike sharing system in the United States. Arlington County took the lead in bringing Capital Bikeshare to the region – so why haven’t we seen more of them in Arlington?
On Sept. 20, 2010, I and many other people rode the first wave of Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) bikes from the Washington Navy Yard to their home docking stations around the region.
While I was convinced the bikeshare program was a good idea that would improve local transportation, I – and most of us, I think – really had no idea that it would turn out to be so popular. They’re all over the district, carrying commuters from Mount Pleasant, tourists along the National Mall, and errand-runners all over the place. So where are they in Arlington?
Well, they’re certainly in Crystal City. The initial CaBi launch placed more than 100 bikes in the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods. The population density of the area was ideal, and the Crystal City Business Improvement District provided significant support to the program. You can see the bikes in use every day, but it’s nothing like the saturation we see across the Potomac.
The lower use of CaBi in Arlington, in my view, is mostly a result of the fact that the locations here tend to be islands.
CaBi riders’ only practical connection from Crystal City to the rest of the network requires comparatively long trips over the 14th Street Bridge or up the Mount Vernon Trail. The recent Rosslyn installations suffer from a smaller version of this problem, with the Key Bridge and Rosslyn hill providing natural barriers for many potential riders.
Does this mean that Arlington’s CaBi experience is going to remain a shadow of Washington's? No.
I predict that the expansion of Capital Bikeshare through the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor – planned for this fall and next spring – will completely change Arlington’s CaBi experience. With stations in Ballston, Clarendon and Courthouse, the CaBi bike will instantly become the quickest door-to-door transportation option between these neighborhoods for thousands of residents.
A Ballston apartment-dweller will be able to just jump on a CaBi bike and roll down to the Georgetown stations to start a night out, instead of taking the Orange Line to Foggy Bottom and then making the long walk back. Live in a Courthouse condo and want to pick up some things at the new Trader Joe’s in Clarendon? Grab a CaBi bike and use the rack on the front to get your groceries home. We’re going to see the red CaBi bikes everywhere.
Once the new stations are in, I expect Arlington will account for a very large chunk of the next million CaBi trips. I just hope that our infrastructure, education and enforcement are ready for the flood of new cyclists on Arlington’s streets.
Mark Blacknell is chairman of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, a member of the board of directors of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.