While the news that Mayor Bloomberg's plan for NYC congestion pricing was defeated is something of a low point for urban cyclists, that coming out of Washington, D.C., is much more encouraging. Next month D.C. will become the first U.S. city to launch a public bike sharing venture like the wildly popular Vélib (short for "vélo liberté") program in Paris. One hundred and twenty bicycles will be available at 10 central locations for an annual membership cost of $40. Users will be able to check out bikes for three hours at a time from 6am until 10pm (and returned at all hours); a fee of $200 will be levied if the bicycle goes unreturned after 48 hours. There is a point-based system of demerits for late returns, which can lead to losing one's rental privileges.
The pluses: the bikes appear to have full chain cases, fenders, and skirt guards, which allow a rider to wear a dress or a long overcoat and not have to worry about it getting sucked into the spokes of the rear wheel or marked with grease from the cranks. They make a huge difference if you want to ride to a formal event or anything during the winter. They've also got dynamo lighting, which are active lights powered by tiny generators in the wheels—no batteries to worry about and many times more effective than reflectors.
The minuses: The Vélib operation in Paris reports that 25% of its total use is during the hours of 9pm - 3am. With the D.C. program stopping check out at 10pm, it effectively cuts out the young, late-night crowd, who as the Paris numbers demonstrate are not an insignificant ridership.
The cost of the program has been covered by a partnership with Clear Channel Outdoor, who in exchange for funding much of the program have been given exclusive advertising rights to the bus shelters around D.C.
What a great idea!
From what I hear about the DC crime rate, you probably wouldn't want to be riding a bike after 10. I wouldn't have done it back in the 60's, even in the relatively low crime midwest.
Winter riding? If they get any kind of snow, grease will be the least of your worries. Two wheel transport gets really crummy in any kind of serious winter -- even after the streets are plowed.
Otherwise, hope it works-- makes much more sense then that goofy 2 wheel gadget that was going to revolutionize society.
This is a Great Idea............
It will demonstrate how communal ownership just does NOT work.....All you young Socialists please take note. It is a sad FACT of human nature, that renters just don't take care of items they rent as well as owners do. The Loss, Maintenance, and Legal costs will doom this eventually and it will quietly fade away Unless it’s another government supported feel good “Program.” Then it can go on forever, because then, cost is of no concern….I’m betting on the later In fact, I’d bet that in five years, if you take the cost of the program and divide it by the number of actual users, it would have been cheaper to just buy them all new bikes (every year).
Also, This isn’t new, it’s very much like the “Yellow Bike” program in the Socialist Heaven of the Midwest (Mpls.) about 10 years ago....
Hey, it works in other countries just fine and for quite a while now. Of course it requires maintenance and there is vandalism, but that is a reflection of the state of a society. That is what taxes are used for: Keep a society going while fixing what is messed up by those who do not contribute (for whatever reasons). In some places you can even share a car with others. Imagine that concept: A car that does not belong to you but you rent it by the hour and return it to a agreed upon location when you are done. And you do it just because you do not want to pay as much or because you do not want to own as much. Is sharing valuable things completely un-American during these times of billions of more people wanting to have more than there is for each? Or just smart?
The times for living wastefully at the expense of other humans or species are coming to an end. Too many people do it! There is no question in my mind that the amount of US-American personal belongings cannot be a high as in the past.
It is not in your GENES to treat what does not belong to you worse than what you own. It is in your upbringing. I was taught to be respectful with other people's property and you can do the same with those who listen to you. That has nothing to do with human nature (I still hope) but with education. I hope you do not teach your children that anything inconsiderate is human nature rather than a choice. That would be a fine excuse to be a jerk in so many ways.
Of course it sucks to be forced to not own, but rather share. I do not know if it makes it any easier, but it will not be imposed by some regime, it will be imposed by the natural fact that there is not enough on this planet for all to live like North Americans. In my opinion it is better to come to terms with this now, teach your children to be at peace with it too, and get used to it. We may have had wars for oil - We will have wars for energy, water, food, etc. if we do not accept that we need to live with less.
Practical Advice to Pollute Less
For less money, you could own your own bike -- one that suits your personal preferences, and which you can ride 24/7.
I am a little taken back by some of the commenting on this article and am going to blame it on the stubborn people who believe that the only way to get anywhere is to drive. The American transportation planners usually view widening highways as investment and public transportation as subsidy when adding lanes only encourages people to drive more. We need real solutions to congestion, which requires new ways of thinking. Bicycle renting is truely an innovation who's time has come.
This program has been in Paris for a year and it works. The bikes generate jobs and they encourage bicycle ridership which mitigates congestion. This saves the city money. The difference between this program and other yellow bike programs is that the bicycles will be securely parked and electronically monitored. To steal a bicycle would be like breaking into an ATM. In large cities where space is a premium, less space will be needed for parking these bicycles. This model is perfect for large densely populated cities. I wouldn't be suprised if the system is introduced in other cities such as New York and Chicago within the next decade.
Rapid Transit for everyone, no Fees, and Not something you can weld apart in your garage. I see some crack head breakin the wheels off and sellin them for a couple bucks. Hope it takes off, but 40$ a month for a 3 hour bike use w.checking ? I might as well buy a walmart bike to enjoy for a couple years.
the membership is annual
Sweet, I'll be visiting DC in June!
I hate to say it but, I would be much more interested in owning a moped of some kind. I'm a long time bike rider and I'm getting older :-) A good "green" powered moped of some kind would really catch my attention. Because it's much easier to just buy a bike and get what you want out of that bike when it comes to features and stuff. When it comes to space you need for a bike people in apartments, condos or any "smaller" living can easily store a bike/S so, I don't see as much of a "need" being filled here. Maybe it's just an idea to get people used to the idea of actually riding a bike to get to work instead of recreationally do so. Just my two cents.
Some of the key concepts have been missed by some of the bloggers. I live in DC and have a bike. For $40 a year, (about the cost of 5 taxi rides) the advantages for me are huge. First, we have a very good metro system, and many of the bike kiosks are located near the metro stations. That allows me to take the metro across town, grab a bike, and bike the short distance to where I want to go and return the bike. Cant do that with my own bike. Second, I can grab a bike, go to another location and drop the bike. In Paris, that is one of the biggest advantages. I can take the metro to Chevy Chase (all uphill), grab a bike, and ride it all the way to Georgetown, 15 miles down steep hills, stop wherever I want, and leave it in Georgetown. 15 miles downhill is much more fun than the reverse. The ability to take a bike one way is not an option with your own bike, unless you want to take your car to pick it up later. The crime comment is not at all valid unless you like to hang out in bad neighborhoods, as every city has. I used to live in Chicago, millions of people walk, bike, run etc. in total safety but not typically in the projects, same in DC. I have never felt like I was in danger here. Third, you don't have to worry about your bike getting stolen. You take the rent-a-bike from one place, and drop it in another. You don't have to chain your bike up somewhere for hours and worry about it.
I can't wait for the program to start. I only wish they set it up for tourists as well, like Paris, where anybody could rent a bike without having to join for a year (like the rental carts at the airport, use a credit card, use the bike, return it). Then the multitude of tourists could easily use the program to get around the city.
I am excited for the program to start!