My Ode to Capital Bikeshare


July 8, 2011, Washington, DC: Three cheers for Friday afternoon! Not only does this mean no work til Monday, it means no car til Monday. It means I am free. Free for biking.

If there's one element of my lifestyle that doesn't mesh well with the rest, it's my commute. 65 miles roundtrip each day, one tank of gas each week, approximately $3,120 down the drain each year. Needless to say, when I park my car Friday afternoon, it doesn't move unless needed for the grocery store or a ride to the boathouse.

In light of this situation, I'm absolutely and utterly in love with Capital Bikeshare. I can't stop talking about it to anyone who will listen. Thanks to a bike sharing station full of adorable red beach cruisers 100 yards from the front door, I travel anywhere and everywhere by bicycle. My key card allows me to pop a bicycle out of its dock here at Eastern Market and pop it back into a dock anywhere in this city I so choose. I pedal to bars and restaurants, to the ballpark, to friends' houses. I even pedal home halfway through a workout if I don't feel like running back up the Hill.

Capital Bikeshare and its accompanying smartphone application Spotcycle truly fascinate me -- as a math problem (how to distribute those bikes!), as a study in urban living, as a perfect way for real-time technology to enhance our real-life experiences. I firmly believe that efforts to create more bike lanes and make biking accessible help solve our health problems, environmental problems, congestion problems and money problems all at once. The price of my one-year Capital Bikeshare membership was the price of one tank of gas.

What I also find interesting is the joy that Bikeshare has brought to me even though I already owned a bike. In all those years training for triathlons, biking 500 miles through Alaska, settling in to long rides out in Poolesville, Md., I had never truly relied on my bicycle simply as a mode of transportation rather than recreation. My other bike, the one I don't share, is a shiny blue racing bike. I've never taken it to a bar out of worry about getting back home. I've never used it for errands out of concerns over locking it up. I've certainly never pedaled it wearing a summer dress and flats.

Maybe those are all good reasons to love Capital Bikeshare. Maybe it's the beauty of the one-way trip, the ability to pedal out to dinner and cab it back home. Maybe it's that I don't have to worry about theft or carry a lock. Maybe it's that I don't have to maneuver my racing bike down my narrow stairs with one hand while trying to open the front door with the other. Or maybe it's that I don't have to don biking shoes and clip in and out at stoplights.

Whatever the reason, I am in love with Capital Bikeshare and I will tell anyone who will listen. Apologies to my shiny blue bike that's neglected and deflated in the dining room.