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Bikeshare Could Be a New Bethesda Commuting Option

BUP is pushing for installation of Bikeshare stations in Bethesda.

A new commuting option could be coming to Bethesda in the near future. The Bethesda Urban Partnership has been pushing for a Capital Bikeshare program like those in Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va. If all goes well, Bethesda could see the installation of the first Bikeshare station by spring.

Already-congested Bethesda is gearing up to face a host of transportation challenges this fall, including traffic issues near the soon-to-be Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the of a 270-space surface parking lot near Woodmont Avenue and Bethesda Avenue. Local leaders are hoping to encourage commuters out of their cars, and Bikeshare could soon be another alternative commuting option.

For a yearly fee of $75, Capital Bikeshare members have access to community bikes located at several bike racks throughout an area. The bikes can be picked up and dropped off at any Bikeshare station. Riders also have options for monthly, 24-hour and five-day memberships. Riding time over 30 minutes costs extra money.

“We already have a network that is well-established that works well,” said David Dabney, executive director of Bethesda Urban Partnership, referring to the various trails that connect Bethesda, the District, Silver Spring, Friendship Heights, and other areas.

BUP is hoping to use state funds to install and maintain the first few stations in Bethesda. State Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D – Dist. 16) told Patch he will push for state funding through a transportation grant or through a bond bill.

“Bikeshare would work very well for Bethesda,” Frosh said.

The initial cost of the station installation, equipment and first-year operation ranges from $49,458 for six bikes with 11 docks to $95,277 for 14 bikes with 27 docks. Yearly operation costs for a six-bike station are $11,718 for the second year, $12,304 for the third and $12,919 for the fourth.

Dabney is hoping that corporate sponsors will fund more Bikeshare stations following the installation of the first several docks. Many Bethesda companies have already begun to support alternative forms of commuting, including by installing showers for bike commuters, Dabney said. Alternative commuting options have grown more popular in the last ten years, and the Bikeshare program would offer another way to encourage commuters out of their cars and off of Bethesda’s busy streets, Dabney said.

However, further infrastructure like bike lanes may be needed in order to ensure biker safety, Dabney said.

“I even get nervous on the roads and I’m experienced,” Dabney said.

Non bike-riders can learn more about alternative transportation options like Metro, the and carpooling at the Bethesda Transportation Solutions website.

Mom of Two August 02, 2011 at 05:34 PM
What I don't get is why BUP would have to pay if the people riding the bikes have to pay. The guy behind this gets nothing but profit with no expenditure.
Michael H. August 03, 2011 at 04:17 AM
Just as with every other form of public transportation, user fees don't cover all of the costs of the system. It's the same with MetroRail, Metro Bus, highways and roads. All of it is subsidized from other revenue sources. The justification is that without a functional transportation system, other economic and personal activity would be very difficult to accomplish.
Mom of Two August 03, 2011 at 12:29 PM
I think the concept is fine, but the business model is lacking. Almost $50k for 6 bikes is nuts. I enjoyed the bike drop system in The Netherlands and I am sure it didn't cost $50K for 6 bikes. Basic bikes work just fine. Mine cost $250. Is the dock overly complex? There's got to be a cheaper way to implement a great concept -- especially in fiscally tight years.
Jacques August 03, 2011 at 01:00 PM
@Mom of Two -- the 50K is capital expenditure, but the operating costs should be (mostly) covered by memberships, rider fees, and/or advertising. The dock allows for secure storage, electronic transmission of which bike was taken out or returned, and a payment kiosk (and the bikes that come with it). As to the bikes themselves, they are very solid for city commuting, though not too speedy. They are entirely internally geared, in order to protect from the weather, and they also have things like RFID chips for possible GPS tracking embedded inside the bike (i think) and an automatic locking system, in case of theft.

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