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State Funds Announced For Downcounty BikeShare System

Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center, Takoma Park and Silver Spring eyed for possible BikeShare stations.

A downcounty bikesharing system could soon be up and running with the help of newly-announced state funding, according to county transportation officials.

Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Transportation announced a $1 million grant to help pay for the proposed network in Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center, Takoma Park and Silver Spring. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has also received a $250,000 bond for the program approved by the Maryland General Assembly and $252,000 in private sector funding commitments.

“Montgomery County DOT will be doing the detailed planning within the next few months, but the timing is probably about a year before this would be up running,” said Esther Bowring, a county spokeswoman.

The system will be aimed to expand the reach of transit, prompt residents out of their cars for short trips, and offer up a low-cost transportation method in the most congested portions of the county, according to a county news release. The network is planned to build off of the success of Capital Bikeshare, which has already seen increasing demand in Arlington and Washington, D.C., logging more than 1.5 million bike trips in its first 18 months.

In Montgomery County, the state transportation grant and the private funding will be enough to build phase one of the project -- about 29 stations with about 200 bikes, according Bowring. The state bond is planned to boost the system to 50 stations and 350 bikes in a second phase, but additional funding will need to be secured to complete the $2.15 million system, Bowring said.

The system is expected to cost about $500,000 a year to operate and maintain, some of which will be offset by membership fees and private sponsorships.

Capital BikeShare allows riders to rent bikes for a yearly fee of $75, and pick up and drop off the bikes at any BikeShare station. Monthly, daily and five-day memberships are also available, though riders are charged extra to rent bikes for more than 30 minutes at a time.

It’s not yet clear exactly where the stations will be located, but downcounty locations near Metro stations are “some of the prime locations,” Bowring said.

Several private companies have also expressed interest in siting Bikeshare stations at their locations. In Bethesda, the is joining what is becoming a ringing chorus of community support for the program,

The Westbard grocery store is difficult to reach via public transportation, but it’s just a short bike trip from the Bethesda Metro station down the Capital Crescent Trail.

“A lot of our team members take public transportation, and from the Bethesda Metro it makes much more sense to come down the bike path — it’s only a mile and a half down to the building — than having to take a 45-minute route on the bus,” Joanna Bragg, a marketing team leader for the store, told Patch last year. “We also have a lot of customers who are health-conscious and eco-conscious, and the trail runs directly behind our building — it just seems like such a no-brainer.”

Would you use a downcounty BikeShare system? Tell us in the comments.

Michael H. May 03, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Yes, I would use the Capital Bikeshare bikes in Friendship Heights and Bethesda.
R Lee May 04, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Isn't it great that the Feds and Montgomery County can spend OUR MONEY on bikes. WOW- its just wonderful. Another example of how creative politicians can find ways NOT to return our dollars to us. Ask any of them if it came out of THEIR pockets how quickly they would buy bicycles for public transportation-eeven ONE DOLLAR each and you'd find long periods of contemplation.
R Lee May 04, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Would you ride your bike in the winter at 30 degrees with a briefcase or in the summer at 90 degrees with a shirt ant tie? On a beautiful spring day at 60 degrees-YES but most of the year-NO, For $80.00 you can a buy a bike and ride it for years but if the State is going to give it to you for free-sure, why not? The State is YOU and your money, not free.
Wendy Leibowitz May 04, 2012 at 02:59 PM
My goodness, R Lee got up on the wrong side of the bike trail today! Free public bicycles help fight obesity, which drains a lot of public health dollars; help the environment and traffic problems caused by gas-guzzling cars, and help people get out in the community and make more stops, literally and figuratively, to "smell the flowers." I hope to use the bikes to go between Bethesda and Chevy Chase Circle--on many days, it would be quicker than driving! I'll leave early in the AM before it gets too hot. Thanks for your concern about the weather, though! These are public dollars well spent.
Andrew May 07, 2012 at 05:17 PM
R Lee, If you don't like it, move to Texas, Alaska, or its neighbor Russia. But you're in MoCo and us socialists will out-vote your every time.

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