Bike sharing is coming to our nation’s capital. Hooray! Well, not really. I have a gut feeling this isn’t going to work out.
It all started with the SmartBike program, which I assume will be phased out and integrated once Capital Bike Share takes over. That program was a good deal $40 a year and you can ride it as long as you pleased, with no extra fees. With the new program, extra fees start adding up after 30 minutes, kind of like a Domino’s commercial “You’ve got 30 minutes [to ride this bike before we start nickel and diming you.]” Or, as my friend Garrett points out, you’ve got 30 minutes to stop your trip, return this bike, and take out another one.
That’s reason one it won’t work. Pricing. Who is going to pay $50 or more a year, and then start paying fees for every minute past 30? I mean, if you use it significantly, and you rack up the charges, at what point will you say f-this and just buy a bike? Their pricing is absurd. And for frequent users who use it for more than 30 minutes, it doesn’t seem worth it.
For it to be worth it, you’d have to keep all of your trips under 30 minutes, but it might even be faster to take Metro, as much as I hate WMATA, depending on whether it’s a one or two way trip. In instances of round trips, the bike may be cheaper. I’m told the average urban bike speed is roughly 13 miles per hour, so you could go about 6.5 miles in that time and not be paying additional fees. So it could be a 3 mile round trip with minimal stopping time, or you could drop it off at another location and go the whole 6.5 miles.
Don’t get me wrong, this will be a splendid deal for some people, but on the whole I continue to have doubts it will work.
But who is going to take a bike to Anacostia, or any neighborhood that is filled with crime? Who is going to ride these at night or today during a storm or a flood? Do they have good locks, or any at all? I’m not sure they do. What happens if there aren’t enough docking stations at your destination? You have to take it to another one? That’s inconvenient.
Remember these bikes? I don’t know if the pilot was a success or not, but who in their right mind would ride around town on this thing? It is the ugliest bicycle in the world, and pretty effeminate. You might as well be riding a Vespa — at least they have a motor.
On the broad macro level, the last thing D.C. needs are 1,100 bicycles with a nearly infinitesimal number of riders with varying experience. If I have enough problems with the supposedly good bicyclists, I can assure you that I will be far angrier with amateurs and tourists.
Here is a screenshot from the new bike share webpage.
Hey guys! I’m just a tourist driving this rented bicycle down the middle of M street during rush hour. Don’t mind me! Share the road!
The italicized description above represents what this will become. 1,100 potentially fatal accidents involving either tourists or wanna-be trendy D.C. denizens that do not realize that bicycles must obey the same laws as cars in the District of Columbia.
In the long run, I predict this program will fail in the marketplace, that is, unless somebody gets killed by accident first and sues.
UPDATE: BS2SB sends me this interesting link and twist on bike sharing.