Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.
Capital Bikeshare has proved to be a roaring success and is inspiring similar systems across the country. Though there’s typically popular demand for more stations in DC’s core, CaBi’s eventual expansion to the region’s suburbs could be a boon.
CaBi’s success has sparked bike sharing networks in Denver, Miami Beach, and Boston. Though CaBi is currently the largest bike sharing system in the United States, huge programs are planned for Chicago and New York in the not-too-distant future. And it won’t be long before West Coast cities get on board. The highly publicized success of CaBi has given major cities across the nation confidence to explore bike sharing systems.
Locally, CaBi’s success has called for expansion outside of DC and Arlington into Alexandria and Rockville. Even expansion within DC and Arlington will be pushing towards the edges of those cities. At some point, probably not too far in the future, other area suburbs will probably consider the implementation of bike sharing.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to make the case for bike sharing in some of our suburbs. Places all over the Washington region have the right environment to support bike share. And it’s only a matter of time before the red and yellow bikes we know and love start appearing far from the urban core.
Suburban jurisdictions will likely face different issues than their core-city counterparts, but with a well thought-out placement, they should thrive just as well and provide an essential form of transportation in suburbs. We should probably focus on several important areas outside of the core:
Around Metro and commuter rail stations. Obviously, CaBi is a great approach to addressing the “last mile” problem of commuter transportation systems. Stations placed near suburban Metro, MARC, and VRE stations could be complemented by bike share stations within a two-mile radius. These would be best placed along bike trails and bike-friendly arterial roads. The major potential for these stations is connecting residents to Metro stations, allowing for a viable car-free commute into the city. They can also connect suburban workers to jobs near Metro.
Along major corridors. Major arterial roads that radiate from the city often bring a continued urban corridor with them. As the region adds bike sharing in the suburbs, placing stations along existing corridors could prove to be a winning proposition. This would undoubtedly necessitate infrastructure improvements along many of those corridors to make them more conducive to increased biking, but the payoff could come in the form of decreased traffic along the routes.
In business and retail districts. Main streets and shopping areas exist in the suburbs, too. Some of them are just a bit too far from transit centers for the causal walker. Bike sharing could fill in the gaps of local bus and train networks and encourage a safer environment in those areas.
At campuses. Colleges, high schools, trade schools, and even middle and elementary schools could all provide fertile ground for bike sharing. Educational institutions would benefit greatly from the increased safety, and would help encourage students to bike to school using personal bikes. This could have a major impact on traffic around campuses and potentially save school districts money in busing.
In job centers. The “last mile” commuter issue is most poignant at a suburban office park. Generally secluded from transit stops, office parks could benefit from bike sharing, encouraging commuters to explore car-free methods combining mass transit and biking.
Certainly suburban bike sharing would best be complemented by improved bicycle infrastructure and biker-friendly policies. New bike lanes and paths and traffic management would help maximize the benefits of bike sharing and biking in general. It would take cars off the road, which means less congestion, less pollution, and more safety. It could also connect otherwise isolated suburban residents to jobs and amenities. Bike sharing has been a resounding success for the city, but if properly implemented that success can stretch into the region’s suburbs.