Photo by alykat on Flickr.

Capital Bikeshare has quietly added a new rental option: a 5-day pass, priced at $15. A formal launch is expected in connection with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which begins March 26.

The pass appears in Capital Bikeshare’s rental agreement (PDF), which it recently updated, and DDOT spokesman John Lisle confirmed that the 5-day pass is indeed now available to users.

Currently, Capital Bikeshare advertises only three pricing options: a 24-hour pass for $5, a 30-day membership for $25, and an annual membership for $75. The addition of this new pass is a great way to make Capital Bikeshare appealing to more visitors at the start of DC’s tourist season.

Other bike-sharing systems, including Paris’ Vélib’, currently offer 5-day passes (PDF) in addition to 24-hour and annual memberships. Vélib’s pricing scheme makes sense without the 30-day option. Tourists are not often in town for a month, and people who live here would likely find the annual membership to be a greater value, though having an extra membership level available certainly isn’t a negative.

Even though the launch of the 5-day pass is intended to coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the closest Capital Bikeshare users can get to the Tidal Basin is the rental station at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW. This is due to the National Park Service’s exclusive vendor arrangement with Guest Services, Inc. (GSI), which currently prohibits Capital Bikeshare stations on NPS property.

This new membership option, aimed at casual and visiting riders, is necessary for Capital Bikeshare to continue its growth and momentum. Letting residents and visitors rent and drop off bikes on NPS property would be the best way to encourage more people to give Capital Bikeshare a try, but the new 5-day pass is a welcome start.