Lately something has been popping up all over DC and Northern Virginia, and it’s not just the tourists! If you happen to have noticed racks of shiny red bikes appearing near your home, metro station or office, you may be wondering what these new additions are. Well, if you haven’t previously heard of “Capital Bikeshare,” you’re sure to be hearing a lot of it in the near future due to its growing popularity and simple, yet incredibly efficient, concept.
Jointly created by the District of Columbia and Arlington County, the idea behind Capital Bikeshare is simple – install racks of rentable bicycles all over the city so that people may pick them up, bike to their desired location, and drop the bike off once they arrive, at a different station. Think of it as a car rental facility, but instead it’s self-service and you aren’t charged a fee for not returning your bike to its original station. That and you’re spared the canned elevator music and cranky customer service reps.
The process of actually renting the bikes is equally as simple. You have the option of signing up for a 24-hour, 3-day, 30-day or full year membership. If you choose the shorter of the two options, you simply head to any of the 160+ stations in the DC and Arlington area, swipe your credit card, and choose which length of time you’d like to rent for. The kiosk will provide you with an unlocking code, which you use to unlock a bike from the docking station (the rack where the bikes are stored). You are allowed to rent and return bikes to as many stations as you’d like, until your rental time expires. During the rental, users are charged a flat “membership fee” of $7 for 24 hours or $15 for 3 days, and then a usage fee dependent on the amount of time the bike is taken out. The first 30 minutes of each rental are free, no matter how long your membership period is for.
If you decide to opt for the 30-day or year-long membership, your flat fee will be $25 or $75, respectively. Renters also have the option of an “annual with monthly installments” deal, where instead of making one payment of $75, you make twelve monthly payments of $7. As a benefit to members who purchase the monthly or annual memberships, the usage fee does end up being a bit less.
The rental process is also slightly different with these longer memberships. Users interested in these options must go online to the Capital Bikeshare website, where you register using a MasterCard or Visa. Within seven business days, your Capital Bikeshare key will arrive in the mail, which allows you to unlock bikes at any time of day, from any station in the area. It’s important to note that you can’t use your key until you’ve logged into your account and activated it.
Now that you’ve signed up for your membership, Capital Bikeshare isn’t about to send you out on the road unprepared! There are tons of great resources and even promotional deals offered for members. For the inexperienced urban biker, the Bikeshare website puts you in touch with smart biking tips both on the site, as well as through the Washington Area Bike Association (WABA) at www.waba.org. If you’re interested in taking a free bike safety class, you can also do so through Arlington County, the District Department of Transportation and WABA.
And now to the good stuff: in support of Bikeshare, many local businesses offer discounts to members on their services or products. Enjoy 20% off at Mie N Yu, buy one, get one free cupcakes at Sprinkles, or 25% off of a membership to Arganica Farm Club. You can also get discounts on admission to Six Flags, and to performances at Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre and Atlas Performing Arts Center. Check out the “Member Benefits” link on the “How It Works” page of the Bikeshare website for more great deals. There’s also the added advantage of not having to fill your car’s gas tank up as much, now that you have the option to bike everywhere instead of driving. With benefits to our wallets and health as well as to the environment, Capital Bikeshare certainly seems to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood!
Learn more at www.capitalbikeshare.com