clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Capital Bikeshare is Booming—and Helping Traffic Too

This week, Capital Bikeshare is celebrating its fifth year of operation as well as its fifth year helping reduce traffic congestion in Washington, D.C. According to a new study by Timothy Hamilton and Casey Wichman of Resources for the Future, bike-share stations can reduce congestion in surrounding areas by two to three percent. The stations also appear to slightly increase traffic in adjacent neighborhoods, which Vox suggests could be due to drivers avoiding bike-heavy areas. To conduct the Capital Bikeshare study, the researchers used traffic data from the University of Maryland's CATT Lab, comparing 82 of the D.C. area's roads that got stations in 2010 with 82 control areas that didn't, but were comparable in terms of congestion levels, wealth, and more. The researchers plan on continuing the study, especially as Capital Bikeshare undergoes a $3.5 million expansion.



Hamilton and Wichman's findings may come to the relief of some commuters in the D.C. area, especially after a recent report produced by INRIX and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) ranked Washington, D.C. as the most gridlock-plagued city in the nation. According to the report, the District totaled 82 hours of delay per commuter in comparison to Los Angeles' 80 hours, San Francisco's 78 hours, and New York City's 74 hours. Pro-transit group Coalition for Smarter Growth later denounced the study, arguing that the report ignored region-wide gains in commuting by transit, walking, and biking. Regardless, with Capital Bikeshare stations, the researchers argued that congestion in the docks' immediate areas could be further reduced, especially roads with 35 miles per hour or greater speed limits, which saw the biggest congestion reductions.



There are over 350 stations and over 3,000 bikes in the DMV area, and the numbers continue to grow. The Washington Post reported that the company has more than 29,000 members and has surpassed 10.5 million trips since its inception.

2014 saw the title of "Capital Bikeshare's Busiest Station" change hands for the first time in years. Check out this...

Posted by Capital Bikeshare on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

All in all, the Capital Bikeshare business is booming. From July 2014 to September 2014, one station located at the Lincoln Memorial—the busiest Capital Bikeshare station in the District—served 44,177 total trips, or 480 per day on average. Additionally, according to Capital Bikeshare system data, in the fourth quarter of 2010, there were a total 117,693 trips made throughout the region, while in this recent second quarter of 2015, there were 999,074.



Breaking the numbers further by area, in 2011, Arlington, Virginia only had 23 bikeshare stations, but by 2014, there were over 75. Seven additional stations have been ordered for the county. In Alexandria, Virginia, there are currently a total of 16 stations with four ordered this past August, and 12 additional stations planned to be bought later this year. Capital Bikeshare expanded to Montgomery County in Maryland in the fall of 2013. In the next few months, the county is expected to get an additional seven new stations. Meanwhile, in D.C. proper, 10 stations were ordered this past August, which will bring the total number in the city to 205.

To help the numbers continue their rise, Montgomery County offers financial assistance for people of low income to be able to use Capital Bikeshare. On a first-come-first-serve basis, residents can apply for the Montgomery County Low Income Bikeshare Program (MCLiberty). This program offers free membership for up to one year ($85 value), free bicycle education and safety training, and a free bike helmet.

In Arlington, residents can become Capital Bikeshare members by paying for the service in cash as opposed to credit or debit. By doing this, new members can receive their member fob immediately as opposed to a week in advance.

Washington, D.C. is also taking the reins by making sure that every student in the D.C. public school system is educated on how to ride a bike. Starting this fall, all second graders will learn to ride bikes in PE class, making the District's public school system the first U.S. school system to institutionalize comprehensive bicycle education. With this growth of bike riders, this could eventually lead to a growth in Capital Bikeshare members, and with this growth in Capital Bikeshare members, that could mean that traffic congestion may improve more and more as this younger generation grows up. This is all conjecture, of course. Might still be worth crossing one's fingers, though.


The way that Capital Bikeshare works is that a person can sign up to join for a day, three days, a month, or a year. There is also a "Day Key" option, which is for members who use the service on an irregular basis. Once a member, riders have access to the fleet of bikes 24 hours a day with the first 30 minutes of each trip free. While operated by a private company, Capital Bikeshare is funded publicly by the District of Columbia, the City of Alexandria, and Arlington County. Check out the below video to understand how to take, ride, and return a Capital Bikeshare bike.


· Capital Bikeshare [Official Website]
· Traffic Gridlock Sets New Records for Traveler Misery [Texas A&M Transportation Institute]
· Pro-Transit Group Attacks D.C. Traffic Congestion Report As Deeply Flawed [WAMU]
· Capital Bikeshare to get new bicycles, add nearly 60 stations starting this fall [The Washington Post]
· Bikeshare Program Indeed Reduces Traffic In Some Neighborhoods, Study Finds [WAMU]
· Study: Bike share has (slightly) reduced congestion in Washington, DC [Vox]
· Capital Bikeshare, Objet d'art [Greater Greater Washington]
· Why D.C. Wants to Teach Every Kid How to Ride a Bike [CityLab]