First Modern Bike-Sharing Program in the USA
The District of Columbia joins Barcelona and Paris today with the launch of its high-tech Smart Bike Program (other cities have bike-share initiatives, but not as big and sophisticated as Vélib-style programs). At first, 120 bikes will be available at 10 self-service racks, mostly in the downtown area, including near the Gallery Place, Shaw and Judiciary Square Metrorail stations. Not exactly Vélib with its 1,500 stations and 20,000 bicycles, but it's a start.
How Does it Work?
"A $40 annual fee gets riders a membership card, which allows them to pick up a cherry red three-speed bike." Once you pick up a bike, you have it for up to three hours. If you need it longer, you need to go back to a station. There are no limits to the number of trips. Unfortunately, short-term memberships will not be available at first, so the target audience isn't tourists.
Sebastian said several steps have been taken to deter theft. Unlike Vélib, only those with a membership card can rent bikes, and the replacement fee for a stolen or damaged bike can reach $550. In Paris, bikes can be rented by the day or week using a credit card.
For now riders will have to provide their own locks, but maybe that will change as district officials try to figure a way to provide them with the bikes.
Lets hope that the program will be a success, that D.C. will add stations, bikes, and bike paths, and that other US cities will follow their example. You can find more information on Smart Bike DC's official website.
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More on D.C. Bike-Sharing
Smart Bike DC Official Site
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