Is Capital Bikeshare worth it?


Capital Bikeshare, D.C.’s bike-sharing system, has not changed my life, though it is pretty sweet. But is it worth the paltry $75 a year?

I joined 45 days ago and have taken 27 total rides. My workplace is not within cycling range, but if it was, the system would certainly be worth it — I would bike to work more often than not. Though some of the city is very inhospitable to biking (New York Avenue, I’m looking at you), with proper planning, a pleasant route can be found to most destinations.

It would appear that 27 cycling trips replacing 27 Metro rides or long walks over 45 days certainly means that over a year Bikeshare would easily pay for itself. Extrapolated over a full year, that’s 219 trips, or a few hundred dollars in savings. But plenty of my biking excursions have been late-night joyrides or exercise-related, so this is not entirely accurate.

Of those 27 trips, I calculate about half were truly replacing other modes of transportation, Still, that’s a little over 100 trips a year, and certainly during the summer I will ride more. At this rate, the system is worth it.

But wait! I am moving to an address about four blocks from the nearest station — currently I am about a block and a half from one. This will surely reduce my trips. But does that change my answer?

At $1.50-$1.60 for a minimum-length public transportation ride, a Bikeshare user simply must replace 50 of those trips PER YEAR with a bike ride to make the membership pay for itself. I am well on my way to that; there must also be something said for the health benefits and ability to use the bikes for joyrides as well, though that is difficult to quantify.

A month and a half in, the conclusion is: If you live within 10-minute walking distance of a Bikeshare station OR the system can be regularly integrated into your commute AND you are comfortable riding in the city, Capital Bikeshare is DEFINITELY worth it. That seems like a lot of ifs — but anyone who has used the Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes knows this city is really getting its bike infrastructure together and seems close to exploding with riders, a la the continent of Europe.

If Bikeshare can keep adding stations and overcome the lack of station density that currently hampers the system, it will be a success story for both the city and users’ wallets.

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