Smartbikes take over Washington

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images It’s time to get your (Smart)bike on in D.C. The long-awaited bike-rental program kicks off this week in Washington, which joins the ranks of Barcelona and Paris as a leader in promoting ecofriendly transportation. Washington’s program is less ambitious than its European counterparts — with just 120 bikes to Paris’s 20,000 — ...

593270_080814_smartbike5.jpg
593270_080814_smartbike5.jpg

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

It's time to get your (Smart)bike on in D.C.

The long-awaited bike-rental program kicks off this week in Washington, which joins the ranks of Barcelona and Paris as a leader in promoting ecofriendly transportation. Washington's program is less ambitious than its European counterparts -- with just 120 bikes to Paris's 20,000 -- but Jim Sebastian, bike and pedestrian program manager for the D.C. Transportation Department, expects the Smartbikes to be a big hit:

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

It’s time to get your (Smart)bike on in D.C.

The long-awaited bike-rental program kicks off this week in Washington, which joins the ranks of Barcelona and Paris as a leader in promoting ecofriendly transportation. Washington’s program is less ambitious than its European counterparts — with just 120 bikes to Paris’s 20,000 — but Jim Sebastian, bike and pedestrian program manager for the D.C. Transportation Department, expects the Smartbikes to be a big hit:

It’s really going to be replacing cab rides and car trips for a lot of folks looking to get around the city quickly… Plus they won’t have to worry about parking.”

An annual fee of $40 gets riders a program membership card and up to three hours’ use of a SmartBike. There’s no limit on the total number of daily trips, so riders could theoretically tool around all day on the cherry-red cycles.

No matter how long riders use the bikes, though, the city hopes they’ll be safe: Each SmartBike member gets a safe-cycling guide, a bike map of the district, and a manual outlining D.C.’s cycling laws. The program doesn’t provide helmets, but Sebastian does encourage riders to wear their own.

Riders will also have to provide their own locks, at least for the time being, which might pose potential problems of theft and vandalism (something Paris knows about). Still, the real litmus test will be how much use the program gets in its first few weeks. D.C.’s unseasonably mild August might spur some people to try the bikes. I’m tempted to give it a try this afternoon, if the weather holds.

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