Washington DC has not been known as one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, but in the past two years, it has stepped up its image. In 2008, the launch of SmartBike DC gave the nation’s capital the distinction of being the first municipality in the country to launch a bike share program. Bike share programs have long been commonplace in major European cities.
The Washington Area Bicyclists Association has also instituted a bike ambassador program. Bike ambassadors trained by WABA promote bicycling in the nation’s capital, conducting clinics and distributing information on safe bicycling. Bike ambassadors share knowledge about safe bicycling techniques including road-sharing with autos and crash avoidance tips.
Besides generating enthusiasm for biking, the bike ambassadors provide information to the public on routing, repairs, and local bike laws.
While the bike ambassadors get the word out on bicycling, local municipalities are joining forces to replace SmartBike DC with what is described as the country’s largest regional bike share program. By fall 2010, bike sharing will expand from the current 120 bikes at 10 stations in the District to 1,100 bikes at 100 District locations and 15 in Arlington County, Virginia. The SmartBike system had overgrown its capacity with 100 riders per day.
The goal for the new bike share program is to increase the bike inventory 4 to 5-fold in the next several years.
Bicyclists wanting to use the bike share program buy a membership online or at the bike kiosk. Daily memberships are $5, weekly memberships $30 and annual memberships $80, entitling the member to unlimited bike usage.
Of course, the new emphasis on bicycling for both transportation and recreation means more bike lanes are in demand. Washington DC plans to expand its marked bike lanes to 80 miles, including new bike lanes on heavily trafficked central business district. I, L, 15th and 19th Streets, NW are proposed sites of new bike routes in the District. New bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue opened in June. Separated bike lanes are also planned for M Street, NW, 15th St. from U to Massachusetts and 9th Street from Massachusetts to Constitution. The District Department of Transportation will continue to study the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes for a year, determining if design changes are necessary to promote safe biking.
As of spring 2010, DC had 56 miles of bike trails in operation, 44.7 miles of bike lanes and .7 miles of cycle track which is expected to be expanded by 5 miles by year’s end.
Sources: http://www.examiner.com/x-2429-Bicycle-Transportation-Examiner~y2010m4d7-Meet-DCs-new-bicycle-ambassador; http://www.waba.org/areabiking/bikeambassador.php#BCS; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-elyse-matison/vive-le-velo-america-need_b_597310.html; http://www.smartbike.com/how; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052102745.html; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/22/AR2010062204922.html; http://ddot.dc.gov/DC/DDOT/About+DDOT/News+Room/Public+Meetings/DDOT+to+Unveil+Plans+for+Innovative+Bike+Lanes+in+the+Central+Business+District.