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D.C. Launches Bike-Sharing Program

Last week the first North American public bike-share program debuted in Washington D.C. With 120 bikes at 10 self-service racks, SmartBike DC officially launched. This week the Streetfilms team took it for a spin.

Here are some helpful facts about SmartBike DC:

  • To use this bike-share program you must become a member for an annual fee of $40 and have your membership card.
  • Locks & Helmets are not provided so bring your own.
  • Each trip has a 3 hour limit, but you can park at a station and take out another bike for no fee or penalty.

[intro music] 

Elizabeth Press:  [00:03] Our nation’s capital has become the first US city to launch a bike-sharing program.



Alice Kelly:  [00:10] It’s most similar to a zip car where multiple members can use the same vehicle. 


Paul DeMaio: [00:18] The clear channel system is called SmartBike.  That and new addition of Columbia on the end and you get SmartBike DC.


Elizabeth Press:  [00:26] Streetfilms took a fieldtrip this week to Washington DC to see for ourselves how a SmartBike system works. 


Euan Fisk:  [00:33] The way the program works is sign up online, get a card, it’s $40 annual fee, take the card to any of the ten stations around town, a total of 120 bikes you can get, you go to the station with your card, swipe it and it indicates which bike to take.  Just go to the station with the number, pull it out and you’re ready to ride. 


Elizabeth Press:  [00:49] And that is just what we did with local bike-share advocate Paul DeMaio. 


Paul DeMaio:  [00:54] I’m very excited to see that it’s finally here and I think while it’s a small program to start off with, it’s going to be growing in leaps and bounds in no time.


Robin Urban Smith:  [01:01] It would be fantastic if there were twice or three times or four times as many stations like this one. 


Alice Kelly:  [01:06] Knowing what we know now, of course we would have launched it bigger.  But when we were initially thinking about this, we really weren’t sure how popular it would be.  The rising cost of gas and the ever increasing green attitude of everybody is now showing us that, yes, the city will support a broader program. 



Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [01:34] One thing I noticed on our very short trip over here is that these bikes are very nicely built.  They’re solid.  You’re not going to go 20/25 miles an hour on them, but very high level comfort while riding this. 


Robin Urban Smith:  [01:44] We found a nice bike lane on New Hampshire Avenue and strolled right into Dupont Circle to drop our bikes off, and the best part is if I get a flat tyre, I don’t have to change it. 


Euan Fisk:  [01:54] We have a maintenance and distribution crew that’s in operation ten hours a day and they are performing general maintenance on the bikes, and also moving them around to even out distribution, make sure there are a good number of bikes at each station. 


Elizabeth Press:  [02:07] Although you normally need a subscription to use this particular bike-share program, Clear Channel let us take it for a spin and passer-byers were really interested.


Speaker:  [02:16] $40 you can’t go wrong, it’s like going around the city.  Fantastic. 


Speaker:  [02:21] It’s economical and it’s safe, green.  I think it’s a great idea. 


Speaker:  [02:26] I’ve seen them around in the city and I think it’s a great, great opportunity.


Euan Fisk:  [02:31] You can ride it for up to three hours and when you’re done with it you can drop it at any of the other ten stations.


Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [02:37] I returned the bike but then I want to take it out again let’s say. I just swipe my card, it said take bike number three and here I am, I have another bike and now I can go to another bike station.



Alice Kelly:  [02:51] Legally we cannot require helmets for the users of this, which is you have to be over 18.  So what we are suggesting is don’t forget to bring your own helmet.  It’s not just a remember to wear one.



Paul DeMaio:  [03:08] It was great.  I’m really impressed with the system and I’m so glad that Washington D.C. is the first city in North America to have our very own bike-sharing program.   


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  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    What a lovely bunch of people riding bikes.

  • fafacious

    Listen up NYC...launch big, ya hear? DC did it first, but we can do it bigger and better. Let's get on it...Bike Share for NYC!

    And one more thing, the Streetfilms crew sure did get hooked up with some sweet looking patriotic helmets for their ride in the nation's capital.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/npGREENWAY Scott for npGREENWAY

    Very cool. Thanks for the reconnaissance mission, StreetFilms! I wish it was operational when I was their earlier this year. I guess I'll have to hold out until BikeSharing is available here in Portland.

    She made a comparison to Zipcar... Now if I could just get Zipcar to redistribute their cars around to different stations so I could make one way trips around town... THAT would be cool...

    Nice job DC.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Green_Idea_Factory Todd Edelman

    Are these things located at transport hubs?

    Bring your own helmet and lock? Are you kidding? This is the equivalent of telling Zip car users to bring their own seatbelts or airbags, though of course I agree that helmets should not be mandatory.

    Regarding the 18 and over requirement, it seems like getting people at 15 would be a great way to get them out of the driver's seat before they get in it. C'mon lawyers, can't you arrange something?

    Also, wondering what Clear Channel is getting out of this... in particular any automobile advertisement opportunities.

  • http://www.gwadzilla.blogspot.com gwadzilla

    I was going to try and say something clever
    but what I really wanted to say is

    go and look at my blog


    a bicycle blog from washington dc

  • http://rktect.blogspot.com Howard

    Very cool! Though it may not, in fact, be the first of its kind, as my city, Fort Collins, Colorado, started up their own Bike Library in April, and has 81 bikes available for FREE! ... http://www.fcbikelibrary.org/

  • http://www.durhamebikeassociation.org Jason C

    Bike sharing programs have been around for a while. Nice to see it in D.C. As a cyclist AND an e-biker (yes I feel we have the same goals.....really), what I noticed was (possibly) the e-bike in the background while Alice Kelly was speaking.

  • http://www.asmithphotography.com/main.html Brandon

    What a great idea, I hope this catches on!

  • http://virtualcycling.googlepages.com Geoff

    This more like bike hire than bike sharing

  • http://tandem-bicycles.freehostia.com Steve

    Do they have any tandems available ?

  • Adrian

    2 years on how successful has the scheme been?

  • http://twitter.com/pierrelourens Pierre

    I saw this when I was in D.C. this past March and was pretty interested.  I did a quick Google search and I'm thrilled to report the amount of bikes available has increased to 1,100, and the city now offers many more stations.  It's also changed from Clear Channel's management to the new name: Capital Bikeshare.