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  • Writer's pictureCharles Denney

Happy 10th Birthday Capital Bikeshare

Happy Birthday Capital Bikeshare

Ten years ago, today a couple of hundred people gathered in the Plaza outside the U.S. Department of Transportation to celebrate and participate in the Launch of Capital Bikeshare, the first large scale bikeshare system in the Country. After a ceremony and speeches, most of those present hoped on bright red Capital Bikeshare bikes and rode them to stations across the District and Arlington to populate the newly installed docking stations. The story of what it took to get to the launch and the many people involved is described in this article,, written by Chris Hamilton, one of the true champions making Capital Bikeshare an reality.

Popular from the start, CaBi, the nickname quickly adopted for the new system, saw steady growth through the fall and into the winter of 2011. As spring arrived, along with a Groupon offer for reduced membership cost, use of the system took off. By the end of the first year of operation over one million trips were taken on CaBi bikes, far exceeding the projections for use developed during the planning and development of the system.

The system has continued to grow, with Alexandria, Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Prince George’s County and Falls Church now members. CaBi has become an integral component of our region’s transportation system. As someone who has been involved with the planning and advocacy of better bicycling in the DC region for over 25 years, I am hard pressed to identify a project or program that has had as great a transformational impact on biking. While much progress had been made to improve bicycle infrastructure by 2010, in most conversations that I had about my work, and bicycling in general, both were still largely viewed as something a few people did, and an activity dominated by white guys in funny clothes. In my opinion CaBi changed these perceptions and that is a very much underappreciated aspect of the system.

Before CaBi, when I would talk about my job, I would often get blank stares and an unclear understanding of what I did as a bicycle and pedestrian planner. After CaBi, these conversations might start in a similar manner, but as soon as I mentioned helping with CaBi, people would smile in recognition and usually have positive things to say. Articles about people biking in the Washington Post took on a different tone. The reporting was less confrontational and more about everyday people in their everyday clothes going about the daily business using CaBi bikes. I don’t think it is a coincidence that progress with bike infrastructure and programs has accelerated, not only in the District, but across the entire region since 2011. CaBi has given people easier access to bicycles to try biking, has expanded first mile/mile options for transit users, is an additional options for tourists to explore our beautiful city, and overall put more people on bikes on our roads and trails.

So Happy Birthday Capital Bikeshare!!! Here’s to your first 10 successful years and to more and even better bikeshare far into the future.

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