Of course I would like to think that Paris was the first city in the world to come up with the bike share concept but the reality is the Velibs weren’t even the first bike shares in France. Lyon’s Velo’v launched in 2005, two years before Paris’ Velibs. Rennes even had a limited program before that… And (*le sigh*) France wasn’t even the first country to introduce bike-shares either. The ByCyklens have been roaming the streets of Copenhagen since 1995! But my hometown does boast the largest program in the world to-date (cocorico!) with some 20,000 bicycles available at 1,450 stations throughout the city of light.
Americans typically like everything to be bigger and better yet the United States’ first bike share program, the District’s SmartBike was smaller with just 100 bikes available at 10 locations throughout downtown D.C. Nonetheless, SmartBike pioneered the zip-car for bicycle concept, opening the way for other programs like Denver’s BCycle and Minnesota’s Nice Ride. And yet SmartBike never really took off… Not enough publicity, not enough bikes, not enough locations and most importantly not practical for tourists. The recently launched Capital Bikeshare aims to fix a few of those problems starting with more bikes, in more locations. Indeed, Capital Bikeshare has a network of 100 stations and 1100 bicycle spread around Washington and (soon) across the river into Arlington. That’s still far from the 20000 parisian velibs but it’s a start in the right direction. In addition, the bikes look more attractive than their predecessors though they still don’t have cute little front baskets!
The launch of Capital Bikeshare couldn’t come at a better timing. Wednesday, September 22nd is “Car Free Day” in Washington and Capital Bikeshare will be celebrating with 2 station parties between 11:30am and 1:30pm. Drop by the 700 F Street NW station in DC or the Crystal City Drive and 23rd street station in Arlington to check out the bikes and win prices.