Capital Bikeshare Winning Hearts, But How Will It Change the Streets?

It’s been a scant few weeks since Washington, D.C. launched the country’s largest bike-sharing system, but Capital Bikeshare is already being heralded as a big success.

More than 2,000 people have become system members, more than the city’s smaller, privately-run system, SmartBike, garnered during its troubled two-year lifespan. Overall the new system is generating a healthy one ride per day per bike, reports Network blog the Wash Cycle.

Bike-sharing is popular in D.C., but will it reduce driving? Photo: Express Night Out

When the system launched, Network blog the Transport Politic asked whether CaBi will result in a marked reduction in driving, citing a study which found that 6-10 percent of bike-sharing trips replace car trips. In many other cases, cycling replaced transit or walking.

Today, the Wash Cycle points out that it only takes a relatively small reduction in driving to make a noticeable impact on traffic congestion, and that there are many benefits to promoting cycling beyond reducing driving:

In Lyon, [France]‘s Velo’v system, bike sharing is replacing approximately 700,000 car trips a year.  Paris’ Velib system is replacing approximately 2,160,000 motor vehicle trips a year. These figures do not include bike sharing users who buy a personal bike and began biking for a wider diversity of trips.

That seems dramatic to me. I seem to recall that it only take a very small reduction in car traffic to make a large change in congestion. Furthermore, 34% to 65% of trips come off of transit. Our transit system is, in places, near capacity, so this frees up space on transit for new users. Some people transition from transit to CaBi. Others from car to transit.

But reducing car trips is not the only — or even primary — goal of the system. If people use it, who cares what they used to do beforehand? The use of the system proves its value.

And CaBi makes it easier to go car free. When I switched to the car free lifestyle, zipcar and bike-racks-on-buses played a big role in that decision, even though I rarely used either. They created security for me. I suspect CaBi will do the same with others.

Elsewhere on the Network today, Transport Michigan reports on a new study showing proposed passenger rail improvements in Michigan will put 71 percent of the state’s jobs within 15 miles of a station. The Bicycle Transportation Examiner reports that activists in the city of Fort Worth, Texas took the movement for complete streets into their own hands, re-striping a street to carve out room for pedestrians, guerrilla style. VTA Watch celebrates the opening the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority’s new express light rail trips from Santa Clara to Baypoint.