See-Rent-Ride: Bikeshare changes the way people see the city

Not long ago, a man in his sixties was visiting Washington, DC, for business. One afternoon with a little free time to kill, he came across a Capitol Bikeshare (CaBi) station. Minutes later, after his first exposure to CaBi, he was off exploring the city by bike. It had been 35 years since he had last ridden a bicycle.

Spontaneous rides like this one provide visitors and casual bicyclists a new way to see the nation’s capital, bring in revenue for the bikeshare system, and introduce new people to urban bicycling. To learn more about these users, whose data are not automatically captured in as much depth as the system’s annual users, CaBi and the transportation departments of Arlington, VA and Washington, DC asked a team of graduate students from Virginia Tech (VT) and Assistant Professor Ralph Buehler to conduct a survey and do research on the habits, characteristics, and opinions of casual bikeshare users.

“Bikesharing is like a big advertisement for bicycling,” says Darren Buck, one of the VT students. “Folks walking by who don’t consider bikes in their daily routines are given an opportunity to ask, ‘Well, why not go for a bike ride?’” The survey found that the overwhelming number of people who decided without any pre-planning to go for a bike ride, a phenomena Buck calls “See-Rent-Ride.” Most respondents learned about CaBi by seeing the stations or bikes in use.