Last week, Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare celebrated its one millionth ride, just in time for its one year anniversary. The nation’s capital is the first community in North America to offer a government-sponsored bike sharing system. Capital Bikeshare is extremely popular, attracting over 18,000 members in the past year. This milestone warranted a party, so the “1st Birthday Bash,” coinciding with Car Free Day, was held in one of D.C.’s newest waterfront parks, Yards Park.
We’ve written before about bringing bike sharing programs to parks, and the success of Capital Bikeshare has led to plans of 60 additional stations in the District as well as Arlington, VA in the next six months. There are even plans to expand northwards and add stations in Rockville and Shady Grove, MD.
But even more exciting than adding stations to the suburbs, The Washington Post reports the National Park Service is allowing Capital Bikeshare to have stations on the National Mall beginning next year. Hopefully this will be the stepping-stone for opening stations in other national parks, including Anacostia Park and Rock Creek Park, increasing usership to them. The National Park Service is also considering adding bike sharing stations to the numerous other circles, squares, and triangle properties they own throughout the District.
For the 10 million annual visitors to the National Mall, these bright red bicycles cannot come soon enough. Currently the closest bike sharing stations can be up to a half-mile away from the most popular tourist and recreational attractions. Eradicating this “bike-share desert in the heart of the District” could only mean increased usership for locals and tourists alike. And because the National Park Service has goals of promoting increased and safer bicycle usage around the Mall, as indicated in the National Mall Plan, adding more bicycle lanes or trails to this area would go in tandem with bike sharing stations.
Placing bike sharing stations in parks will not only bring additional users to city parks, but help increase connectivity to parks and other recreational destinations throughout the city. Encouraging commuters to bicycle through parks as part of their daily route would increase mental as well as physical health. And with the District Department of Transportation giving away 500 helmets to frequent Capital Bikeshare riders, as well as local hotels lending helmets to tourists, safety will come first too.