Capital Bikeshare: 5 New Stations May Go East of the River

Captial Bikeshare is poised to expand by 25 stations and the District Department of Transportation released a map today showing potential sites for the expansion of the system.

The new stations will be picked out of a list of 55 possibilities, including five sites East of the River in Wards 7 and 8. Why so few proposed sites in such a large swath of the District?

Part of the reason seems to be the amount of density needed to support stations, as well as demand. It’s well documented that use is low East of the River and the demand in Downtown is quite high. We spoke with DDOT spokesman John Lisle a few weeks ago to get more thoughts on how the agency will pick where bike stations go, and he said there are definitely “competing interests” at hand.


Few stations exist East of the Anacosita River (in red).

First, there’s the need for infill stations downtown. “We need to expand the size of some of our stations and we need to add more stations to really meet the demand there because that’s where it’s the highest,” Lisle said. And boy, is demand high.

And then there’s the desire to add more stations in the outer neighborhoods to create a citywide system and give greater accessibility to more people. But doing so can be tricky.

“I think one of the things you have to acknowledge is that somebody who is already into cycling, or say lives in Columbia Heights, a young professional, has a credit card, commutes downtown — it all makes sense from there. For some people, it’s much easier to buy into or use the system. For them, it’s like this great thing, ‘I’ve been waiting for this,’” Lisle said. “In other parts of the city, we may have to do more work in terms of educating people as far as what is bikeshare, why are we putting these bikes on the street, how can you use it.”

Education is a major factor playing into low usage, and bike advocacy group Washington Area Bicyclist Association already has plans to conduct more outreach around bikesharing in neighborhoods East of the Anacostia River. And there are several other reasons for low usage, including the cost ($75 for a year membership) and few stations (10 in total) located far apart. Capital Bikeshare works best when a group of stations are close to one another — if they’re few and far apart, there’s less incentive to use the bikes.

Another obstacle may be the need for a credit card to register, but Lisle said DDOT is in the process of working on a program that would allow some riders to use the bikes even if they don’t have a credit card.

Although it may be tempting to pull existing stations or not install new ones East of the River, DDOT doesn’t plan to abandon bikesharing in parts of Wards 7 and 8 — sure, only five new stations are proposed in that part of town, but at the same time, only two new stations have been proposed for Georgetown.