D.C.'s Bikeshare Program a Boon to Local Stores

Martin Di Caro reports on the enthusiastic response that the bike rental program Capital Bikeshare has produced in D.C., and the significant changes it's sparked in the local culture and economy.
July 12, 2012, 5am PDT | Emily Williams
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So goes the old saying, "if you build it, they will come." Di Caro reports that in the case of Capital Bikeshare, a bike rental service founded by a partnership of the District of Columbia and Arlington County, providing easy access to bicycles has prompted a new wave of bike enthusiasts going out and buying their own.

This phenomenon came as a surprise to local bicycle shops, who feared that the convenience of renting a bike for $50 per year would decrease their sales. However, many users of Bikeshare soon realized that they wanted a bike to call their own. Their enthusiasm was captured recently on Twitter, with users expressing excitement and gratitude for Bikeshare for turning them onto cycling. One user tweeted: "Loved Bikeshare. Bought a bike as a direct result."

The program has created a heightened awareness of bicyclists in the city as more and more riders take to the streets. Notes Di Caro, "bicycling is achieving 'critical mass' in Washington. There are enough bicyclists on the streets that motorists have to be courteous and accommodate them, even where there are no bike lanes."

In addition to the benefits of less cars on the road, the program also helps support the local economy. "AAA estimates that people spend on the average [$9,000 per year] related to their car," says Erik Kugler, the owner of Bicycle Space. "So if you can build an area where people don't need to spend that money every year, that money becomes available for the local economy. You see new restaurants open up, cafes, niche shops, and small businesses like ours. We employ 18 people here."

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Published on Friday, June 29, 2012 in WAMU
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