Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is bike sharing feasible in Reston?

I think the answer is yes. First let me explain what bike sharing entails. The concept refers to having a group of bicycles that are available to the general public, either for free or rented by the hour. The best example in our area is Capital Bikeshare. You may have seen the red three-speed bikes that are now very common in DC.

Users must first become members of Capital Bikeshare. Memberships are available for a single day, three days, 30 days, or a year. The first half hour is free, after which hourly fees apply. This pricing encourages shorter trips.

Once a bicycle is checked out it can be returned to any of the 140 stations scattered throughout the DC/Arlington area. In order to be a useful transportation alternative, a sufficient number of stations located relatively closely are needed. Users don't want to walk long distances from the stations to their destination. Ideal spacing is about 1,000 feet between stations.

With the coming of rail to Reston, many people will be traveling short distances to and from the Wiehle Ave and Reston Parkway rail stations. The "last mile" is a term used to refer to these short trips to/from transit. Bike sharing is an ideal solution.

Where would the bike stations be located? A start would be to have stations on the north and south sides of the Metro stations. The Reston Pkwy station is a long walk from the Town Center so a couple of stations could be located in parts of the Town Center. Other obvious locations include the USGS, Reston Association, Hunters Woods Village Center, the International Center, South Lakes Village Center, Newton Square, Plaza America, Stratford House, and other high density residential and commercial locations.

How would the system be funded? The Capital Bikeshare system is funded through federal, state, local and private funding. The Paris Velib bike share system is funded using advertising at the stations and on the bicycles. We currently fund other forms of transit, and bike sharing can be envisioned as a small-scale transit system that need not be self supporting. Even so, the Capital Bikeshare system is now taking in enough funds to pay for all operating expenses.

The next time you plan a short trip, think about how that trip could be taken by bike, and if a shared bike were available, would you use it? Bike sharing could be a real option for many people in Reston, but we'll need safer, more direct on- and off-road bike facilities for it to be successful. That's the topic for a future article.

Cross-posted on Reston Patch.

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