Monday, September 16, 2013

Growth of bicycling in DC area

How D.C. blazed the bike path is the online title of a Post article on the growth of bicycling in the DC area. It's a good summary of the many advances made by DC, Arlington and some of the other Metro area jurisdictions. It also profiles  DC bike coordinator Jim Sebastian whose work has been a key factor in that growth:
The man responsible for coordinating the District Department of Transportation’s bike plans says he fell into the city’s bike culture out of necessity. “My story is not that much different from a lot of people’s stories in D.C. who discover bicycling,” Jim Sebastian says. “They discover it’s quicker, it’s more convenient, it’s cheaper and it’s more fun than driving or taking the train.”

Sebastian, who is helping coordinate for the first time all of the District’s master transit plans as part of the moveDC project,became the District’s bike program coordinator in 2001 and helped bring bike share to the city, first with a pilot program called SmartBike D.C. in 2008, then partnering with Arlington County to launch the Capital Bikeshare system in 2010.

Under Sebastian’s watch, the District has added more than 50 miles of bike lanes and 2,500 bike racks, and has more than doubled the number of people on the streets biking. But he’s not done yet. In addition to overseeing the growth of Bikeshare, which is managed by the company Alta, he’s also partnering with DDOT to complete the 20-mile Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, now 60 percent done, and the M Street cycle-track.

“He has been a real moving force behind gaining acceptance of bicycles here in the District of Columbia,” Gray says. “We’re very fortunate to have him working with us, because it is not just a job to him, it is a commitment, and that’s a big difference.”

Right now, bikes represent 3.3 percent of total commutes, Sebastian says. But he expects it to hit 5 percent by 2015.

Bike advocates such as Sebastian and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association also insist commuting isn’t their sole focus. Short trips to the grocery or library, or a recreational ride along the water, are the sorts of things they say that Bikeshare can facilitate better than Metro and buses. Indeed, a 2013 member survey showed that seven in 10 users had used Bikeshare for social activities or to run errands.

“Every city’s bike culture is a little bit different,” says Greg Billing, advocacy coordinator at WABA. “I think where we really excel is kind of how commonplace it is.”

WABA has been around since 1972, long before bike sharing captured the imagination of city planners. The organization helped lobby for bikes to be allowed on Metro during non-rush hours and to close Beach Drive to car traffic on the weekends. Now it’s offering adult biking lessons and safety instruction while continuing to lobby for more bike lanes and infrastructure.

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