Bike Rental Program Starts Soon

SmartBike DCEver wanted to rent a bike in downtown D.C. to run a quick errand or see the town? Starting next month the city’s SmartBike rental program kicks off with 120 bikes at 10 locations, where the racks have already been installed. Membership will cost $40 annually and work something like Zipcar, with rentals limited to 3 hours and users charged $200 for bikes unreturned in 48 hours. Registration is not yet activated on the program website. Renting will be free to start. Clear Channel’s international program website has more data on the bikes and how the system works. The program is run through the city’s bicycle program, where you can find bike maps and other information. Of course WashCycle has the latest news and all the background on the program. Unfortunately there seems to have been a delay in the Bike Station at Union Station — maybe Arlington will beat D.C. in that one.


Author: Rob Goodspeed


  1. In response to criticism that the DC SmartBike program is puny compared to the successful Velib program in Paris, DDOT keeps reiterating that this is only the beginning, and that they’ll expand the program as soon as they see it’s successful. However, I’m worried that its a catch-22; how many people will sign up when there are only 10 locations all clustered downtown? Using myself as an example: as much as I want the program to succeed, I’m not going to shell out $40 to sign up because the system is too small to be useful to me. Now, if there were 100 locations scattered around all neighborhoods in the city, SmartBike would become a valid transportation alternative for me and I’d gladly fork over $40.

    The Circulator pilot was successful with only the K Street route because it was immediately useful. Bike sharing is a different animal though. It only becomes useful when you reach a critical mass of bikes and stations.

  2. Chris, I have mixed feelings about that argument – I agree a larger system would be more successful, but I wonder if the novelty alone will generate enough demand. Although I own a bike and only imagine using it a few times, I was considering paying the fee just to check it out.

  3. I am hoping you’re right about the novelty factor. And we are coming into tourist season, so I suppose there’s reason to be hopeful.

  4. I truly didn’t see the purpose of this program until Chris just described the Paris program. I was thinking that I had a bike so why would I pay any money to rent a bike. Now I see that if you can be reasonably confident that no matter where you are in the city one of these stations would be close by then it would be an amazing service. You get to avoid lugging your bike around on the Metro all the time and you don’t have to worry about maintenance. If they can roll this out on a larger magnitude and contine to make great strides with bike lanes/trails across the city I can see this becoming a viable transportation alternative.

    On another note, I was shocked to read that the “Bike Station at Union Station” will only hold 180 bikes. Considering how much that is going to cost and the considerable amount of area to the west of the train station, I would hope they can squeeze a lot more bikes (free slots) around that thing.

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