Those that live or work in Washington, DC or Arlington, VA would be hard-pressed to miss the bright red and yellow bikes quickly becoming ubiquitous in the downtown area. The bikes and their docks are part of a system called Capital Bikeshare, based on the Public Bike System design already in use in Montreal, Toronto, London, and Minneapolis (in addition to similar systems pioneered in Copenhagen, Lyon, and Paris). The Washington/Arlington system currently encompasses over 1,000 bikes and 114 docking stations.
The Public Bike System (also known as Bixi, a portmanteau of bike and taxi) was designed from the ground up for sustainability and flexibility. Every aspect of the docking station is modular and designed for simple repair, replacement, recycling and expansion. The solar-powered stations are installed without any excavation or construction and do not require external power, so they can be installed and moved according to demand. Electronic monitoring and communications systems built in to the docking stations provide real-time usage metrics, including the location and status of all docked bikes.
There are many benefits of using a bikeshare system instead of a privately owned bicycle. Capital Bikeshare manages all aspects of repair, maintenance and storage. Sharing bicycles allows more people to use fewer bikes, which reduces manufacturing and materials use. Because their bikes are based on a common design, broken bikes can be harvested for working parts, further reducing waste.
Bikeshare systems have tremendous potential to augment existing public transit options. Capitol Bikeshare can reduce the load on the Washington Metro, which has experienced record riderships in recent years, while decreasing fossil fuel use and traffic congestion.