A year with Capital Bikeshare

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This past weekend marked my first full year of membership to Capital Bikeshare, DC’s bicycle sharing program, and I thought it would be fun to reflect a little on a year spent riding around on those distinctive red bikes.

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In the spring of 2013, I was starting to feel more comfortable biking around town and decided to try commuting into work via bicycle.  I have a gorgeous little Dutch-style bike from Public Bikes, and I loved the idea of building more exercise into my routine while cutting out some of the stresses of taking the metro or the bus (we don’t have a car).  There aren’t great north/south bike lanes on my side of town, but I quickly figured out that I could travel on the bike path through Rock Creek Park, DC’s greenbelt, and avoid riding through traffic almost entirely.  Summer and fall of last year as a bike commuter were so amazing!  I was spending so much less money on transportation, riding through the park was gorgeous, and the one down-side of the ride, a steep hill alongside traffic just before I got home, was nerve-wracking but had left me with killer legs.

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Then, in late fall, Daylight Savings Time ended and I realized that I couldn’t safely bike home in the dark through poorly lit Rock Creek Park.  Riding through the city felt too dangerous, especially in the after-work rush with scant bike lanes and poor visibility.  I was pretty devastated at the thought of being stuck on public transportation all winter, and I kept wishing I could just ride in to work in the the mornings and magically transport my bike back to my apartment in the evening.  And then it hit me: Capital Bikeshare!  In the mornings, when there was daylight, I could pick up a bike at the kiosk on my block, drop it off right outside my office, and then take the bus or metro home in the evenings when it was dark.DSC_0664

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I signed up.  A one-year membership to Bikeshare is $75.  A few days later you get a handy little key-fob in the mail, and you have unlimited 30-minute rides for a whole year.  So, if you’re wondering what I’ve thought of using Bikeshare, I’d have to say, it’s been great and I just signed up for year two!  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Overall, I had 137 rides using Bikeshare last year, mostly for commuting.  That’s pretty good considering (1) I only ride one way, (2) I  traveled for about nine weeks last year, and (3) we had a terrible winter that was often too snowy and icy for safe riding.
  • My commute averages 24-27 minutes depending on my energy level and if the park is looking really photogenic that day.
  • I like the one-way rides so much that it’s now my new routine all year.  My leg muscles aren’t quite as killer, but I ride more often now that I don’t dread struggling up that crazy hill in traffic.
  • Bikeshare’s website makes it super easy to locate kiosks and check bike availability.  I don’t use the app, but only because my phone is crap.
  • My local kiosk is incredibly popular so sometimes bikes can be scarce.  This is my biggest annoyance overall, but there is another one a few blocks away that usually has bikes.
  • Rickety bikes that make weird noises are annoying though workable. You get better at identifying and avoiding them.
  • The bike bells are broken about 25% of the time, but that isn’t a huge deal.
  • I’ve had one mid-ride flat tire.  Not bad for a whole year of riding, and super not bad considering that all I had to do about it was walk the bike to the next kiosk, hit the red button for repairs (and turn the seat around to warn other riders), and grab another bike.
  • Bikeshare charges an extra fee if you go over the 30 minute limit.  This only happened to me once and I was on a slow ride with a very pregnant friend, so we knew it was likely.  The extra time was less than half an hour so the additional cost came out to $1.50.
  • In DC it tends to rain in the afternoon, so it’s really great to ride to work when the weather is still nice, and grab a bus in late afternoon when it’s pouring/snowing/sleeting.  No more choosing between leaving my bike at work overnight or riding through awful weather.

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I was also mulling over the finances of using Bikeshare as opposed to bus and metro commuting, and thought the cost breakdown was pretty interesting, too.

  • A $75 membership fee spread out over 137 rides comes out to about $0.55 per ride.
  • Bus fare is $1.75 per ride if you use a SmartTrip card.  137 rides on the bus would be $212 at regular fare.
  • Metro fare is $2.15 minimum during peak hours (which is when I commute).  137 rides on the metro would come out to $294.55.

So overall I have to say that I’ve loved using Bikeshare and I’m excited to see how many rides I can get in over the next year.  It almost feels like a challenge to beat this year’s total!

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Have you ever rented a bike or used a bikesharing program?  We’ve had a few experiences with both over the last year:

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She don’t even break the branches where she’s gone

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Hoboken, NJ.  November 2014.

B-cycling Madison

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Summer in the Midwest is gorgeous, so on our visit to Madison, we decided to skip the car rentals and get around town using B-Cycle, Madison’s bikesharing program.  I regularly use Capital Bikeshare in DC as part of my daily commute, so I was pretty excited to try a similar program while exploring another city, especially since most of the wedding events and restaurants we wanted to try were within a few miles of our downtown hotel.

Madison was sunny and breezy during our stay, perfect weather to ride down the bike and bus only State Street and explore the University of Wisconsin campus.   We made our way out to the Arboretum to admire the lily-pads and tall grasses waving alongside Lake Wingra.  Later we rode the bike trails along Lake Monona back into downtown and all the other bicycle commuters made us feel like locals.  After a quick freshening up, we hopped on bikes again to ride out to a restaurant on the other side of the isthmus for dinner, stopping to drop off our bikes and watch the sunset on Lake Mendota.

Though Madison doesn’t have quite as many bike stations as DC, but we never found it much of a problem to make it between stations within the 30 minute check-out period.  The B-Cycle bikes are a little sturdier and less rickety than the ones I ride in DC, which is great, but the best part of the experience was the amazing bike culture in Madison.  Most of the city had amazing bike lanes, and when we did have to share the road, drivers were so attentive, patient, and considerate.  The whole city was a cyclist’s dream and I only hope that someday DC will be as safe and stress-free place to bike.

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I take to the open road

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Last fall, I spent an amazing day biking around the Monterey peninsula while the Mister was stuck in class. It’s a foggy, otherworldly ride past twisted cypress and huge waves crashing along the rocky coast, and I was happy to have a chance to explore it again, this time with my guy by my side.  Here are some shots from our ride, starting in Cannery Row and making our way 11 miles out to the Lone Cypress and back again.

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I hear the birds on the summer breeze

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Picked up these beauties at the farmers market this past weekend, and had fun riding home as the girl with flowers in her bike basket, which is every girl’s dream, right?

Wanderings: A quiet weekend on the Jersey shore

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Life often gets in the way of special days.  Some days, anniversaries give way to demands from work, and some years we set aside birthdays to be present for milestones in the lives of people we love.  And that’s alright.  We make other time to celebrate each other.

This year our anniversary got sidelined by demands from my job, so at the last minute we used an invitation to a baby shower in New Jersey for the following weekend as an excuse to plan a last minute getaway.  A historic hotel in Asbury Park had an open room that overlooked the sea, and before we knew it, we had rented beach cruisers and set off south along the boardwalk.

It was cool and breezy, and we spent lazy hours biking down the boardwalks of town after town along the Jersey shore, the beaches still quiet in the days before the summer season.  Sometimes we stopped for coffee or food, or to warm our toes in the sand and collect sand dollars, all the while enjoying the crashing waves and each others company.

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