I was struck by this morning's Washington Times story (D.C. bike-sharing program crippled by own success, by Luke Rosiak, July 28, 2011) about CaBi's (Capital Bikeshare) struggles brought on by its own popularity. With 16,000+ annual and 30-day members combined with 12,000 casual (24-hour) members per month using a 1,100 bike system, at certain times of day at some stations it can be hard to find a bike or hard to find a place to park it. I've encountered this at times myself in hopping to and from my neighborhood in Le Droit to fun places from 14th Street to H Street to Nats Ballpark. But as frustrating as this can be to users, reporter Luke Rosiak picked up on something we hoped would happen when we built the system. People have embraced CaBi as their own and are looking out for one another and the system. Says Luke in his story:
"...Despite such frustration, an unexpected side effect is emerging: A culture of urban chivalry, where peddlers go out of their way to look out for one another and synchronize handoffs. "My parent's generation had this thing where everyone who had a VW bug would wave at each other when they passed," Tim Holland says as he drops a bike off at an otherwise-vacant station. "This is our equivalent."
That's pretty cool to see people helping each other. And we see this in other ways. At public meetings I've attended and in online feedback on our social media/web places, even when customers tell us of their frustrations, they do so civilly and with the genuine hope of helping CaBi out and making it better. It's amazing to see how quickly and how hard folks in the area have fallen in love with our little red CaBi bikes. And that love is reciprocated by all the staff that works on and with CaBi.
And help is on the way. With CaBi adding 32 new and expanding 18 existing stations in the District and adding another 30 new stations in Arlington, there will soon be more capacity for everyone. And there are tools you can use now. Members can plan ahead by using Spotcycle on the web or your phone, Bixou on your phone or the web tool that CaBi Balancing staff uses in the field O'Brien's Bikeshare Station Map. And rest assured that DDOT, Arlington and Alta continue to explore ways to better balance the bikes and we're open to suggestions. Together with our customers we can make CaBi a great part of our city.
Chris Hamilton is the Commuter ServicesTransportation Bureau Chief for Arlington County in the Department of Environmental Services, manager of CommuterPageBlog and a biking/Metro commuter from the LeDroit Park neighborhood in Washington, D.C.