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Capital Bikeshare Encourages New Trips, Saves Users Money On Travel

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The iconic red bikes—1,650 of them—are available at 175 stations in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria.
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The iconic red bikes—1,650 of them—are available at 175 stations in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria.

Users of Capital Bikeshare, the region's popular bike-sharing system, say that they're making trips they otherwise wouldn't, are less likely to use a car or other forms of transit, save some $800 per year on personal travel, and even feel healthier than they used to.

Those findings—and many others—are included in a 2013 survey released by Capital Bikeshare today.

The survey found that four in 10 respondents made a trip in the last month that they otherwise wouldn't have. Most users said that without the system's 1,650 bicycles at 175 stations in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, many destinations would have been too far for walking and not convenient for driving or other forms of transit. Planners call this phenomenon "induced trips." 

Additionally, 54 percent of respondents said that at least one of their trips in the last month had either started or ended at a Metro station, and that 17 percent used the bikes six times or more for that very reason. Advocates of bike-sharing often say that systems like Capital Bikeshare serve an important "last-mile" purpose, allowing users to connect between other forms of transit and their destinations.

Capital Bikeshare users—who on average jumped on one of the red bikes 8.6 times a month—reported driving less (198 miles per year less per user) and saving just under $16 a week in travel costs. They were more likely to patronize businesses near stations, and even said that they felt less stress and increased stamina and aerobic capacity.

Many respondents said that Capital Bikeshare had changed their commuting habits, moving them away from a reliance on cars, taxis, and even Metro. But for Lory Diggins, a consultant who worked on the survey, this doesn't mean that bike-sharing produces transit winners and losers, just that it offers more options.

"Travel is a dynamic question, and what Bikeshare does is it gives people another one-way travel option. That means they don't have to use the same type of travel to go home as they went top wherever they went. It changes how people think about travel, it's giving people more choices and more decision options," she said.

But despite the system's popularity and continuing expansion, its users don't fully reflect the region they live in. According to the survey, 90 percent of Bikeshare users are employed, and a majority are  young, highly educated, male, and white. Additionally, a majority of trips have taken place in Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan and parts of downtown, as well as Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Shaw, and U Street. Annual membership costs $75, though officials have offered discounts to low-income residents to encourage them to use the system.

The survey was sent to half of the system's 22,200 users, and 3,731 responded.

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