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Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the case of a Capitol Hill family, the need to get their daughter to and from school spawned a bike accessory that has drawn the ire of Capital Bikeshare, the region's popular bike-sharing network.
Last year, Crispen Wilson created a children's bike seat that easily and quickly attaches to the downtube of Capital Bikeshare's hefty red bikes, allowing him and his wife to ride their six-year-old the 12 blocks to school every day.
"My husband wanted to find a way to be able to bike our daughter to school. In order to find an easy way, he came up with this, went into his workshop, and came out a few hours later with a prototype," explains his wife, Emily.
In the year since it was invented, the seat has attracted attention from other parents, many of whom asked the pair how they could get one themselves. They decided to start producing more of them for sale, with the revenues going to international causes they supported.
"People stopped [Crispen] on the street and asked him for one, and then a few people have bought them, and we thought it would be a fun way to support some humanitarian and conservation causes," says Emily.
Made from recycled parts — including seats purchased from Phoenix Bicycles, an Arlington non-profit that teaches children to fix up and sell bikes — a beta version of the seat sells for between $50 and $80, with all of the proceeds going to groups in Indonesia or Guatemala.
"[T]he use of the Bicycled Capitol Hill Bikeseat is in violation of two sections of the Capital Bikeshare member agreement which prohibit attachments to the bicycle, as well as the use of the bicycle by more than one rider," explained Eric Gilliland, Bikeshare's general manager, to Streetsblog.
In a phone interview, Gilliland said that while the idea was right, the design wasn't.
"We recognize the demand," he said, noting that with the popularity and growth of the Bikeshare network, addressing family needs was high on the company's list. "We intend to work to see how we could make options like this available to people."
"What they designed is not going to work for us," he added.
Emily says that the couple hasn't yet received the cease-and-desist, and even if they have to put the brakes on the kid's seat, she's happy that Bikeshare is thinking about how to accommodate families.
"Our goal was achieved when we got our daughter to school, but we are pleased that people are discussing how Bikeshare could better serve parents with children," she says.