Original reporting by Robert R. Mercer, Veggiebiking.com, Copyright 2013
You can bicycle all over Washington, D.C. for 24 hours for just $7.
Really, if you plan your visit correctly, you can do this.
The Veggie Biker used to walk all over D.C. in “Tijuana Slicks” in a younger life before the subway was built. It was a very walkable town.
But it is an even better bicycle town using Capital Bikeshare. Pair your Bikeshare rental with the Metro, and you can be anywhere quickly and effortlessly. D.C. is basically flat, except for Capitol Hill, and, really, is congress really worth the exertion right now?
Reagan National Airport is still the best place to fly into. Just jump on the Metrorail and you’re anywhere in the district in half an hour. You can pay per trail or bus trip, or get a pass for the length of your visit. The pass includes riding the Metrobuses. However, thanks to the bikes, the Veggie Biker only needed the Metro to get from and back to the airport.
Capital Bikeshare places its racks at every subway station and next to most tourist attractions. Eighty total racks. This is where the $7-a-day strategy comes in. And Bikeshare wants you to go cheap, too. First half hour is free. Second half hour a buck and a half. Third half hour three bucks.
First, you have to join Capital Bikeshare for the day for $7. You can do this at a bike kiosk or using your smartphone. The Veggie guy put a credit card into the kiosk, validated the card using his zip code, and then chose to have a printed access code spit out. You can go paperless if you can remember five digits for five minutes. After five minutes, the code expires.
If you take longer than five minutes, you have to reinsert your credit card and get a new code, the Veggie Biker learned. They have great telephone customer service.
Bikeshare emphasizes sharing your bike. If you are not riding it, someone else should be using it. The first half hour of any ride is free. So, do what the hard-core commuters do. Get off the train, grab a bike. Ride to your destination in less than half an hour. Then park it in the bike rack. That stops the clock.
For example, after visiting Mr. Lincoln and paying respect to the names on the Vietnam Wall, go back to the bike rack and get a new bike. Ride to the White House, etc.
It is possible there will be no bikes in a rack–not likely, but possible. You can insure you have a bike waiting by using your smartphone to reserve a bike at a particular location.
You can use the smartphone Spotcycle app to see where bikes are currently parked. Well, my Washington-commuter friend could. BUT the app for my SAMSUNG GALAXY S®4 didn’t really work until I was at the Reagan departure gate. The app also gives you the same information for over 40 cities around the world, including Long Beach, CA., and Denver, CO.
Of course, if you live or work in the district, you will get a monthly pass with the neat little “key” that you wave over the kiosk panel and you are outta there. The Veggie guy’s friend bicycled from 14th Street to 7th Street for lunch. When lunch was over, he walked to the nearest kiosk, waved his key, and rode back to work. He does not exceed his monthly membership because he keeps rides under 30 minutes.
There is also a three-day pass for tourists and a daily key for those who ride infrequently.
Complaints: One Bikeshare seat needed adjusting, something the rider can’t do. Solution. Got a new bike. No charge.
Bring your own helmet. They can be bought for $17, but you have to find the shops. You might throw in a really good U-lock just in case you must stop where there is no rack. Bike thieves work hard in the district, it is said.
And D.C. traffic signs continue to be confusing. There are separate lights for people, bikes and cars in some places. One-way streets!. Actual traffic regulations are hard to find. Can you ride on the sidewalks? Can you ride in Lafayette Park? Native bikers I asked, replied, “No one ever gets a ticket.”
But Capital Bikeshare is definitely the ticket-to-ride you want to get.