What is the perfect Electric Vehicle middle man? How about the Capital Bikeshare! What do I mean by that? Do you have electric vehicle charging stations at your work? Well if you are some of the lucky few that do that’s awesome, but if you are with the rest of the majority that does not have access to charging at work (such as most federal government employees) you probably feel left out. Did you know that there are already over 100 charging stations inside the Washington D.C. Beltway? There may not be a charging station located right at your work, but there probably is a charging station within a 5 to 10 minute bike ride from your work. Several parking garages in and around the city have electric vehicle charging stations. Ok, so I park at a garage and charge, how do I get to work you may ask?
This is where the perfect EV middle man comes in, Capital Bikeshare! With over 16,070+ bicycles at over 175+ stations across Washington, D.C., Arlington, VA, and Alexandria, Va, there is more than likely a bike station near an electric vehicle charging station and a bike station near your work. Just park your car, grab a bike to work and drop off the bike and go on your merry way. You can easily return and move your car at lunch time or during a break. Getting fresh air and exercise at the same time while not producing a single particle of emissions!
I actually use Capital Bikeshare about 4 or 5 times a week. I am lucky enough to have a bike station located right at my apartment building. On many mornings, I take a bike to the metro station to get to work. Some days I take a bike to lunch, from work, in order to get to a restaurant. I love taking weekend rides down the Mount Vernon trail. But the best use for bike sharing is when you drop off your car at a local EV charging station and then hop on a bike to explore the city or head to work. It is a perfect marriage of two great green technologies!
How does Capital Bikeshare work? Well there are bike stations located around the city. When you come up on a bike station you will see a row of bikes. These bikes are locked up electromagnetically, and are released when you check one out from the attached kiosk. The bikes are quite nice, with big solid tires, 3 different gear speeds that are easily selectable, an adjustable seat, blinking white headlights and red tail lights, and a basket with an attached bungee cord to strap down your work bag/briefcase as you bike. To rent a bike you have to have a membership with Captial Bikeshare, but that’s not as complicated as it sounds. There are five types of memberships, but the three simplest types are a 24 hour membership for only $7, a three day membership for only $15, or a one year membership for $75. The first two types of memberships, the 24 hour and 3 day, can be purchased from every bikeshare station. The one year membership requires you to sign up on Capital Bikeshare’s website, so that they can send you the coolest RFID keyfob. This keyfob is a long flat rectangle that allows you to stick it into any bikeshare station and instantly checkout a bike. All the information about who you are and what bike you check out is uploaded to bikeshare’s servers. This is the type of membership I currently have, and I love it! There is simply no hassle involved with grabbing a bike – when you are done, you just drop it off at any other station. No swiping a credit card or anything when using the keyfob; it is quick and easy. There are usage fees, but the first 30 minutes is ALWAYS FREE! This is perfect for getting to and from work if you are dropping your car off to get a charge. I find it highly unlikely that anyone would need to bike further than 30 minutes with the amount of bike stations Capital Bikeshare has to offer. If you go over the first 30 minutes there are additional usage fees; for example the next 30 minutes is about $2.00 and the next 90 minutes is about $6.00. However, most of the time my rides are all free because I don’t bike for more than 30 minutes! Check out Capital Bikeshare’s website for a full listing of the usage fees.
There is also a great smartphone app called Spotcycle, that allows you to find the closest bikeshare station to see how many bikes are available and how many docks are free; this allows you to check that there is a free dock available for you when you return the bike.
The only drawback I have found in this program so far is that there are times when I return to my apartment complex to find that the bikeshare station is completely full. This is not a very big problem, since there is another less-used station only two blocks away. In addition, this hasn’t happened to me since I started using Spotcycle, because I can monitor the availability of free docks at the local stations before I head out.
I can’t give a more glowing review to a new type of transportation in the city. The number of electric vehicle charging stations are expanding in this city, and as they expand they are not alone because Capital Bikeshare is also planning constant expansion. These two technologies go hand in hand and should be considered together in any future city planning meetings!
By: Eric Cardwell