Your View: Bike-sharing only works if we take note of our neighbors


To the editor:

The city council voted to pilot six to 12 bike-share stations in Old Town last week. As one who was, admittedly, apprehensive about Alexandria joining bike-share, the initial six Old Town stations will not unduly impact the two historic districts’ ambience, although I remain concerned about plans to pack additional ones into the historic area.

Councilwoman Del Pepper acknowledged bike station advocates had bombarded city council with supportive emails. But only a dozen or so advocates were actually on hand — perhaps because it takes twice as many rail-skinny bicyclists to pack the hall as civic heavy hitters who have to bite their tongues because they can’t rail about traffic and parking while blocking bicycles.

What I suspect Councilwoman Pepper did not say, however, is that, although city council members knew better than to approve bike-share in its current form, they weren’t ready to buck all those emails. But they did pose incisive questions about who would ultimately be on the hook for the cost once the grant money runs out and where the bike stations will be sited.

Bike-share works because the stations are packed close together — a quarter-mile, viz, about three city blocks apart — in most parts of Arlington and downtown Washington. The staff presentation noted the average bike-share trip is 24 minutes. But the service doesn’t start charging until after a half-hour, so many bike-share members bike for just under that amount of time, turn their bike in, and take another one to continue their trip so that they use several different bikes for any given trip — but for less than half an hour on each. Unfortunately, Old Town’s bike-share stations are too far from Arlington’s to make commuting between the two feasible.

City staff believe Alexandria’s bike-share will break even in its third year, despite Arlington’s and Washington’s breaking even the first year. But it can only work in Alexandria if Potomac Yard, Del Ray and Arlandria are the next locations saturated with stations. Instead, staff plans to stuff more of them into Old Town.

– Dino Drudi