Monday, September 20, 2010

Capital Bikeshare - a long road to success

With the launch of Capital Bikeshare today, it’s a day for those of us who worked so hard for so long to celebrate. So much blood, sweat, and tears were put into getting where we are today. Well, there wasn’t any blood, but the sweat and tears will more than make up for this. So many great people worked on putting together Capital Bikeshare and I’m happy MetroBike was able to make this happen for Arlington County and to work with so many great partners, including the District of Columbia Department of Transportation, graphic designers, sponsors, the public, and so many more. It’s also a day for Washingtonians to celebrate. Now a great new way to get around is available. It will help clean our air, lessen traffic congestion, and get folks fit.


It’s so wonderful to see a dream come true. I first learned about bike-sharing in 1995 as a student at the University of Virginia. I was working the graveyard shift as a computer consultant at a computer lab, surfing the Web to pass time until my shift ended at 11pm. It was there that I saw a webpage with two photos of Copenhagen’s Bycyklen, or “City Bikes”, on the screen. The website was very bare -- white background, a couple of paragraphs in English, and those two photos. That was all it took. I found myself studying abroad in Copenhagen the following semester learning more about their 2nd generation coin-operated system. It was the first large deployment of bike-sharing anywhere in the world. Amsterdam had dabbled in bike-sharing twenty years earlier with a 1st generation service where bikes were simply left on the street for the public’s use.

Arlington County Board chair, Jay Fisette, speaking at the launch

During my research I kept thinking to myself, “this idea is a win-win -- great for the environment, public health, and in getting folks on bikes. Why hadn’t bike-sharing taken off elsewhere around the world?” When I returned to the U.S., I advocated for bike-sharing, mainly through academic research for my Masters degree, writing some of the very first published articles on the topic. Eventually, just writing about bike-sharing was no longer enough for me. I needed to get my feet wet and begin being more proactive about it. “Be the change you wish to see,” was what Gandhi said, which I took to heart in 2004 when I founded MetroBike, LLC for the purpose of bringing bike-sharing to the U.S. Cycling in the U.S. is only about 1% of all trips in car-dominated America, but why not think big, right? I started The Bike-sharing Blog and The Bike-sharing World Map to continue to educate a wider auidence about the topic and began picking up clients from around the world who heard about bike-sharing and wanted to make it happen in their part of the world.

Paul DeMaio, MetroBike, LLC

When I started the Blog in May 2007, just before Velib’ launched in Paris, there were about 17 bike-sharing services worldwide. Now in 2010 there are about 200. Make that 201 today with Capital Bikeshare! While I’d like to say that The Bike-sharing Blog helped add those 183 new services, I think Paris may have played a slightly larger role with their mega service of over 20,000 bikes. Thank you Paris.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same could be said about starting a bike-sharing service. So many people positively shaped this weird idea of renting bikes for a short period of time to take this idea from Amsterdam to Copenhagen and now to Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA. I guess dreams do come true.

6 comments:

Allen Muchnick said...

Congratulations, Paul, for achieving your vision for bikesharing in the nation's capital.

Bike said...

Paul, you should be as proud as a new parent with the birth of Capital Bike Share You've pedaled hard to help achieve large scale Public Use Bicycling in the USA.

Péter Dalos said...

Congratulations Paul and thank you for the motivation and the wide knowledge you have shared through this blog so far. Keep up the good work!

Péter Dalos said...

Congratulations Paul and thanks for the useful info and constant motivation you have been sharing through this blog worldwide.

Sebastien said...

Congrats Paul! You're vision comes true and I'm sure that it's just the beginning and that many other cities will follow Washington DC and adopt their own bike sharing system.

Andrew said...

I'm thrilled with Capital Bike Share! I used it every day to commute to work. What a service you've done for the city. Thank you, Paul.