Bike-Share Debuts in Washington D.C.

smartbike_station.jpgPublic bike-share in the U.S. hit a milestone yesterday when SmartBike DC, the first program of its kind in an American city, launched in full. Coverage in the Washington Post was heavy on the implications for D.C.'s image:

Today the city will join the ranks of Paris and Barcelona with the launch of the first high-tech public bike-sharing program in the United States, forcing such cities as San Francisco and Chicago to look here to see chic alternative transportation in action in America.

One critical difference between SmartBike and its European counterparts is the size of the network. When Vélib debuted in Paris, it provided 10,000 bikes at 750 locations. The SmartBike planners are taking a gradualist approach, starting off with 120 bikes stationed at 10 sites concentrated near downtown D.C. So far, 150 memberships have been sold, the Post reports.

The fact that D.C. has cleared the hurdles of getting a system up and running is piquing the interest of other cities, according to the outdoor advertising firm that sponsors SmartBike:

"We're getting inquiries from all around the country to see if they can take the same program and implement it in their city," said Steve Ginsburg of Clear Channel Outdoor.

Which American city will go live with public bike-share next? New York recently signaled its interest in a bike-share program, and Portland is actively pursuing one, despite some setbacks. The highly informative Bike-Sharing Blog has put together a Google Maps mashup showing where programs exist, and where ones are in various stages of study and planning. By my count, 14 cities are in the running to follow D.C.

Photo of a SmartBike DC station: afagen/Flickr