Well, we're down from the days when there were four bike shares in the area at once, but College Park, having passed on expanding Capital Bikeshare into its area, is launching its own bikeshare this week.
The program, known as mBike, brings 125 bicycles to 14 stations within the city and the University of Maryland College Park campus. City officials say it complements efforts to make the area more bike-friendly and reduce traffic along the Route 1 corridor. Bike stations will be available at the College Park and Greenbelt Metro stations.
Zagster, a Massachusetts-based company that runs about 130 bike-share programs across the U.S., has a three-year contract to operate mBike. Zagster runs systems at Ohio State, Princeton, Yale and the University of Nebraska.
So how does mBike work?
Just like the region’s bike system, Capital Bikeshare, mBike members will be able to pick up and return a bike at any of the 14 available stations. Trips of less than an hour are free with a membership; each additional hour will cost $3. The annual membership is $65, but you can sign up for a $6 day pass or a $25 monthly pass.
The Zagster racks are smaller and lightweight compared to Capital Bikeshare. Each bike has a traditional U-lock. Users will find the key to the lock in a lock box mounted to the rear of the bike. When you reserve a bike, you will get the code to unlock the box and access the key. This system allows you to lock up the bike during a quick stop for coffee without having to go to a bike station.
Officials say the program will complement other efforts to promote cycling, including work on a trail system that parallels Route 1, and a plan that will target specific streets to make them more bicycle friendly.
Still, some bike advocates and officials lament College Park’s decision not to join the regional system that many residents are already familiar with. Capital Bikeshare has more than 3,000 bikes and 350 stations across the District and Alexandria, and Arlington and Montgomery counties. Fairfax County is launching a program in Reston this year.
Prince George’s County is studying whether to bring the Capital Bikeshare system to some communities like Greenbelt and National Harbor. College Park and the Route 1 corridor, is viewed as a strong market for bike sharing because it has the demographics and density that has made the program successful in other parts of the region, officials said.
I expect this to be successful and the choice to not use CaBi to be only slightly inconvenient.