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I honestly don't understand what the target market is for SmartBike.

Bike commuters? No, they already have bikes. And, even if they didn't, the three-hour checkout period wouldn't be practical, since people would need the bikes overnight.

Business errand runners? Downtown DC is fairly compact. Metro's already available and reliable. And (the Post's PR article this morning notwithstanding) many businesspeople -- not all, but many -- don't want to show up to meetings after having biked through the heat, cold, or rain.

Personal errand runners? Maybe, but SmartBike is set up in decidely nonresidential areas.

Students? There aren't any campuses or residence halls in the areas where SmartBike racks are set up. And, don't they generally already have bikes?

Urbanites who have occasional transportation needs but don't want to make the heavy investment (?) in a bike of their own, and are looking for alternatives to ZipCar? Well, maybe, but just how many people can that be? And, how reliable is SmartBike? Will there always be one when you need it? Will regular maintenance be performed? Can you rely on it in a pinch the same way you can Metro, Metrobus or ZipCar?

I don't mean to rain on this parade -- I'd love to see bikes replace cars on DC's thoroughfares. I just don't get how SmartBike is going to accomplish this. I don't get why the city is so focused on it as a means for encouraging bike transportation. And, I don't get why there's so little questioning of the SmartBike strategy.

It all reminds me of The Simpson's Monorail episode. I hope I'm wrong...but I have a feeling Marge and I are right on this one.

The system is targeted at those who have a first or second place downtown. Here are some examples of how it will probably be used:

1. People who work downtown and want to run errands during or after work
2. People who work downtown and want to eat lunch outside their immediate area
3. People who work downtown and want to go to happy hour/dinner/kickball outside their immediate work area
4. People who live downtown and want to run an errand on the weekend.
5. People who live and work downtown but have no space to keep a bike or would rather not buy one
6. Bike bloggers
7. People who work downtown and walk home but can shorten their walk by biking part way
8. Same as 7 but they live downtown
9. People who normally ride Metro into downtown and change trains but who can now get off and ride a bike for the last mile.

Also, the idea is that this system will be expanded. The same criticism could be leveled at Metro when all they had was part of the red line. This is just the beginning.

Plus, monorails are unfairly maligned. They're the safest form of mass transit - no deaths in over a 100 years.

Let's agree to meet back here in a year and see if your predictions are correct. I will eat a big helping of crow -- and make a sizable donation to WABA -- if I'm wrong.

But, naturally, I don't think I am wrong.

Of all the constituencies you mention, I suspect #5 is the most viable. As for 1 and 2 on your list, I still doubt most workers are going to jump on a bike during work hours, due to the "sweatiness" factor and the need to shower during the middle of the day. (Plus, what are these folks doing now? Driving, metroing or walking? Unless it's driving, I don't see how SmartBike helps anything.)

As for 3 on your list, maybe -- though I'm not sure the wisdom of building a bike business around drinkers and kickballers. (Joking - I know those were just examples, not an exhaustive list.) I'm not sure the 3-hour limit is going to be practical for people who "work downtown and want to go to dinner."

About 6, I assume you're joking (though, so far, this group seems to be the most satisfied customers.)

For 7-9, with the 3-hour checkout window, I don't see how SmartBike is going to help with commutes.

Even if I suspend my disbelief, it appears you suggest the primary customers are are those who don't want to or can't own a bike; and intown errand runners. Seems to me, that's a difficult business proposition. And, frankly, one that wouldn't seem to hold that much of a benefit for the city.

Finally, I don't get the Metro analogy. When Metro was in its nascent stage, it was always intended to reach out to the suburbs. SmartBike in the suburbs wouldn't be practical: Like you seem to say, this is more of an errand tool than a commuting one.

See you next year on the Monorail!

While I'm a regular bike commuter, I signed up for SmartBike nonetheless.

My my bike is a recumbent, so I don't wear street clothes when riding (chain rub on my leg). Adding to that, I'd have to go and unlock/get the bike from the office's garage.

So SmartBike should work for me.

Except that the closest spot (McPherson Square) isn't terribly close to me. I work near the Wilson Building. A better location would have been Freedom or Pershing Plaza, where there's ZipCar spot I use.

I guess you're right in that the proof will be in the pudding as they say. I suspect that all the memberships will sell and people will complain that there are not enough bikes - not that the bikes will sit unused.

I don't think 1 and 2 will get that sweaty. We're talking a quarter mile here and a quarter mile there. Now these people are either doing the errands at another time or eating lunch closer to work (We have to be in 45 minutes, I guess we'll eat Chipotle again).

The three hour limit is on one bike. But if you check it out, ride to where you're going and check it in - it's no impediment to dinner. Nor is a 3 hour limit really (where do you eat?)

Here's how Smartbike helps with commutes. My wife works in Dupont but lives on Cap Hill. She won't bike or walk to work for sweat reasons. So she buses in the morning. Sometimes she'll walk home for exercise, but can't fi she needs to get home faster. With Smartbike she can bike from Dupont to Gallery Place and then walk home.

It's true that you're talking about niche users. But there are only 150 bikes. A million people pass through downtown on a business day. Smartbike need only get 0.15% of them to use a bike at any time - that's very nichey (and really not even that since it would be almost impossible for all the bikes to be used at once).

Finally I don't think Smartbike has to expand to the suburbs. But it does need to blanket the urban area of DC - the really dark areas of this population density map


As is expands - and that is the plan ["Plans to further expand the program are currently under way. DDOT is planning to place additional stations in other neighborhoods in spherical paths working towards the outer parts of the city."] - it will become more and more viable as a commuting tool and useful for more types of errands.

Don't raise the bar. This is a transportation program - not a car removal program. If people use it, that's all that's needed for success.

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