News & Politics

Capital Bikeshare Users Burned 186 Million Calories Last Year, and Other Fun Facts

As the system turns four years old, a look at why bicycle sharing is so successful in Washington.

Photograph by Flickr user Teresa Grau Ros.

Mayor Vince Gray is brandishing his giant novelty scissors today to cut the ribbon on the District’s 200th Capital Bikeshare station, a milestone that coincides with the fourth anniversary of the ever-expanding bicycle-sharing network. The newest location, at McKinley Street and Connecticut Avenue, Northwest, in Chevy Chase, is the 340th overall for the system spanning the District, Arlington, Alexandria, and Montgomery County, with plans to enter Prince George’s County in 2015.

Even when its expansion was slowed by the bankruptcy of the Canadian company that manufactures the bright-red bikes and docks, statistics from Bikeshare’s fourth year show it continuing to grow in popularity. According to region-wide statistics recently published by Arlington County, Bikeshare ended its 2014 fiscal year on June 30 with 2,671 bikes in the system, a 34 percent increase from 2013. Membership at all levels increased, too, with single-day passes increasing 18 percent to 163,559, and yearly memberships jumping by 25 percent to 25,748.

But the Arlington report also details the tangible effects of bike sharing. The 2,769,266 million trips taken last year had significant impacts on Washington’s air pollution and physical fitness. The 4,332,724 miles traveled on Bikeshare instead of motor vehicles reduced carbon dioxide output by 2,930,600 million pounds. Perhaps even more astounding is that Bikeshare users burned an estimated 186,306,987 calories over all those miles, a 75 percent increase from the 2013 total.

One of the reasons Capital Bikeshare has been so successful is that it’s a multi-jurisdictional effort, says Gabe Klein the former director of the District Department of Transportation who launched the system in 2010.

“Regionalism is really important,” Klein said in a recent interview. “The public doesn’t care about the borders. It set a certain tone so you didn’t have this suburban versus urban thing. You could have had people in Silver Spring and Arlington being resentful about this red bike thing, but they have it.”

Another thing Bikeshare has going for it is an exceptional safety record. In what may only surprise the Washington Post’s Courtland Milloy, Bikeshare is safer than ever. The 16 crashes reported in fiscal 2014 represent a 66 percent drop from the 47 experienced in 2013. None of those crashes ended in a fatality, continuing US bicycle sharing’s perfect record since the first system launched in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2007.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.