Cyclists flock to new Mall bikeshare stations

Local,DC,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Third added Monday near Smithsonian Castle

A third Capital Bikeshare station opened on the National Mall Monday, joining two other stations in the nation's front yard that quickly have become some of Washington's most popular bikesharing spots.

On Saturday, the first Mall stations became the busiest pickup spots of the distinctive red bicycles across the system, with the Martin Luther King Memorial station logging 200 originating trips and the Washington Monument station having 176, project manager Josh Moskowitz said. Since opening just over two weeks ago, they have scored near or in the top 10, he added.

Gaining popularity
March 19-25
• Washington Monument (Jefferson Drive between 14th and 15th Streets SW): 1,041 originating trips (2nd busiest)
• MLK Memorial (Ohio Drive and West Basin Drive SW): 822 originating trips (5th busiest)
March 26-April 1
• Washington Monument: 788 originating trips (4th busiest)
• MLK Memorial: 591 originating trips (13th busiest)

Officials have been pleased with the success of the first two Mall stations, especially because enough riders have picked up and dropped off the bikes to avoid having staff drive many bikes to the stations as replacements. "They've tended to rebalance quite well," Moskowitz said.

The Mall stations are most heavily used by casual users, not long-term subscribers. That means more money for the system, which already has made enough to cover its operating costs in the District. So far, data show, casual users have outnumbered subscribers at those stops by more than two to one.

The bikesharing program, which lets riders rent bikes for one-way trips from 152 stations in the District and Arlington, had long sought to add docking stations to the Mall. It finally won permission in March to add five stations to the U.S. National Park Service land.

Bikeshare officials then rushed to open two stations before the National Cherry Blossom Festival began on March 20. One sits near the Washington Monument at Jefferson Drive between 14th and 15th streets in Southwest and the other is near the Martin Luther King Memorial at Ohio and West Basin drives.

The third was added Monday morning outside the Smithsonian Metro stop along the Mall at 12th Street and Jefferson Drive Southwest.

It's not clear when the remaining two will be added, Moskowitz said.

The system, which started in September 2010 after the smaller SmartBike DC, has been more popular than even its planners had expected. In February, riders took 90,000 trips, compared with 40,000 the year before, even as both months had similarly mild weather, Moskowitz said.

And the system has been busting its own records this spring with more than 8,300 trips in a single day.

The Mall stops will likely continue to bustle this week. Though the cherry blossoms have already peaked, the festival continues through April 27. The region is also flooded with visitors as many schools cycle through spring break.

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