Montgomery County plans bike-sharing expansion

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Photo - Capital Bikeshare bicycles. (Examiner file photo)
Capital Bikeshare bicycles. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

A new measure in Montgomery County would allow bike-sharing stations to be built with revenue from taxes paid by developers, which currently fund transportation projects like roads and buses.

Scheduled to be introduced Tuesday, the bill could help pay for some of the roughly 29 Capital Bikeshare stations -- holding about 204 bikes -- planned for Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center, Takoma Park, Silver Spring and eventually Wheaton and Forest Glen. The county already has received a $1 million grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation, plus $250,000 from the state legislature, for the project.

Each station costs an average $55,000 to build and $26,000 per year to operate, though the costs vary based on how many bikes each station can hold, according to the office of County Council President Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, D-Silver Spring.

A representative of Capital Bikeshare could not be reached for comment.

The bikes could begin appearing by the end of the year, Berliner said. Bikes are expected to be in place in all of the locations except Wheaton and Forest Glen by spring 2013.

Berliner and Ervin also plan to introduce on Tuesday legislation that would allow developers to build bike-sharing stations on their property without going through the normal regulatory process.

Both measures are intended to encourage private-sector support of bike sharing, Berliner said.

And some business leaders are eager to see bike sharing brought to the county, said Ginanne Italiano, president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

"It's more ways for people to get out of their cars and ride bicycles and connect throughout the region," she said. "This is something that we should have done a long time ago, quite honestly."

With the arrival of bike-sharing stations, the county should simultaneously improve bike infrastructure, like dedicated bike lanes and traffic lights, said Darian Unger, a former Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board member and longtime transportation advocate.

There are already 140 Capital Bikeshare stations with 1,200 bikes in Arlington and the District, according to a Federal Highway Administration report. There are pilot programs in Alexandria and Rockville.

Another grant has funded the expansion of the Rockville-Shady Grove bike-sharing program. By next spring, there should be about 20 stations with about 200 bikes.

By using the same bike vendor, people can pick up a bike in Montgomery County and return it in Arlington or the District, and vice versa.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner