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Capital Bikeshare: The Good, Bad & Ugly

Last Saturday I got a chance to take the new Capital Bikeshare for a spin. I was really excited to give it a try, and now that I have, I'm left with a lot of mixed feelings. No doubt, I'm beyond happy that DC has a bike share system as sophisticated as this. The potential is definitely there. I just feel like the system isn't quite perfect yet.

(from DDOTDC on Flickr)

I successfully took 5 CaBi trips and I had two unsuccessful trip attempts. During both of those failed attempts I got to a station that had only 1 bike left in the docks, but for weird technical reasons (that I won't get into here) I wasn't able to take a bike out of the dock.

Overall, my feelings about CaBi can be summed up below.

The Good: The bikes are in good shape and they ride nicely. Granted, they are heavy and you can't ride very fast on them, but I didn't experience any mechanical problems on any of the bikes. The brakes worked well, the gears shifted smoothly and the tires were fully inflated. The front rack was a nice touch. I personally didn't use it but saw a number of people carrying their bags on the rack. I also found the smartphone app to be a huge help in finding CaBi stations.

The Bad: When the system doesn't work, it's difficult to figure out what to do. In one instance, I had difficulty docking a bike, but I couldn't find instructions anywhere about what to do if the bike isn't docking properly. After a call to CaBi's support number, the issue was resolved. The built-in lights on the bikes are pretty cool, but I wish they stayed on when you weren't pedaling. At night, you effectively go dark whenever you stop.

The Ugly: CaBi doesn't accept AmEx or Discover for 24-hour memberships. This is personally problematic for me, as I don't have a Visa or MasterCard credit card. I brought my helmet along for the ride - I wouldn't ride without it in DC. This might be an issue if I ever became a real member, as I'd need to carry my helmet with me anytime I wanted to make a trip. I'd be stuck if I ever wanted to make a 'spur of the moment' ride across town.

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