The arrival of fall around here means three things to me: pears replacing peaches at farmers’ markets, a chance to grow a second crop of arugula, and a notable increase in my Capital Bikeshare mileage.
Between the temperature dropping into the 50s and summer’s stagnant humidity finally lifting, I no longer have to worry about rolling up to my destination glistening dripping with sweat. Meanwhile, the fall colors on the trees has the city looking pretty great, even if the leaves don’t get as vibrant as in New England. So why not bike instead of taking Metro?
(My usual stations to daisy-chain free rentals: 24th and Pennsylvania NW if I’m riding to downtown, Lincoln Memorial if I’m headed to the Hill.)
So I’m seeing more of Washington than usual, I’m getting some moderate exercise, and I’m saving money–I’ve already recouped almost all of the $85 annual fee in saved Metro fares. What’s not to like?
Well, the chance that some inattentive driver will hit me. I got a reminder of that risk two weeks ago when one driver merged abruptly into a bike lane ahead of my wife, leading to her stopping abruptly, crashing, and breaking her collarbone. Yes, again. Could you all please try harder to share the road?
My mental map of D.C. has looked a lot different since I got a membership to Capital Bikeshare. Being able to jump on one of those red rental bicycles and ride the next 30 minutes at no extra cost effectively collapsed my sense of distances between neighborhoods.
But it’s taken me longer to realize how “CaBi” has changed my commuting budget: It’s replaced so many Metro rides that its annual membership fee has become effectively free.
(I take CaBi home from downtown much less often. The bikes weigh about 40 pounds and only have three gears, making getting up the hill from Rosslyn a tedious and sweaty exercise.)
Finally, I got into the habit of chaining together bikeshare rentals, docking a bike at one station and then taking out another from an adjacent dock. (You can also get an extra 15 minutes of time if you get “dockblocked” by a station with no open spots.) With a combined 60 minutes of free travel available, Capitol Hill events easily fall within CaBi range.
So how much has this saved me? A few days ago, I went through my trip history and added up every ride longer than a mile, figuring that would be a decent proxy for trips I would not have otherwise taken on foot. The total over the previous year: 43, with the bulk of them understandably concentrated in spring, fall and winter. Valuing each Metro trip avoided at $2–a lowball estimate for the train, high for the bus–gets me to $86 in savings.
And that, in turn, is $11 more than the $75 I paid for this year’s membership and still exceeds the $85 I’ll pay at my next renewal.