Capital Bikeshare’s Regional Approach is a Winning Formula

Key Bridge BikersPeople who ride the Washington D.C. region’s Capital Bikeshare system tend to ignore geopolitical boundaries.

And that can be advantageous to the jurisdictions that feature the bikesharing program.

CaBi, as it’s popularly known, was begun as a joint venture between the District and Arlington, Virginia, back in 2010. Two years later, Alexandria, Virginia joined the system, and in 2013, Montgomery County, Maryland joined, to create a multi-jurisdictional bike transit system.

Using 2013 numbers, 3 percent of all CaBi trips were between two of the four jurisdictions, with the bulk of those trips, 89 percent, going between D.C. and Arlington. Arlington is the jurisdiction with the greatest percentage of riders crossing its border: 35 percent of trips to or from an Arlington CaBi station are connecting with a station outside the county. Most of those trips (95 percent) cross the Potomac River into D.C.

In 2013, there were a total of 72,988 CaBi river crossings between Virginia and D.C. or Maryland. That’s 200 per day. CaBi’s busiest cross-river route was between the Georgetown station by the C & O Canal on Wisconsin Avenue and the Rosslyn station at 19th and Lynn, with 2,394 trips over the course of the year.

The Anacostia River also sees a bit of CaBi traffic, with 6,679 crossings in 2013. In fact, 66 percent of trips to or from stations east of the river connect to stations on the other side. The most popular trip that crosses the Anacostia is along Pennsylvania Avenue SE, between Potomac and Branch avenues.

I made a short animation that shows all cross-river traffic traffic (both the Potomac and the Anacostia) during the first three months of 2014, with each day overlaid on the others.

We can also use bike-count data from Arlington and D.C. to study cross-jurisdictional bike traffic on the bridges.

Over an eight-hour period in June 2012, D.C. counted 3,789 cyclists crossing the four Potomac bridges (Key, Roosevelt, Arlington, and Mason. Data from the Stat Mapper). Less than 2 percent of the bike traffic came from CaBi riders. The George Mason Bridge (14th Street) was the busiest, with 39 percent of the total river traffic, followed by Key Bridge with 29 percent, Arlington Memorial Bridge with 24 percent, and the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge with 8 percent.


Arlington has built-in bike sensors that automatically count bikes. In 2013, they counted more than a half-million bike trips over Key Bridge, 521,906, to be exact. Sixty-two percent of those trips are on the east side of the bridge. That same period saw 1,250,040 pedestrians use Key Bridge, 70 percent of whom walked on the east side.

The connectedness of the CaBi network shows that each jurisdiction contributes to the success of the others. And we’ve seen other multi-jurisdictional bikeshare systems as well: Nice Ride in Minnesota connects Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Bay Area Bikeshare is spread through San Francisco and four other cities.

For compact jurisdictions like D.C. and Arlington, it makes sense to team up to better serve the community. More stations, a bigger region, and more options … that’s a good deal that riders confirm every time they take a trip.

Photos by M.V. Jantzen

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4 Comment(s)


None of the bikes in the photos are bike share bicycles.

Paul Mackie

Yes, but they are crossing borders.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to get great transportation and multi-modal photos with people in them.

Ritch Viola

Thanks for your observations and the link to the Stat Mapper data. I agree that the regional approach to bike sharing is the most appropriate onefor the Washington DC area where there are many short cross-boundary trips. That may not be the case in other metropolitan areas but has worked well here. BTW , there are 6 cross Potomac bridges that have bike facilities, you forgot about the Chain and Wilson bridges .

Michæl Schade

Thanks. “crossing the four Potomac bridges” should be “crossing four Potomac bridges” – DDOT’s study didn’t include the others, so we have data for just the four.



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