Does it make more sense to Bikeshare or Bikeown?

It is no secret that I can be a major bicycle evangelist. I am a born-again rider – like many kids, I learned to ride a bike in my driveway sometime in kindergarten. My interest tapered off once I hit ‘begging mom for rides to the mall’ age, and it wasn’t until I moved to DC that I ever cycled regularly as an adult. I don’t recommend asking me about it, because you’ll most certainly be subjected to a pro-bike manifesto in which I beseech you to forever forsake traveling anywhere by any non-bicycle method. There will be dramatic pauses and musical montages. This shit is REHEARSED.

Amazingly, not everyone is alienated by my bicycle fervor – some are even convinced. However, not everyone is ready to dive right into the proverbial bike pool (as few bikes these days are made of liquid, this is probably wise.) Many ask about Capital Bikeshare, or about how it stacks up compared to owning your own bicycle. In this post, I’ll attempt to provide an objective analysis of renting vs. owning a bike. Please note that I am not technically qualified to perform analysis of any kind, and I have also not ever perched my bad self upon a Bikeshare bike. Consider the data accordingly.

Capital Bikeshare

Pros: A bike you rent cannot be stolen. You simply lock the thang into its home port, and never worry about some dick with a toolbox snatching your wheel. You never sink cash into bicycle parts or accessories, because the bikes come equipped with them. It isn’t your job to repair it, either. There is a smartphone app that maps the nearest Bikeshare port, and it even tells you whether or not bikes are available. The membership and usage fees, although debatable, are almost certainly less than the cost of your own bike in the shorter term. After a $75 annual fee, the first 30 minutes on a Bikeshare bike are free, which is a relatively feasible cap for most trips within the District. Still, ride longer and the price will climb.

Cons: Two of the most magical things about travel by bike is the fact that you can get anywhere – door to door – on your own schedule. Relying on ports somewhat undermines this perk, because you have to worry about the location of the nearest hub. This makes it especially tough if you need to stop somewhere for a spontaneous errand. And if you don’t have a smartphone, you may as well just get on the damn bus. It is also somewhat tough to rely on Bikeshare completely, because a full or empty hub could make a real difference in your trip. A few block walk to another one could be a big deal if you are on a time-sensitive schedule. You also have to awkwardly carry your helmet along with you if you plan on wearing one, whereas you can simply lock a helmet to your own bike when indoors. I have also heard that the bikes are a bit awkward to ride, but I can neither confirm nor deny this.

Your own bike

Pros: As previously mentioned, your own bike gives you door-to-door freedom on your own timeline. You also have choice – do you want a racing bike, a mountain bike, or an inconvenient vintage beach cruiser? (Author excitedly waves hand in air.) If you are going to be riding seriously and frequently, this is probably the most cost-effective option. You also have more cargo options if you attach a rack or basket.  You have the potential for greater speed with many bikes, although this is certainly not true for vintage bikes. You also have greater freedom to travel further. You can do a trail ride to Silver Spring, like I did – TWO SEPARATE TIMES.

Cons: Your own bike will cost you. A new commuter bike might be upwards of $400. There are many great used options on Craigslist, but without any knowledge of bicycles it could be tricky to spot a good deal. You also have the problem of storage, which could be hellish if you don’t have a shed or live in a walk-up.  I also contend that used bikes, like much else in DC, are overpriced. You also have to get it fixed every so often (who knew that a measly spoke could make such a difference in the way a bike rides?) You may also incur inconvenience when you would have preferred a one-way option (i.e., you cycle to work in the morning but then take the Metro to Maryland after work. This is inconvenient not only because you left your bike behind, but because you are in Maryland. OH FUCK.)

In the end, the choice you make is a matter of your tastes and needs. I can only guarantee one thing. Once you become a cyclist, it will take you all of five minutes to become one of those raving, pretentious twats who bitch about cars and ignore traffic laws. I should know! I am one of them.

– An elitist-on-a-sunny-yellow-bike-Natalie

About Natalie Shure

literature, life and latte lady

3 Responses to “Does it make more sense to Bikeshare or Bikeown?”

  1. I was hoping to read about just how you learned to ride a bike in your own driveway when you were in kindergarten. As I remember, it wasn’t as easy as you make it sound.

  2. As an avid bikeshare member who also has her own bike, I can attest that they’re really two different animals. Bikeshare commuting is virtually impossible, if you live in a residential neighborhood and/or work downtown – empty or full stations will thwart you. But for one-way bike trips and metro connections (I’ve used it countless times for quick trips from Woodley Park to the heart of AdMo or to Columbia Heights, and now that I live in the Atlas District I take it to Union Station a lot) it is golden. The bikes are much heavier than average and weirdly front-loaded, but you adapt quickly. As for the 30-minute rule, all you have to do is leap-frog, stopping of at some point on a long ride to turn the bike in and take it back out. I do this on my frequent rides from NE to Woodley Park for rehearsals (with weekend track work, bikeshare is the best option), which run slightly over 30 minutes.

  3. Good advice no matter how someone decides to get around. I was saying to someone last week that, after getting by just fine for more than 15 years with one bike, I’m now in the market for my third new bike in three years. All for different purposes (the new one would be for commuting). I kinda drank the cool-aid. I’m also thinking about getting a CaBi membership, because I really do see how useful it is.

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