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Tourist at Home: Capital Bikeshare

A few weeks ago when Chris and I visited the Newseum in D.C., we also tried a couple of new-to-us restaurants. For lunch we had tasty tacos at Taqueria Nacional, which was great for fairly inexpensive Mexican fare, and for dinner we tried Smoke and Barrel in Adams Morgan. We loved their delicious BBQ and smoked meats, and they have a great beer and whiskey selection, too.

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Thankfully we walked around the city quite a bit and burned a few of those delicious lunch and dinner calories. We also walked from the Metro to get to the restaurants. But after all that walking on top of the hours we spent wandering the Newseum, my feet were tired! When we exited Smoke and Barrel, I noticed a Capital Bikeshare station, and I knew there was another one close to our Metro stop as well, so I talked Chris into hopping on a couple of bikes for the remainder of our walk back. (Note: We each rode one bike in case that wasn’t clear.)

Here’s how it works: there are a few hundred Bikeshare stations around the D.C. area with several bikes available for rent. You can pick up a bike at any station, and return it to any station. They offer memberships, or pay-per-use options. We swiped our credit card at the self-service kiosk and paid for a single use. We unlocked two bikes, and rode them to the station nearest our destination where we returned the bikes. The bikes were clean, in great shape, and had comfortable, cushy seats. You can see in the photo below that these are sturdy, hefty bikes and aren’t going to win any kind of weight-weenie competition, so keep in mind that they might feel slow and heavy on a bit of an incline. My short legs and I were appreciative of the step-through design, and the adjustable-height seats.

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It definitely gave my tired feet a much needed break! And I can see how the bikes would come in handy for a full day of sightseeing – you could easily plan your Bikeshare stations around the monuments, museums, and restaurants. There’s a map for that, and an app for that!

We paid the 24-hour price of $7 each. It seemed just a little pricey since we only needed the bikes for one short ride, but if I understand correctly, we could have used the bikes all day (for a 24-hour period) and each time we unlocked a bike, the first 30-minutes of that ride would be “free.” So if you plan to use them all day, the rate is very reasonable.

There are two potential (minor) drawbacks to keep in mind. First, if you return a bike to a station where all of the spots in the bike rack are full, you have to go to another station to return your bike or else pay for the time beyond your free 30 minutes. They do give you an extra 15 minutes in that situation, but if I was already where I wanted to be, I would be a little annoyed at having to ride to another station. Thankfully when we arrived at the station near our Metro stop, there were plenty of available slots.

Second, it’s important to protect your noggin, but there are no rental helmets (sharing a helmet with everyone else would be a little weird, right?) so you need to bring your own. This was a spur-of-the-moment decision for Chris and me so we didn’t happen to have helmets with us and I wouldn’t imagine tourists would have helmets with them either. It felt weird to ride without one, since we always don helmets when we ride closer to home. Capital Bikeshare does, however, recommend that you wear a helmet and they offer a 10% discount on helmets at several local stores to Capital Bikeshare members, so that’s a nice perk. D.C. is fairly bike friendly with designated bike lanes, but keep in mind that not everyone is familiar with the share-the-road rules, so best to be safe and helmet up if you can.

Bottom line: I’d use Capital Bikeshare again! It was super easy and convenient, and I think if we planned to use the bikes more often than just once in a 24-hour period, the cost would definitely be worth it.

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