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When the District of Columbia and Arlington County partnered to establish a bike sharing system in 2010, offering more than 1,500 bikes at 165 stations, local bike shops got a little nervous. Why would someone buy a new bike for hundreds of dollars when they could hop on a bike any time they wished for just $50 per year?
It turns out their fears were for naught. Bike store owners say bike sharing is actually helping their businesses by fueling an explosion in bicycling enthusiasm. Moreover, bike shops say they are witnessing a culture change in their neighborhoods as more people leave their cars at home and hop on two-wheelers.
“We’ve seen all kinds of people out on the streets,” says Erik Kugler, the owner of Bicycle Space, a new shop on 7th Street NW. “Streets are becoming safer. Drivers are becoming more courteous. The city is becoming a much more fun place.”
There’s no hard data on how many bikes have been sold in D.C. following Bikeshare’s launch, but Transportation Nation cites a 2008 report stating that bike shops in Paris saw a 39 percent increase in sales after the opening of its bikesharing system, Vélib.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, in 2010 an estimated 9,288 people in D.C. identified as bike commuters on the American Community Survey. In 2009, that number was 6,306. So, something’s working.
Photo by Flickr user Angela N., under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license