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OK, so there’s more to the SmartBikes than the fact that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty knows how to ride one.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • After numerous delays, the program is now live. However, to use it, you need to get a SmartBike card, which costs $40 per year but allows unlimited bike use. You need a credit card and must be over 18. It can take up to two weeks to get a card after ordering one online.
  • You can find racks at the following locales: Logan Circle (14th Street & Rhode Island Avenue NW), Gallery Place (7th & F Streets NW), Dupont Circle (Massachusetts Avenue NW west of Dupont Circle), Farragut Square (17th & K Streets NW), Reeves Center (14th & U Streets NW), Metro Center (12th & G Streets NW), Shaw (7th & T Streets NW), Judiciary Square (4th & E Streets NW), Foggy Bottom (23rd & I Streets NW), McPherson Square (14th & H Streets NW).
  • You are allowed to keep a bike for up to three hours. If you keep the bike more than three hours, you get a warning placed on your account; do it a second time, and your account is terminated. Keep one more than 24 hours, and your credit card is charged $550 for a replacement bike.
  • You may be wondering, if everyone grabs a bike in their neighborhood in the morning to ride to work, how will there be enough parking spaces downtown for all the commuters? That problem is solved by having a van that can carry bikes from full racks to empty racks; a computer in the van can track the status of each rack thanks to an RFID chip in the handlebars of each bike.
  • The bikes are equipped with kickstands, mudguards, bells, hand and coaster brakes, and three-speed internal gearing.
  • There’s some gaps in the rack coverage, Georgetown and Capitol Hill being the glaring exceptions. Transportation department spokesperson Karyn LeBlanc says the city is about to start looking at new locations, moving out “spherically” from the city core.
  • All your other questions can be answered at the SmartBike Web site. You might ask, why isn’t it part of the city’s Web site? That’s because the program is being run by ClearChannel Outdoor as part of the city’s bus shelter contract.