Capital Bikeshare stations could come to the City of Falls Church in late spring/early summer of 2017 with City employees and officials planning an installation of up to 16 stations throughout bike corridors in the City.
In November 2015, the City of Falls Church City Council authorized city manager Wyatt Shields to apply for a $2,000,000 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to increase access to the East Falls Church Metro station by bringing the popular bike sharing program to Falls Church. According to Paul Stoddard, principal planner for the City, the funding decision on the grant is scheduled to happen on July 14.
Other parts of the process that need to take place before the bicycle sharing stations are actually opened are getting Capital Bikeshare under contract, having a successful study of the ridership to and around Falls Church to plan station locations and getting the equipment, the bicycles and the dock stations, to the city and installing them in a timely fashion, according to Stoddard.
The annual operating cost for a 13-dock station, which is the expected size of the stations in the city, is $16,440, which the City plans to cover partially through user fees, grant funding and developer contributions. The capital cost for each station is approximately $50,000, which will likely be covered by grant support and developer contributions, Stoddard said in an email to the News-Press.
Since 2010, the Capital Bikeshare has spread from Washington, D.C. to the suburbs in the region with stations in Arlington County, the City of Alexandria and Montgomery County. This fall, Capital Bikeshare stations will open in Reston and Tysons Corner.
Bicycle sharing’s growth in this region mirrors a trend taking place throughout the country, with over 70 municipalities implementing a bicycle sharing program of some sort since 2009.
And, if Falls Church is approved for the grant to bring bike sharing to the City in 2017, most of the eastern Northern Virginia region will be connected through bike sharing. Stoddard said that he feels “confident” that the City will be approved for the grant funding.
“It really is moving throughout the whole region,” Stoddard said. “And when people ask what’s the benefit of bike share or why are cities going after these bike share systems, [I say] there’s a range of [reasons]. One is that it’s another transportation option…from the public’s side, it’s much more cost efficient to provide bicycle capacity to provide automobile capacity or transit services. It’s seen as a more cost effective means for providing travel options.
“For the City specifically, it’s a way to connect to the metro stations. The East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations are somewhere between a half a mile to a mile from town depending on where you start counting. Environmentally, bike ridership has much lower energy use than other transportation alternatives and it has considerably less impact on air quality. And with public health, it’s a way to introduce daily exercise and activity into people’s routines. In the country, as automobile use rose, physical activity went down and that had impacts on public health, so reintroducing bikes is a way to get that back.”
Stoddard also cited that bringing a bike sharing program to the City would have an impact on economic development. Younger workforces are looking for more travel options, he said, citing Chicago’s launch of a bicycle sharing program in 2013 as an example of a municipality using bike share as a means of attracting people to a city.
“It’s not just workforces,” Stoddard said. “It’s leisure riders who want to come out at a place like State Theatre. They can get as far as the East Falls Church metro, but then they can make that last connection to State Theatre.”
Rob Ochsendorf, a Falls Church resident, has been riding his bicycle to work for more than a decade, first to a job in Washington, D.C. and then, since late last year, to work in the Ballston neighborhood in Arlington. He said that he initially started biking to work to avoid the traffic in the area.
“Ugh. Anybody that’s driven around here knows that it can be a nightmare,” he said with a chuckle. “You drive in D.C. and you take your life in your hands every single day. You could get run off the road or get in an accident. It’s not very safe and it’s rather frustrating to be sitting in traffic for hours upon end.
“Or I could be sitting on the train. I could be sitting in my car and commuting that way or I could be sitting in the Metro and dealing with all the frustrations that go along with riding Metro. And in about the time it takes me to do either one of those things, I could be riding my bike to work and enjoying my time outside and getting some exercise. I think we oughta be encouraging more people to ride bikes to get around.”
He recognized Arlington County’s efforts to make the county more bikeable and how much the county has invested in its bike infrastructure. He has reached out to Stoddard about the City implementing a bicycle sharing service. In his correspondence with Stoddard he urged the City to adopt bike share and cited the ubiquity of the program throughout the region as a reason for moving quickly on the issue.
“I have pretty significant interest in bike infrastructure and transportation issues related to biking,” Ochsendorf said. “And the bike share system launched in the District in 2010, so it’s been about six years since that initiative first started.
“And then Arlington followed shortly thereafter, Alexandria, Bethesda…. So these jurisdictions are getting on board and [Reston] and Tysons Corner are next, so it just stands to reason that at least the City should explore this because it’s happening all around you.”