In Case of Emergency, Take Bike

It’s been a strange week for residents of Virginia and Washington, DC. In a few instances, a tragic week. When I awoke on Tuesday morning in the nation’s capital, I never expected to experience an earthquake and days of hurricane warnings over the following five days. But, amid a chaotic week of natural disasters, Capital Bikeshare proved that it is worth its salt.

For readers who keep up with current events, the 5.8 earthquake that originated near Richmond, Virginia and shook DC, NYC and cities hundreds of miles away is old news. The Washington Monument is cracked and I had to pick up a few water bottles that toppled off of the top of my refrigerator, but the East Coast survived the quake.

Capitol Bike Share
Photo: Bike World News

However, when the event began around 2 PM on Tuesday, the people in DC remained rattled long after the shaking stopped. As a precaution, many federal buildings were evacuated, including the White House and the Pentagon. Traffic and public transportation quickly turned into a mess as large numbers of people tried to make their way home unexpectedly and all at once. For residents who are annual members or for people who have never tested the system before, Capital Bikeshare emerged as a sensible, helpful alternative method of travel.

Happy CaBi riders shared their experiences on Capital Bikeshare’s Facebook page, and here are a few of the success stories from those riders that took advantage of CaBi’s 1,100 bicycles at more than 110 stations (soon to be even more stations):

Passed dozens upon dozens of cranky looking people walking home along the 14th Street bridge and Mount Vernon Trail. Thanks for getting me home with no delay!

Huge success. I was able to zip through the parking lot that was Chinatown, Union Station and the Hill. I was lucky to find the last dock available at Lincoln Park. My kids’ schools were evacuated and it would’ve been tough to get to them in any timely way without the bike. The only things that got a little hairy were when frustrated drivers tried to use any available space (including the bike lane–one almost ran into me) and the snarl around the Capitol, but I just walked it on the crosswalk through the nastiest intersections.

My wife Karen is 8 months pregnant, and was at work in Foggy Bottom. She didn’t want to get pushed around on a crowded platform or be stuck on a bus in gridlock. We texted a plan, and I rode over to meet her. We walked/pushed/biked our way the two miles home. CaBi really did a great job during the earthquake.

DC has embraced bike share since CaBi was unleashed less than a year ago, and the program that has given Washingtonians another convenient transportation option was invaluable to people that needed to meet family members or move from point A to point B in the transportation aftermath of the earthquake.

Of course, the system is not perfect, and there were frustrated users that encountered empty stations due to the fact that the number of rides increased by more than 1,000 from the day before. For Capital Bikeshare, as one Facebook commenter noted, earthquakes are good for business. Hurricanes, not so much.

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2 thoughts on “In Case of Emergency, Take Bike”

  1. Ted Johnson says:

    I remember Hurricane Isabel in DC. The power was out in my building for three days. My neighbors had to figure out where the stairs were for the first time ever, and then climb them in the dark.

    I remember it as a time of much whining.

    I still owned a car back then. There was no bike share. It seems like the dark ages now that I think of it.

  2. Ben says:

    While not specifically thinking of Capital Bikeshare, my thoughts immediately turned to bicycles when I heard about this early rush hour transportation nightmare. It may be slower than driving over moderate distances normally, but when traffic is at a standstill, it suddenly becomes a lot faster. And, as always, it’s much quicker for short trips withing the city.

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