Polar Biking: Capital Bikeshare Ridership Surges Despite Frigid Temps

by Kris Ankarlo
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A U.S. Capitol Police officer patrols on a bicycle in front of the U.S. Capitol. (Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A U.S. Capitol Police officer patrols on a bicycle in front of the U.S. Capitol. (Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - This past week was so cold that polar bears weren’t even allowed to sleep outdoors in Chicago.

Sure, it wasn’t as bad as Chiberia here, but Tuesday was the coldest day in years. And yet, it wasn’t cold enough to keep a bunch of you from using Capital Bikeshare.

“I pulled some data from last year to try and compare this week from last year and of course we’ve had some very extreme weather, but ridership is up,” said Kim Lucas who manages the Capital Bikeshare program for DDot. “Part of that is there were more bikes on the road so there are more opportunities for people to ride.”

And Lucas says those increased opportunities translated into more than 2,300 trips on a day that started with single digit temperatures. By comparison, on the same day in 2013, the system saw just 1,986 trips. The high temperature at Reagan National this past Tuesday was 20 degrees, last year it was 52.

“Bikesharing, and biking, has proven itself as a reliable mode of transportation,” said Lucas, pointing out that these numbers show the program is working.

Even if there are more bicycles and bicycle share stations, that doesn’t necessarily explain why so many people chose to commute by bike as the Potomac turned into a slushee.

“In some cases it was a walking trip replaced by a bike trip,” said Lucas. “If the weather seems OK when you want to take a trip at that moment, but your not sure what its going to look like in a couple of hours when you want to take a return trip, then using bikeshare is the perfect option. Because you can take it one way, and if your want to take a cab home or a bus home you can do that.”

Twitter was full of cyclists sharing in the pain and, er, joy of pedaling through an arctic blast.

Either Washingtonians really love capital bikeshare, or you’ve learned how to handle the cold…so yeah, you love biking. Ultimately, the continued use of the Capital Bikeshare system through extreme weather portends a growing cultural change in DC when it comes to commuting.

“That’s a lifestyle shift and I think people are willing to put on an extra sweater or hat in order to bike to their destination,” said Lucas.

Follow Kris Ankarlo on Twitter for more in-depth coverage.

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