LARGO – Most government press conferences conclude with applause, conversation and, on occasion, light refreshments. However, after the ribbon cutting for the introduction of Capital Bikeshare to Prince George’s County, government officials hopped on bicycles and joined local bike groups on the trip from the Curry Administration Building to the Largo Metro Station.
The event was held in conjunction with the county’s Bike to Work Day, which was intended to take place on May 18 but was rescheduled due to inclement weather.
Darrell Mobley, director of the county Department of Public Works & Transportation, called the introduction of Capital Bikeshare to the county a “significant milestone.”
“We waited a long time for this,” he said.
The introduction of the bike-share program to the county delivers multiple benefits to the region, such as reduced car emissions and opportunities for accessible exercise.
“Biking is not only great for exercise, it’s great for transportation that can help link our residents and our visitors to jobs, school, services and many things that contribute to their quality of life,” Mobley said.
Capital Bikeshare is a service in the D.C. region with 4,300 bikes and more than 500 stations across Washington, D.C., Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Fairfax County.
A bike-share program is a means of transportation through which users can make station-to-station trips through the publicly available bikes.
“We always talk about us being part of the DMV region, said Danielle Glaros, chair of the county council and a bicyclist herself. “We always talk about us being connected. At the end of the day, the region doesn’t know any boundaries. But we have this artificial boundary established with Capital Bikeshare. People haven’t been able to connect with us from Virginia, from Maryland, from D.C. Our residents haven’t been able to connect into Montgomery County, into D.C., into Virginia.
But today, that changes. Today, we are a truly connected region here in Prince George’s County.”
Further benefits of the program include furthering the county’s status as a space with multimodal transportation. In addition to taking the Metro, riding the bus, walking and driving, residents can now utilize Capital Bikeshare.
“(This day is) not just about transportation, not just about health and the environment and different ways of getting back and forth, but finally Prince George’s County taking its rightful place among the region as one of the key areas to work, live, visit, all of that’s coming together where you can take the Metro, ride your bike, throughout our county,” said County Executive Rushern Baker, III.
Residents have requested a bike-sharing program during public budget hearings in previous years.
Beech Tree Pedalers, a local cycling group, were involved at meetings to include their input as experienced cyclists as the county engaged in conversations about launching Capital Bikeshare.
“The significance (of bringing Capital Bikeshare to the county) is the county leading the way and letting know we’re definitely going to lean ahead and show everybody that cycling is a viable alternative means of transportation,” said Ray Ferguson, president of Beech Tree Pedalers.
In Prince George’s County, the Capital Bikeshare locations are at the Curry Building, the Largo Metro station, Mount Rainier, Jefferson Street off Route 1 and Riverdale Park across from the Whole Foods. More locations are planned for the county, though the exact amount and locations will depend on the availability of grants.
A single trip under a half hour costs $2 with Capital Bikeshare. Each additional half hour incurs small additional usage fees. A 24-hour pass costs $8/day, and an annual membership is $85/year.
Ferguson said the next steps forward to improve conditions for cyclists in the area would be to improve infrastructure – such as signage and designated bike lanes – and awareness of cycling in the county, as well as to ensure cyclists are using deliberate movements and signaling as they move along the roadways.
Under Maryland state law, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. Drivers of cars and other automobiles must maintain at least three feet of distance from cyclists when passing.
“We’re just here to do our part and involve ourselves in the community and let everybody know, hey, we’re travelers, too,” Ferguson said. “We’re just doing it on two wheels versus four, and without a motor.”