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OMG! Somebody pedaled a Capital Bikeshare all the way to Seattle?!?! (not really)

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Via Instagram

I received so many messages yesterday from people who saw this Washington DC Capital Bikeshare bike locked up in Seattle. It even led to a completely baffled post on DCist. Did someone really ride a bike share bike 3,000 miles to Seattle? Just imagine the overage charges they’ve racked up!

Unfortunately, no, this bike was not brought here by a confused and incredibly fit DC resident with a huge credit card bill. It belongs to Alta Bike Share and is on loan to Puget Sound Bike Share so they can show it off and demonstrate the style of bikes Seattle and King County can expect to see on our streets when the system launches in spring 2014. Alta is contracted for both the DC and Seattle systems.

Whether it’s an accident or on purpose, it’s brilliant marketing for Puget Sound Bike Share. They should probably just keep locking that bike up in prominent places around town, maybe attach a note explaining that PSBS is coming.

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Also, can someone please do some calculations to figure out how many charges you would likely rack up if you did bike from DC to Seattle on a bike share bike? (Let’s assume they have the $75 annual membership so that they are not stealing. The first 30 minutes is free, second 30 minutes is $1.50, and every 30 minutes after that is $3…)

Speaking of bike share, the Bay Area launched their Alta-based system this week. With 500 bikes, this is of particular interest to Seattle because the Bay Area bikes are the first to have specs similar to the bikes in the Puget Sound Bike Share fleet. The biggest difference is the 7-speed shifting to help people climb hills (the other Alta systems use 3-speed bikes).

The challenge for bike share in a hilly city is: How do you make a bike that makes it easy to climb a hill, but encourages slower movement down hills? The high (fast) gear needs to top out at a lower speed (12 mph?), but the low gear needs to be able to climb Capitol Hill, for example. Obviously, gravity plays a big role in downhill speeds, but not being able to shift into higher gears on a downhill would probably be a good idea.

Also, San Fransisco has tons of trolley tracks. It will be interesting to see if the tires are wide enough to avoid injuries or if even fatter tires might be a good idea.

We should follow the Bay Area experience closely and see if anything needs to be adjusted ahead of the launch of PSBS to ensure a safe and comfortable experience.

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11 responses to “OMG! Somebody pedaled a Capital Bikeshare all the way to Seattle?!?! (not really)”

  1. Gary

    “not being able to shift onto higher gears for downhill”… seriously? I can coast at 25ph before the wind resistence holds me back. Besides not having any accelerations makes it more difficult to drive. Yeah I bet you want a car with no accelerator pedal when you go downhill too….

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      There are plenty of bikes where the high (or only) gear is essentially useless on a downhill (think: just about every cruiser bike). They are not dangerous or difficult to ride, as you suggest.

    2. Matthew

      Bwhahahaha!! Offer someone a free bike and all they do is gripe. Way to go.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        It’s not free. It requires either membership or daily fees.

  2. It’s a challenge to build a bike with the gearing to descend fast, climb without killing your knees, and provide closely spaced ratios for all the conditions and speeds in between. That’s why the roadies have horrible fidgity crap like triple chainrings and 11-speed cassettes requiring special chains with special assembly instructions, and why they invented electronic shifting. It isn’t a challenge to build a bike that can both climb steep hills and doesn’t let you descend fast — just use all really easy gears and force a non-aero riding position!

    Anyway, why would you take away the ability to use the hardest gears on a descent when you have the ability to use them on the flats? Speed isn’t any less dangerous on the flats (that is, people crash on descents because they’re going faster, not because descents are otherwise more dangerous).

    The real challenge for safety in this town is braking on a descent in the rain. I don’t see rim or disk brakes on this bike, so I assume it has drums? Drum brakes in theory should do much better in the rain than rim brakes, but whatever specific equipment is being used should be tested. Take it out to Disco Park (because there isn’t much traffic there, and there are some decent car-free climbs/descents) in a rainstorm. I got caught out in the evening storm there yesterday and my canti brakes didn’t give me much confidence…

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear enough.

      I’m not saying the gears shouldn’t work on a decent. I mean the highest gear should be low enough that over the desired speed you don’t have enough resistance to go even faster, as you describe. So when you’re pedaling downhill, your feet start spinning around 12 mph or so and you don’t have any more gears to keep going faster.

      1. Ah, I see. I’m still not sure why Seattle would need lower top-end gearing than any other city.

    2. no traffic lights

      haha… triple crankset, AKA ‘granny gear’

      Those bikes look fun I can’t wait to take one for a spin.

  3. Joseph Singer

    It’s the thing about people confusing Washington, DC with Washington state thing. Some people just will never get it right.

  4. Jeff Dubrule

    This guy (cyclingacrossamerica.wordpress.com) says its 4660 miles by bike. Assuming an average speed of 13mph (it is a bikeshare bike…), that’s 358 hrs, 28 mins.
    So, assuming you’re hardcore and take no breaks at all, that’s 717 30-minute segments. Less the $4.50 discount on the first hour, total is $2146.50.

    1. Doug Bostrom


      And– amazingly– less expensive than many bicycles bought these days which will end up permanently hanging in a garage after traveling less than the distance between Seattle and the Idaho border, if we can believe statistics. :-)

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