Washington DC has become the first US city to roll out a comprehensive bike-sharing program.  Subscribers simply swipe a card to borrow a bike.  The program costs only $40 annually and is targeted to residents and commuters, not tourists, with most racks near bus and rail stops.  An online map shows rack locations, available bikes and the number of empty slots for returns.

SmartBike, as the program is called, is part of a 20-year deal between DC and ClearChannel (perhaps the mega-corp isn’t all bad after all…now if only they could improve their music selections) that requires the company to renovate city bus shelters and implement and maintain the bike sharing program.  In exchange, ClearChannel gets advertising space in the shelters.  For now, all bike sharing revenues go to the city.

SmartBike riders must be at least 18 and are limited to three hour joyrides, but a second bike can be checked out as soon as the first one is returned.  The program is modeled on Paris’ “Velib” program, which started in 2007 and already has 16,000 bikes and 200,000 subscribers.  DC is starting with 100 bikes, but hopefully it’ll expand quickly, and to other cities.  Full story from LA Times here.

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