Monday, September 10, 2012

Capital BikeShare comes to Zoe

Two things:

1) I am horribly delinquent in writing in the blog.  I'm getting abuse from more than just my blogging conscience (Jim) these days.

2) I'm still recovering from the fun that was Fashion's Night Out Alexandria.  Since I'll have to write a few posts about that event, I thought I'd at least get an interim post in while I finish recovering.

What better to write about than the new Capital BikeShare station that has been set up outside Zoe?  The Capital BikeShare program has been in place in DC and in Arlington County for sometime.  This popular program allows people to "rent" bicycles for use at one spot and drop them at another spot (if desired).  Many people have found it a great way to commute, to explore the area, and to run errands.

Late last year/early this year, the City Council in Alexandria voted to add Capital BikeShare stations in the Old Town area.  There was some discussion as to where they would be located but nothing had been finalized.  My thought was "that sounds cool!"

In May of this year, a man was outside Zoe on Prince and Union streets doing some measuring.  Local residents came up to him to ask what he was doing (I had Zoe's door open and could hear the conversation).  He said he was measuring for a potential Capital BikeShare station to go on that corner. Uh oh.  I may experienced my first ever case of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

Honestly, my initial thought was....great.  So now I have a bunch of people coming in the store to ask me how to use it (I get asked every question imaginable - from where to have lunch to the location of the nearest ATM to how to get back on the Beltway).  There will be some sort of loss of parking spaces.  And how many people on bikes have ever purchased anything from the store?  (To their credit, I do have people who discover Zoe while biking on the Mt. Vernon Trail who do end up coming back as customers).  I also worried about the two local bikeshops located within a block of me who rent bikes.

In June, a representative from the City's Transportation and Environmental Services T&ES) came into the store to introduce herself and tell me about the plans for the BikeShare station.  She had also posted signs indicating that there would be a hearing about the location.  I truly intended to attend the hearing but I got the day mixed up and missed it.  In reading the minutes of the meeting, it turned out that no one attended!

The T&ES representative had told me that the station would likely go in during the late summer.  Sure enough, the final week in August saw more signs posted to prohibit parking and the station materialized quickly.  The station took 3 parking spaces along the Prince Street side of Zoe's courtyard.  I sent a note to the T&ES rep to ask for brochures and updated maps so that I could learn more about the BikeShare and provide information for those who had questions.  She brought it by before the station even went into operation.

Despite my initial angst, the BikeShare station hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  One woman told me she discovered the store when she turned in her bike at that particular station!  I haven't had a lot of questions AND the bikes do appear to be used frequently.  My only remaining lament is the loss of the 3 parking spaces so close to the store.  But it looks like we may develop a positive co-existence!

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