An Arizona Hick Tries Capital Bikeshare (Part 1)

Well here I am, a hick from Arizony in Washinton DC. Got a mess’a things to do this week. One of ‘ums is I’m a gonna hunt down a feller who can fix this iTelephone contraption whats got itself all busted ‘cross the top.

I hear tell there’s a Chinaman down yonder alleyway can put this right faster’n a fart in a windstorm.

The official Commute by Bike iCrack, Dag-nabbit!

But I ain’t got no biseekel, so what in tarnation am I a-gonner do?

(Enough of the Hickspeak. I lived here for about 10 years, and I blended in quite well. Too well, in fact. Once I went and bought some cowboy boots, and wore them occasionally just to assert, I’m not from around here. That was until a whole bunch of Texans moved into the city. I didn’t wear the boots too often after that.)

Rather than ask for a loaner bike this week, I decided I’d get around by using Capital Bikeshare as much as possible. I haven’t moved my rental car since I arrived, neither have I used the Metro.

The first trip was to find Enstech, a small business that reportedly can fix iPhones and other handheld devices.

My starting point was 4Site Interactive Studios, where I’ve been borrowing a desk and an Internet connection this week. It’s on 14th street, next to a snow cone vendor.

4Site Interactive Studios
Come for the video production. Stay for the snow cones.

The nearest Capital Bikeshare station was only a couple of blocks away, in front of a grocery store. At first I thought the small grocery carts scattered in front of the bikes indicated a disregard for the Bikeshare station. Later I determined it’s people who use the bikes who transfer groceries to the bike front racks, and then leave the carts behind.
Capital Bikeshare Station and Grocery Carts

The only previous time I’d used a bikeshare system was in Boulder, where it wasn’t hard, but was less intuitive than expected.

Capital Bikeshare was straightforward. I swiped my debit card, and the rest was self-explanatory.

Capital Bikeshare 127-page EULA
Just read the 127-page End User License Agreement, and you’re off!

The console generates a five-digit code to unlock the bike from the station.

I could choose either to try and remember the five-digit code, or have it printed on a small piece of paper. Since this was my first time and everything about it was so exciting, I decided not to tax my short-term memory with a sequence of ones, twos, and threes.

I selected a bike and punched in the code. The yellow light flashed, and then the green light lit up indicating that the bike was ready to undock.

Capital Bikeshare Code
How could I forget that? Everyone knows it’s the Zip Code for Greenville, Florida. Population 800.

I liberated the bike, adjusted the seat height, pinched the tires, and then set off down 13th Street. (Now that I think of it, I should probably pinch the tires before I select the bike I’m going to take.)

Ah, 13th Street NW. So many memories. It was the main artery of my bike commute when I worked in The District. My car commute too.

At the bottom of the hill at 13th St. NW and Florida Avenue, I remembered the house where author Doreen Baingana used to live — before she became all famous and literary, and moved back to Uganda. And… Is that a guy passed out on the steps?

13th St. and Florida
I feel better now about my behavior at that one New Years Eve party in this house.

It used to take me 35 minutes to get to work whether I drove, took the Metro, or biked. I’ve told that story a lot. What I usually don’t say is that I used to blow through red lights on my bike — safely of course.

Today, a more civil and upstanding me will be obeying all traffic laws, and setting a good example — for the children.

Sidewalk Salmoning in DC
Okay. Not just for the children.

I contended with a lot of traffic, and was on my best behavior. I really wished I had my rear-view mirror.

When I got in range of the iCrack repairman, I started looking for a sketchy back-alley business. I saw a guy coming around the corner happily tapping on his iPhone like a long-lost friend.

Bingo: Enstech

Bikeshare Rookie Mistake

When I arrived and started talking to they guy at Enstech, I realized that the clock on my bikeshare was ticking, and I’d be charged two dollars if I didn’t get it to the nearest station within 30 minutes of when I had left the station from which I had departed.

Google Maps
Google Maps = Wrong. The nearest station is actually under the blue dot showing my current location.

I didn’t know where the nearest station was.

So I got on my iCrack, and tried to find it. Google Maps didn’t show a Bikeshare station anywhere near me.

I got on the Capital Bikeshare Website and, with some difficulty determined that there was a station about 100 yards away.

Lesson learned: Make sure you know where you are going to return your bike before you head out.

The cost of this rookie mistake was two dollars.

I learned later that there is a Bikeshare app called Spotcycle to help you figure this out. It even tells you in real time if there are any bikes and available docks at the stations you want to use.

Spotcycle Screenshots
Google Maps via Spotcycle = Right

But not everyone has a smartphone. Hell, I don’t even have a smartphone. (My iCrack doesn’t have cell phone service. But it does have some nice cracks.) But there are other ways find out where is the nearest station to your destination.

Speaking of my iCrack, Enstech didn’t have any replacement screens. I may have to come back another day.


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