Capital Bikeshare Rolls Out Homeless Program

DDOT partnering with a nonprofit to help a program getting people back on their feet

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    Behold, your fit future.

    First, the District Department of Transportation tried to reach the not-so-rich through a partnership with D.C.'s banking program, giving discounted memberships to people who sign up for a debit or credit card.

    Now they're partnering with a nonprofit to try helping out more people who could really use some low-cost transportation: the homeless.

    Not just any homeless people, though. This takes work. Discounted Bikeshare memberships will only be available to folks who have a 90 percent attendance record at three-day-a-week 5:45 a.m. running sessions and job training sessions coordinated by an organization called Back on my Feet, which has been active in D.C. for two years now.

    The initial pilot will be 10 people, who'll be able to use the transit benefits they receive from Back on my Feet as part of the later stages of the program to pay for $50 memberships (down from $75 per year). That could expand, depending on interest.

    Oh, and the program's 150 or so volunteers will also get to buy memberships at the reduced rate.

    Three thoughts on this.

    One: I've often thought that bicycles are huge assets to homeless people, as the most efficient way to travel between appointments, jobs, and places to sleep (and to all not-so-rich people, as my colleague Alex Baca pointed out so long ago). The problem is, the biggest men's shelters are far away from the urban core and not well-served by bike lanes -- 801 East is up a giant hill at St. Elizabeth's, and New York Avenue is, well, on very bike-unfriendly New York Avenue. Perhaps, with paying customers, it'll be worth it for DDOT to put Bikeshare stations where homeless people need them most.

    Two: Call me red, but I'd love to see a graduated pricing scheme for all levels of income. If you're on TANF, or receive food stamps, or live in section 8 housing, a Bikeshare membership is another great way to save money and time, but $75 is a big up-front cost. Just as Bikeshare stations are now a community benefit in development projects, perhaps they could also be a form of entitlement.

    And three: Bikeshare discounts as a way of encouraging volunteerism could obviously scale through partnerships with all sorts of non-profits, starting with the District's own volunteerism outfit, ServeDC.

    Capital Bikeshare Rolls Out Homeless Pilot was originally published by Washington City Paper on March 20, 2012.