“It’s really been an adventure,” said Aumann, 41, who cycled to more than half the stations last fall. “I was just really impressed with the vast network of the system, and thought, hey, this will be a great way to get around town and see lots of different parts of the city.”
Two years after the onset of the pandemic disrupted travel, regional transport officials are touting alternatives to personal vehicles, hoping to steer more motorists towards trains, buses and bicycles. As public transit suffers from an increase in telecommuting, cycling and Capital Bikeshare are rebounding, with the system recently recording its best week of the coronavirus era.
But Aumann said his Bikeshare title of “Top City Explorer” had less to do with the pandemic than with achieving a personal goal, one that opened his eyes to the area around him.
Before moving to Washington in 2019, Aumann used bike-sharing systems in Chicago, San Francisco and New York. But none of them, he said, were as comprehensive as the district’s. It seemed, he said, that a station was close to wherever he needed to go.
At first he cycled through museums and monuments, but soon he was pedaling around the city boundary line, a 50-mile journey that took him to the rolling terrain of the southeast and its Anacostia River trails, the Northeast National Arboretum. , and to some of the city’s original landmarks, among the country’s oldest monuments.
Capital Bikeshare is one of the nation’s most successful and extensive bike-sharing programs, with docking stations in the Alexandria District, Virginia, and Falls Church, Virginia, and counties from Fairfax, Arlington, Montgomery and Prince George’s. The 12-year-old system, owned by these jurisdictions, continues to expand and upgrade many of its legacy bikes and docks, with plans to add 50 new stations.
Last fall, Bikeshare added a City Explorer feature to its app, allowing riders to track how many stations they’ve visited. Members took to social media to compare notes or share their maps.
Capital Bikeshare prepares for expansion as commuters return
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of stations people visit since we launched the City Explorer feature, but Ethan is the clear frontrunner, an impressive feat,” said Dom Tribone, managing director of Capital Bikeshare at Lyft, who manages and operates a system subsidized by local cities and counties.
Only Aumann, one of Bikeshare’s 26,400 annual members, has so far completed the map, which includes stations well outside the Beltway in Reston, Va., and near Shady Grove subway station in Maryland. By April, the second-place runner had visited 472 stations.
When he first completed Bikeshare’s expanding map on Dec. 10, Aumann had visited 669 stations. The system then added 14 new stations, with Aumann recently marking its final stop at 10th and H streets NE, outside of Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Aumann said his competitive nature drove him to set the record. He used Bikeshare daily, but his travels rarely took him to the suburbs. As a new resident of Washington, he had never heard of places like White Oak and Greenbelt, both located in Maryland.
When the City Explorer feature launched in October, it had visited about a third of the stations, and mostly in the district, which is home to about half of the stations in the system.
“I was a little disappointed, like, oh, that doesn’t sound like much,” Aumann said. “Immediately I thought, well, I want to go to all of them.”
From November to December 10, if Aumann wasn’t at work reviewing policy regarding possible environmental effects and making recommendations to help communities withstand natural disasters, he was on his bike.
He rode his bike every night and weekend in the rain, light snow and freezing temperatures. He took the subway’s Silver Line to Tysons, Virginia, where he took a bike for a day of riding to Reston, covering a swathe of Fairfax County and 66 stations.
He has completed 2,695 Bikeshare trips, cycling nearly 4,000 miles with 545 hours on the road. Each trip requires its own set of preparations.
“I usually grab my own snacks and a cold Chipotle burrito on my long commutes and stop to eat when and where it feels right at the time,” Aumann said, adding that commutes can be rewarded with a large bowl of pasta or an extra burrito. at the end of a long day.
Aumann said it’s especially difficult to stay on safe bike paths in the suburbs and east of the Anacostia River, places where bike infrastructure is lacking.
He got to know the problems and advantages of Bikeshare. He’s a “bike angel” who helps bring ungrounded bikes back to stations, earning rewards like free months of membership and credits to use e-bikes for free. He knows there’s little chance of finding a bike during rush hour at his home station in Columbia Heights, the busiest bike-share neighborhood after the National Mall and Capitol Hill, but, he said, it’s not hard to find a bike nearby.
His advice for new pilots? “Check the app in advance to make sure there are bikes available at the station you’re leaving from and to make sure there are open platforms at the station you’re going to,” said he declared. “But don’t check too far in advance. Do this on the way out as bikes can disappear quickly, especially if the weather is nice outside or during busy commuting hours.
After a pandemic downturn, cyclists have started to return to Bikeshare. The week beginning April 11 saw Bikeshare’s highest attendance of any week since October 2019, with more than 80,750 trips, according to Lyft. March saw 252,000 trips, up nearly 50% from the previous year and down slightly from March 2019, a sign that tourists and commuters are returning.
Members who left the system during the pandemic are also returning. The system had 26,400 members at the end of April, up from 23,550 a year ago. That’s still below the 30,090 members Bikeshare had in spring 2019, even as the number of cyclists making single trips or using day passes is growing.
Aumann began her relationship with Bikeshare while on assignment in Washington in March 2019, six months before moving to the city.
District wants to double its two dozen kilometers of protected cycle paths
An avid cyclist, he grew up in Portland, Oregon where cycling was part of his lifestyle. He rode while earning a degree in chemistry at Whitman College in Washington State. In the San Francisco Bay Area, traffic was so bad when he was earning a master’s and doctorate in environmental engineering at Stanford, he said, that it was easier to get around bike. Before moving to the district, he had cycled 16 miles each way through suburban Denver.
Aumann does not own a car and can count on one hand the times he took the bus in Washington. The metro is only an option when having to go to more distant places or if the weather is bad. He owns a bike, he says, but Bikeshare means he never has to worry about flat tires, regular maintenance or his bike being stolen.
“I’ve always been this weird guy who rides my bike everywhere,” he says. “I don’t really like driving, and I feel like I’d rather rely on my own legs to get me where I want to go.”
Now that he’s used all the Bikeshare stations, he’s revisiting some sites. A favorite is Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm just outside of Washington in Prince George’s County. He is also waiting for other locations to open.
But the real rewards for hitting 683 stations, he said, were the joys and memories of branching out to the Washington area, mixed with a bit of personal satisfaction.
“I had accomplished what I set out to do,” he said.
5 things to know about Capital Bikeshare
Visiting President Lincoln. Lincoln Memorial Station ranks as the top destination for Capital Bikeshare users, with 27,840 trips ending at the memorial last year. New Hampshire Avenue and T Street NW station came second with 27,460 rides, while 15th and P Street NW station recorded 26,870 rides.
Most active areas. The National Mall is the most popular destination in the Bikeshare system with over one million trips in 2021, almost a third of all Bikeshare trips. It is followed by Capitol Hill, with 684,890 rides, and Columbia Heights, with 322,920 rides.
Bikeshare to flights. A Bikeshare station was added in late 2020 at Reagan National Airport. Over 1,300 Bikeshare trips ended at the airport last year.
Millions of kilometers travelled. In 2021, Bikeshare users traveled around 6.6 million kilometers through the system, with around 874,000 hours of riding. Lyft estimates that these rides saved 275,000 gallons of gas.
More stations to come. Bikeshare plans to expand to over 700 stations this year. The system will add approximately 50 stations and another 50 will be replaced to upgrade some original stations that entered service in 2010.