Pilot program in Silver Spring to offer dockless bike sharing

Montgomery County will be the first suburban jurisdiction in the country to offer residents dockless bike sharing under a new agreement with Mobike, the largest such company in the world.

County Executive Ike Leggett (D) said the agreement would be a pilot project that would bring 400-500 bikes to Silver Spring for riders to test the concept. The trial is expected to start later this month.

[In the photo above is Matt Johnson, Department of Transportation project manager for the protected bike lanes; Jillian Irvin, Mobike’s head of U.S. government affairs; Council Vice President Hans Riemer; Washington Area Bicyclist Association Executive Director Greg Billing; DOT Director Al Roshdieh; County Executive Ike Leggett, WABA board member Peter Gray; and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. Photo by Mike Diegel]

Unlike the Capital Bikeshare system currently available, which requires fixed bike docking stations, Mobike users pick up, ride and then park a bike wherever it’s convenient for them.

Each bike is equipped with built-in GPS and smart-lock technology that allows the user to unlock it via a QR code. Riders download the Mobike app to register, locate a nearby bike via the app and GPS, unlock it, park it in a legal area at their destination, and lock it for the next user.

“With the addition of Mobike, biking across town can be a spontaneous act,” said Council Vice President Hans Riemer (D-At Large), an avid cyclist (Leggett referred to him as “a champion for bicyclists”).

“It can be something you weren’t expecting to do, but you got here and boom, here’s a bike, why don’t we go check out Sligo Creek?” Riemer continued.

The announcement of the Mobike agreement was part of a brief ceremony marking the official opening of protected bike lanes on Spring and Cedar streets.

Leggett described the lanes as, “another bike facility that really launches us in a better direction for our county, for our residents, for our bikers and for safety overall. This section of protected lane helps to link residents to jobs, retail, recreation, entertainment and transit.”

Combined with four floating bus stops along the route, the bike lanes “help to move Montgomery County closer toward its goal of having zero deaths on our roadways,” Leggett added.

Riemer referred to the lanes as a game-changer.

“This is a demonstration project,” he said. “We’re going to show how it works here, people are going to be coming to Silver Spring, they’re going to see how exciting and dynamic and how much fun it is here and they’re going to want it all over the county.”

Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, a cyclist himself, credited biking for piquing his interest in planning. He said that in 2005, he tried participating in a Bike to Work Day.

“I learned that bicycling in the suburbs really left a lot to be desired,” Anderson said, “and that’s when I started pestering people at Park and Planning Commission.”

One thing led to another, and now he’s heading up planning, including for facilities such as the bike lanes. He noted that after years of talking, improvements are becoming a reality.

“As great as planning is,” Anderson said, “executing is better.”

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