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Learning to Ride a Bike with Capital Bikeshare

Marie Cox
Marie Cox March 28, 2017 Marie Cox is a former Business Development Manager at Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP).
ATP Takeaway: Whether you’re a child or an adult, there should be no shame in learning to ride a bike at any age. Capital Bikeshare makes it easy to try biking, without the financial commitment of buying your own bicycle.

When I started working at Arlington Transportation Partners, I was nervous about telling everyone that I didn’t know how to ride a bike. Yes, I learned when I was little, but since that time I’ve been on a bike exactly one time. When I first went car-free, I was going to get a bike, but I waited and waited, until I eventually dropped the idea altogether.

Luckily, my worries about sharing this secret with my coworkers were unfounded. Instead, they were supportive and assured me that it was a non-issue and that I shouldn’t feel any pressure to learn if I wasn’t ready. However, I had already set a goal of biking to work by summer and this past weekend, I took my first steps by using Capital Bikeshare for the first time. So, here are some of the things that I loved and some of the things that proved more challenging about getting back on the bike.



1. Getting the bike

I knew I would need some support getting back on a bike, so I enlisted the help of my boyfriend, since he would not only be able to calm my nerves, but also would have a personal interest in not letting me fall. Without further ado, we got on our gear and headed for the nearest Capital Bikeshare station.

What I loved

  • Capital Bikeshare is the official app for the bikeshare system that tells you where the nearest bikeshare stations are and how many bikes they currently have available. I would have been a little frazzled if I had gotten to the station and found there weren’t any bikes.
  • Capital Bikeshare Corporate Membership, so I simply inserted my fob into the slot and waited for the light to turn green.
  • ATP’s pro-tip about lifting the bike by the seat, rather than tugging on the handlebars to pull the bike from the dock.
  • My apartment has a short path that leads into Custis Trail. The back of the path, tucked away from the front of my building and the road, isn’t frequently used and proved to be the best spot to try the bike out.

What was challenging

  • Finding a place to ride. We needed a secluded, paved place that was just a short walk from a Capital Bikeshare station. Since Capital Bikeshare is intended to be used as transit, most stations are near roads. Keep this in mind. While we settled for convenience, there are a couple of schools with stations nearby and I think a school parking lot would be an even better place to learn.

2. Riding the Bike

Now for the fun part. My biggest tip for new riders would be to have confidence. You’ll see why here.

What I loved

  • The step-through frame made me feel very comfortable with getting on and off the bike.
  • The adjustable seat was great since I’m only a little over 5 feet tall.
  • The first time I realized I was riding on my own
  • Not falling

What was challenging

  • My own hesitations stood in my way a lot and I think I would have made even more progress if I had been a bit more confident in myself. I’d often take assistance when I didn’t really need it and use it as a security blanket, rather than trying to do ride on my own.
  • Pushing off was the most challenging part for me and I needed help with this most of the ride. My goal for next time is to push off and ride entirely on my own.

3. Ending the Ride

We kept the ride under 30 minutes to avoid usage fees, so the time quickly came to return the bike.

What I loved

  • The “Yes, I’m a cyclist” feeling after my first successful one-tenth of a mile ride

What was challenging

  • When putting the bike back into the dock, all the instructions said to line up the triangle at the front of the bike with the dock and insert it gently but firmly. The light on the dock turns green so you know that it’s locked in place, ending the ride. We could not get a green light, or any light for that matter. This meant we weren’t doing something right. Eventually we figured it out, and I think our problem may have been with the “gently but firmly” clause. I haven’t heard other complaints about this, so just be sure to follow the instructions or call customer service if you have an issue.

4. Next Steps

With my first bike ride down with fewer challenges than I had thought there would be, I will need to continue learning to reach my goal of biking to work by summer. Here’s my plan to keep it up:

  1. Use Capital Bikeshare at least 2x per week to continue progress
  2. Take a Learn to Ride Class
  3. Take a City Cycling Class
  4. Take a solo ride in Arlington using the Bicycle Comfort Level Map as a guide
  5. Form a bike train with my fellow Ballston commuters and bike to work for the first time!

See Part 2 of Marie's Biking Journey

Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/ for Arlington Transportation Partners

Tags: Bike, Capital Bikeshare, Active Transportation, Behavior, Did You Know?


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