How Capital Bikeshare Works for Tourists

Renting a bike is a great way to get around the city without breaking the bank or sitting in traffic. There are a number of bike rental companies in DC, but the cheapest and most convenient way to travel is through Capital Bikeshare.

Here are some tips on how to use it, avoiding additional travel fees and making the most out of your trip.


 

 

HOW TO USE CAPITAL BIKESHARE

The bikes are easy to use, well maintained and conveniently located. However, if you don’t understand how the system works, it’s easy to accidentally accrue extra fees.

STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR PLAN

There are a few options based on how many times and how long you want to ride.

 

Single Ride: $2 for the first 30 minutes ($1 extra for an e-bike). There are additional fees for longer usage but if you plan on using it for more than 90 minutes it s more economical just to get a Day Pass.

Day Pass: $8 for 24 hours or $17 for 3 Day Pass. Rides under 30 minutes are always free. There are additional fees for longer usage.

If you’ll be here longer you can also look into 30 Day and Annual Membership plans. You’ll get a convenient key fob that lets you skip the kiosk and unlock a bike with a quick swipe. Get more information about these options here.

STEP 2: PAY

Pay with credit card, either online or at one of the Bikeshare stations, and immediately receive an unlocking code.

STEP 3: Pick up your bike!

There are over 300 stations located around DC, Arlington, Alexandria, and Montgomery Co. All you need is to enter your unlocking code, wait for the green light on the bike rack to illuminate, grab, and then go!

Capital Bikeshare Dock

 

STEP 4: Return your bike!

This may seem obvious, but if you do not return your bike to a stand within 30 minutes of first removing it, you will begin to accrue fees. Make sure when you dock the bike that you wait to ensure the light turns green. A yellow light means the bike isn’t locked properly and thus is not considered returned.

Fortunately, these fees are pretty low so going slightly over your 30-minute time limit will not cost you more than a few extra dollars.

However, be careful not to confuse your 1-day membership with having access to one bike for a full 24 hours; you have access to the bike sharing program for a full 24 hours, but not to a single bike.

Capital Bikeshare Station Map

What to do if the bike rack is full? If you get to the bikeshare station you want to drop off at but there are no available docks, don’t worry. You can go to the Kiosk and request a Time Credit for an additional 15 minutes for free that will allow you to get another dock that has available spaces.

Here is a chart of their pricing and fees.


INSIDER TIP: You might want to check on the Capital Bikeshare App whether there are enough bikes or docks available at your next stop.


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OTHER BIKE RENTALS

Capital Bikeshare is a great way (and what most of us use) to get around for quick trips or touring outside the immediate downtown/National Mall area. There are other bike rental options, many of which coincide with bike tours of popular monuments and memorials.

Bike tours in Washington DC are not only a popular family activity, they are also very affordable. On average, ticket prices range from $40-$45 for adults and $25-$30 for kids. In other words, a family of four can expect to pay about $125-$150 for the trip. Although families were among the most likely customers to leave a positive review, it’s worth noting that complaints focused largely on overbooked tours. In the event that a public bike tour is too crowded, you should consider a private tour instead.

Find out more about other bike rentals and bike tours of DC here.


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About the author

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with three published books about the city. She has traveled extensively and lived in London, UK where she attended University College London for a Masters in History and in Seoul, South Korea where she taught English. While her family is now based in DC, she still explores the world. Her two children (both under the age of 3) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts. She has been a part of the Free Tours by Foot team since 2011.

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