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How Capital Bikeshare Works for Tourists

Updated: February 13, 2024

Renting a bike is a great way to get around the Metro DC area, experience scenic routes and good trails, and see top attractions 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 in comfort is through Capital Bikeshare.

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

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These quality 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.


For the best biking experience, here are a few options based on how many times and how long you want to ride.

Single Ride: $1 to unlock and then $0.05/minute or $0.15/minute on 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, rides under 45 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.


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

Capital Bikeshare is also integrated into the Lyft app, so you can select a bike and pay through the app as well.

STEP 3: Pick up your bike!

There are over 600 stations located around DC, Arlington, VA, Alexandria, Prince George's County, Fairfax County, the City of Falls Church, and Montgomery County, MD.

All you need is to enter your unlocking code, wait for the green light on the bike rack to illuminate, grab, and then go!

For riders 16 or older in Washington, DC, helmets are not required by law. Helmets are not provided, so if you want to wear one, you need to bring your own.

Capital Bikeshare Dock

STEP 4: Return your bike!

This may seem obvious, but if you opt for a 1-day membership and do not return your bike to a stand within 45 minutes of first removing it, you will begin to accrue additional fees.

Make sure when you lock the bike in the docking station that you wait to ensure the light turns green for confirmation.

A yellow light means the bike isn't locked correctly and thus is not considered returned.

Fortunately, these overtime charges are pretty low so late returns going slightly over your 45-minute time limit will not cost you more than a few extra dollars in late fees.

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. 

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 which will allow you to get another dock that has available spaces.

Here is a chart of their pricing and fees.

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

Capital Bikeshare has traditional bikes as well e-bikes within its fleet.

All bikes come with a small front basket and strap to hold small items, bike bags, or packs.

A bike lock is not provided. Generally, docking stations are the best places to secure bikes.


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, Capitol Hill area.

There are other bike rental options, many of which coincide with bike tours of famous monuments, memorials, the Potomac River, the Tidal Basin and more.

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.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | I'm a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. I have written for HuffPost Travel and have been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. I've also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. I am the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. I am an authority on D.C. history, and have led tours in the city since 2011. I currently resides in DC, but have also lived in London and South Korea, and have traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. I homeschool my 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC. Read More...
Updated: February 13th, 2024
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