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February 26, 2016
Capital Bikeshare Coming to Campus

It’s a crisp, clear day, perfect for a bike ride on your lunch break. But your bicycle is at home.

Well, there’s a new option coming to satisfy your urge to pedal around in the fresh air. Soon you can rent a bike whenever you want, right by the Medical Center Metro station.

The new Bikeshare station, with 10 bikes and 19 bike docks, will sit on the island between the Metro entrance and the Kiss and Ride parking lot. You’ll be able to grab a bike and cycle over to a meeting, traverse the 3.25-mile bike path around campus, run some errands or ride into downtown Bethesda to grab a bite. You can return the bike to any of the more than 350 Bikeshare stations across the greater Washington area.

“It’s an opportunity to access transit, get around near work, ride around at lunch hour and get some exercise,” said Gail Tait-Nouri, manager for pedestrian and bicycle projects for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

Sponsored by the Montgomery County department of transportation and Capital Bikeshare, in cooperation with NIH and WMATA, the new station is one of more than 50 stations across Montgomery County. There are several around nearby Battery Park and another new one on Old Georgetown Rd. and Southwick St., across from Suburban Hospital.

To rent from Bikeshare, you first become a member. When you join—at any Bikeshare kiosk or at https://secure.capitalbikeshare.com/register—you receive a key to access a bike at any Bikeshare location, 24 hours a day. Choose from a 1-day, 3-day or 30-day pass or annual membership; the first 30 minutes of any trip is free for members.

So grab your helmet and you’re off. Montgomery County law requires anyone 18 or younger to wear a helmet, but every bicyclist should wear one, especially if riding alongside traffic. Also, check your surroundings and be careful at the new Bikeshare site.

A Capital Bikeshare dock (l) across from Bldg. 35 provides a model of what the new one will look like at a site near the Medical Center Metro plaza.
A Capital Bikeshare dock (l) across from Bldg. 35 provides a model of what the new one will look like at a site (r) near the Medical Center Metro plaza.

PHOTOS: BILL BRANSON

“That’s a busy area. Buses go through there regularly,” said Tait-Nouri. “We encourage people to look and be more vigilant as vehicles may not realize Capital Bikeshare has arrived.”

If you’re new to Bikeshare, or a novice cyclist, Tait-Nouri recommends contacting the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (www.waba.org), which offers bicycle training and safety classes.

A 2014 Bikeshare user survey showed most riders reported renting from Bikeshare to get around more easily and especially enjoyed the program’s one-way travel option. Most respondents also cited biking for the enjoyment of it and the exercise.

Riding a bike, even at a leisurely pace, is great exercise. NHLBI studies show that an hour of cycling (at about 5.5 mph) burns 460 calories in men and 370 calories in women. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily boosts energy and mood, reduces stress and tones muscles.

“Bikeshare is for NIH, Walter Reed and the entire community,” said Tony Clifford, chief engineer in NIH’s Office of Research Facilities. “It provides a hub for transportation. You can rent a bike when you get off of Metro or a bus. Now people who work or live nearby have an alternative form of transportation.”

Installing the station was expected to be a fairly fast process once the weather cooperated. In mid-February, once the cement was poured, the bike brackets and electronics were to be lowered by crane. Clifford, who co-chairs NIH’s Green Team, proudly points out that all nearby trees were preserved.

In addition to the exercise and sustainability, biking is just a convenient way to get around. NIH received a 2013 regional award for encouraging alternative commuting options. One of the first federal agencies to offer a bicycle subsidy program, NIH also is still riding out the success of its Bike to Work Day each spring. That is the NIH Bicycle Commuter Club’s signature annual event.

Tait-Nouri emphasized the role Montgomery County played in making the new Medical Center Bikeshare station a reality. “The county did all the legwork and paid for it,” she said. “Cost isn’t insignificant here. It’s a great public service.”

Bikeshare Is Latest Project with Montgomery County

When you’re walking or pedaling around the campus perimeter, ever wonder about that big pond on the south side of campus? That stormwater retention pond serves an important purpose for nearby residents and, along with the new Bikeshare station, is among the good-neighbor projects between NIH and the town of Bethesda.

NIH has long worked with Bethesda Urban Partnership on good-neighbor campaigns to make Bethesda a desirable place to live and do business, said ORF’s Tony Clifford. The pond, for example, located on NIH property but paid for by the county, collects and drains more than 200 acres of downtown Bethesda’s storm runoff, which paved the way in part for expanding the development of downtown Bethesda’s business and residential high-rises.

Bethesda and NIH also have a reciprocal agreement for emergency services. The Bethesda Fire & Rescue Squad on Cedar Ln. sits on a half-acre of land NIH transferred to it 60 years ago. NIH’s own fire department often responds to emergency requests beyond campus. In fact, in 2013, NIH responded to more than 1,000 emergencies throughout the Bethesda/Rockville area.

“If a house is on fire or someone has a medical emergency in nearby Bethesda, there’s a good probability that NIH’s Fire Department, under its mutual aid agreement with the county, could be one of the first responders,” said Clifford.

Another symbol of collaboration between NIH and Bethesda is the Woodmont exit ramp off of Rockville Pike. NIH owns and does landscaping to maintain the surrounding area, the gateway to downtown Bethesda. It’s all part of NIH’s Sustainability Management Plan.

So as you bike around campus or into downtown Bethesda, you’ll be passing these and other symbols of sustainability as NIH continues its efforts to be a good neighbor.

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