After several years of talks to install a bike-share program in Riverdale Park, the town will see Capital Bikeshare stations launch next year, Mayor Alan Thompson said.
Riverdale Park will join municipalities such as Hyattsville, Brentwood and Mount Rainier in Prince George's County's effort to install bike-share programs through its partnership with Capital Bikeshare that ultimately connects to the D.C. area, said Paulette Jones, spokeswoman for the county's public works and transportation department.
Bike-share programs not only offer important environmental and health benefits, but will also reduce transportation-related maintenance costs from the town budget, Thompson said.
"We spend a lot of money for every car that drives on our streets, but bikes are much more gentle on the roads, and they don't wear them out nearly as quickly," he said.
Riverdale Park's accessibility to "dense and interesting pedestrian areas" — including its town center, Riverdale Park Station, Prince George's Plaza Metro Station, The Mall at Prince George's and downtown College Park and Hyattsville — make it a prime location for a bike-share program, he said.
In May 2016, the University of Maryland and College Park launched mBike, a program that operates under bike company Zagster. Since mBike's launch, the program has recruited more than 800 members and exceeded 35,500 trips, said Steve Beavers, College Park's community development coordinator.
College Park will open a new mBike station Friday near The Hotel at the University of Maryland at Route 1 and Hotel Drive, Beavers said.
Capital Bikeshare and mBike do not have interconnected systems, hindering transportation between municipalities by creating an access barrier for bike-share users.
"For people to access destinations in both the College Park and Hyattsville directions, we would have to have both mBike and Capital Bikeshare in our town center and other places around our town," Thompson said.
Due to the county's partnership with Capital Bikeshare, the program will come to Riverdale Park for "essentially no cost to the town," while a single mBike station would cost Riverdale Park $20,000 to $30,000, he said.
"In a different fiscal environment, we would probably install at least one or two mBike stations, but we have a very tight budget coming into this year," Thompson added.
College Park and this university chose mBike because Capital Bikeshare's manufacturer declared bankruptcy in 2014 and declined to expand into the area, Thompson said. Areas in Washington, D.C., Montgomery County and Northern Virginia have since installed Capital Bikeshare, and Prince George's County wants to install the system "by way of this initiative," Jones said.
University Park joined College Park and this university in the mBike program in May, with locations on Queens Chapel Road and Wells Parkway.
"With University Park participating in the mBike system, we're very oriented toward College Park and the University of Maryland," University Park Mayor Len Carey said. "However, if our residents want to ride to Riverdale Park … it means being on a Capital Bikeshare bike so you can leave it at one of the other locations in those municipalities."
University Park's contract with mBike includes an expiration date of five years, Carey said, while College Park and this university's deal with mBike will expire within two years. Both Carey and Beavers said they would be open to joining the countywide Capital Bikeshare system when the contracts expire.
"The intertwining of the systems is fine as long as both Capital Bikeshare and mBike recognize that we need to put these systems together, and they need to work together," Carey said.
Riverdale Park Councilman David Lingua said the program will be successful despite the lack of connectivity between systems because bike-share broadens transportation options.
"The issue with bike-share is overall a usage issue, and it's not specific to one program," Lingua said. "A lot of folks want other transit options rather than either having to hop on a bus or go over to the Metro and get on one of the Metro lines, then transfer."
Thompson said he expects to see a unified bike-share system over time.
"It would be better if we weren't right between these competing systems," he said. "There will be a seamless bike-share system that stretches all the way from D.C. to Beltsville and College Park, but we understand there will be some hiccups along the way."
The installation of Riverdale Park's bike-share program is slated to begin over the winter and be completed by the summer, Thompson said.