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Bike commutes on the rise during Metro track work

A rider picks out a bike at a Capital Bikeshare station in Washington, Wednesday, June 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

WASHINGTON — With major Metro track work shutting down parts of the Blue and Yellow lines near Reagan National Airport this week, many commuters are considering biking rather than Metro shuttles, buses or Virginia Railway Express.

During the work between Reagan National Airport and Braddock Road, Metro said morning entries at the most severely impacted stations have fallen by about 70 percent. Alexandria Director of Transportation and Environmental Services Yon Lambert said the city has already seen an increase in people choosing to use two wheels to get around.

“Bike ridership, anecdotally, is higher, [but] we’ll have some solid numbers on that available in the next couple weeks,” he said.

For weekend travelers, Capital Bikeshare is offering a free 30 minute ride code for July 16 or 17.

Fairfax County and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association have put together cycling directions, maps and tips for new riders who are not used to making the trips.

During these work zones, the most useful directions connect riders to the Mt. Vernon Trail and other bike routes between Huntington, Braddock Road, Pentagon City or Crystal City, and D.C.

Among the the directions given, riders can find maps for:

“As surge three wraps up on Monday — and surge four begins on Tuesday — we have another series of problems for commuters, particularly for commuters that are trying to get north of the airport to the District,” Lambert said.

For Capital Bikeshare, ridership across the region has risen by an average of 1,700 trips per day in June compared to the month before round-the-clock Metro work began. Bikeshare said more than 50,000 more trips were taken last month than in June of last year.

To accommodate increasing ridership, Bikeshare is adding three more bike corrals downtown that ensure riders always have a place to dock their bikes.

The new corrals opening this week are at 20th Street and Virginia Avenue NW, 5th Street and F Street NW, and Maryland Avenue and Independence Avenue SW. They’re in addition to existing corral service at 21st Street and I Street NW, 17th Street and K Street NW at Farragut Square, and 13th Street and New York Avenue NW. All six will be staffed from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. through to late fall.

During the first round-the-clock track work zone that began June 4, Capital Bikeshare reported a spike in usage near the impacted stations around Ballston. Arlington County and D.C. reported increases in bike traffic ranging from 40 percent to 90 percent in some locations.

Bikeshare also now has a $2 single-ride membership. Riders planning to use the bikes more often, or for more than 30 minutes, should consider monthly or annual memberships that allow riders to reset the clock on the free 30 minutes by putting the bike into a dock. It can take up to a week to receive a membership key in the mail, but keys can be purchased in person at an Arlington Commuter Store.

In some cases, biking or walking part of the trip may be the most convenient way to get around long lines or crowded free shuttle buses in these work zones as well, but people have also turned to other options.

For example, the small blue and white Smart cars of car-sharing group car2Go have been used 22 percent more often overall since May 26. The company said the average number of trips beginning or ending in Arlington is more than five times higher than before users were allowed to drop the cars in D.C., even if picked up in Arlington and vice versa.

From Reagan National Airport, taxis, Uber and Lyft are all authorized to operate. Alexandria cabs are required to offer a $15 flat fare between the airport and the city’s Metro stations.

A number of parking companies and apps are also offering reserved spots for people who choose to drive during the Metro work zones.

Bus ridership has increased significantly on regular routes in the area in addition to free shuttles to Pentagon and Pentagon City.

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