The presidential inauguration will draw hundreds of thousands of people onto Washington’s roads, buses and trains. For many, the best way to avoid packed trains and snarled streets may be to hop on two wheels.
Even with fewer people expected than in 2009, crowding and congestion will be a major issue, and Capital Bikeshare is an option that wasn’t around when President Obama was first inaugurated.
The bike-sharing network, which launched in 2010, has more than 1,600 bikes docked in the District, Arlington County and Alexandria.
On Monday, a flood of cherry-red bikes is expected to converge on downtown and temporary Bikeshare corrals will be set up near the Mall.
Cycling was already showing its appeal in 2009. About 1,000 bikes were parked at a bike valet on 16th Street NW for the last inauguration, and bike enthusiasts say it’s easy to understand the popularity of the bike option.
“The only sane option seems to be a bicycle,” Paris Watson, 42, of Silver Spring said. “It’s so much easier to maneuver around the city.”
The weather could play a role in how many people opt to ride a bike, with lower temperatures possibly pushing some riders toward buses, trains or cars.
And while bikes may help people get close to the parade and the Mall, once riders arrive downtown, the thick crowds will make riding difficult, said Chris Holben, who manages bike sharing for the D.C. Department of Transportation.
Other transit agencies and transportation departments can use previous inaugurations as a guide, but with Bikeshare, DDOT and its partners can rely only on experience during events such as the Fourth of July fireworks and Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” in 2010.
The inauguration “is on a bigger scale,” Holben said, but those experiences show how biking can work in such situations.
“People will be able to use the bikes to get around as much as they can,” Holben said.
Several Bikeshare stations will be closed or removed altogether. Six in Northwest Washington will be removed this week because of the parade and will be reinstalled next week. They are the stations at 10th and E streets, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue, 14th and D streets, 15th Street and New York Avenue, 14th and G streets, and 14th and H streets.
In addition, the stations on the Mall in front of the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Metro entrance will be shut down until 5 p.m. Monday.
There will be two Bikeshare corrals set up to the north and south of the Mall. The northern corral will be at Farragut Square on 17th Street NW between K and I streets, and the southern corral will be at 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW. Both locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.
All bikes dropped off at the corral will remain there for the length of the event, although there will be only as many bikes as riders deposit, Holben said.
“It guarantees you a bike parking spot, but it doesn’t guarantee you a bike to leave with,” Holben said.
Because of road closures and the high volume of bikes expected at the corrals, other stations won’t be restocked as they normally would be. Riders should visit capitalbikeshare.com or use the Spotcycle app to see whether bikes are available.
For riders who plan to travel on their own bikes, there will be temporary racks capable of holding about 700 bikes set up on 16th Street NW between K and I streets, which is the same spot where the bike valet was in 2009.
These racks will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Riders need to bring their own locks and remember to retrieve bikes by 5 p.m., when the rented racks need to be returned. If any bikes are left at 5 p.m., their locks will be cut and the bikes moved to a storage facility.
Jeff Lemieux is organizing a bike ride in from Proteus Bicycles in College Park that will include him, Paris Watson, and perhaps eight or 10 others.
“Riding a bike is the easiest way to get there,” said Lemieux, whose wife is a co-owner of Proteus Bicycles. “It’s a lot less stressful than driving or taking the Metro.”
Emily Myers, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, is traveling to the event with her parents, brother and friend James Kralj. They’ll be staying with a friend of her family’s in Arlington and biking to the Mall, which worked well for her parents in 2009, Myers said.
“By being on the bikes, they were able to get great spots,” Myers, 19, said. “Hopefully, the same game plan will work this year.”