Bike Center Set to Open at Union Station in October

Construction continues on a high-tech new bicycle station being erected outside Union Station.
Construction continues on a high-tech new bicycle station being erected outside Union Station. (Bill O'leary - Washington Post)
By Yamiche Alcindor
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 13, 2009

In the past year, thieves have repeatedly tried to steal Daniel Shedd's bike. His tires have been stolen, his seat cover removed twice and his brake lines cut.

Shedd, who is from New Mexico, where he said bike vandalism is rare, has resorted to the D.C. way of owning a bike: His Bianchi is equipped with antitheft gear that includes a seat and tire lock as well as a large bike body lock. The cost: $200 to protect a $350 bike.

"I'm excited for a solution," Shedd said.

City officials said they hope the solution will be a $4 million Bike Transit Center next to Union Station.

The center, to open in October, will have 150 enclosed bike racks, triple the amount now at the station, and 20 outdoor racks. The 1,700-square-foot building west of the station will also have changing rooms, personal lockers, a bike repair shop and a retail store that will sell drinks and bike accessories.

The cost to bike riders: $1 a day for access to the center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or $100 a year for an annual membership and round-the-clock access to the racks.

"To leave your bike outside unattended and unsecured was a problem," said Jim Sebastian, the District Department of Transportation's bicycle program coordinator. "We needed more capacity and more security."

The center will be the first of its kind on the East Coast, DDOT officials said. It's part of a citywide program to make the District more bicycle-friendly. Eighty percent of the funding for the bike center came from the U.S. Department of Transportation. DDOT paid the rest, Sebastian said.

Shedd said he rides his bike almost every day. He often parks it at Union Station and takes the Metro to George Washington University law school, where he is a second-year student. Last year, more than 4,300 people in the Washington region rode their bicycles to Metro stations to get to work.

District resident Gina Welch, 29, was one of them. The George Washington University professor said she hopes the new center will make parking her bike easier. "The real problem is that there is not a lot of space," said Welch, whose bike is her chief form of transportation. "It will be great to have more space."

She said she hopes the center will encourage more people to join the estimated 87,500 in the Washington area who use their bikes as their primary means of transportation. "Anything that promotes public transportation is great," Welch said.

Donald C. Paine Jr. of K.G.P Design Studios designed the glass structure, which is shaped like half of a football.

As a place where hundreds park their bikes every day, Union Station is an ideal location for the center, Sebastian said. The city broke ground in September. It was originally supposed to be ready in the spring, but weather and design issues delayed the project, Sebastian said.

The city, which is in the process of selecting a vendor to operate the retail center, is considering opening similar facilities in other parts of the District.

The center "will be a statement that bicycles are a real priority and form of transportation in the city," Sebastian said.

Shedd said he hopes that sentiment will spread.

"I would hope that they expand it everywhere -- at all the Metro stops -- so that people can feel like they can lock their bikes without something bad happening to them," he said.

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