The speed trap was set between tombstones, and the radar gun was aimed at an unusual covey of early morning commuters -- 10-speed bicycle riders.
"I was clocked at 30.1 miles per hour, and the speed limit is 20," said David Gilomen, 38 one of more than 100 bicycle commuters timed this week by a security guard with a handheld radar gun on their shortcut through Arlington National Cemetery. "I never thought those guys had any authority."
Gilomen and several others were given only verbal warnings by Kenneth Davis, the cemetery's top security official and the only person other than U.S. Park Police officers authorized to issue traffic tickets. But cemetery superintendent Raymond Costanzo warned that rapid riders might suffer more severe penalties -- speeding tickets, with the same fines motorists face -- if they refused to obey the 20 mph speed limit.
"The only thing we're concerned about is safety," said Costanzo, adding that "a few" accidents involving bicyclists have occurred recently in the cemetery, including one in which the rider suffered a broken collarbone.
This is not the first battle between protectors of the cemetery -- where more than 170,000 veterans and war dead are buried -- and bicyclists. Three years ago Charles Evans, a Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer, was ticketed for speeding in the cemetery. Evans successfully appealed the $10 fine. But four months later the Army, which operates the cemetery, restricted bicyclists to one route -- the steepest.
Two years ago the Army went after joggers, who found the manicured grounds an ideal place to run. Despite strong protests, the cemetery was ruled off limits.
This week, area cyclists were split over the new crackdown in the cemetery. "I'm basically in favor of cyclists obeying the speed limit," said Eileen Kadeshs, bicycle coordinator for the D.C Department of Transportation. "I don't think it's too much to ask."
But Gilomen, whose record for the 6.5-mile trip from his Arlington home to L'Enfant Plaza is 21.25 minutes, says that a 20 mph speed limit down the steep hills of Arlington Cemetery is cruel and unusual punishment for a 10-speed biker. Will he obey the limit in the future? Only if I see that guard again," Gilomen said.