Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Stewart, Colbert rally: Bring your good times and your laughter, but not your bicycle

October 26, 2010 - 06:02 PM
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(Photo: Heather Farrell)

How logistically difficult might it be to bike to the massive Rally to Restore Sanity hosted by Jon Stewart on the Mall this Saturday?

So difficult that Daniel Hoagland, a bicycle ambassador with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), can’t recommend in good conscience that you try to do it.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a good idea to bike there, unfortunately,” Hoagland said. “It’s too bad. It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend.”

That’s a bitter thing for Hoagland to have to say. The problem, of course, is that you might not find anywhere to lock up your bike once you get down there.

The event, which is expected to draw anywhere from 75,000 to 200,000 people, could have benefited immensely from the bike valet service that WABA folks often run at major D.C. functions. But according to Hoagland, WABA reached out unsuccessfully to rally organizers for weeks. By the time they finally got a hold of someone, “they didn’t want to change their plan,” he said.

Based on crowd estimates, WABA staff figured the Stewart rally could be on a scale with the Obama inauguration, an event for which they ran a large and successful valet. WABA would have charged rally organizers around $3,000 for the service. (We’ve asked a Comedy Central spokesperson if anyone will be providing bike facilities at the event; we’ll update if we hear back.) Short of running a valet, WABA was hoping they could at least rent out some temporary lockup stations so cyclists wouldn’t get stranded with their bikes. That didn’t pan out, either.

Asked if WABA staff was disappointed, Hoagland said, “That’s a fair characterization. We saw this as a great opportunity for the event to make a statement about transportation and equity, to make sure everyone could be happy attending.”

If there aren’t any temporary lockup stations provided at the event, you unfortunately won’t find many permanent structures where you can stow your bike. Lockup opportunities on National Park Service land are few and far between. “It’s going to be a hunt,” says Hoagland. Racks, signs, and posts along major thoroughfares like Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues will fill up fast.

The nearest spot with large-scale bike parking is probably outside the Union Station Metro stop. But those racks might disappear quickly, too. Other relatively nearby options are to the south of the House office buildings, on C and D streets SE, or up on the hill behind the Capitol, on 2nd and 3rd streets SE and NE. Hoagland thinks these areas east of the dome are the best bet, since everyone’s first instinct will be to find a spot in Penn Quarter.

As for the bike valet that wasn’t, Hoagland says his crew will just have to wait for Washington’s next blowout event.

“In our vision it should be as automatic as supplying port-a-potties,” he said.

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