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How it Worked, Part 1: Thousands Biked Tuesday

Many planners, workers, volunteers and travelers contributed to making the Inauguration Day transportation plan a success. That doesn't mean that close to two million people all got where they were going and back in a timely fashion, but that would be way too high a standard for a rare event like this.

memorial bridge bike.jpg Near Lincoln Memorial.(Thomson)

What it does mean is that the transportation system's managers across the region worked together to give people travel options, so travelers actually could come up with the Plans A, B and C that they needed to handle Tuesday's difficult circumstances.

One of the available options that helped make the plan work was cycling. Thousands of people took advantage of that. Here's what I observed and heard.

The first cyclists I saw on Inauguration morning were pedaling at pedestrian speed across Memorial Bridge, which was covered with walkers heading toward the Mall. The bikers -- like just about everyone else I saw traveling that day, were in a good mood and made no attempt to weave their way through tight spots in the crowd. Instead, they took their time and enjoyed the scene.

Once into Washington, the bikers could take advantage of the many streets closed to private vehicles. Generally, they were very willing to share the sidewalks, paths and streets with pedestrians.

"Overall, I've heard great things about biking that day," said Eric Gilliland, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. "I think people were very excited about all the road closures and seemed to handle interactions with pedestrians quite well."

walk bike sign.jpg Sign near Wilson Boulevard.(Thomson)

While I saw scores of bikes locked to parking meters, several thousand people took advantage of the free bike valet stations that WABA set up on the north and south sides of the Mall.

"While the valets were full, I'm sure that there were thousands more who biked in, Gilliland said. "One of my staff members saw at least 30 bikes locked around the Jefferson Memorial when she first got there at 6 a.m. I saw a lot more on the road as I worked my way from the 16th Street valet to the Jefferson around 1 p.m."

He said the volunteer valets parked 1,127 bikes at the 16th Street location and had to build a separate enclosure with spare crowd-control fencing to handle overflow. At the Jefferson Memorial location, 827 bikes were parked.

"We didn't lose a single bike, and the one helmet that went missing was eventually found," Gilliland said.

Cyclists "were extremely patient with the lines that formed during drop off and pick up," he said. "Had it been 10 degrees warmer, I think we would have been overwhelmed."

He credits the support of the District Department of Transportation and the army of volunteers that worked on the project.

Those volunteers, he said, "stood outside in the cold for hours and really worked hard to make it as pleasant an experience as possible for those that came with bikes."

By Robert Thomson  |  January 22, 2009; 8:23 AM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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I'll try to e-mail you some photos but I saw probably hundreds of bikes locked to the chain railings around the Washington Monument. Great way to get there and exciting to see how area residents will build on this experience.

Posted by: patrick21 | January 27, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

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