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Bike sharing facilitated White House rally

Last night, crowds gathered at the White House to celebrate the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces. Capital Bikeshare played a significant role in getting people there quickly.

Reader Graham Katz logged on to a bikeshare usage tracking map, which showed a major shift in bikes toward stations close to the White House. Erik Weber noticed the same using his Spotcycle app.

Left: Image of Oliver O'Brien's app by Graham Katz. Right: Image of Spotcycle by Erik Weber.

Many others apparently couldn't find docks or didn't want to take the time to detour, so people just kept bikes with them or left them sitting nearby. Hopefully they all made it back to docks at the end of the night, even if individual people ended up taking each other's bikes.

Bikes in the crowd. Photo by David Garber.

Bikes sitting near the White House. Photo by Stephen Miller.

One of bike sharing's advantages is that it's very flexible. Unlike buses or trains, bike sharing can operate at full capacity at any hour of the day, even in the middle of the night when a special occasion warrants it.

On the other hand, unlike buses or trains, it can't move huge numbers of people in the same direction at the same time, which commuters need. That's why having a mix of different transit modes is the best policy.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Wow, thanks for this post. I have never been more sure that I am alive or that I live in Washington, DC. I love this town.

by Eileen on May 2, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport

Also, there's a neat little graph on Oliver O'Brien's map that shows a pretty big "blip" in usage around 1AM.

by andrew on May 2, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

Post seems incomplete. The last word is "Unlike".

by Jasper on May 2, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

How did they tell their bikes apart? Or does that not matter?

by NikolasM on May 2, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

"One of bike sharing's advantages is that it's very flexible. Unlike"

Unlike the terrorists!

by tom veil on May 2, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

Definitely. Bikeshare is how I got there. Pictures here.

by BeyondDC on May 2, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

Bike usage and station depletion were elevated through the wee hours - looks like it took a while for those bikes to make it back to their docks:

Yesterday was a more typical day. The beginning of the usage spike is visible in the half hour leading up to midnight.

by cabi addict on May 2, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

Oops, I started a thought and then didn't complete it. It's complete now.

by David Alpert on May 2, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

How did they tell their bikes apart? Or does that not matter?

So long as the bikes were eventually returned to a dock by someone it doesn't matter much. If a bike is not returned in 24 hours it matters $1000.

Perhaps CabI will be generous and waive usage charges for last night?

by JeffB on May 2, 2011 11:46 am • linkreport

It's probably worth paying the extra few bucks to keep the bikes out longer rather than immediately putting them in a dock upon arrival. It would suck to have to head home afterwards and finding that all of stations close to W.H. are depleted of bikes.

by Reza on May 2, 2011 2:11 pm • linkreport

So about 3% of the people at the WH used cabi?

by TGEoA on May 3, 2011 8:11 am • linkreport

@TGEoA I guess so. And the other 97% were probably GW students who just walked the few blocks.

by EG on May 3, 2011 9:49 am • linkreport


the other 97% were probably GW students who just walked the few blocks.

Seriously, I wonder how many of those people at the WH drove their private automobiles. Feh.

by oboe on May 3, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

Celebrating assassinations is really creepy.

by Tom Coumaris on May 3, 2011 5:53 pm • linkreport

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