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Park Service says no bike sharing on National Mall

The National Park Service spokesperson told Spokes Magazine that putting Capital Bikeshare stations on the Mall would violate its historic purpose, and implies that it just serves a "select few" "select individuals" instead of "American citizens."

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

You'd think the National Park Service would be interested in sustainability and recreation. After all, their service is about parks. That's what I certainly assumed when first moving to DC, since to most people outside the District the Park Service's reputation involves beautiful natural places and interesting historic sites well designed for visitors.

But when it comes to many issues including bicycling, the Park Service sounds like Robert Moses was the last parks commissioner they ever heard from. Moses built many parkways across New York state, because he viewed enjoyment of nature from the automobile as sacred, but abhorred all other modes and refused to design his parkways to accommodate buses, bikes or pedestrians.

In a Spokes Magazine feature, spokesperson Bill Line basically says bike sharing is not going to happen on the Mall:

Line said the Mall is covered by the same laws as other national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Putting a bike station on the Mall would violate the National Historic Preservation Act because a station would be seen as going against the historical purpose of the Mall and its monuments.

"The National Park Service reflects an American heritage and what a particular park means to American citizens, not (necessarily) at (the) convenience of select individuals," Line said.

Although a Bikeshare station would be convenient, it would destroy the nature of what makes the National Mall an American institution in the first place, he said.

"The National Park Service is an organization that strongly encourages (the) use of mass transit, but Capital Bikeshare wants to place a structure on the National Mall, which (the park service) does not allow under current regulations," Line said.

There are several troubling things about these statements. First is the way Line juxtaposes "the convenience of select individuals," relating to bike sharing, against "American citizens." Bike sharing on the Mall would actually serve many different American citizens who visit the area. Meanwhile, the freeway-like roadways crisscrossing the Mall primarily serve commuters from Virginia.

What the Mall means to most American citizens is a place to go learn about American history, visit museums, and see significant memorials. Right now, it's actually quite difficult to get to most of those museums and memorials.

Line's point about "structures" is equally bizarre. In recent years, they have placed numerous structures on the Mall for security, like security walls around the Washington Monument and upcoming ones around the Jefferson Memorial. They want to build a new pavilion to screen people before entering the Washington Monument.

They're building a Martin Luther King memorial, soon a Museum of African-American History and Culture, a Vietnam Memorial Visitors' Center, and more. Maybe the Park Service would rather not have any of those memorials or security structures, but any bikeshare station "structure" is far, far less intrusive.

The Park Service is designing new wayfinding signs. Those aren't "structures"? The Tourmobile has a whole garage in East Potomac Park.

Not to mention all the freeways. The Mall is crisscrossed with roadways designed like parkways to move cars which are very inhospitable to pedestrians. Walking between the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial requires crossing several roadways in a landscape that sends the clear message that the walker is an interloper in this space.

Currently, the Park Service is straightening the GW Parkway to move cars at even higher speeds. Maybe that doesn't count as a "structure," but it certainly doesn't perpetuate the historical purpose of that land.

Line also tells Spokes about NPS regulations that limit all transportation to just one concessionaire, the Tourmobile. Never mind that not everyone wants a $22 bus with interpretive audio presentation. The way regulations are written today, if there are bus tours, there can't be the Circulator, bike sharing, or pedicabs.

Another bigger issue at work here is that the Park Service has negligible relationships with DC residents. They only really hold meetings when there's an Environmental Impact Statement to compile, and those are very structured. NPS representatives don't attend DC Council hearings, like one this winter on snow. They don't come to community meetings when invited. They don't reach out to bloggers.

Their only point of contact with most residents is Bill Line, who is notoriously nasty to the press. It's baffling that an agency operating spaces designed for the public, and which controls small neighborhood circles and squares in DC, is so uninterested in its relationship with citizens.

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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Terrible reasoning by them. CaBi would be great on the mall.

by NikolasM on Jul 19, 2011 10:34 am • linkreport

Upshot: DC residents are not considered Americans by the NPS. Bill Line said so. QED.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 19, 2011 10:36 am • linkreport

Can I also squeeze in a complaint about security at the Jefferson Memorial?

No terrorist is going to attack the Jefferson Memorial. Security or not. It's simply not a logical target to attack.

by andrew on Jul 19, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

I'm sure the US Park Police have their tasers at the ready to shock any CaBi bikers who dare come close to the National Mall

by CB on Jul 19, 2011 10:39 am • linkreport

I'd like to see the National Historic Preservation Act justification cited. If that's the standard, then all of the National Monuments and historical parks need to have all gift shops removed along with other "intrusions." Also, NPS would have a hard time defending actions it has permitted in parks and in non-park historical areas where actions have gone through the NHPA Section 106 process and despite "mitigation," arguable harmful changes have been made. The Line/NPS NHPA argument is bogus.

by David on Jul 19, 2011 10:40 am • linkreport

Upshot: DC residents are not considered Americans by the NPS. Bill Line said so. QED.

That's really the bottom line. NPS is there to serve the God-fearing tourists of Heartland America. If there was some way to do so without conveying any benefit to DC residents whatsoever, they'd do it.

You guys are elitist bastards, and deserve nothing but tasers, tour bus fumes, and concrete walls.

by oboe on Jul 19, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

So what can we do? Is there a way to register our complaint?

by Ryan on Jul 19, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

Ryan: I'm trying to figure that out.

by David Alpert on Jul 19, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

@ Ryan: Is there a way to register our complaint?

Write your congressman and senators?

by Jasper on Jul 19, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

"...not (necessarily) at (the) convenience of select individuals..."

What about the parking spots on 7th St? Don't they serve the convenience of select individuals? I don't own a car so I cannot benefit from that NPS offering but I am a CaBi member...

Sigh. Thanks Geoffrey, you're right. I'm just a second class citizen still.

by David F-H on Jul 19, 2011 10:44 am • linkreport

I also want to mention how they don't shovel their sidewalks for days after a snowstorm.

In so, so, so many ways, the people who live in and visit DC (but especially those of us who live here) would be better off if Congress took the DC parks away from the NPS and either gave them to the District or created an entity specifically for urban parks.

by Matt W on Jul 19, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport

@Jasper: But I'm functionally unrepresented! (Not to hate on Delagate Holmes-Norton but... you get the idea)

by David F-H on Jul 19, 2011 10:46 am • linkreport

This is sad.

by LoLo on Jul 19, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

Has CaBi looked to the other non-NPS agencies that surround the Mall? The National Gallery, the Smithsonian and USDA all have land across the street from the Mall and NPS can't stop them if they want to install a bike share station. There's also the AOC, though I don't know how receptive they'd be, same thing I guess with the Library of Congress, it can't hurt to ask though.

by Steve S. on Jul 19, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

I generally agree with your sentiments and am disappointed at the NPS attitude. However, I think your opening sentence substantially misrepresents what Mr. Line said.

You wrote that the NPS said " just serves a 'select few' instead of 'American citizens.'" I didn't see the phrase "select few" anywhere in the article. And as is clear in the longer quotation, he didn't say that it wouldn't serve "American citizens," but that, in the opinion of the NPS, it wouldn't be consistent with "what a particular park means to American citizens."

Again, I disagree with the conclusion, but he's not saying that American citizens wouldn't use it.

by npm on Jul 19, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

Keep your powder dry until the new National Mall Superintended Robert Vogel is in place on July 27. Make his first day one to remember.

by RJ on Jul 19, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

NPS and Park Police are out of control. They're like an occupying army from Real America. If the District can't have voting representation in Congress, at least it should get its parks back.

I live in MD, so I'll contact my representatives, but.

by Flora on Jul 19, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

npm: Oops, that should be "select individuals." But I think in the quote, it certainly looks like Line is juxtaposing "select individuals" and "American citizens" and putting CaBi in the former bucket.

by David Alpert on Jul 19, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

This is exactly right. What we really need is to remove NPS from DC. There are a few NPS areas -- and maybe even Rock Creek Park -- but the rest would be better handled by another federal agency.

In terms of bikeshare, a couple thoughts:

1. Lawsuit. The contract is for interpretive tours, not bikesharing. The other contract is with the other company. Throw down a station and sue. Not on the mall, but on another NPS property.

2. Smithsonian: what land does the smithsonian control,and can they put a bikeshare on their land?

3. Secret Station: isn't that on (technically) NPS land already?

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

If DC owns the streets across the mall (4th, 7th, etc.) but not the area outside the curbs, could they not take a metered parking space or two for it? That's still their jurisdiction - same logic as is used for the food trucks at Farragut Square.
As far as congress goes - the best bet might be to work thru Earl Blumenauer. If he got bike lanes on PA Avenue, he may be able to get this to work too.

by Joe in SS on Jul 19, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

Sadly, the NPS has neither the expertise nor interest in urban parkland. The NPS is bureaucratically structured for running places like Yellowstone, and the clamor and nuance of urban parks and planning is considered a nuisance. That nuisance is dealt with through sole-source contracts narrowly interpreted and a Just-Say-No attitude that requires as little thought, input, or action as possible.

Worse, the NPS treats with disdain the city residents who are actually impacted by their decisions. When representatives from the park service came before ANC 2F in February 2009 with information regarding the upcoming renovation of McPherson square, the representative quickly became hostile when we offered suggestions for improvement. We were told in no uncertain terms that the department's commitment was to maintaining the historic norms set forth by committee nearly one hundred years ago rather than adapting and improving the parks for today's users. Further, it was made clear that no input we gave as either a Commission or a neighborhood would ever be seriously considered.

Unfortunately, short of President Obama stumbling across your post today, it's hard to imagine any of this changing in the near term. As District residents, we have no power or voice for our displeasure.

by Brian Vargas on Jul 19, 2011 10:57 am • linkreport

@Steve S.

Capital Bikeshare can (and has) placed stations at non-NPS property around the Mall itself. The real issue is that areas around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park don't have any non-NPS land where stations could be logically placed.

But in all seriousness, how did the bureaucratic monolith that is the General Services Administration become a better neighbor than the National Park Service?

by Adam L on Jul 19, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

Saying bikes aren't part of the historic purpose of a park is just a stupid statement. The NPS builds miles of mountain bike and snowmobile trails in pristine wilderness. I can guarantee you that tourists would be using them if they were available on the mall. It would be a journalistic feat if GGW would get the true rationale behind the obstruction. Who are the congressmen who oversee the Park Service and/or their budget? That may go a long way to understanding the NPS positions on local DC affairs.

The park service's positions on a number of issues smell distinctly of congressional interference.

You don't need your own congressman to lobby the NPS. Any congressman with oversight of the NPS will do. The DC government needs to form a PAC to influence Congress just like any other special interest group instead of tilting windmills with superficial arrests.

by eb on Jul 19, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

I think that what it comes down to is that the National Park Service is not structured to maintain urban parks. It'd be like if the USDA has jurisdiction over a community garden in Brooklyn, or if the Fish and Wildlife Service had to regulate koi ponds. It's destined to fail.

The concessionaire system was designed for huge, remote parks. It works much better in Yellowstone or Denali than the National Mall, where you can walk two blocks and get ice cream. It's just one example of a mechanism that works for most national parks, but not for urban ones like the ones in DC.

by Tim on Jul 19, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

Maybe I missed something, but just where is NPS straightening out the GW Parkway? If you're referring to the Humpback Bridge project, that's a misnomer...the new bridge alignment is the same as the old alignment. If anything, a slight kink was added for the southbound direction.

by Froggie on Jul 19, 2011 11:03 am • linkreport

Line probably should have been quoted as saying, "The National Park Service reflects an American heritage and what a particular park means to American citizens the American people, not (necessarily) at (the) convenience of select individuals.

To me, that just reads better. But to his point, are there other National Parks that allow for the use of similar services? I think considering that point first is important if you're going to make an argument against the policy.

Also, in discussing the benefits of Cabi as it relates to getting around to musuems, how would that work? I ask because i often read about how difficult it is to keep certain stations full. Wouldn't that problem be exacerbated by being on the Mall and its hoards of tourists?

by HogWash on Jul 19, 2011 11:03 am • linkreport

Perhaps a monthly (weekly?) CaBi "critical mass" ride through the mall could get some press attention.
A large group of riders could all meet at a particular monument at a particular time and park their bikes in a big group for 15 minutes, then head back (could it be pulled off in the 30-minute free window? Maybe Cabi could extend to 1 hour during those times?)

by Steve O on Jul 19, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

@Eb; not just DC. Alta itself could lobby. Having bikeshare available to tourists -- as a success -- makes its spread nationwide more likely.

I favor a lawsuit. The NPS interpretation of their contract is hooey.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 11:05 am • linkreport

Just to echo an idea previously mentioned: Having DC take away a metered space on 7th or 4th (or both) and putting in stations there would be a great way forward here.

by Steve D on Jul 19, 2011 11:10 am • linkreport

Someone ought to tell all those bike tour groups that they're not living up to the experience of the mall for all americans as well.

As to the "it serves a select few", just, how? People without credit cards? People who can't ride a bike? How is cabi more limited than any other form of transportation public or private so that there would even be a perception that its for elites.

by Canaan on Jul 19, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

@charlie I favor a lawsuit. The NPS interpretation of their contract is hooey.

Agreed. Short of Congressional action, court orders may be the only thing that can get NPS to move.

by Adam L on Jul 19, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

Has CaBi shared their recent stats with the NPS? I was astounded at the number of single-day-use riders, which to me means that lots of tourists are using the bikeshare. I've seen folks who definitely looked like tourists tootling around, and c'mon, NPS - the Mall is a big piece of property, that's much easier to get around on a bike! How much easier it would be for tourists to just take short hops around on a bike than hiking around in 100 degree heat. Lots!

by Elizabeth on Jul 19, 2011 11:14 am • linkreport

Is there any sense of how many people use Tourmobile in a given year? It seems to me that the 1 million Bikeshare rides likely in the first year of service will slightly (or more likely, massively) outpace the number of people who plunk down $22 for service that doesn't even extend into the city beyond the Mall/Arlington Cemetery.

That would seem to go against the "select individuals" line.

by Jacques on Jul 19, 2011 11:17 am • linkreport

If the ACLU is listening, get ahold of the the bike tram guy who was tased the other day and go nuts with a civil rights violation lawsuit there. It will be great to hear this clown get up on the witness stand and spew the same twisted logic for keeping out commercial activities in federal court. Now that would be something a Congressman would really take notice about.

by SAS on Jul 19, 2011 11:17 am • linkreport

@Jacques, I looked this up yesterday.

About 2 million.

Larger point: NPS is using their bike-sharing contract as a argument against CABI, not the tourmobile contract. Tourmobile is for pedicabs.

I'd say the Civil Rights division of DOJ should get involved and investigate the Park Police. (civil rights in the largest sense, not protected classes)

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 11:21 am • linkreport

Yeah, the historic purpose statement is just plain stupid. But if they have a contract with Tourmobile and are making bank from that, then there really isn't an incentive or reason to do anything else. It's not like National Parks are exactly flush with cash.

by aaa on Jul 19, 2011 11:24 am • linkreport


Bikeshare on the mall would be very popular but those stations would be right smack dab in the middle of the downtown core. Also plenty of people would be taking the bikes in order to go further uptown (like along seventh street to chinatown or into capitol hill and such.)

Second, I don't think its pertinent to compare the mall with another park especially a wilderness one. It'd be better to think of how it would apply to something akin to central park or other large urban park space.

by Canaan on Jul 19, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

I just completed a 10-day backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park. I hiked the entirety of the Needles District, much of which was 20 miles from the nearest improved road. By their logic, NPS should pave a road right through those canyons. After all, only a select few can complete 10 day hikes in the wilderness.

I agree: Lawsuit.

by JTS on Jul 19, 2011 11:26 am • linkreport

Oh my God, this is ridiculous! According to Destination DC, 70% of land in DC is controlled by the National Park Service - yet clearly they have zero interest in serving the needs of the city. This is what taxation without representation looks like.

by Tom Fairchild on Jul 19, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

Wait, CaBi CAN be used by anyone, it's not specific to DC residents at all. According to the website, anybody with a credit card can walk up and buy a $5, 24-hour membership on the spot and go for a ride.

Perhaps the problem is the use of the term "membership" implying exclusivity.

by Owen on Jul 19, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

JTS -- got a link to any pics??

by Fellow Hiker on Jul 19, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

Oh, but the NPS is Working With Communities. It says so on their website!

by Matt W on Jul 19, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

Does the NPS authority extend to the public spaces at the Smithsonians and National Gallery of Art? If not, why not locate stations thereabouts? There are stations at other federal agency sites.

by Stan on Jul 19, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

another idea: portable bike share

Park a truck with a station mounted on back near NPS property.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

"Line said the Mall is covered by the same laws as other national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Putting a bike station on the Mall would violate the National Historic Preservation Act because a station would be seen as going against the historical purpose of the Mall and its monuments."

I don't buy it. The White House grounds are also covered by the same laws as the National mall, Grand Canyon, etc. But that doesn't mean I can walk on them and have a picnic. The laws can be tweaked for each site.

by Sam on Jul 19, 2011 11:35 am • linkreport

Yeah, almost all of this logic about "select individuals" goes out the window when you consider NPS' (for all intents and purposes) non-competitive concessions contracts with Tourmobile Corporation and Guest Services, Inc which operates the paddleboats at the Tidal Basin and the Pavilion Cafe at the Sculpture Garden, among others.

by Scoot on Jul 19, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

The issue of NPS planning is broader than this particular issue. It affects the city in many ways. I don't know what the solution is, because the NCPC and the Office of Planning aren't helping to address it in substantive ways. E.g., for 10 years the Downtown BID has been trying to get MOUs with the NPS to manage the downtown federal parks such as at McPherson Square or Franklin Square, to manage them more like how similar facilities (but not controlled by the federal government) are managed in New York City.

That being said, the statements quoted from the NPS official are best referred to as being "uninformed." The NHPA would not be a good foundation for opposing bikesharing. It's about the concessionaire agreement and the interpretation.

Frankly, bikesharing would significantly expand access and simplify movement for individuals utilizing the Mall and other NPS facilities. But it would compete with more traditional bike rental programs.

And personally, I advocate for integration of trails facilities into bikesharing service plans, which would include, if they are located in bikesharing service areas, national parks, US Forest lands, etc.

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

I think most people here have failed logic. Cabi requires you to join as a member, even if for a day, and is more geared to local residents. Thus, as NPS states it is geared to "select individuals," those that pay for membership and while any American can be a member it still only for those individuals forking over a cost including a security deposit. There is no membership costs to ride a Tourmobile but the ticket price or buying a snowcone.

by Burger on Jul 19, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

Doesn't rejecting CaBi have something to do with the bike share contract NPS already has with another vendor? Not that you'll actually find any of those bike share stations - I finally tracked one down near NPS headquarters, behind a bush.

by nevermindtheend on Jul 19, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

I agree with the Park Service on this one. For those of us who remember when The Mall was NOT cluttered with tacky vendors and food trucks and was gorgeous for ALL. With SmartPhone Apps visitors can easily find a BikeShare spot downtown. But will also say that the plethora of overbearing security issues around DC is becoming absurd. Come on, we are a free society. If terrorists destroy something we will build it back...we cannot let Washington become an armed camp of closed streets and barricaded buildings.

by Pelham1861 on Jul 19, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

Yosemite Valley has bike rentals. Other parks have bike trails. Why would this be a problem in the middle of an urban area? This park spokesperson needs to work on his talking points a little bit.

by Fellow Hiker on Jul 19, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport


My understanding is that NPS land goes up to where essentially the steps start for the museums. I could be wrong on that, but I remember the placement of tents for the Inauguration had to be fairly specific.

So If that's right, they might be able to place CaBi stations on the east and west sides of the museums, as well as the Constitution/Independence facing sides, but not the Mall facing sides as that's still NPS land.

by Steven Yates on Jul 19, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

As for how much NPS makes on the Tourmobile contract, the most recent numbers that I found are from 1989, in an old GAO report, but at that point, NPS took in about 5% in fees based on total revenues (, p.18).

If that rate of return is still in force, then 2 million annual visitors, split between adults ($27) and children ($13) would come out to around $2 million in payouts to NPS.

by Jacques on Jul 19, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

I think that the idea of pointing out the details of the contract is good, b/c according to Line, you must take Tourmobile around the mall, you can't walk, bike, take Metro, etc. The lawsuit is risky, but they may prefer to settle, since the government doesn't want to deal with lawsuits right now...

by vanmo96 on Jul 19, 2011 11:46 am • linkreport

And isn't a Metro station entrance a structure? It's much MUCH more intrusive than any Cabi station.

by Nick Hritz on Jul 19, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

Based on this logic, they should get rid of the park benches and metro station.

by A on Jul 19, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

Is this a case of "follow the money?" Who is benefiting from restricting CaBi? Tourmobile? anyone else?

by cmc on Jul 19, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

Maybe the Park Service should use this logic to get rid of the trailer that serves as a concessions stand.

by TVanaskie on Jul 19, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

David, if I could tear you away from this vitally important issue, care to comment on the latest Gray scandal? Seeing as how you endorsed this terrible failure of a mayor, I await your thoughts.

by anon on Jul 19, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

@Nick Hritz:
Actually, NPS fought the northern entrance to Smithsonian station tooth and nail, but eventually relented.

I doubt that that entrance will ever get a canopy.

by Matt Johnson on Jul 19, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

The disdain for DC sucks, but it sucks for another reason too:

The Mall is a national treasure. People come from all over America, and the world, to visit it. It's an utter shame that it's so hard to get around -- senior citizens are supposed to walk three miles in the July heat and no tree cover?! -- and NPS is the one who made it that way. What a failure.

by Gavin on Jul 19, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

The NPS also fought tooth and nail to not move the statue in Farragut Square -- and won, thus necessitating two stations at Farragut rather than one.

The NPS has been very bad for the people who live and work in DC for a long time.

by Matt W on Jul 19, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

What if CaBi offered to add into its paymnet finalization a contribution to NPS - so when you're buying your 1 day/ 1 week/1 year membership you get a prompt before final payment: "Would you like to donate a dollar to the NPS?" with a simple yes/no response with an option to give more. Maybe NPS would "crack open the door" to the possibility of CaBi on the mall with the prospect of getting donations

by Tina on Jul 19, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

I agree that NPS sucks. So what can we do about it?

Let's start lobbying Eleanor Norton to make NPS' poor treatment of DC a more major part of her platform.

by BeyondDC on Jul 19, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Tom Fairchild "According to Destination DC, 70% of land in DC is controlled by the National Park Service"

I think Destination DC meant to say that 70% of the park land in DC is controlled by the NPS. The United States Bureau of Land Management says that 23% of land in DC is owned by the federal government, which is about middle of the pack when compared to 80% in Nevada and 65% in Utah. However, when federal property is included with land owned by foreign governments (embassies) and non-profit organizations, it turns out that a full 50% of DC is exempt from property taxes, which is a separate but related problem...

by Adam L on Jul 19, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

Last week people were gunning for a recall of Chairman Brown over a nonscandal.

This week people are suggesting that the NPS be sued because they don't allow Cabi's on the mall.

IMO, some of this seems a bit the fringe elements of society.

Now David acknowledges that the regulation prohibit more than one concessionaire. So there we are. That's the fact. We can disagree over whether that should be law..but it is and threatening to start an online "let's sue" effort won't get very far.

But as matter of practicality, wouldn't a tourmobile be a better tourist attraction than Cabi? Sure, not everyone will want to pay the $22. But, as demonstrated by our own local residents, not everyone is willing to use Cabi either.

by HogWash on Jul 19, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

I wonder if CaBi could be placed on nearby Non-NPS properties, like Smithsonian, AoC, WMATA, or District-controlled lands.

Although it's obnoxious for NPS to do this, it's not the end all be all.

by John M on Jul 19, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport


Capital Bikeshare has had over 55k daily members since its inception. The only restriction on renting a bicycle is having a credit card. At $5/day (or $15/week), CaBi is more economical for a family of four than just a single Tourmobile ticket.

by Adam L on Jul 19, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

For those of us who remember when The Mall was NOT cluttered with tacky vendors and food trucks and was gorgeous for ALL.

All those hungry, dehydrated people who had no place to sit down and had to go to the bathroom, yes.

"for all" seems to mean, "move along, keep walking, don't even think about biking, now get back on your tour bus and get out of here."

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

Paging Eleanor Holmes Norton, Eleanor Holmes Norton to the committee room to dress down the National Park Service. Secretary of the Interior to the committee room, paging the Secretary of the Interior to the committee room please.

by Redline SOS on Jul 19, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash; I'm with you on the first, not on the second.

The problem is how NPS is defining their contract. I'd say clearly, on the merits, allowing CABI stations at NPS properties would be in the public interest. That goes against the very ill-informed arguments that the NPS spokesman makes above.

Legally, there are other problems with the NPS system. Dropping down a bikeshare station on some NPS property then suing would be a good way for a court to better define the options. Radical? I don't think so. The radical is the extreme way NPS looks at urban parks.

Yes, a tourmobile is going to be a better tourist expereince than bikeshare. But that isn't the issue. Tourmobile is a "interpretive experience", bike-share is not. The question is the NPS bikeshareing contract and how it conflicts with CABI.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

That pic of the bike 'station' hidden behind maintenance vehicles is freakin ridiculous. Apparently, there is only one other station, and the Park Service obviously doesn't want people to use them.

I've been to alot of the major National Parks, but really nothing can compare to my experience in the backcountry of Canyonlands. Every campsite was just breathtaking.

by kinverson on Jul 19, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

What's funny is I had a DDOT employee with CaBi tell me over the weekend that NPS was receptive toward CaBi on the Mall. The biggest issue was dealing with vendor contracts and such but the overall attitude at NPS was positive. Maybe someone has left the reservation.........

by rsigworth on Jul 19, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

@Burger - $5 for a daily "membership" is far cheaper than a bike rental and it's a lot cheaper than paying the Tourmobile if you don't want to go to all those other places, and it allows you to get to more places without driving which is a positive benefit for DC and the NPS.

WRT revenues, in theory, Cabi could offer to split some of the revenues with NPS.

WRT revenues for Cabi, the DC system is relatively unique amongst bikesharing systems where because the city has so many tourists, they are getting a lot of revenue from nonresidents.

Interestingly from observation, the people who use Cabi don't seem to be as concerned about paying additional use charges--they keep the bikes for trip periods longer than 30 minutes, rather than making their trips in increments of 30 minutes, returning bikes, and rechecking out bikes, which has significantly increased revenues from this source of income beyond what was originally projected.

If it meant more riders and more income, it would be worth sharing some of the revenue with NPS.

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

I don't buy the line of reasoning either, which of course makes me wonder what the real reason is. I agree the mall has a certain experience to it that the NPS is tasked with maintaining, and I suspect the banning of CaBi has more to do with that than anything else ... and that Line's attempt at explaining why CaBi wouldn't be compatible with that experience was a very faileda attempt at actually explaining why.

So, what could be possible incompatibilites? Here are some thoughts. Others may have different thoughts as to 'why'. Firstly, there's the 're-distribution' trucks that CaBi uses on a regular basis. These just cause some traffic and parking problems in the city but out by the mall could also be intrusive in the experience in terms of they're performing a very commercial function there. I know, 'and what about the food concessions?' Maybe it's 'cause they think they can better handle the food concessions? than CaBi with its own city-wide (and DC-Arlington-wide) operations? Maybe they just don't want to have to deal with yet another concession operation? What about the fact that people on bikes ON the mall (and I don't mean the roads) can be cause for 'less than quiet reflection' by the tourists. Yeah, there are already bikes on the Mall navigating around somewhat confused tourists ... Maybe they don't want to see more of that? And what about that the whole experience of the Mall is supposed to be walking down it and enjoying the experience of doing so (at a slow pace) along with stops into the adjacent museums. Yeah, I know there's the tourmobile ... But THAT can be justified on the grounds that not everyone can walk everywhere, for example seniors or families with small children. Is there really a justification for letting otherwise healthy people (who CAN walk) whiz through the 'experience' instead of taking it at the leisurely pace the design of the Mall intended?

You know there has to be a good reason they're not allowing this ... and the way federal agencies and departments work their missions are fairly rigidly laid out and their primary responsibility IS fullfilling their missions. They get judged on that and not on doing what specific segments of DC (or other) folks want. They have a much broader segment of the population to serve. Which is what I think Line tried to explain in the interview ... Isn't it?

by Lance on Jul 19, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

I agree. Never seen anything like Canyonlands before. That is what the NPS is best at. Not this crap.

Here's an uncurated collection of snaps from the trip. Lost one of my SD cards in transit :(

by JTS on Jul 19, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

You know there has to be a good reason they're not allowing this

Oh, Lance, you're adorable!

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

There is nothing historic about the Mall. It has evolved in look and purpose over time, from canals to railroads to pedestrian paths and yes, security barriers. The vista of the Lincoln Memorial provided by the unobtrusive Rainbow Pool has been supplanted by the towering columns of the WWII memorial. Unlike memorials, anything else added on the mall can be taken away again if it ends up being too obtrusive. NPS is just being a stick in the mud. What a short-sighted decision.

by Omar on Jul 19, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

Lance actually makes some good points, although having to deal with another concessionaire isn't likely one. They don't care. They want more money, not less.

But creating docking stations would be a real problem at the places that don't have parking lots, e.g., Washington Monument vs. Jefferson Memorial. They would stick out and raise Sec. 106 historic preservation review type issues.

One of the photos that Chris Eatough uses in his presentation about bikesharing is of a bunch of people riding on the Mt. Vernon Trail by the Airport. I actually want a copy of that photo and keep forgetting to ask.

But it does raise an idea, especially if Alexandria joins in on Cabi, of suggesting a trial of bike sharing installations along the Mount Vernon Trail as a test.

Note that this touches on another issue I've meant to blog about, the suggestion of a Cabi user that National Airport should have a bike station too. I wonder about that because of the luggage issue, but that could be tested as well, in conjunction with a Mt. Vernon Trail test.

I have no affiliation with any of the organizations involved in Cabi, and maybe they are pursuing this. I don't know...

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, your problem is that you're consistently willing and able to settle for mediocrity and abuse at every turn and then look down on those who are willing to fight against BS.

Maybe you think your apathy and detachment is a sign of maturity or something. But the rest of us think that these people work for us. Maybe you need to step aside and keep quiet while other people do, you know, actual work rather than sniping at people who actually get off their butts once in a while.

But that's your shtick, isn't it? To talk about how you're part of "real DC" because you don't do a darn thing, don't care, and are happy with incompetent city councillors, bad decisionmaking, and a stagnant quality of life. Yeah, right on-- you're soooo much more sophisticated than all these "newcomers."

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

@ Richard Layman: I've suggested Arlington put one near the Arlington Cemetery station. It would allow for more CaBi tourists from DC coming across the bridge. Also, it would be a good bailing point for people going from Rosslyn and Crystal City in case of inclement weather.

by Jasper on Jul 19, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

US Park Police: they know nothing about parks and even less about policing.

by greent on Jul 19, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

There were over 77,800 trips beginning or ending at the 4 Mall area Capital Bikeshare stations since Sept 2010.

by Eric on Jul 19, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

@Lance: "You know there has to be a good reason they're not allowing this." Actually, I don't know that. And my observation of government agencies in action strongly suggests otherwise -- most agencies have a bias towards inaction over action, the status quo over change, and, occasionally, corrupt incentives over the public interest.

by Anon in Arlington on Jul 19, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

Interesting, but not surprising. Just finished "The Great Society Subway" and the NPS has been obstructing common sense improvements to the area for nearly 50 years now. Why would we expect them to change now?

by OX4 on Jul 19, 2011 12:45 pm • linkreport

+1 JustMe

by spookiness on Jul 19, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

@lance, I think you are overthinking the policy, as as Anon in Arlington says, underthinking the inertia.

Layman brings up historical review, although there seems to be plenty of tour bus parking by Jefferson or Lincoln. That suggests a small bikeshare station isn't a huge hurdle.

I'd suggest that the Mt Vernon riders are a big profit center for CABI. Cheaper than bike n'roll -- maybe $30 -- for tourists.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

Even if you took away bikes and traffic and food carts I still have a hard seeing how the mall can be kept for quiet reflection except late at night. There isn't that much quiet about 1000's of people milling about taking in sights. And I simply fail to see how the tourmobile that costs that much money can be seen as a viable transit alternative based on the cost (not to mention its purpose) alone.

by Canaan on Jul 19, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

Per the comment to my earlier post...No, people did not walk around dehydrated nor hungry before the street vendors monopolized The Mall fringes. People used water fountains and the same people never lacked for places to find food. Humans are capable of survival. If you did away with the tacky vendors perhaps an unobtrusive area could be found for BikeShare. However, it's also not likely a family of four or five from out of town are going to all rent bikes to get around The Mall...that does not make sense.

As for all comes down to leadership. Some areas managed well others less so and with great arrogance. The mistake was Congressional approval, more than thirty years ago, allowing entrance fees to Park Service managed areas. Our taxes pay for the parks they were not designated to have entrance fees. It changed the whole dynamic of what parks should be and how park service employees treated the public.

As for lawsuits and Eleanor Holmes Norton...enough of that....neither is likely to meet with any success or leadership.

by Pelham1861 on Jul 19, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

One last comment: The NPS is not saying bikes should be removed from The Mall...far from it...what they seem to be saying is they don't want another vendor there...or perhaps taking up parking spaces that tourists and residents alike could use...rather than BikeShare.

by Pelham1861 on Jul 19, 2011 1:15 pm • linkreport


Tourists and residents alike can use Bikeshare, too. And they do, already. I'm not sure what changes when they cross the magic line and end up on NPS property.

by Alex B. on Jul 19, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

Agreed with most commenters: this is silly. Why does the NPS pursue conflict like this? Anyway, if you're wondering, the following committees deal with NPS oversight:

House: Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands
Senate: Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks

Also, the National Park Service Concessions Management Advisory Board might be a good place to lobby for concessions issues. Show up at the next meeting, make yourself heard.

by OctaviusIII on Jul 19, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

Perhaps DC should start marking NPS parkland with signs that say:

Leaving District of Columbia (
Entering National Park Service managed land (
Thanks for visiting, enjoy the park, and see you back on the other side

by Jasper on Jul 19, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

Is there data on where those daily bikeshare memberships were purchased? That likely woudl tell us (or at least give us an idea) of how much CaBi is used by tourists.

by dcd on Jul 19, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

The Mall is still a restaurant desert. If I go down there with out-of-town friends, I make sure they pack something to eat or drink because it's a 10-20 minute walk from Lincoln to someplace with food and reliable hours.

As for tourists using CaBi: they do. Often. I see clearly out-of-town families riding on Bikeshare whenever I go to the Mall. Besides, when people come to see the Mall they expect an urban park, not a wilderness. It's far, far more akin to Central Park than to Yosemite and it should be operated accordingly, never mind the other major parks and the countless little spits of land the Park Service operates.

by OctaviusIII on Jul 19, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

The NPS is a totally insufferable institution stuck in its own culture. You have to go deep to make real changes. Bikeshare is only one of a thousand problems.

What we need is a totally different federal institution for DC, something like the National Capital Park Service, that is a separate entity with separate rules than the rest of the park service, that could make MOUs with BIDs, assert its needs directly to Congress and draw staffing that can embrace both the stewardwhip of national assetts and the management of urban parks serving an entire city.

by neb on Jul 19, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

"NPS is there to serve the God-fearing tourists of Heartland America."

Darn straight. Here in the American Heartland, we fear God, proudly say the Pledge of Allegiance and aren't afraid of a little prayer before the Friday evening high school football game. And we think marriage is between one man and one woman. We don't automatically equate European with "superior." We even know how to ride bikes, although many of us think that "bike sharing" means letting your Honey ride on the back of your Harley. Oh, and we love the national parks. (Many of us were Boy Scouts, after all). We wouldn't want to turn the Mall over to Marion Barry to take care of.

Why not check feelings of entitlement, outrage and arrogance at the door and write (nicely) to the Director of the National Park Service and to the Secretary of the Interior? Maybe you'll get somewhere.

by Lovin'America on Jul 19, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

Also, Bill Line is an awful communicator, but he does embody the park service so to them he is probably seen as doing a good job.

by neb on Jul 19, 2011 1:54 pm • linkreport

Let's ask Bill Line why his agency's officers allow unlimited all-day free parking for MPD employees' personal cars -- under No Parking signs, in front of fire hydrants, and across crosswalks on Madison and Jefferson Drives. Is that in keeping with what parks are about? Does that show respect for the laws that both groups are sworn to uphold?

by Sydney on Jul 19, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport

Here's another thought: Jon Stewart's efforts last year raised $188,000 (Wikipedia) for the Trust for the National Mall, which is the "official non-profit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to restoring and improving the National Mall." ( If one could get his attention, I imagine Mr. Stewart could have a great deal of fun with this story.

I do also like the idea of turning over one (or more) of the car parking spots to CaBi.

by Eileen on Jul 19, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

Me too x 1,000.

NPS fails to acknowledge how ridiculously unobtrusive (and beautiful, in my opinion) a bikeshare station is compared to bus parking, tourmobile kiosks, high-speed roads, unnecessary security barriers, and other eyesores on the Mall. (Other commenters have noted how utterly absurd it is to turn our monuments into "hardened targets").

NPS fails to acknowledge that citizens, yes, AMERICANS, can use bikeshare to reach far corners of and enjoy the parkland, which would reduce pressure on limited parking.

The only way they can adopt this thinking is if they are getting kickbacks from their concession contract holders (Guest Services, Tourmobile, and the daily bike rental places).

by Ward 1 Guy on Jul 19, 2011 2:14 pm • linkreport

"Capital Bikeshare can (and has) placed stations at non-NPS property around the Mall itself. The real issue is that areas around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park don't have any non-NPS land where stations could be logically placed."

Isn't the DC pool in East Potomac Park controlled by the DC government?

by Brian White on Jul 19, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

All the NPS-DC issues should have been dealt with in the Capital Space planning process. Visitor services and management on the Mall could have been dealt with way better than it was in the National Mall planning process.

When I was in Seattle for a conference I learned about an odd happenstance, an arboretum created at a US Army Corps of Engineers lock facility. A guy started it because the installation was 3,000 miles away from DC and they had less (way less) oversight. (It's like a unit of Suzanne's Smithsonian agency that is based in NYC...)

While there are instances of the NPS doing some decent planning initiatives elsewhere, I have a sense that the closer you are to DC the harder it is to be able to be innovative. (Witness what happened to the Park Police chief.)

After some good articles in the Post (Kennicott) and the Phila. Inquirer (Saffron) on related issues, I reached out to them to try to get them to do a joint piece on this issue, but they didn't take up the idea.

I did write about the general issue here:

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2011 2:21 pm • linkreport

How does the taxi cab stand at the Lincoln Memorial (23rd & Independence SW) fit into the historic nature? Why are autotaxis ok but pedicabs not?

Why are the bike parking stations on the mall? Is that historic?

Why do concession employees get to park for free all day at the Lincoln Memorial on Daniel Chester French drive?

by Tour guide on Jul 19, 2011 2:21 pm • linkreport

part of the issue here is that it exposes how downright nasty Bill Line is, as a person. Reasonable people can disagree about CaBi station placement. But the guy is just throwing a tantrum over the issue and lashing out at CaBi users for no reason.

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

@Brian White

Yes, it should be controlled by the DC government, unless there is some unknown and overriding agreement with the NPS. DDOT should definitely investigate. Not sure how much traffic a Capital Bikeshare station there would generate but considering there's no other transit service down there, I'm sure it would be a welcome addition.

by Adam L on Jul 19, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

If you disagree with his statements, I believe you can email him here:

by Frank on Jul 19, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

Bill Line's explanation is just ridiculous. If the regulations restrict CaBi, he should just say so. But to say Bikeshare would destroy the mall? Come on. That's absurd. (but about what I would expect from the NPS lately).

by Greg on Jul 19, 2011 2:45 pm • linkreport

@JustMeHogwash, your problem is that you're consistently willing and able to settle for mediocrity and abuse at every turn and then look down on those who are willing to fight against BS.

Maybe you think your apathy and detachment is a sign of maturity or something. But the rest of us think that these people work for us. Maybe you need to step aside and keep quiet while other people do, you know, actual work rather than sniping at people who actually get off their butts once in a while.

@JustMe, while I'm sure your comments don't qualify under GGW's ad hominem standard, maybe you shouldn't begin an argument by telling me what my problem is and the level of mediocrity I'm willing to accept or that I'm likely immature. None of what you wrote applies to the article but are simply personal attacks on me. Fortunately, I'm not bothered by it one bit. I can dish it out and take it.

1) Me not being able to rent a bike on the national mall is not my example of what mediocrity and abuse are. I don't ride bikes so my best recourse is to do what I've always done...walk.

2) My detachment is just detachment. I'm fine with you or anyone else here for that matter sensing that as a sign of immaturity. If you think it's immature that I don't call for a recall of Kwame Brown thanks to him (exercising his right as Chairman) removing some man I don't even know from a position of which he isn't entitled to..then so be it. Immature I am. If u think it's immature that I didn't call for Armegeddon @ the postponement of the M/L cycle tracks...then so be it. I don't care. Really I don't.

There is no stepping aside to be done here because I'm not working on any of these projects. What I am doing is commenting, like most of us, on a message board. I have a job, so my work does get done..everyday.

"But that's your shtick, isn't it? To talk about how you're part of "real DC" because you don't do a darn thing, don't care, and are happy with incompetent city councillors, bad decisionmaking, and a stagnant quality of life. Yeah, right on-- you're soooo much more sophisticated than all these "newcomers."

You've never read anything from me intimating that there is even a such thing as a "real dc." But I understand that this is one of you myops' favorite lines. There has been bad decision making when I first moved here and that will continue whenever I leave. As for my "quality of life," it has improved as I have made more money. There is very little I "need" that I don't have. That's why I have a job which enables me to get most of what I want.

If you, like many here (especially those who are current bike owners) think that your lives are improved by having the ability to rent bikes across the city, then that's fine for you. However, it's not a quality of life issue for ME.

Lastly, you've clearly demonstrated the myopism this group has often been caricatured as having. Because YOU think bikes on the mall is integral to your functioning in this city, everyone else should too. And those of us who don't, are characterized as a bunch do-nothing NIMBY's.

I should add that your personal attacks affect me as much as listening to silence.

by HogWash on Jul 19, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

What a bunch of faux outrage. CABI is not designed for tourists. End of story.

The Mall is not a frequent destination for locals and therefore doesn't warrant ANY stations. The people here crying foul are doing so only because they want the CABI option available to them even if it is seldom used. Quite selfish.

by TGEOA on Jul 19, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

@ TGEOA; the tourist market represents a lot of cash for CABI. 40,000 day members is almost the same revenue they cleared for the Living Social deal (we don't know the details of that contract). Tourists also love to run up overage charges.

I'd say while it wasn't designed for tourists, it certainly is being used by them, and could represent a profit center for bikeshare.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

CABI is not designed for tourists.

No, it's not designed for tourists. Neither was the metro. Or the roads. However, locals, commuters, and tourists can use them.

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2011 3:14 pm • linkreport

@TGEOA - I can guarantee that CaBi is used by tourists because tourists have gotten the last bike ahead of me at Metro Center twice in the last month or so.

I would think tourists would be very interested in a $5 per day membership if 1) CaBi was where they wanted to go, and 2) they felt comfortable enough with the concept.

I first saw bike share in Lyon, France nearly ten years ago. my wife and I ended up renting bikes from a shop because we couldn't figure out what bike share was (it was totally foreign at the time).

by Greg on Jul 19, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

@TEOGA -The Mall is not a frequent destination for locals You need to speak for yourself.

WRT the usefulness of CaBi on the, mall -sometimes a person spends more than half an hour at a monument or memorial. I do. Me (and my out of town guests) would benefit greatly from being able to dock a CaBi while we spend time at the Lincoln, VN and Korean, then get a bike and ride to the Capitol.

by Tina on Jul 19, 2011 3:17 pm • linkreport


Actually CaBi is designed for both tourists and residents. Tourists use it often. 4th of July found more day and week memberships riding around then annual members.

And I imagine all the people who run/bike/walk their dogs/play sports around the mall all happen to be tourists who bring their teams/bikes/dogs with them where ever they travel.

End of story.

by cmc on Jul 19, 2011 3:18 pm • linkreport

Regarding the "not designed for tourists" argument, as a tour guide I'm on the Mall and at the Monuments roughly 5-6 days a week in the Spring/early Summer. I have yet to see a day when folks (I neither know or care where they are from) are not on the Mall with CaBi bikes. So yeah, there is a demand for stations there.

Plus, I'm local. My trips to the Mall don't count? I'd like an easier way to get there.

by Tim Krepp on Jul 19, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman RE: CaBi at National Airport

I think that this is a great idea for a few reasons.

(1) Not everyone travels with tons of luggage. I personally could have (and would have) taken CaBi from work to National for my most recent vacation. I just had a mid-sided backpack--smaller than the one I take to the laundromat via bike on "sheets and towels" day.

(2) Some people need to go from Point A to National to meet someone and then to Point B via Metro, cab etc. CaBi could help.

(3) National is the closest Metro stop for many Arlington/Alexandria residents and they'd certainly get some use out of it, particularly if CaBi is near their homes (I'm specifically thinking of the apartment building above the Harris Teeter--they've got a CaBi station).

(4) The big one to me: National is much closer to the southern part of Crystal City than the actual Crystal City metro stop. The ramp that goes from the airport to Crystal Drive is full of people walking/riding bikes along the sidewalk. Many of these people are airline employees coming from/going to area hotels, bike commuters taking a slightly offroad path from the MVT, and (I suspect) people walking from the Metro stop. There are several CaBi stations all around this section of Crystal City (including a fairly heavily used one outside office towers right at the base of that ramp from the airport on Crystal Drive)--I think people would use it. I know I would.

Now, of course, with limited availability, priorities must be put in place, and I'm not arguing for a National CaBi above other (probably more useful) places, but I really do think that it's a better idea than many people realize.

by Catherine on Jul 19, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

*GASP* Tim, better watch out for the tazers since you'll be bicycling AND providing tour-relating historical factoids!

by MLD on Jul 19, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

I don't think NPS has been very well served by Mr. Line's comments. The National Mall Plan states that “as our nation’s front yard, the National Mall should be easily accessible for all people and should have
better connections to the city and transportation networks.” The plan also recommends sites near the Capitol, near the Washington Monument, and in Constitution Gardens for “recreational equipment rental.” I'm hoping this means CaBi, or something like it.

It would be nice if NPS could say something like "we hope to provide bicycle rental at some time in the future, but we're not there yet."

by Christine on Jul 19, 2011 3:56 pm • linkreport

Cmc and Tim made my points for me. They want CABI on the mall because they like to go there. Placing CABI stations at the mall is a terrible use of resources for now. Instead cabi should be placed near where people live and work instead of where they want to picnic.

by TGEOA on Jul 19, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

They want CABI on the mall because they like to go there. Placing CABI stations at the mall is a terrible use of resources for now.

Yeah, why would we want to put the pieces of our transportation network WHERE PEOPLE WANT TO GO?

by MLD on Jul 19, 2011 4:24 pm • linkreport


Yeah, put resources where the very few want to go. Great idea. Maybe DDOT will hire you.

by TGEOA on Jul 19, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

I emailed Rep. Norton and Rep. John Sarbanes (MD 3rd) about this issue. Rep. Sarbanes sits on the House subcommitte for the national parks. Although he really doesn't owe anything to DC residents, he does owe something to anyone who visits the Mall and wishes to see less traffic and have an option to get arouned.

by jhen on Jul 19, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

@TEOGA -your logic would have prevented the Smithsonian metro stop. Obviously other people think the mall is a worthy destination for locals and visitors to access by public transportation, which now includes CaBi.

by Tina on Jul 19, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport


Do you actually have any data to back that up? As a regular CaBi user and member since the system started, I find that on the weekends lots of the stations in my area (Mt Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, U St) are near empty and places down towards the Mall area are full. It seems to me that people want to go there.

by MLD on Jul 19, 2011 4:34 pm • linkreport

I have to agree with the NPS and the various commenters defending NPS, particularly "Lovin' America". The NPS-managed spaces around the Mall are some of the most hallowed ground of our National heritage, and are a place for quiet reflection, not to be despoiled by things like bike racks and red bicycles.

Someone upthread posted photos of Canyonland National Park, and I was struck by the majestic beauty of the place. But we have our own "crown jewels" that NPS has a sacred trust to maintain, and what a job they have done. Imagine a CaBi rack thrust like a poison dagger into the heart of this bucolic scene:

My heart weeps.

by oboe on Jul 19, 2011 4:38 pm • linkreport


Im not saying the Mall is not a worthy destination, but a less worthy then getting CABI in population centers. The people that live near CABI now seem to give a rats ass about others getting access, and instead focus on themselves.

by TGEOA on Jul 19, 2011 4:49 pm • linkreport

@ TGEOA; I think your argument is a bit misplaced.

I fully agree with you that too many people want a CABI station where it is convienent for them, rather than where it might get used more.

But I don't think that is the argument with NPS. People are mad at NPS for describing bikes as "un-American:"

"Although a Bikeshare station would be convenient, it would destroy the nature of what makes the National Mall an American institution in the first place, he said.

"The National Park Service is an organization that strongly encourages (the) use of mass transit, but Capital Bikeshare wants to place a structure on the National Mall, which (the park service) does not allow under current regulations," Line said.

That's just silly -- and given the tour buses which outnumber humans at some times of the day -- just stupid.

And NPS is taking that argument and applying it to other NPS parks which would get used more.

I'm sure there would be some usage of CABI stations on the mall. perhaps they are not the most optimal stations, but far more than say, EOTR.

Future expansion -- if bikeshare goes that route -- should also include the Mall area.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 4:59 pm • linkreport

+1 and then some to oboe for the wonderful image. 

For the Park Service to get a chunk of the revenue from CaBi stations on the hallowed grounds it holds in public trust, it could simply join DDoT and Arlington as a sponsor.  The line forms behind Alexandria, Montgomery, Rockville, et. al.

Until then, time to revisit those "regulations currently in effect".  Any hope for help from the mystery users of the "secret" White House bikeshare station

by intermodal commuter on Jul 19, 2011 5:04 pm • linkreport

Re: Yosemite.

Yosemite has a bunch of bathrooms, food stands, gift shops, water fountains etc etc. Even a bar.

Does it take away from the "wilderness"?

No, theyre amenities that make the visit more comfortable.

by JJJJJ on Jul 19, 2011 5:08 pm • linkreport

Catherine thanks for the comments on Nat. Airport.

wrt TGEOA, I can't speak for Alta Bike Share because I don't work for them, but I know in the bike sharing RFPs that my business has responded to, we very much recognized and planned for the tourist _segment_ of the _overall_ market for _bikesharing_ within particular communities. Pretty much the RFPs that are issued mention this particular _segment_ of the _total market_ as well.

Frankly, we like the DecoBike pricing scheme better than the Cabi/Bixi one as far as tourists go--you balance the idea that the locals are paying for capital costs and should get lower rates, on the other hand, locals benefit from reduced traffic congestion generated by people not knowing where they are going driving on local roads--and we would never in a million years suggest offering 5 days for the price of 3 as what Cabi is doing...

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2011 5:11 pm • linkreport

Oops, on the other hand, the Cabi casual users don't seem to be motivated to limit their trips to 30 minutes. So maybe by giving up two days "membership" revenue they make up in much greater hourly charges...

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

Point of clarification re: the price of the Tourmobile.
It's actually $32 for an adult, not $22 as David'a article states.

by Dennis in DC on Jul 19, 2011 5:14 pm • linkreport

Well, speaking of the Tourmobile and the point someone made about that being the transpo solution that includes interpretation, ideally from the standpoint of planning, you provide maximum service with different products for different market segments.

(Although, I have to say that you can build this kind of service into bikesharing too, which is something we're adding to our plans. OTOH, Tourmobile works better for groups of mixed age people, especially children, and for covering long distances.

e.g., )

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2011 5:29 pm • linkreport

@intermodal commuter - You think CaBi's running a profit? Or, put better, you think Arlington and DC are recouping their investment in CaBi? I'd like to see stats on that.

by Greg on Jul 19, 2011 5:42 pm • linkreport

The Mall is not a frequent destination for locals and therefore doesn't warrant ANY stations. The people here crying foul are doing so only because they want the CABI option available to them even if it is seldom used. Quite selfish.

Gee, since I'm a local, maybe I should stop running and walking down there three times a week. And funny how I see a lot of tourist families on Cabi bikes down on the mall.

by lou on Jul 19, 2011 6:18 pm • linkreport

@Dennis in DC
$32, seriously? I had to check that, but it's true. That means that for a family or group of six, assuming none are toddlers or infants, a one day Cabi pass is less that the fare for one adult on Tourmobile.

Thanks for the pix, man. Arches was awesome, but it was crowded (for the west). It felt like we had Canyonlands to ourselves. I still recognize at least four of these locations, and I went about four years ago.

by kinverson on Jul 19, 2011 6:21 pm • linkreport

@Greg, a stab at revenue:

Annual members: 15,000, assume base price of 50 (some more, some less)
Daily member: 55,000 at $5
Usage fees: used the dashboard, my rough cacculation as of may about 900K revenue

Total: 1.75M in revenue

I'd say easily 2M in revenue by the end of one year

Costs: budged 2.3M in year 1. Capital costs of 5M.

Throw in a decent sponsor and you're in the black for year 1.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 6:51 pm • linkreport

I should note the costs are just a cut and paste job; I'd say they might be more. If anyone has anything better throw it out there.

Annual members do include some double dipping (i.e. people who renewed with the living social deal).

by charlie on Jul 19, 2011 7:25 pm • linkreport

@nevermindtheend, the bike sharing in that photo is not the bike rental vendor. That is the NPS employee-only bike share system. I'm not sure who the bike rental vendor is. I don't think the licensee actually rents bikes.

by David C on Jul 19, 2011 11:18 pm • linkreport

Sometimes you don't get your way. It's too bad that this blog engages in a massive bitch session every time someone tells them no.

Your ideas are fine, but the arrogance on here that your ideas are the best and every federal and loca agency should drop what theyredoing and do exactly what you say is astounding.

by Anon on Jul 20, 2011 7:59 am • linkreport

@David C

The NPS bike share is B-Cycle. Denver is the only place I've seen it in person but there are also semi-extensive systems in San Antonio and Madison.

by MLD on Jul 20, 2011 8:30 am • linkreport

Forgot to add, I do not think this system is what is preventing CaBi on the Mall areas. This system is for NPS use only. I don't really have a problem with agencies having their own exclusive systems if they want to pay for them - I see it like fleet sharing with cars.

by MLD on Jul 20, 2011 8:32 am • linkreport

About the National Mall "not being a destination for locals"

I remember when John Parsons was the regional director for the NPS (and therefore sitting on the Zoning Commission), that at some presentation he said that NPS data about use of the National Mall (and that would include things like kickball) finds that 80% of the visitors are local. I would have to read the National Mall plan to see what the data says there though...

by Richard Layman on Jul 20, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

Bill Line's phone number is 202-619-7400. I just called and was told he was on the phone. I asked for his voicemai. I left a detail message, with my phone number, and asked him to call back. We will see.

The parks department is notorious for being uncooperative. They would not allow a tunnel to be built under Farragut Square, when the Metro was being built, to connect the two stations, Farragut North and West.

Call Elenor Holmes Norton and see if she can help.

by steph on Jul 20, 2011 9:54 am • linkreport

so let me get this straight, they are fine with hot dog vendors, knock off FBI ATF CIA and DHS shirt vendors but not a bike rack?

by tim on Jul 20, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport


Oh, yes, terrorists have already attacked the Jefferson. Remember those dancers? Mayhem and fear!

by dayglo on Jul 20, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

Not to defend them (at all!), but the hot dog and crappy t-shirt vendors are on Independence and Constitution, not the Mall. The Park Service doesn't control those streets.

by Tim Krepp on Jul 20, 2011 10:27 am • linkreport

Cry me a river!

Bike Share racks all over the rest of the city - and in Arlington - just aren't enough!

And it's impossible for someone to simply pickup a bike at, say, the Union Station rack and ride over to the Mall.

It's tough to be a cyclist in DC!

Boo, hoo!

Good grief!

by ceefer66 on Jul 20, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

ceefer66, if one more or less CaBi station is not a big deal, why the unhinges response from the NPS? The issue here is Bill Line's nuclear-level freakout. And the predictable response from you, Hogwash, and Anon that some people might, you know, disagree with NPS and try to get them to change their irrational policy. Which, I understand, you seem to think is "out of line."

by JustMe on Jul 20, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport


What an elegant and well-reasoned response.

When all you can do is call someone a crybaby, you've lost the argument.

by David C on Jul 20, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

@David C:

When all you can do is call someone a crybaby, you've lost the argument.

Bonus points for crying about the removal of a few curbside parking spaces due to the new bulb-outs.


by oboe on Jul 20, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

It's not that people can't pick up a CaBi at Union Station and ride to the Mall. It's that NPS won't let them leave it there.

Let's say I have to meet my friend at the Washington Monument after work. I can easily hop the Red Line to Union Station, and then pick up a CaBi to ride to the Washington Monument. But if there are no docks there, I can't drop off my CaBi.

And you are correct. There are not enough bike share stations in either DC or Arlington (or Maryland, for that matter). The demand is already outstripping the supply of bikes and racks. And if this is going to continue to be a viable mode, the stations have to be within walking distance to as much of the city as possible.

by Matt Johnson on Jul 20, 2011 1:15 pm • linkreport

Yeah, the point is that it is a point to point transportation device. Not a rent from Union Station and ride to, say, the National Gallery, hide it in the bushes or something, enjoy the museum for two hours and then retrieve your bike and take it back to Union Station while paying for 2.5 hours of use and hoping it hasn't been stolen in the meantime. You clearly don't understand the purpose of CaBi.

by NikolasM on Jul 20, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

They are coming. As I recall, they are adding another 25 stations this fiscal year, and there is several million dollars in the budget for even more in the next fiscal year.

by Brian Vargas on Jul 20, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

It seems like we didn't get all the facts regarding this issue in this post. I just learned that:

'Line then compared the installation of a Bikeshare station on the Mall to a T-shirt vendor being allowed to hawk on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

I.e., Bikeshare is trying to put a station IN the Mall itself and not on the side of the road. Line's correct, we don't allow T-Shirt Vendors to hawk his/her wares on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial ... they do it from the side of the road. Ditto, we don't allow TourMobile to run its wheels over the grass on the Mall ... they do it from the street. Maybe if CaBi asked to locate on one of the side streets near the Mall then this wouldn't be an issue, huh?

by Lance on Jul 20, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

Maybe if CaBi asked to locate on one of the side streets near the Mall then this wouldn't be an issue, huh?

That is not the explanation Bill Line gave at all who instead had an emotional meltdown about how the availability of bike transit is an unamerican violation of the NPS mission.

by JustMe on Jul 20, 2011 5:01 pm • linkreport

@JustMe ... I really think the problem here is that people's terms of 'the Mall' aren't in Synch. Look at where the vendors hawking T-Shirts are ... They're within an easy walk from the Mall ... but not on it. Since Line specifically gave the T-Shirt vendors as an example, I think it would be safe to say that CaBi could set up whereever it is tht the T-Shirt vendors are ... And, thinking more about this, the area where NPS has jurisdiction (i.e. 'the MALL') probably doesn't technically include the sidewalks where the T Shirt Vendors are ... note that they AREN'T on Independence of Thomas Jefferson, etc. So, he was just saying, it's a commercial enterprise and if we're not going to allow other commerical enterprises in the area handled by us, we're not going to allow the CaBi commercial enterprise. It's important to note that until something like 10 years ago there WERE T-Shirt vendors selling right on the Mall ... particularly right near the Vietnam Vets Memorial. They were selling there on the principle of 'free speech' (i.e.. the t-shirts had speech on them) It went before some court that ruled that they didn't qualify as free speech. So, that's the background on what he's talking about. Now, would the people using CaBi really mind being any further away from the Mall than the T-Shirt Vendors are? I think not ... So, I think there's been much a do about nothing here ..

by Lance on Jul 20, 2011 5:39 pm • linkreport

@Lance -- like you say, it depends on your definition of The Mall. If I wanted to visit the National Gallery or the Smithsonian Museums, then the existing stations are just fine.

If I'm interested in going to the Jefferson or FDR Memorials, though, there is no non-NPS controlled land within a mile or so, which makes it a legitimate transportation inconvenience.

by Jacques on Jul 21, 2011 9:41 am • linkreport

Richard earlier wrote: Oops, on the other hand, the Cabi casual users don't seem to be motivated to limit their trips to 30 minutes.

If the common presence of CaBi bikes in Old Town, and even SOUTH of Old Town is any indication...

by Froggie on Jul 21, 2011 11:05 am • linkreport

Where is "DC" [ really- Pee Gee] Mayor Vincent Gray on this issue? Does he even know about what is going on or is he even concerned about this at all? It would be constructive if the Mayor of DC could perhaps step in to help to resolve or help fix this- but I guess that bicycles , pedicabs, Metro, and walking are something that people in Mitchelville Pee Gee do not condescend to partake in . They are his true consituents.

by w on Jul 21, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

Glad the NPS finally found its backbone.

by maeve on Jul 21, 2011 6:31 pm • linkreport

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