19 Oct 2010

Update on Capital Bikeshare at Lincoln Park

Image Courtesy of Capital Bikeshare

Last night’s ANC6A Transportation and Public Space Committee  was packed with community members interested in discussing a location for a Capital Bikeshare station at Lincoln Park.  To say debate got intense is an understatement, but other than a ridiculous assertion by a community member that Lincoln Park is but a block and a half from Safeway, it was mostly a productive, if emotional, meeting. Most participants came bearing solutions, and though many of those were not workable (for instance taking a lane from 13th ST across from Park Cafe for a station), I was impressed that people really did seem want to solve this issue.

According to Chris Holben, the DDOT representative present at the meeting, the original planned location at the southeast corner triangle (at North Carolina Massachusetts, East Capitol and 13th SE) is unworkable. Complaints from neighbors aside, the spot is actually too small to accommodate the smallest of the racks, which are 6′ deep and anywhere from 30′ to 90′ long. (Why this spot was originally on the table then, remains a mystery.) When asked if the concerns of the neighbors on the southeast side of the park were given more weight than those of the neighbors on the northeast side of the park, Holben responded that they had not.

The neighbors on the north side of the park though are very concerned about the safety in that location, citing multiple auto accidents at that triangle, concern for children who might see the bikes as temptation and run into the street, and concern for the safety of the riders themselves. They were adamant that they were neither anti-bike nor anti-CaBi.

On the issue of locating the station in the park: it’s not happening. For now, at least. Mr. Holben told us that the issue is that the National Park Service (whose property encompasses everything from curb to curb at the Park) has an existing contract with a company that rents bikes on NPS property and who has the right of first refusal to put their stations on all NPS land. All hope is not lost though. DDOT is working with the Department of the Interior on defining CaBi as a bicycle transit system — which it is, and which is why stations need to be stationed near enough to each other to function as a true transit option — rather than simply bike rental. While DDOT is actively pursuing this route, an outcome will likely not be achieved for at least a year.

So where will our CaBi station at Lincoln Park go? Well, to be honest, I got the sense that that is still very much up in the air. The Northeast triangle seems to be the favorite in DDOT’s eyes, despite the loud protestations of neighbors in the immediate vicinity.

I asked Mr. Holben if there were plans to address the CaBi station desert north of East Capitol Street and west of Lincoln Park, perhaps adding a station at Lola Beaver Park, at 9th and Massachusetts NE. (Yes Tim, I did manage to work Lola Beaver into yet another conversation.) He said that was a possibility, and pointed to the station at 4th and East Capitol (which does not solve this issue) and also said that they looked at a spot today at 6th and Massachusetts  NE at Stanton Park (but not in the park, which faces the same hurdles as Lincoln Park).

So, the issue was not resolved last night. 78 of the 100 CaBi stations have been installed to date, with the remainder expected to be installed by the end of the year. Holben said that a station within a block of Lincoln Park is included in that 100, but now the only question is where.


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38 responses to “Update on Capital Bikeshare at Lincoln Park”

  1. Tim Krepp says:

    Lola Beaver. Lola Beaver. Lola Beaver.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I couldn’t make the meeting and I appreciate the thorough summary.

  3. Eden says:

    Same here. Would have liked to come and I appreciate your report!

  4. Darcy says:

    Were there any neighbors who live near the NE corner who supported the proposal at the meeting? I certainly support that location, but couldn’t make it to the meeting.

  5. MJ says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that there were people opposed to one location out of:

    “…concern for children who might see the bikes as temptation and run into the street…”

    REALLY?? That is a ridiculous assertion. But incredibly funny! I’ll take extra care in the future to ensure that no kids ever spot me with a ball, candy bar, puppy or shiny object from across the street. Wouldn’t want them to be tempted.

  6. @Darcy, not that I heard. To be clear, all of them seemed to be in favor of CaBi and bikes in general – at least that’s what they adamantly, emotionally, and passionately asserted over and over.

    MJ – it’s certainly on par with the claim that Safeway is a mere block and a half away from the park. I understand the attractive nuisance premise, but in the city, pretty much everything qualifies. I don’t think a CaBi station is on par with say an unfenced swimming pool with colorful signs and a speaker system imploring children to dive right in (head first!) but not before eating a big spaghetti dinner.

  7. Jen DeMayo says:

    Okay Nichole I saw on the Twitter there were tears and you left that part out??

  8. It’s true. It was very emotional for some people. I left it out b/c I’m still not totally sure what that was about. Also a lot of really, really red faces.

    I will say this in defense of the people on the park who object to the station being put there: I think they are upset at being portrayed as anti-bike or anti CaBi, and I don’t think that they necessarily are either of those things, but I also think they don’t get it. There seemed to be a prevailing sentiment that 2 or 3 blocks away was close enough, b/c I think they see it as more of a bike rental thing than a bike transit option. And that if for example, the one at Kingsman Field is full, Safeway is actually a hell of a far way away to lock up the bike again. Oh, and lest you think of risking it and using your own bike lock, or just leaning it on the fence and hoping for the best? It’s $1,000 to replace a CaBi bike lost or stolen under your care.

    Anyway, yes – there was a lot of passion at the meeting. You’d think we were talking about streetcars or chickens or something.

  9. Dave says:

    …because children would be enticed to run out into the street by a row of bright red bikes, as opposed to… say… a PLAYGROUND??? Ridiculous.

  10. Jon says:

    While I fully support the CaBi program and how it works in theory, I do wonder about the legitimacy of calling it a “bike transit option.” Walking three blocks to get to a CaBi station would be the equivalent of walking three blocks to a Metrorail station or a bus stop–legitimate transit options.

    I question the placement of the stations in general. As they have been popping up around the city I can’t help but notice how close together some are. For example, Georgetown just got one at the Harbor and one on Wisconsin Avenue just south of the canal. These stations are maybe 4 blocks apart. There are also three stations on New York Avenue NW each one block apart from the next. However, there are no station operational or planned along 16th Street NW north of Decatur Street or in the Northeast Boundary area of Anacostia; both are neighborhoods with people who commute and could benefit from this “transit” program.

  11. Tim Krepp says:


    That’s kind of the point. The high density of bike stations means that you are less dependent on any single one. So, to use your example, you get to Wisconsin Avenue and find that your station is full, you can go to the Harbor and return your bike. Likewise, if the racks are empty when you are picking one up, you are only a short walk away from another rack. Unlike bus and train transit, you are not bound by a “line”, so we should no longer think of it as such.

    Hence the desire to keep it dense rather than spreading it out. In fact, DC is awaiting word right now to see if we get a Federal TIGER II grant to expand the system by 100 stations.

    Finally, I have to say transit is not just for commuters. I use transit every day and never commute to work in the traditional sense.

  12. mappo says:

    NPS does not own from curb to curb at Lincoln Park. The sidewalk around the park is part of the street right of way, which is under DC Government jurisdiction and ownership. Whether or not that sidewalk area is large enough to accomodate a bike station is a fair question, but whoever claimed it was NPS land was either misinformed or lying.

  13. Jon says:

    Yes, transit can be for everyone not just people with a traditional 9to5. However, my point is actually that there is a high concentration of stations on the Hill, downtown, etc. and not in other areas where more people actually live. The stations being placed so close together downtown are targeted to the commuter, no? If I lived near the Silver Spring border in NE DC, I’d still have to take a bus or the Metro to a place where I can pick up a bike. The CaBi doesn’t bind you to a line, but it’s not accessible to all either, the way it is at least attempted with buses.

    Perhaps this grant-in-waiting will expand the program to all segments of the city to allow easier access.

  14. @mappo, it was Chris Holden from DDOT who said that. Seems odd that he’d be either misinformed or lying. My understanding has always been that if NPS owns the land (including all of the Capitol Hill pocket and triangle parks) they also own and are responsible for the sidewalks – which is why they don’t ever get shoveled in the winter, a topic which came up repeatedly last year during the blizzards.

  15. mappo says:

    No, sidewalks are generally part of the street ROW. There are exceptions where sidewalks are sometimes built inside the park property, but Lincoln Park isn’t one of them. NPS is supposed to shovel the sidewalks in winter, just like row house owners are supposed to shovel the sidwalks in front of their houses, but that doesn’t have anything to do with ownership of the land the sidewalks are on. BTW, I’m talking about the brick sidwalks around the park, not the concrete internal sidewalks. The internal ones are on NPS property.

  16. That’s interesting, mappo – thanks for the clarification. I’m not an especially visual person and have a hard time visualizing space, but they said last night that the stations need a minimum of 30′ to accommodate the length of the stations and 6′ to accommodate the depth. Would a station fit on one of those sidewalks?

  17. Marybindc says:

    What MJ said.

    All the hand wringing about this is hilarious to me. “We can’t have this because what if all the bikes are depleted? What if people ride dangerously?” What does that matter to anyone who is not on the bike? Why does that mean that a bike station should not be placed there? How can you say you’re not anti-bike with this attitude?

    I truly don’t care where they put it, there’s one right near my house and I have my own bike anyway, but the amount of rationalization and hysteria they’ve given it is unreal.

    TEARS? Really?

  18. mappo says:

    The sidewalk on the north side of the park is 12 feet wide, so it seems like it could fit there.

  19. Jon says:

    The bigger question is, will the Tea Partiers ride them if the have to get the bicycles in unsafe parts of the city?

  20. Caroline says:

    @MJ: It drives me up a wall when people claim child will run blindly into the street after whatever object catches his fancy. Even my dogs are smart enough not to do that.

  21. Jacques says:


    The distribution of the 1st 100 stations seems to have taken into account a number of factors:
    – proximity to other stations
    – proximity to metro
    – trying to put the majority of stations where the bulk of people live and/or work, while still having stations in each of the 4 quadrants and 8 wards of the District.

    My sense is that the next set of stations (whether they happen as a group of 100 via TIGER, or much more slowly over time) will focus equally on increasing density where there are already stations and on extending the reach to where stations don’t already exist: which includes the far North, East and West corners of the city.

  22. Topher says:

    I’m surprised the anti bike rackers don’t say bike racks will cause a parking problem. Thats what they say about everything else anyone ever wants to do.

  23. Kyra Deblaker-Gebhard Kyra Deblaker-Gebhard says:

    I don’t know, Mappo. I don’t think the sidewalks around the park (or on the North side) are that wide. I regularly walk with my toddler to the SE corner of the park via Tennessee, and it’s a tight squeeze any time of day between walkers, runner, kids and pets. I don’t think that is a possibility.

    Of course I never understood how a concrete slab in the middle of a roadway is safe for anyone… but I wouldn’t protest the installation at a meeting.

    (I’m pro-bike, FWIW)

  24. M. says:

    It seems to me that parked cars and moving cars are as much a temptation for kids to run into the street as bikes are. I just don’t get why the people against the bike station location aren’t putting their energy into make the streets around the park completely vehicle free.

  25. Kyra Deblaker-Gebhard Kyra Deblaker-Gebhard says:

    Or maybe people will slow down if they see bikes and people. I’m all for getting cars to slow down around that park. It’s been crazy without the bumps and before new tables.

  26. David Jamieson, a Lincoln Park neighbor, was also at the meeting last night and did a great job writing up the shoving and crying portion of the evening, which I decided to skip in my synopsis: http://www.tbd.com/blogs/tbd-on-foot/2010/10/the-lincoln-park-capital-bikeshare-discussion-we-re-not-against-the-bicycles-we-re-not-against-the-bicycles–3343.html

  27. mappo says:

    The sidewalk on all sides but the south is 12′ wide (including the curbs). Whether or not that is wide enough to accomodate a station while leaving enough room for all other sidewalk uses, I do not know.

  28. Katie says:

    I just subscribed to CaBi. I’d been holding out to see if the lincoln park station gets put in, but honestly there have been so many times over the last 3 weeks that I wish I had a membership that I went ahead and subscribed anyway. I really hope something gets put in right near the park. I live a few blocks away from the park, and have been told thusly that I’m not a real “lincoln park resident” therefore shouldn’t have say. I find that pretty disappointing since I’d definitely use the spot as a destination. Anyway, density is key and I’m glad that they are thinking of the neighborhoods (how else will i get my groceries home from the fabulous harris teeter/ eastern market/ and safeway locations). I think the “shiny red bike is dangerous” argument which has been covered a lot in the hilleast listserv is pretty silly when they are competing with tons of adorable dogs/ puppies/ balls! already in the park. And last but not least, having more bicyclists on the road has been shown to be traffic calming.

    I’m glad folks are looking for solutions. I know change is scary, but I think everyone will see that it will be a real asset to the neighborhood if installed. Viva transportation options!

  29. CR says:


    Is there a reference or link that shows that DDOT rather than NPS has jurisdiction over the exterior sidewalks?

    This file from the DC Atlas, which can be downloaded and viewed in Google Earth seems to show the sidewalks as within the park boundaries:

    I’m not disputing, just trying to reconcile conflicting info. I realize that there may have been issues of digitization with the map polygon and overlay on the GE image. Thanks!

  30. Mark says:

    +1 Katie. Change is indeed scary…seems like lots of people are scared. Don’t be so scared of red bicycles.

    Here’s change I have made in the last 30 days. 1. I bought a year pass to BikeShare DC. 2. I have ridden my own bike to work–Potomac Ave to Foggy Bottom—every workday for the last month. Rain or shine.

    It was weird that first Monday, I was scared on the roads, I don’t have the right clothing, I left key garments at home one day, I need to get real bags…the list goes on. But I’m getting used to it, and I really really like it, and not being on Metro is a dream.

    Changing our habits has to start somewhere, a network of bike stations might just get people out of cars, off of metro, and using their bodies. It worked for me.

  31. Brian Pate says:

    For the most part, it was encouraging to see a passionate, but reasoned discourse last night. But it was very disheartening to see neighbors whom I know fairly well almost come to fist-a-cuffs over something so seemingly benign as bicycles.

    Chris Holben deserves our respect for answering to the community last night, but I do hope that DDOT learns a lesson from this experience, as I’m sure they will face similar reactions as they expand the program to even more “sensitive” parts of the city, like, say, cough, Georgetown, cough.

    As for what this means for the park itself, it underscores the need for a long-range, sustainable usage plan developed by local neighbors, park users, ANC 6A, ANC 6B and NPS. Even if there’s only an outside chance that deliberate planning, or the process of planning itself, would have made this experience less contentious, it would be the worth the effort. Somehow, I think the park’s namesake patron would agree (and I think Mary B. would as well).

    As for the CaBi system itself, Chris Holben shared some illuminating statistics with those of us in attendance. The bike transit system will yield the greatest “Return on Transit” of any of the metro areas major transit systems, coming in at an impressive 70% return. The Circulator, by comparison, yields a 20% return and the most efficient Metro lines a 50% return. The city of London, which installed a more robust system of 600 stations and 6,000 bikes in July of this year, expects their system to reach operating self-sufficiency within 2-3 years. By all measures, this is a good civic infrastructure investment.

    For those interested in weighing in on possible Lincoln Park locations, one civic minded resident has built an interactive google map to collect input. You can find it here: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&vps=1&jsv=285c&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=113570469982194660806.000492991ce69188d41f1

    And, for my shameless political plug, you can check out my position on the issue at: http://www.pateforanc.com.

  32. Maria Carey says:

    Just a clarification, Nichole: the southeastern corner of Lincoln Park is bounded by 13th, East Capitol and Massachusetts Avenue, SE– not North Carolina Avenue.

  33. Thanks Maria – I will fix! I always get that wrong!

  34. Near Lincoln Market says:

    This is the first I have heard of it, because, you know, I have a job and kids. But, aesthetically, isn’t putting a station in or around Lincoln Park a terrible idea? By the Metro it looks fine, but do we really want to put a collection of bright red bikes in the one green space that we have?

    Although if the city would eliminate the bike lanes on Pa Ave NW (I’ve yet to find anyone who thinks that was a wise idea, nor have I seen anyone actually use them), I’d gladly sign on to ringing Lincoln Park with bike racks.

  35. Tim Krepp says:

    @Near Lincoln Market,

    I’ll leave aside the idea that having job and kids preclude one from being involved in one’s community, as we all are very busy and somethings got to give. I completely get that.

    But to try to address some of your points. CaBi is not designed to act as a bike rental. The price structure is intended for trips of under a half hour. This is transit, intended for point to point trips.

    As such, we need a high density of bike stations, so that you’re always within 2-3 block of a station to drop it off. Eastern Market is totally useless if, say, you are attempting to get from Eastern Market to Lincoln Park.

    And I just don’t get your aesthetic argument. The two spots in question (NE/SE side of Lincoln Park) are bricked over. The only greenery on these triangles is the weeds poking up through the bricks.

  36. Mark says:

    I have a job too…and now I ride my bike to it every day!

    @Near Lincoln Park, you might not see anyone on the Penn NW bike lane but as someone who has used them, I have. Now, having said that I don’t find that lane useful to me…too many long traffic lights and the point where it ends up by Treasury is scary…the mall works better for me.

    Where I do see lots of cyclists Every Day are the East Cap bike lane and 11th street bike lanes, I use them every M-F and I see plenty of bikes.

  37. oboe says:

    But, aesthetically, isn’t putting a station in or around Lincoln Park a terrible idea? By the Metro it looks fine, but do we really want to put a collection of bright red bikes in the one green space that we have?

    Good to see once you scrape away the “What about the CHILDREN??” angle, you get down to the really NIMBY core of the anti-CaBi argument.

    And let’s make no mistake, opposition is completely NIMBY in nature. I can’t understand the sensitivity about calling the anti-CaBi folks out on that. Almost everyone says, “We’re in favor of bikes!!” yet they don’t want them in front of their house. Period.

    To be fair, we might call them NIMFY’s, since it’s the front yard we’re talking about, but this is literally the definition of NIMBY behavior.

  38. Keith says:

    @Near Lincoln Park
    I’m not sure when you on Pa Ave but I see people in that bike lane all the time. Yesterday I was heading east at 4:00 PM and got caught up in a group of about 5 riders. None of them seemed to know each other. At first I thought it was bad design but the more I take it the more I like it.
    I think all of the bike lanes are building on each other and getting more and more people to bike. Last month on the tourist web site Trip Advisor I came across a post by a middle aged women who visited DC and rented a bike for her transportation. What made this remarkable was she hadn’t ridden a bike in years.


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