National Mall

Transportation Nation

Your Guide to Biking to the Inauguration

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

(photo by Martin DiCaro)

No matter your mode of transportation to the second inauguration of President Barack Obama you will have to do a lot of walking, as D.C.'s police force will establish a large “hard perimeter” around the parade route closed to vehicular travel and bicycles. (A map of the restricted area is here.)

Before you begin to hoof it, however, the easiest way to get close to the National Mall may be on a bicycle.  Bicycling advocates expect thousands of people to pedal into downtown D.C. on Monday morning, and DDOT is taking steps to accommodate them.

For starters, there will be a large bicycle parking area established at 16th Street and I Street NW starting at 7 a.m.

“That’s going to hold about 700 bikes but you are going to want to bring your own lock.  It’s not valet parking but it will be supervised all day,” said DDOT planner Jim Sebastian.

As for Capital Bikeshare, there will be two special docking areas – corrals – that will accept an unlimited number of bikes: at Farragut Square in Northwest and at the USDA building at 12th Street and Independence Avenue Southwest.

“It’s essentially a bottomless station where you can come down and not have to worry about there being an empty space,” Sebastian said.

Starting today six bike share stations along the inaugural parade route will be temporarily dismantled. To make up for the closed stations, CaBi will open a temporary corral to accept bikes. You can see the list here.

For bicycling advocates, Monday presents an opportunity to show how much progress D.C. has made in becoming a bike-friendly city.

"This is going to be the first year that we have bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue during an inauguration, so President Obama is going to be riding down Pennsylvania Ave. and those bike lanes are going to be in all those photos,” said Greg Billing at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “This is a great time for us to show off to the nation that D.C. is a bike city and that we are setting an example that other cities around the country can follow.”

Remember the kerfuffle over bike share stations on the National Mall? Take a trip to March 2012 here.

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Pedicabbers Say Park Police Still Targeting Them

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

(Courtesy John Jacks)

(Washington, D.C. - Jonathan Wilson, WAMU) D.C. pedicab operators have been complaining of hostile treatment from police around the National Mall for much of the year. Although business slows down as the weather gets colder, some pedicab drivers say unpleasant interactions with police are again heating up.

Pedicab operators in the District started complaining of a police crackdown on their industry in the spring. Brian Graber, who's been operating a pedicab for three years now, says the U.S. Park Police force-- which has jurisdiction over the National Mall -- was enforcing rules before, but something has changed.

"This year, it started getting ferocious, if you will," Graber says. "I don't know what happened."

Oskar Mosco says he thought things would calm down once the National Park Service contract with Tourmobile ended in October, since many confrontations with police have centered on pedicabs picking up customers in designated Tourmobile pickup locations. But in the past couple of weeks, he says he's seen an increase in hostile attitudes from some officers.

"The same officers are coming up," he says. "We talk about getting badge numbers, to have some accountability."

The Park Police did not respond to requests for comment. The National Park Service has said it is drafting revised regulations for pedicab operation around the mall.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) is drafting a letter to the National Park Service this week, urging Park Service officials to involve pedicab operators as they formulate the plan.

Norton says tension between police and pedicab operators should be resolved with a simple sit-down meeting, but she also says revamping the transportation plan for the National Mall goes beyond resolving conflicts between pedicab operators, the Park Police and the Park Service.

"Are we going to have multi-modal, green transportation on the mall?" asks Norton. "Or are we going to have monopoly transportation? That's the kind of issue the public needs to weigh in on. I'm hoping the Park Service understands that."

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Transportation Nation

DC Pedicabbers Up In Arms After Seeing Driver Tased On Mall

Monday, July 18, 2011

A group of pedicabbers at impromptu vigil outside U.S. Park Police Headquarters near Haines Point in Southwest D.C. (photo by David Schultz/WAMU)

(Washington, D.C. - WAMU) D.C. pedicab operators are once again calling attention to their treatment by the U.S. Park Police after they say one of their own was unfairly arrested and subdued with a Taser on the National Mall.


The pedicabbers say an officer with the U.S. Park Police confronted pedicab driver Charles Guillon, as he was picking up customers in his bicycle-drawn rickshaw Friday afternoon.

Tyler Clark, a law student driving a pedicab this summer, saw the whole thing.

"It was like an episode of Cops, where the officer screams, 'you're resisting arrest!' when it appeared like the guy wasn't resisting arrest," Clark said. "And the officer was just being way too forceful for anyone to comply with what he was asking them to do."

Clark said Guillon began to reach for his glasses in his shirt's breast pocket, when the officer un-holstered his Taser, pressed it against Guillon's ribcage, and fired.

"The pedicab driver dropped to the ground, was writhing and screaming in pain and agony," Clark said. "And the police officer shot him with the Taser one more time."

Pedicab drivers on the National Mall say Park Police officers are using brutal tactics this summer in a crackdown on their fledgling industry. One of them, Sarah Roberts, told WAMU last month that she was injured by a Park Police officer after refusing to provide identification.

The Park Police didn't respond to our phone calls and emails, but officials from the agency have previously denied the existence of a crackdown.

Listen to the story here.

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Transportation Nation

UPDATED: More Evidence Of Police Crackdown On DC Pedicabs

Friday, June 24, 2011

(photo by David Schultz/WAMU)

(Washington D.C. - WAMU) Riding a rickshaw strapped to a bike - something that's also known as a pedicab - is not an easy job. Pedicab operators often transport three or four people at a time, up hills and often in sweltering weather.

But for pedicabbers in Washington D.C., especially those that operate around the National Mall, their jobs are even harder now. This summer, the U.S. Park Police - the law enforcement arm of the National Park Service - is embarking on what it calls an "education campaign" designed to remind pedicab operators of the laws they have to follow. Park Police spokesman David Schlosser said his department has concerns that these vehicles block the roads, and that some of them are unlicensed and unsafe.

Pedicab operators, however, say "education campaign" is a euphemism for what Park Police officers are actually doing.

They said the officers are needlessly pulling them over, writing them tickets for things that they could do freely in previous summers, and - in some cases - telling their customers not to pay them. "They'll be like 'Oh, whatever he's told you its going to cost, its free,'" pedicabber Ismael Balderas said. "'When you get there, don't give him anything.'"

Sarah Roberts is a college student earning some extra money this summer driving a pedicab. She said she had a particularly ugly experience with a Park Police officer last week.

She had just dropped a customer off at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, she said, when an officer approached her and demanded to see her ID. She refused, and then the officer slapped his handcuffs on her.

"I was just trying to understand the situation and he put a handcuff on me and kind of dragged me over to the hood of his car," she said, leaving a quarter-size mark on her shoulder.

Roberts, a petite 22-year-old with long dark hair, was yelling for help as hundreds of museum-goers stood by and watched. She said another plainclothes officer emerged from the crowd and joined in the arrest. Roberts said the plain clothes officer forced her to the pavement by putting his knee on the back of her thigh.

"I asked the guy 'Why are you helping him? Do you even know what's going on?' she recalled. "It seemed at that point that I'd already been criminalized."

Later on, Roberts said the officers were preparing to search her person and she requested that this be done by a female officer because, she told them, she had been the victim of sexual abuse and didn't feel comfortable being frisked by male police officers. However, Roberts said the officers ignored her request and searched her themselves.

Roberts said she ended up getting charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, charges which she described as preposterous since the officers who arrested her were almost twice her size. "I definitely did not strike or go to strike the police officer at any time," Roberts said. "I would never do that."

As a female pedicabber in a largely male-dominated industry, Roberts says she now wonders if it's still safe for her to ride around on her bike-drawn rickshaw alone. "In the last few days when I’ve been out at work I’ve definitely preferred to not be by myself," she said.

Schlosser didn't return our phone calls requesting comment on Roberts' story.

When I spoke to Roberts about the incident, it was clear she was still very shaken up. She looked toward the ground during our entire interview, avoiding eye contact, and her voice was low and shaky.

Yet, when I asked if I could take a photograph of the mark on her shoulder, Roberts readily agreed. Without any prompting, she pulled up her shirt and flexed her arm in a 'Rosie the Riveter'-style pose, thrusting her pockmarked shoulder directly at the camera.

For more of Roberts' story, click here.

UPDATE - 6/28: Park Police spokesman David Schlosser spoke with Transportation Nation this morning. He says the officer approached Roberts to inform her that her pedicab was parked illegally in a crosswalk and that she refused to move it. He says Roberts was charged with resisting arrest/assaulting an officer, which is a misdemeanor, and failure to obey a lawful order, relating to her refusal to move her pedicab. Transportation Nation also spoke with Roberts again this morning. She acknowledges her pedicab was parked illegally, but says at no time did the officer inform her of this. She maintains that the officer approached, asked for her ID and then arrested her when she refused to provide it. Roberts also says that afterward, while she was in her holding cell, the officer tried to get her to sign on to the version of events Schlosser described. She says she refused.

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Transportation Nation

Bike Rickshaw Operators On National Mall Complain Of Police Harassment

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pedicab Operators Say They're Being Harassed By Police (Washington D.C. - WAMU) The pedicab, a sort of rickshaw attached to a bicycle, is a popular way for tourists to get around the National Mall. But now pedicab operators say they're being harassed by police.
Hauling tourists on a bicycle all day up hills, in sweltering heat, is not an easy job. Just ask pedicab operator Dylan Thadani.

"After working yesterday I got on the bus and both my legs started spasming," he said. "But it's cool. Its a fun job.

What's not fun, he said, is getting attention from the U.S. Park Police. Several pedicab drivers say that recently Park Police officers around the National Mall have been pulling them over, demanding to see their IDs and writing them expensive tickets.

College student Ismael Balderas said sometimes the cops approach him right after he picks up a customer.

"They'll be like 'Oh, whatever he's told you its going to cost, its free,'" he said. "'When you get there, don't give him anything.'"

In interviews, several pedicabbers said that officers are now writing them expensive tickets for things they let slide in previous years.

Mike Potter said he's been stopped by the police several times this summer. "They just come up and, say, ask for our IDs, run a background check on us, and then they tell us to move on or they’re going to arrest us for public nuisance," Potter said.

Park Police spokesman David Schlosser said he can't confirm whether officers are telling pedicab customers not to pay or threatening them with public nuisance arrests, but he does say the Park Police are embarking on an "education campaign" this summer to make pedicabbers aware of the laws governing where and how they can operate.

But it's not a crackdown designed to harass the drivers, Schlosser said. "We’re not focusing on any specific enforcement campaign. We’re mostly working on an education thing," he said. "So at this point, if there’s thoughts that there’s increased enforcement, there’s really not."

The Park Police are mainly concerned with the safety of the drivers, and making sure they don't block the roads, Schlosser added.

Listen to story here.

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