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Spring Sprucing “America’s Front Yard”: Finalists Announced for National Mall Redesign

East view of the Mall from the Washington Monument. Credit: Coleen Gentles

Eighteen months ago, the National Park Service (NPS) in conjunction with the Trust for the National Mall, created the 2010 National Mall Plan, a vision for the kinds of resource conditions, visitor experiences, and facilities that would best fulfill the purpose of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Stretching west from the U.S. Capitol to the Potomac River, and north from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial to Constitution Avenue, the National Mall is primarily under the jurisdiction of NPS, but multiple governmental agencies and organizations also have ownership over lands and roads within and adjacent to the National Mall.  These other entities, the Architect of the Capitol, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Department of Agriculture, the General Services Administration, the District of Columbia, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, all provided critical input into the National Mall Plan.

A nine-month National Mall Design Competition targeted three focal sites for redesign, and in April, the Trust for the National Mall chose four finalists for each area from a pool of 58 entries.  Those finalists were on display for public comment, until a panel of eight judges consisting of landscape architects, academics, architects, critics, and historians, selected the three winning teams last week.  The three sites to be redesigned are:

  • Constitution Gardens, a natural area adjacent to the Reflecting Pool and World War II Memorial, which has suffered from poor drainage and underuse.
  • Washington Monument Grounds, including Sylvan Theater, an underutilized performance space near the National Monument.
  • Union Square, located directly west of the Capitol building, home to the Capitol reflecting pool and Grant memorial.

And the winners of the design competition are:

  • Rogers Marvel Architects & Peter Walker and Partners for Constitution Gardens near the Lincoln Memorial, whose designs include an overhauled water basin for model boats and ice skating, and a new restaurant pavilion to overlook the park.
  • OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi for the Washington Monument grounds, whose designs include a wooded canopy for Sylvan Theater, and a new pavilion with a cafe for the walkway to the nearby Tidal Basin.
  • Gustafson Guthrie Nichol & Davis Brody Bond for Union Square Union Square and the Capitol Reflecting Pool, whose designs remove the reflecting pond that lies parallel to the Capitol and adds a pond at the nearest grass panel on the Mall.  (This design plan will be forwarded to the Architect of the Capitol.)

The Trust for the National Mall, NPS’s not-for-profit fundraising and advocacy partner, will conduct a $350 million fundraising campaign over seven years to support the capital costs of revitalizing these three spaces.  The Trust will begin fundraising for its two projects, while the Architect of the Capitol will handle fundraising for Union Square.  The entire National Mall Plan should cost about $700 million.  The next phase of the competition will identify and evaluate costs ahead of implementation, with roughly half of the costs coming from the private sector.

West View from Washington Monument, with World War II Memorial in foreground, Lincoln Memorial in back, and Constitution Gardens on right. Credit: Coleen Gentles

The National Mall Plan aims to better accommodate the high level and diversity of use the National Mall receives.  With 25 million visitors each year, the National Mall is one of the most highly trafficked parks in the country.  As a result, it requires resilient design and a variety of visitor-serving facilities.

To this end, the National Mall Plan proposed enhanced circulation and access for pedestrians, a goal the NPS had already begun to support through park-wide investments in new signage.  It also proposed new performance space, food and beverage concessions, shaded seating areas, restrooms, and recreational opportunities and facilities.

The Plan recommends specific uses for each of the design competition sites, which are reflected in the designs of the finalists.  It prioritized improved food venues and enhanced pedestrian access at Constitution Gardens.  The redesigned Sylvan Theater will better accommodate local events, and additional facilities will offer food service, retail, and other visitor services.

Union Square was planned as a First Amendment demonstration and event space; however, in December, jurisdiction over the site was transferred from the National Park Service to the Architect of the Capitol due to security concerns.  It remains unclear whether the proposed plans and winning design for this location will be implemented.

The Mall’s scale and formality, combined with large-scale federal/institutional and roadway adjacencies, create a space that is most successful at showcasing monuments and memorials, and perhaps less effective at welcoming visitors and providing community space.  It provides few dedicated places to stop and linger: to have a picnic, play recreational sports (the Mall is particularly ill-configured for the kickball games it so often hosts), enjoy a cultural program, or rest between site-seeing destinations.

If properly executed with quality design, active programming, and able stewardship, the rehabilitation of these spaces will provide new destinations with food, seating, programming, and signature design.  These amenities can anchor and sustain the strong tourist economy and provide authentic and desirable gathering places for local and regional residents.  This constitutes a unique and untapped opportunity to integrated community spaces and national icons at the heart of the city.

This will be the Mall’s first major renovation in nearly 40 years.  Groundbreaking for the first project will take place by 2014, with the first ribbon-cutting expected by 2016, the Mall’s centennial anniversary.

View renderings of the winning designs here.

Proceed Without Caution: Cities Add Parkland by Closing Streets and Roads to Cars

A thirteenth excerpt from the recently released book published by Island Press called Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities. In this post, we look at some cities who have added parkland by closing streets and roads to automobile traffic.

In every city there are hundreds of acres of streets and roadways potentially available as park and recreational facilities. While parks make up about 20 percent of New York City’s total area, streets make up about 30 percent. In Chicago, 26 percent of the land is devoted to streets compared to only 8 percent for parks. Converting some street capacity for recreational activity–either full-time or part-time–is a underrealized opportunity.

Atlanta closed three miles of roads in Piedmont Park in 1983. The park now attracts more than four million visitors a year. Credit: Piedmont Park Conservancy.

Wresting space away from automobiles is never easy, but if any opportunities constitute “low-hanging fruit” they are the hundreds of miles of roads within city parks. Naturally, all large parks need some streets for access to facilities as well as to allow motorists to get from one side to the other, but most city parks have a surfeit of auto corridors. The National Mall in Washington, D.C., formerly had four parallel drives running for about a mile between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument. Not only was the green Mall thoroughly intersected every few dozen yards by asphalt, but the drives themselves were permanently clogged with tourists (and government workers) looking for parking spaces. In 1976, just in time for the national bicentennial celebration, Assistant Interior Secretary Nathaniel Reed decided to abolish the two central roads and replace them with pebble-covered walkways reminiscent of those in Paris parks. The aggregate amount of space–about 4 acres–was relatively small, but the impact on park usability, ambience, safety, and air quality was monumental. Similarly, in Atlanta, following a raft of crime and nuisance issues that were negatively affecting Piedmont Park, Parks Commissioner Ted Mastroianni and Mayor Maynard Jackson announced test weekend road closures. Despite protests, the results led to dramatic increases in other uses of the park, such as running, walking, and cycling, and, in 1983 the closures were made total and permanent. (Piedmont Park is today the most car-free major city park in the United States.)

Other examples abound (see below table). San Francisco’s longtime Sunday closure of 2 miles of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park was extended in 2007 to Saturdays as well. The program, which makes available one of the only hard, flat, safe areas for children in the entire hilly city, according to the San Francisco Bike Coalition, effectively added about 12 acres of parkland without any acquisition or construction costs. Park usage during car-free hours is about double that of when cars are around. Even cities that are thoroughly oriented to cars are finding an enthusiastic constituent response to park road closures. Kansas City, Missouri, bans automobiles on beautiful Cliff Drive within Kessler Park from Friday noon until Monday morning during the summer. San Antonio permanently closed Brackenridge Park’s Wilderness Road and Parfun Way in 2004. And Los Angeles has permanently closed 10 miles of Via del Valle and Mt. Hollywood Drive in Griffith Park to protect wildlife, reduce the risk of fire, and provide a safe, quiet venue for walkers, runners, and cyclists.

It’s not just large parks. Many small parks which were disfigured by roads can be re-greened, too. New York City’s Washington Square, famous as a Greenwich Village movie set and also for street theater, rallies, and as a de facto quad for New York University, had been bisected by Fifth Avenue until 1964. Ironically, a proposal to expand that avenue into a freeway led to the uproar that made the park entirely car-free–and a much more successful space. In Washington, D.C., Thomas Circle had gradually been sliced down in size almost to the diameter of the statue of General George Henry Thomas and his horse, with traffic consuming the entire area. In 2007 the National Park Service and the District of Columbia reinstituted the original circle and rebuilt pedestrian walkways to allow people to use it. Earlier, a similar project re-unified 2.5-acre Logan Circle and helped ignite a renewal of its neighborhood.

In 2007, Houston got itself a park addition by trading away a street. It happened in Hidalgo Park, a venerable 12-acre greenspace in the city’s hard-bitten East End, near the Turning Basin on Buffalo Bayou where Houston started. When a small sliver between the park and the bayou came up for sale, the city secured federal funds to buy it through an obscure federal program called Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation. The sliver had two drawbacks: It was separated from Hildago Park by a street, plus there is a federal requirement that coastal funds be matched one-to-one by non-federal dollars. Park Director Joe Turner took a tour of the site and had a “Eureka!” moment–why not close the street, have it transferred from the Public Works Department to Parks and Recreation, and use its land value as the local match for the federal grant. The politics and geography happened to be perfect: There were no houses on the street, it had no through access, and the one industrial user at the far end had another plant entrance it could use. And since no one before Joe Turner had ever offered to use the value of a street as a local match, the federal bureaucrats were surprised enough to say yes. (They’ve since rethought it and forbidden the maneuver, but the Houston handshake was grandfathered in.) Today Hidalgo Park is a much-improved 14 acres with unbroken access to the channel and views of the stupendous ships coming up to the Turning Basin.

Closing and beautifying streets that are not in parks is more difficult. Many cities, including Boston, Santa Monica, and New Orleans have turned one of their key downtown streets into a car-free zone, although in nearly all cases the motivation is less for casual, free recreation and clean air than for upscale shopping and dining. Portland, Oregon, however, did pull off a famous and extraordinarily successful “road-to-park” conversion. It involved the 1974 elimination of four-lane Harbor Drive, an expressway along the Willamette River that had been rendered redundant by a new interstate highway. Most cities would have given in to the strenuous remonstrances of their traffic engineers and kept highways along both sides of their river, but under the leadership of Mayor (later Governor) Tom McCall the old roadway was dug up and replaced by 37-acre Waterfront Park. The park opened in 1978, exactly three-quarters of a century after the concept was first proposed by planner and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., in his plan for Portland. Built for about $8.5 million, the park in its very first year was credited with stimulating an estimated $385 million in retail, office, hotel, and residential development in the vicinity. Later named after the visionary governor, Tom McCall Waterfront Park has since become Portland’s focal point for all kinds of activities and festivals.

Baltimore's 14-mile Gwynns Falls Trail used about six miles of underused roads along a scenic stream valley that are now popular with bikers, runners and other non-car users. Credit: Maria Carola.

Some cities, including Baltimore, El Paso, Chicago, New York, and Miami, have recently begun experimenting with the idea of once-a-summer or once-a-month road closures on regular city streets, following the example of the “ciclovias” that have become immensely popular in Bogota, Colombia; Quito, Ecuador; and several other Latin American cities. Called such things as “Summer Streets,” “Scenic Sundays,” “Walk and Roll,” and “Bike Days Miami,” the events often take place on cities’ most park-like streets (Park Avenue in New York, Scenic Drive in El Paso) and bring forth tens of thousands of people in an electrifying, community atmosphere in a domain normally dominated by cars. (The events are often initially organized and promoted by bicyclists but soon become so congested that they evolve into street festivals.)

Cities can permanently convert streets into park-like “Woonerfs,” a Dutch concept for neighborhood ways where pedestrians, bicyclists, and children are given priority over cars. (The name translates to “Home Zone,” which is what it is called in Great Britain.) While the concept has yet to fully establish itself in the United States, variants have surfaced. On downtown Asheville, North Carolina’s, Wall Street, the city installed brick pavers, bollards, benches, and lights so intertwined that they become an obstacle course that greatly reduces automobile speeds. Seattle is doing similar traffic calming in certain neighborhoods and is also adding numerous pervious areas and water-capturing features to add ecological benefits to these “street-parks.”

Park Roads that Have Been Closed to Automobiles, Selected Parks

Park City Road Name Miles Closure
Time
Year First Closed
Central Park New York Central Park Dr. 6 P 1966
Golden Gate Park San Francisco John F. Kennedy Dr. 2 P 1967
Prospect Park Brooklyn, N.Y. Prospect Park Dr. 3.5 P 1966
Gwynns Falls Trail Baltimore Ellicott Dr./Wetheredsville Rd. 6 F 1972
The National Mall Washington, D.C. Washington Dr. & Adams Dr. 2 F 1976
Rock Creek Park Washington, D.C. Beach Dr. 4 P 1981
Fairmount Park Philadelphia Martin Luther King Dr. 4 P 1982
Piedmont Park Atlanta Piedmont Park Dr. 2.9 F 1983
Washington Park Denver Marion Pkwy/Humboldt Dr. 2 F 1985
Overton Park Memphis Interior Rd. 2 F 1987
Griffith Park Los Angeles Mt. Hollywood Dr. 10 F 1991
Memorial Park Houston Picnic Loop 1.2 P 1994
Garden of the Gods Colorado Springs Gateway Rd. 0.25 F 1996
Brackenridge Park San Antonio Wilderness Rd. 1 F 2004
Fair Park Dallas First Ave. 0.25 F 2004
Pope Park Hartford, Conn. Pope Park Dr. 0.2 F 2005
Franklin Mnts St. Pk El Paso Scenic Dr. 2.6 P 2008
Kessler Park Kansas City, Mo. Cliff Drive 2.6 P 2008
Hampton Park Charleston, S.C. Mary Murray Dr. 1.5 P N.A.
F – Full-time; P – Part-time; N.A. – Not Available      
Source: Center for City Park Excellence, The Trust for Public Land, 2008      

To Form a More Perfect Union Station: Redesigning Columbus Plaza for Pedestrians

Union Station and Columbus Plaza. Credit: Rob Ketcherside (Flickr Feed).

Washington, D.C.’s Union Station is a major destination for tourists and commuters, with about 29 million people visiting it each year.  As a first glimpse of the city for many people traveling by rail or car, Union Station was designed as a grand entryway to the nation’s capital.  It’s classical Beaux-Arts architecture influenced other popular landmarks in Washington, D.C., such as the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.  But as public transit increases in the city, and the surrounding neighborhoods rapidly undergo redevelopment, it is clear that the 104-year-old-railroad facility needs a facelift.

We recently came across an article in The Washington Post about an 18-month reconstruction project to improve access and safety throughout Columbus Plaza in front of Union Station.  Many years in the making, the $7.8 million redesign will include new sidewalks and upgrades to the traffic signals to enhance the flow of pedestrians and vehicles throughout the plaza.  The plan also calls for eliminating a fishhook-shaped road that cuts through Columbus Plaza, restoring the plaza to its earlier appearance and allowing for easier pedestrian access to the station from the Capitol and other areas.  Additional transit improvements to the area include the very successful bicycle storage and rental facility added to the west side of the station, and laying tracks for the future H Street streetcar route that will terminate at Union Station.

As with any huge endeavor undertaken in Washington, D.C., there are many agencies and interested parties involved in this complex project, including the federal government (who owns Union Station), National Park Service (manages Columbus Plaza), city government (controls the roads), and the Architect of the Capitol (land on the other side of Massachusetts Avenue).  Other partners involved include Amtrak, Greyhound, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation.  And of course, any structural changes at all to Union Station must also take into account its historical prominence.

Because the “downtrodden appearance” of the plaza when compared to the magnificent train station often confuses the thousands of pedestrians and motorists who use it each day, locals and visitors alike are anxious to see how the reconfiguration will create a more welcoming transportation hub.  As Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, summed up, the idea is to have the space in front of Union Station “be more about a plaza and less about trying to walk across nine lines of vehicle traffic.”

Revitalizing D.C.’s “Forgotten River” with Parks and Trails

Urban rivers, though cities often owe them their very existence, are accustomed to neglect. The enduring image of the 1969 inferno on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, a catastrophe that helped launch the modern environmental movement, is perhaps the most striking example, though many others have suffered through less dramatic but equally devastating decay.

Washington, DC has been blessed with two rivers. The Potomac, though it suffers from pollution issues of its own (the Potomac Conservancy gave the river a D+ rating, in part because of the growing population of genetically mutated fishes),  provides the backdrop to the capitol’s most famous monuments and the springtime explosion of cherry trees. It’s also a hub of recreational activity, lined with parks and trails – one of which, the C&O Canal Trail, follows the river northwards for 184 miles.

The Potomac River looking towards the city center. Photo credit: Flickr user ktylerconk

The banks of the Potomac gained even more greenery with the recent completion of Georgetown Waterfront Park. The 9.5-acre, $24 million project, designed by renowned landscape architecture firm Wallace, Roberts, and Todd, makes the most of its cramped location under an elevated highway with dramatic lighting, a labyrinth, and an interactive fountain. Situated between two rowing centers, Thompson Boat Center and the Potomac Boat Club, it also includes a pergola and river stairs built to accommodate spectators of rowing regattas.

The recently completed Georgetown Waterfront Park. Photo credit: Flickr user NCinDC.

But there’s momentum growing across town, too.

D.C.’s other river, the Anacostia, which forms the southern tip of the city where it flows into the Potomac, has long been an afterthought. Its banks, and the neighborhoods around it, have suffered (a 2008 report by the DC Office of Planning puts median income in the area at 47% below the city’s average, and unemployment continues to far exceed that of the city as a whole).

It is in many ways the opposite of the esteemed Potomac, as captured in this Washington Post description:

“To most Washingtonians, the Anacostia is a very remote presence — that dirty glop of water under the 11th Street Bridge, the Potomac’s ugly cousin, the barrier that sets off the city’s poorer sections from Capitol Hill.”

Once forty feet deep and clear, it is now so choked with sediment and pollution that it is shallow enough to walk across in places.

But if it’s a waterway on life support, the prognosis is good. The Washington Post reports that over the past decade, Congress has appropriated $130 million for Anacostia cleanup. It is also the beneficiary of the District’s 5-cent tax on plastic bags dubbed the “Anacostia River Cleanup Initiative”. The program began in 2010, and has been a major success, dramatically cutting plastic bag litter, and raising $2.5 million for building trash-blocking grates and supporting local cleanup efforts.

Unfortunately, not every attempt to resuscitate the area has been as immediately impactful. Several high-profile efforts to revive the riverfront with parks and mixed-use development emerged just as the recession was beginning, and have since sputtered to a halt. One notable exception, though, is the Capitol Riverfront, a city-created Business Improvement District at the base of the Anacostia that in a few years has become home to over 3,000 residents, 35,000 daytime employees, and seven parks. Two are on the waterfront, including The Yards Park, a new 5.5-acre space with a popular water feature, a pedestrian bridge, and a riverfront boardwalk.

Map of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

Extending upwards from the Capitol Riverfront is a 16-mile system of trails on either side of the river in various stages of completion, dubbed the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. The Anacostia offers something to planners and developers that is increasingly rare, which is space. (The District’s population surged past 600,000 residents in 2010, during a growth spurt not seen since the end of World War II). Compared to the built-up areas along the Potomac (where it took 40 years from planning to construction to carve out less than 10 acres for the Georgetown Waterfront Park) the Anacostia offers a nearly blank slate for big, new ideas.

The Yards Park water feature. Photo credit: Flickr user Mr. T in DC

D.C. is not exactly starved of park acreage – 19% of its land is parks, the second highest among dense cities. The area to the east of the Anacostia is particularly park-dense, but the abundance of overall space masks some deficiencies that a well-connected system of riverfront parks could help address.

Most obvious is the demand for more trails and linear parks. The roads in Rock Creek Park are closed to cars on weekends, bringing huge numbers of walkers, runners, and cyclists into the park. West Potomac Park is bursting at the seams many weeknights, as packs of cyclists and runners wind their way around a 3-mile loop. And more important than the length of the Anacostia Riverwalk is the fact that its trails will link both sides of the river and be connected by a system of bridges (6 are planned or already have pedestrian access) which will allow users to create loops of various lengths.

Further, once completed, the Riverwalk could offer far more than the sum of its parts by leveraging the value of currently disjointed and underused parks along the river. The 446-acre National Arboretum, far from a Metro stop and difficult to reach by bike or foot, could greatly benefit from waterfront pedestrian access. And adding paths to Langston Golf course could better integrate it into the park system, as we discussed in a Landscape Architecture Magazine piece. Just to the south is Congressional Cemetery, through which paths currently run, a great example of integrating public use into a park-like space.

One of the more intriguing possibilities, to mirror the rowing-centric Potomac, is that the Anacostia could offer a place for exploring the city by kayak. Portions of the Potomac are already popular amongst white-water kayakers as well as those who prefer more placid waters, and numerous cities (see Milwaukee, Houston, and Detroit) have established water trail systems that are closely integrated with riverfront parks.

And for the boldest visionaries, there is RFK Stadium, which sits in the middle of the riverfront and is maybe the most conspicuously underused space in the area. A recent article in the Washington Post invited thinkers to discuss the future of the mostly-unused, fifty year-old stadium, and four of the five contributors pondered its potential as a park (often mixed with mixed-use development), offering active amenities like rock climbing or a velodrome to complement the mostly passive recreation areas alongside the riverbanks.

With development starting from scratch in many areas, there is a unique opportunity to create and improve parks in concert with development and transit improvements. The popular Circulator bus routes recently began operating in Anacostia, and the streetcar system that is set to start running through northeast DC along H Street, which is helping to drive the revitalization of the area, may one day cross into Anacostia on the 11th Street Bridge.

Bike trails along the Anacostia. Photo credit: Flickr user TrailVoice.

Anacostia already has many acres of parkland, but amenity-rich, well-connected riverfront parks are a totally different creature in terms of development potential. There is no shortage of inspiring precedents for an overhaul of the Anacostia and its parks:

  • In Minneapolis, a $55 million in investment in parks on the previously industrial riverbanks, along with $150 million in other public improvements, leveraged $1.2 billion in private investment and the creation of thousands of jobs and new residential units.
  • Houston is putting its system of Bayou greenways (expected to cost $490 million) at the forefront of its efforts to attract a young, well-educated population, and a recent study led by John Crompton estimated an annual return of $117 million.
  • Columbus turned a 160-acre brownfield along the banks of the Scioto River into an urban outdoors destination, featuring a climbing wall, an Audubon center, access for watercraft, and trails that lead to the Scioto Mile in the downtown core. Now the nearby Brewery District is witnessing a revival in residential development.
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee was labeled as having the dirtiest air in the country in 1969, and during the 1980’s the city lost 10% of its population. Its dramatic turnaround (it was just celebrated in Outside magazine as the best city to live in, alongside the titans of outdoorsy urban meccas like Portland and Seattle) is in large part attributable to the park-centered $120 million redevelopment of its riverfront and downtown.

With a consortium of 19 agencies comprising the overarching Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, and the slowdown in real estate since the recession, it’s no surprise that development is occurring ploddingly. But as the river itself is cleaned and its channels deepen, there’s a growing sense that so too is the commitment of the city to making the Anacostia a springboard for livable urban development.

Bike Sharing Stations to Come to National Mall

The National Mall in Washington, D.C. will soon have bike sharing stations. Credit: Mr. T (Flickr Feed).

Last week, Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare celebrated its one millionth ride, just in time for its one year anniversary. The nation’s capital is the first community in North America to offer a government-sponsored bike sharing system. Capital Bikeshare is extremely popular, attracting over 18,000 members in the past year. This milestone warranted a party, so the “1st Birthday Bash,” coinciding with Car Free Day, was held in one of D.C.’s newest waterfront parks, Yards Park.

We’ve written before about bringing bike sharing programs to parks, and the success of Capital Bikeshare has led to plans of 60 additional stations in the District as well as Arlington, VA in the next six months. There are even plans to expand northwards and add stations in Rockville and Shady Grove, MD.

But even more exciting than adding stations to the suburbs, The Washington Post reports the National Park Service is allowing Capital Bikeshare to have stations on the National Mall beginning next year. Hopefully this will be the stepping-stone for opening stations in other national parks, including Anacostia Park and Rock Creek Park, increasing usership to them. The National Park Service is also considering adding bike sharing stations to the numerous other circles, squares, and triangle properties they own throughout the District.

For the 10 million annual visitors to the National Mall, these bright red bicycles cannot come soon enough. Currently the closest bike sharing stations can be up to a half-mile away from the most popular tourist and recreational attractions. Eradicating this “bike-share desert in the heart of the District” could only mean increased usership for locals and tourists alike. And because the National Park Service has goals of promoting increased and safer bicycle usage around the Mall, as indicated in the National Mall Plan, adding more bicycle lanes or trails to this area would go in tandem with bike sharing stations.

Placing bike sharing stations in parks will not only bring additional users to city parks, but help increase connectivity to parks and other recreational destinations throughout the city. Encouraging commuters to bicycle through parks as part of their daily route would increase mental as well as physical health. And with the District Department of Transportation giving away 500 helmets to frequent Capital Bikeshare riders, as well as local hotels lending helmets to tourists, safety will come first too.

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