Bikeshare advocates concerned about threatened Capital Bikeshare trail

When I heard that bicyclists would be housed near the bustling Capitol Street business district, my first thought was “eventually … just a matter of time.” I was right, if the days counted days, weeks, months, perhaps even years. You see, the story of a bike path along the Southwest (U) Branch of the Anacostia (B) is the same as a bike path along the Intwalaqor (N) Branch of the Anacostia (B) – namely, that in spite of numerous promises to properly plug the holes, nothing has been done.

The Capital Bikeshare program – the private bike rental company’s attempt to appeal to Washington’s bike enthusiasts – began in 2011 and grew to a fleet of 50-plus bikes by 2012. With the demise of Capital Bikeshare (at least temporarily), the Capital Bikeshare Trail, the name given to a part of the Capitol South Bike Path that extends westward from Langley Park, has remained the only protected bike path in the District.

However, cycling enthusiasts fear that the Capital Bikeshare Trail, which is only 3.6 miles, will ultimately become a parking lot since Capital Bikeshare is leasing bike parking spaces from the D.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) only on a year-to-year basis.

“Do you really think they’re going to do an exclusive agreement for 10 years?” said Jeff Pesta, an attorney and bicycle advocate. “They’re a struggling company that’s going to try to maximize profit from it to keep it operational. They don’t have a track record. So, if we think the city will take them seriously and also put in that $150,000 to $200,000 of upgrade as well … D.C. hasn’t done anything with that.”

The Capital Bikeshare Trail, which is about to become busier, was also built in the last 50 years during an era when more natural storm drainage was being installed, thus making the need for natural storm protection far less. “That path was built to go for a minimum of 100 years,” Pesta said. “But the path was built during that time when the cost of water treatment was much lower.”

Pesta asked whether bicyclists who take the Capital Bikeshare Trail regularly would really “lose 70 miles of dedicated biking routes because Capital Bikeshare can operate as a parking lot?”

He has concerns about the trail being turned into a “Pedestrian Park” because the path is not well-trafficked, too close to high-traffic areas, lacks parking, and would likely be subject to closing at certain times due to a lack of ridership.

“At some point, it’s going to be unbearable for many people if it becomes a parking lot,” Pesta said. “That’s part of the value of a protected bike path. You don’t have someone parked out front with a bike and a hammer.”

Bike enthusiasts feel that Capital Bikeshare would be forced to eliminate the Capital Bikeshare Trail at some point. But, until that day, there is little that could be done to “completely” protect the Capital Bikeshare Trail because the existing path is currently situated close to buildings and property boundaries, and vehicles routinely drive along it.

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