Starting Thursday, large swathes of the area in DC around the National Mall, along with the Memorial Bridge, closed to cars, bikes, and pedestrians for the inauguration and related events. I had to rethink my commute on Thursday, but while I feared a difficult trip with barriers and police turning me around at unexpected points, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy and unremarkable it was.
The Secret Service and National Park Service (NPS) have set-up a "red zone" and "green zone" of street closures for Thursday and Friday. The red area is closed completely to cars and cyclists, while cyclists can pass through the green area at certain times (though pre-inaugural events closed the Mall all the way to the Potomac River on Thursday).
Many downtown streets are closed, you can't cross the Mall, and you can't use the Memorial Bridge
I bike commute from my home in northeast DC to Old Town Alexandria most days. My usual route takes me down the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT), past Union Station and along the Mall before I cut down to the 14th Street Bridge via Maine Avenue SW— in other words, I usually ride right through the closed red zone.
In addition to the closures on and around the Mall, the Memorial Bridge is closed to all traffic for concerts on Thursday and the inauguration on Friday. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a good list of the closures and when they occur.
For my ride, I opted to go through downtown DC and across the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, which carries I-66 over the Potomac, to reach the Mount Vernon Trail. Traffic across town appeared light and I did not see a single barrier or street closure on my ride.
The Memorial Bridge was eerily quiet when I passed on the Mount Vernon Trail.
Unfortunately, the NPS did not warn cyclists and pedestrians using the trail that the bridge was closed. I saw a number of other cyclists riding up to the bridge before being turned back by security.
Keeping with NPS's habit of prioritizing drivers over trail users (like plowing the road but not the trail when it snows and maintaining vehicle lanes despite demand for a wider trail), vehicles on the GW Parkway got a warning about the closure prior to the exit to the bridge.
I'll face all of the same closures, if not more, on my ride home tonight. I intend to use the 14th Street Bridge and circle around the Mall through southwest and southeast DC. And tomorrow, I'll work from home.
How has your commute been this week?