Last night, crowds gathered at the White House to celebrate the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces. Capital Bikeshare played a significant role in getting people there quickly.

Reader Graham Katz logged on to a bikeshare usage tracking map, which showed a major shift in bikes toward stations close to the White House. Erik Weber noticed the same using his Spotcycle app.

Left: Image of Oliver O’Brien’s app by Graham Katz. Right: Image of Spotcycle by Erik Weber.

Many others apparently couldn’t find docks or didn’t want to take the time to detour, so people just kept bikes with them or left them sitting nearby. Hopefully they all made it back to docks at the end of the night, even if individual people ended up taking each other’s bikes.

Bikes in the crowd. Photo by David Garber.

Bikes sitting near the White House. Photo by Stephen Miller.

One of bike sharing’s advantages is that it’s very flexible. Unlike buses or trains, bike sharing can operate at full capacity at any hour of the day, even in the middle of the night when a special occasion warrants it.

On the other hand, unlike buses or trains, it can’t move huge numbers of people in the same direction at the same time, which commuters need. That’s why having a mix of different transit modes is the best policy.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.