Gridlock Everywhere: Congressional Impasse Shuts Down DC’s Trails

Some cyclists are ignoring the barriers erected by the National Park Service and using the Capital Crescent Trail despite the shutdown. Photo by someone named Ricky, who is friends with ## Bike Ambassador Pete Beers##.

Washington, DC’s bicycle commuters woke up this morning to find that one popular rail-trail was closed due to the government shutdown, which took effect at midnight.

The Capital Crescent Trail is the most heavily-used rail-trail in the United States, with more than a million users a year. Not just a weekend pleasure-ride spot, the CCT is thick with bicycles during morning rush hour as people use it as a safer and more pleasant bike-commuting alternative to DC’s congested streets. Now, the government would give them no choice — though the Washington Area Bicyclist Association reports that there’s little enforcement and intrepid bike commuters are using the trail despite the barriers.

Since this important bike route is managed by the National Park Service, it is part of the vast collateral damage of the embarrassing scenario unfolding on Capitol Hill. WABA warned yesterday that “all or part of the heavily-commuted Rock Creek Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and George Washington Memorial Trail are on NPS property” and could also be shut down, but early reports seem to indicate that they’re still open.

The 185-mile C&O Canal trail, which runs from DC’s Georgetown neighborhood to Cumberland, Maryland, is also closed.

The 185-mile C&O Canal Trail, which begins in Washington, DC, is closed. Photo tweeted by ## Arlington##

All roads are open during the government shutdown, except some leading into national parks, which are closed. In DC, this would include Rock Creek Parkway and other roads through the largest urban national park in the country — but, curiously, that key car-commuter route is still open. However, Rock Creek Park’s Beach Drive is closed to car traffic during the shutdown, so people who enjoy riding their bikes there on weekends, when drivers are normally kept out, will enjoy riding it today. That’s one nice trade-off for losing the CCT.

WABA was alerted to the possible Capital Crescent Trail shutdown yesterday, and bollards were put in place at the entrances to prepare to block trail traffic. The sections of the CCT within Montgomery County remain open, since they are owned by the county, not NPS.

DC has a disproportionate number of city parks under NPS, but certainly the shutdown will prevent people from using other popular off-road trails around the country, like this one in the Philly area. Where else are cyclists and pedestrian commuters being impacted?

  • KillMoto

    Well then, why aren’t federal highways closed today, hmmmmmmn Congress?

  • Jeff

    I assume Rock Creek Park and Mt. Vernon Trail were also blocked? This only highlights the problem with the DC region’s reliance on park pathways in promoting bicycle commuting. Alexandria, Arlington, Rockville, Bethesda and DC advocates need to make this a call to action for these communities to offer parallel on-road facilities. Doing so would also help eliminate winter time issues of lighting, snow removal and “park” closures.

  • TheWalkman

    Is the George Washington Parkway closed to cars?

  • VA Bicycling Fed.

    The Mt. Vernon Trail is open. Only the parking lots are closed — no crowds at Gravely Point today! Of course the Washington Memorial Pkwy. is open too…

  • kohl57

    Pathetic. Considering the utter neglect the NPS shows to the maintenance, policing and policy of these trails, it’s astonishing how efficient they can be in closing them to cyclists and other users while, of course, ensuring motorists can still race along Rock Creek Parkway etc at double the posted speed limit. Proof that sending these people home without pay may not be such a bad idea afterall. And proof cyclists should resist being banished to “paths” and assume their rightful place on the roads where they belong.

  • Anonymous

    Road within national parks are closed.

    The Interstate System is just coordinated at the federal level. States’ DOTs are the ones who built, and the ones who manage, these freeways. Shutdown doesn’t affect state-owned or state-operated infrastructure.

  • Erik Griswold

    Nothing a sledgehammer and an ax won’t fix.

  • Clay

    Advocating a sledgehammer and ax approach is absolutely wrong. Your inability to use this trail is not the fault of the NPS. If you want to be upset direct it toward congress. How gutless is it to legislate issues through an appropriation….if they had any self respect they would do so through the legislative process. Shutting the government down because they don’t get their way is disgusting. May they all rot. So if you want the trails to be open express your disdain for congress and force a reasonable CR.

  • david vartanoff

    No need to destroy property of THE CITIZENS. Just walk around/over the barriers. THIS is participatory democracy at its best. What should be shut down are the House Office Buildings. Perhaps a hack of the “smart meters” might be in order. At the very least, a sit in .

  • kohl57

    Sorry, it IS the fault of the NPS which within seconds of the shutdown all but put a tarp over the Grand Canyon in a transparent POLITICAL act. What’s so astonishing is that anyone in the NPS even knows where the CCT is.. they don’t do squat to maintain or police it, never have. But they are there in seconds with their dopey barrier and little signs. We OWN the federal property of this country not the politicized pencil pushers at the NPS.

  • belairnp

    just a thought for those that have commented thus far:
    Cyclists that are found riding on these roads/trails are being ticketed OR charged with trespassing!! Just saying, sounds like more at work here than NPS staff not working during the shut-down: there are revenue-generating and legal penalties.

  • kohl57

    thanks for that, first time I’ve heard this. But this is, in the end, political theatre by the NPS to maximize both the inconvenience and visuals during this shut down. They WANT to have footage and outrage over WW2 vets being refused access to their memorial, tourists unable to visit the Lincoln Memorial etc, cyclists, joggers and picnic makers thrown out of parks they, as taxpayers, already paid for. And all this was thought out and pre-planned well in advance… this stuff was shut down and closed off within minutes of the shut down.. when is the last time you ever saw the NPS or Federal Government that efficient?

  • belairnp

    lol….agreed. here is the press release stating as much, showing the forethought that went into this:

  • kohl57

    FYI, the Lincoln Memorial, Rock Creek Park etc. were NOT closed during the last shut-down 17 years ago, either. It was reported today the White House Office of Management and Budget ORDERED the NPS to close the WW2 Memorial and other sites. And there is already a Congressional investigation into the actions of the NPS over this. Meanwhile.. taxpayers… go and out and USE what you have already paid for. It’s yours not the NPS’

  • belairnp

    yes. I also read another article that certainly won’t make the “news” of the Liberal Media. The NPS has told private businesses dependent on the rivers (for example) that run through Federal/NPS parks, that they cannot use the rivers during the government shutdown.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    We own federal property and we elected congress to manage that property on our behalf. Congress many years ago decided to delegate the task of managing that property to the National Park Service, a regulatory authority, within some constraints of various laws they passed. This includes the ability to determine which of their activities are essential and non-essential when they are not funded by congress. They generally decided that visitors were non-essential while preventing permanent damage to the park was essential, this is why they still have guards but don’t allow visitors.

    Just because “we” own the land doesn’t mean that everyone and anyone can use the land however they want. If the National Park Service had money, then they could be more effective.

  • kohl57

    Twaddle. How do cyclists using Capital Crescent today “damage” it anymore than they did say last week before the shutdown? You must work for the Federal Government with that kind of logic. Most sensible people see through the charade and recognize it for what it is: pain politics and the NPS being used as a political tool of the White House. In the wake of this, I hope the NPS is stripped of its “stewardship” of many of these facilities by their unwarranted and blatantly political acts.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    I work in financial services for a company owned by private equity. Never have worked for the federal government.

    There may or not be damage but they don’t have the money to figure it out. By creating a nearly totally arbitrary distinction between “essential” and “nonessential” and assuming the lack of appropriations is temporary, they should be able to do whatever they want and err on the side of shutting down considering they arent being paid to do their job.

    What about the zoo? or the Smithsonian? or the Statue of Liberty? or processing WIC, or issuing new Social Security cards, or issuing unemployment report #s, or issuing drought warnings to farmers, or Air Traffic Control training, or the millions of other things the government should have the money to do? If you would rather every government service be deemed essential then I would agree, and say that the people doing those jobs should be paid.

    We can’t just keep open the parts of government that you want open. The road should be shut down too.

  • Jonathan Krall

    While it the sledgehammer approach isn’t one I might go for first, it is certainly valid. Social change works best when a variety of approaches are used and voices heard. The sledgehammer gets attention that can eventually be exploited by the “more reasonable” advocates.


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