Bikeshare battle


It’s been less than a year since Capital Bikeshare expanded to Takoma Park but one of its stops immediately became a controversy.  Concerns about the Old Takoma Gazebo station’s impact on community art/performance spaces heated up throughout the winter and early this past January boiled over in the form of a petition to the Takoma Park City Council.

Bob Sheldon, an energy analyst and a member of the board of the Takoma Foundation, presented the petition. Sheldon’s an avid cyclist but he’s had harsh words for the station, going so far as to claim at a City Council meeting in November that it had “desecrated” the location.


The Bikeshare station location prior to the installment. Residents sit on a bench to watch a dance performance in 2013. Photo by Bill Brown


The same location showing the new Bikeshare station, March 2014. Photo by Bill Brown.

Sheldon’s argument is that having a Capital Bikeshare station at the gazebo interferes with its primary mission as a “performing arts base.”

“People sit where the Bikeshare racks are now to watch (shows)”, Sheldon said. “There are also tables that are set up to record sound and there used to be benches there to be able to look out and I think the performing arts space is disrupted by the use of the Bikeshare racks.”


Fire-dance performance December 2013 at the Gazebo plaza after Bikeshare installation. Bikeshare bicycle tires can be seen at far left of photo. Photo by Bill Brown.

Many of the businesses in Old Takoma have expressed opposition to the station’s current location. Sheldon’s recent petition included signatures from such businesses as Mark’s Kitchen, Roscoe’s Pizzeria, Amando and both of Takoma Park’s bicycle shops, The Green Commuter and Takoma Bicycle.

“Particularly the businesses that are directly across the street from it dislike the appearance of the Bikeshare racks at their current location,” Sheldon said. “It takes away from the beauty of the gazebo.”


Bikeshare station on the gazebo plaza. March 2014, Photo by Bill Brown.

Back in November, Sheldon asked City Councilman Seth Grimes and the city government to take a look at alternate locations elsewhere in Old Takoma. But he himself has some ideas about where to relocate the Capital Bikeshare station.

“They could go to Westmoreland (Avenue), there’s space there,” Sheldon said. “There’s space to the left of the gazebo, there are two parking places on Carroll Avenue right in front of the gelato place that could be used.”

Daniel Ginsberg feeds muffin to son Sam. Bike to Work Day volunteer Lucy Neher on right.

Bikeshare location on Bike to Work Day, May 2013 before the Bikeshare station was installed. Photo by Bill Brown.
But according to Takoma Park City Planner Erkin Ozberk, it’s not quite as simple as just moving the bike racks elsewhere in Old Takoma.

First off, there’s the challenge of finding spaces that would fit the dimensions necessary for a Capital Bikeshare stop.

“They’re about 42 feet long by seven feet wide and they also require additional space to dock the bike,” Ozberk said. “A rectangle that size is hard to find in the very compact area. So if it were to be moved, the space would need to be prepared through some various kind of construction in order to accommodate the station.”

Ozberk said that relocating the Bikeshare stop might require eliminating some street parking and because of the steepness of the location, creating a space for a stop elsewhere in Old Takoma Park might require removing trees and building a retaining wall, further driving up the cost of relocation.


Bikeshare station on the gazebo plaza. March 2014, Photo by Bill Brown.

But Ozberk also cited one other reason in particular why Takoma Park may be stuck keeping Capital Bikeshare’s Old Takoma stop where it currently is.

“The street itself is owned by the Maryland State Highway Administration and the park is owned by Montgomery County,” Ozberk said. “So if the city were to propose difficult changes to either of those areas, either the county or the state requires engineering designs that meet their standards and check all their boxes.”

One thing that should help solve some issues for cyclists in Takoma Park is the long-awaited, long-delayed opening of Capital Bikeshare’s stop at Takoma Metro Station two weeks ago. Ozberk said one of the initial concerns raised with the gazebo was that the Metro location would be better for Capital Bikeshare but he noted that the plan was always to have locations in both areas.


Bikeshare station on the gazebo plaza. March 2014, Photo by Bill Brown.

“There was just a bit of a lag with the DDOT and WMATA getting the station at the Metro,” Ozberk said. “I’m told there weren’t any Bikeshare stations on Metro property and so there was an agreement that took a little while to formalize to place Bikeshare stations at multiple Metro stations.”

That agreement allowed for the installation of Capital Bikeshare racks at several Metro stations, including Fort Totten, Rockville and Takoma.

“We’re happy to see it went up and folks are using it quite a bit already,” Ozberk said.

It remains to be seen when and if there will be a similar resolution with the gazebo issue.

About the Author

Alex Holt
Alex Holt is a first-year graduate student in the Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and a recent graduate of Ithaca College. When not at school, he lives in Baltimore, Maryland and he hopes to eventually pursue a career in sports journalism.

7 Comments on "Bikeshare battle"

  1. Susan Katz Miller | March 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm |

    I was unaware of the petition, but as a neighbor, a supporter and consumer of the arts, and someone who patronizes local businesses, I really hate this bike rack. I don’t feel like there was adequate public input on locations. (Although I strongly disagree with the idea of taking parking spaces from in front of Dolci Gelati. We need every single parking space since the opening of Republic). If we have bike stations at the Metro and library and junction, do we really need one in the middle of the crowded commercial district?

  2. Patty Barden | March 15, 2014 at 11:15 pm |

    I also feel that there was inadequate public input on locations. I feel that too much consideration was given to a poorly distributed survey on potential locations. The survey probably received little or no attention or response from citizens in locations that would have been better served by bikeshare–e.g., the north or east sides of Takoma Park near the recreation center where there are large apartment buildings. Some might blame the citizens who didn’t hear or read about the survey, or who didn’t respond–so their loss. However, why are decisions like this even made based on citizen surveys and not on more considered planning? I also agree that with stations at the Metro, library, and Junction, Old Takoma is more than served and clipping parking spaces for this won’t help anything.

  3. Susan: Part of the point of having Bikeshare — and what makes it work so well in downtown DC — is that you need stations to be near both start and end points. Put them too far away from those and no one will use them. Having one at the Metro station should absolutely NOT mean that the ones by the Gazebo should go away. If anything, it’s further reason to keep them there. It opens up the stores and businesses there even more, with people coming from the west of Downtown TP being able to hop a Bikeshare from the Metro to the center of town. (Or likewise from where the Co-Op is to the center of town.) Removing that station entirely or moving it too far away will negate the whole purpose of having Bikeshare in the area.

  4. Tom Gagliardo | March 16, 2014 at 11:12 pm |

    Who or what owns Capital Bikeshare? Do they pay for the space where stations are located?

  5. Takoma Bike Commuter | March 17, 2014 at 2:37 pm |

    I am a consumer of arts at the Gazebo and a bicycle commuter. I just don’t foresee the problems people seem to fear with the bikes at the Gazebo. That’s not to say, of course, that taking a parking space away for bikes at the intersection of Laurel and Carroll wouldn’t be better–it would. But frequently I’ve heard those same people who decry the gazebo location also say we couldn’t possibly get rid of a car parking space to put in the bikeshare station.

    Keep in mind that moving this station could cost up to $25,000. Are we unhappy because we don’t like the way it looks, or will it really interfere? I suggest we leave it where it is, see how it goes for a year or so, then, if it’s really a problem, move it.

    Change is hard in Takoma Park. Bikeshare is change, but mostly change for the good.

    • I think the specific location, directly in front of the Old Town Gazebo, was a poor choice for the Bikeshare docking station. I don’t remember seeing any notification or request for public input (possibly I missed it, but I usually watch for such announcements). I believe it takes away from the performance space, and will be particularly noticeable and problematic during the street festival, Independence Day Parade, and the Jazz festival.

      In addition, there would appear to be a much more obvious location for it just a little way to the east. Place it perpendicular to Carroll, along the pathway that leads down to the playground. It will still be quite visible, but not directly in the way for Gazebo activities. There’s no need to pave the grass, just use wood chips. If it’s good enough for kids on the playground, it should be okay under the bikes.

      And as for concerns about the money, let’s get the best site selected, then figure out the cost.

  6. Note that this issue is on the city council agenda Tuesday, March 18 in the form of a Safe Roadway’s Committee report that sets out the case for keeping the Bikeshare station where it is.

    – Editor

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