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Cycling in National Cemetery: Yea or Nay?

4:49 PM EDT on June 2, 2009

Local D.C. issues aren't the stock in trade of Streetsblog Capitol Hill, but the Washington Post lately has been refereeing a debate that resonates on the national level: Is Arlington National Cemetery inhospitable to cyclists?

cemetery.jpgA Marine pedals through D.C.'s Congressional Cemetery. (Photo: M.V. Jantzen via Flickr)

The Post ran a letter to the editor on Friday that suggested as much, relaying the tale of a local resident named David Jordan who was prevented from pedaling to the military cemetery to observe Memorial Day. Jordan suggested that the cemetery's private security guards were discriminating against cyclists:

Of all the places in Washington, where the words "freedom" and"liberty" are uttered frequently, it seems especially sad and ironicthat anyone seeking to pay his respects would be denied the opportunitysimply because he wasn't in a car.

Today, the newspaper ran two letters responding to Jordan (viewable here and here). Both were sent by locals with family members interred at Arlington, and both expressed concern about bikers overrunning the facility if it were opened to them. One letter-writer worried that cyclists could turn the cemetery into "an exercise track".

As it happens, neither cars nor bikes are allowed to move freely through the grounds at Arlington. M.V. Jantzen A local blogger at WashCycle contacted the cemetery and found that cars and bikes are treated equitably when it comes to access issues.

The back-and-forth over cycling at Arlington appears minor on its face. But it could prove emblematic as lawmakers decide how to tackle bike and pedestrian access in the upcoming federal transportation measure.

With "complete streets" legislation poised for inclusion in that bill, it's important to re-frame the issue so cyclists and non-cyclists can feel like allies, not opponents. (Conservatives who blast bike initiatives as pork-barrel spending -- well, they can stay opponents.)

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