As we reported back in October, the National Mall is getting primed for a face lift, by way of a design competition. One of the questions that these competing designers must address is: How can the Mall area safely accommodate more people, especially during massive gatherings and rallies? And how can they do this without degrading its beauty?
One thing is obvious: more grass is not the answer. Though the Mall is known as “America’s Front Lawn,” its grassy turf can’t take the the constant pounding of visitors’ feet. With that in mind, the National Park Service, which operates the Mall, is removing three lawn areas in the Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets, Northwest and has proposed removing two more sections of lawn, near the Smithsonian Metro station, with gravel. It also hopes to widen walkways along the Mall.
Not only does the foot traffic on the Mall kill the grass, it degrades the turf’s drainage, so the Park Service will remove the topsoil, add a drainage layer and re-grade the surface. The new gravel walkways will come in handy, since the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) late last week approved preliminary and final site development plans to install the first five Capital Bikeshare stations on the National Mall.
The bikeshare stations will be placed at key destinations throughout the Mall, including at the Smithsonian Metro station, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The bikeshare program is a joint effort between the District of Columbia and Arlington County, Virginia, and the fleet has grown to more than 1,200 bikes and 130 bike stations since it launched in 2010 — in fact, the program has been so successful that it may expand to the DC suburbs.
Bikeshare programs have launched in most major U.S. cities within the past few years, and they’re proving popular among commuters and tourists alike. It seems likely that tourists would make up most riders on the National Mall. With the added mobility that bikes provide, tourist will be able to see more of the attractions along the Mall during a single visit.
As we’ve seen in bikeshare programs around the world, the bikeshare bikes are becoming increasingly tech- and design-focused. How long before the National Park Service begins to see the potential for including guided tours or erecting interpretive trails along the Mall as part of the bikeshare program? These could make it easier for tourists to learn about the Memorials as they roll past them.