David Jordan recently wrote a letter to the editor in the Post
To observe Memorial Day this year, I decided to go to Arlington National Cemetery.
Assuming the worst for traffic, I rode my bicycle. I was riding on the road, like any other vehicle. (The cars were packed bumper to bumper approaching the cemetery's entrance.) But just past the visitors center I was pulled over by private security guards in a Jeep. They told me that bicycles are not allowed in the cemetery.
How could it be possible that bicycles are not allowed on the roads of Arlington Cemetery? When cars and SUVs of all sizes are directed by "helpful" traffic specialists, is it too much to ask that bicycles be afforded the same consideration? Of all the places in Washington, where the words "freedom" and "liberty" are uttered frequently, it seems especially sad and ironic that anyone seeking to pay his respects would be denied the opportunity simply because he wasn't in a car.
I can understand Mr. Jordan's annoyance if he felt drivers were getting preferential treatment, but in this case, it's unwarranted. I contacted the Cemetery and they replied:
No personal vehicles are allowed in the cemetery, unless you are attending a funeral or visiting a loved one’s grave. This applies to bicycles, as well. If you are visiting the cemetery for any other purpose, you are allowed to ride a bicycle to the Visitors Center and park it, just as you are allowed to drive your personal vehicle to the Visitors Center and park in the Visitors Center parking lot. In addition to the more than 4 million tourists that visit Arlington each year, we average between 27 and 30 funerals a day and anywhere from 4 to 5 funerals an hour. You can imagine the challenges with funeral traffic alone – from the vehicles in each funeral procession to the cemetery vehicles that come in to prepare and close the gravesites to the vehicles and buses that transport the military ceremonial troops to and from each service. Thus, traffic in the cemetery is closely monitored, not only in order maintain the decorum appropriate for a national cemetery, but for safety purposes as well.
So this isn't a case of allowing cars where you don't allow bikes. While I could see the utility in allowing biking in the Cemetery - or through the Cemetery to 2nd Street South, and I've been critical in the past of cemeteries that don't allow bicycle-through traffic, Arlington is different. I think it's reasonable to ask cyclists and drivers to park and walk (or use the shuttle).
It would be helpful if Arlington included this information (about who can drive/bike in the Cemetery and who can't) on their website, but this isn't a case of discrimination. If anything, cyclists get preferential treatment, we can - after all - park for free. Drivers pay $1.75/hour for the first three hours, and $2.00/hour thereafter.
Bike Arlington has this about Arlington National Cemetery:
Usually, bicyclists are permitted to use certain routes within the Arlington Cemetery, Fort Myer, Henderson Hall and Pentagon military reservations. However, security and safety concerns may arise at any time that result in the closure of those facilities to non-military personnel. Bicyclists should monitor conditions and be prepared to use alternative routes if necessary. While bicycling in military facilities:
- You must wear a helmet and have a picture ID.
- You may only cycle through Arlington National Cemetery after a security check at Fort Myer. This means that you cannot enter from Memorial Drive; you can only enter the Cemetery from Fort Meyer.
- The route marked in yellow on the map, through the fort and cemetery, is the only route that the military allows cyclists on. Bicyclists should stay on the designated routes and obey all traffic laws and military rules.
- At twilight and at night you must have reflectors showing.
But the map only shows a route through Fort Myer.
Update: This morning, the Post published a couple of responses that hit on a few of the points in here.
I understand his frustration at being denied entry on a bicycle, but perhaps some enlightenment would help. In the 1990s, there was a request to open the cemetery to cycling commuters who were looking for a shortcut to work. Along with many others, I strongly protested this request, for obvious reasons: Arlington National Cemetery is a sacred place, and it should be treated with reverence and respect. The prospect of bicycling commuters using it as a way to get to work was abhorrent.
If he had wanted to visit the cemetery on foot, I'm sure he would have enjoyed it and could have found a spot to leave his bicycle.
I'm not sure it rises to the level of abhorent. I bike past Arlington on the trail along the NE side and used to ride along the south edge all the time (all within view of the highway-encircled Cemetery) so it isn't much different from that. Perhaps inappropriate is a more measured term. I don't blame Jo Williamson for not knowing that you can't walk on Memorial Day weekend - I didn't - but in this one case it wasn't an option (neither was biking or driving unless you were visiting a loved one's grave).
The second letter stated the concern I originally thought was the justification for banning bikes
Allowing even well-intentioned cyclists would set a precedent that could lead to this sacred ground becoming an exercise track.
Of course, well-intentioned cyclists are allowed - if they're visiting a loved one's grave or attending a funeral.
Photo by M.V.Jantzen