Below The Beltway

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My Advice ? Just Stay Home

by @ 3:40 pm on January 16, 2009. Filed under Inauguration Day 2009, Washington DC

Don’t count on being able to get anywhere near the District on Tuesday morning:

With extensive road and bridge closures sharply curtailing personal vehicle travel into the District, Inauguration Day’s predicted traffic nightmares could be pushed into the Washington suburbs, with motorists jockeying for spaces at outlying Metro stations and visitors vying for spaces on trains into the city.

And as visitors flood the region, workers in the suburbs will have to fight the current just to get to work. As for running to the drugstore or doing other errands, forget it.

“I think anyplace there can be a jam, there will be a jam,” said Montgomery County Council member Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty).

Which may be one reason that some people are looking at less conventional commuting options:

Nathan Nahikian had what he thought was a brilliant plan to get from his Arlington house to downtown Washington to see Barack Obama sworn in as president. Bridges closed to personal cars from Virginia? No problem. Metro trains bursting with humanity? Pass. He was going to break out the kayak and paddle across the Potomac.

As a guy who teaches people how to kayak for a living, Nahikian knows the river well. He has even helped his wife, who works at a Georgetown law firm, devise a kayak commuter route on heavy traffic days. So he figured the trip would be a piece of cake.

Stephanie Morrisette, a wetlands biologist/professional roller derbyist who is flying in for the inauguration from Northern California, checked out the city maps and secure zone restrictions online and saw nothing about good old-fashioned roller skates. “I’m not worried about getting around people or through people, because I deal with that all the time with the crowd at bouts,” she said. Her partner, John Henry Dale, will be riding his skateboard to keep up.

As the big day draws near, inauguration goers have been seized with logistics planning. The talk is all about strategy to beat the crowds, avoid the traffic headaches and navigate around a complicated phalanx of hard and soft secure zones, barricades, cops, cones and street closings. “We want people to think outside the box,” Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation urged recently.

They have.

Calls have flooded Rep Burks’s Segway rental store in the District. “People get excited about taking a Segway to the inauguration,” he said. A Segway is one of the few private vehicles that will be allowed, like bikes, on city streets and across bridges. “But then they find out they can’t get inside the secure zone with it, and they realize it’s not such a great option.” Segways, like bikes, strollers and other wheeled vehicles, are not allowed near the Mall or parade route.

But even if they were, Burks’s Segways have all been snapped up by Obama’s people.

Some people’s transit plans, if drawn on a map, would take on the distinct shape of a pretzel.

Instead of doing that, though, the best thing to do is stay home, stay warm, and watch everyone else freeze to death.

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