A Complete Guide to DC’s 1st Annual Tour de Fat

NEXT SATURDAY, June 16th, The New Belgium Brewing Company, makers of Fat Tire Ale, and WABA are hosting the biggest, most fanciful, bicycle celebration of all time. And for the first time ever it’s coming to DC! We’re going to celebrate bikes, make some new friends, and sip on a couple of cold, Rocky Mountain barley pops–all in the name of local bike advocacy! The Tour de Fat benefits WABA, MORE (Mid-Atlantic Offroad Enthusiasts), Black Women Bike DC, and FABB (Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling). Before the big day we want to make sure you know all the event details so that you and your friends come prepared, because a) you can’t miss this, and b) you must come prepared.  

Vital Details

WHEN: Saturday, June 16th, 9am – 4pm WHERE: The Yards Park COST: FREE with $5 suggested donation REGISTRATION: on-site

SCHEDULE: 9:00am – Parade Registration 9:00am – Free Bike Valet 10:00am – Bike Parade 11:00am –  Main Stage 12:00pm – Slide Show 12:00pm – Slow Ride 1:30pm –  Bike Trade 3:30pm – De Finale!

How to Get to the Tour de Fat

WITH OLD FRIENDS: By bicycle, of course! The Yards park is located at 10 Water St. SE, Washington, DC near the National’s Stadium. . For those traveling from far and away, it is advised that you find parking far from Yards Park. Parking in the area will be extremely limited due to the Yankees/National’s baseball game. WITH  NEW FRIENDS:  A number of local shops and organizations are leading convoy rides down to the park. We will update this list as convoy information becomes available. – Alexandria BPAC: One-way group ride departing at 8:30am at St. Elmo’s (2300 Mt Vernon Ave, 22301) RSVP to Bruce Dwyer, oiubike@gmail.com

What to wear

For those who’ve never participated, this is indeed a COSTUME AFFAIR. Costumes are enthusiastically encouraged!!  For some inspiration, check out this montage of photos from Tour de Fat’s of yore.

What to expect

The time of your life PARADE:  We will show off our rides and our bike pride by taking a short and slow cruise along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail FREE BIKE VALET:No need to bring your heavy U-lock, the folks at MORE are providing safe and secure bike parking all day long. MUSIC: Featuring Mucca Pazza, Ian Cooke, and Yo-Yo People GAMES: We don’t want to giveaway all the surprises, but we heard for one of the games, New Belgium’s creative genius’ constructed life-size Jenga. Yes, life-size. BIKE PIT: Imagine if instead of creating candy, Willy Wonka created bicycles. PERFORMANCES: Le Tigre’s whimsical ways will woo us all day long.

How to prepare

Start mixing up your papier-mâché pulp, pull out that tutu from your college years, give your bike a quick tune-up, and invite your friends to the biggest bike festival DC has ever seen.

700 Bicycles Parked at the Solar Decathlon Bike Valet

035Whoever said that cyclists in Washington, DC can’t deal with rainy weather never made it out to see all the bikes parked at the Solar Decathlon this past weekend. Cyclists ignored the cold and layered up as they brought along their families to check out the innovative solar powered houses at the National Mall West Potomac Park. With this year’s event being located far away from the closest metro station and long lines to board the free shuttle bus to get to and from the Solar Decathlon, getting there by bike was the best option. WABA would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to all the volunteers who came out and helped park 700 bicycles at the 2011 Solar Decathlon.  We would also like to thank the US Department of Energy and Perkins + Will for your support.

Best way to get to the Solar Decathlon: On a Bike!

The 2011 United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon brings twenty college teams from the around the country and world to compete this month in Washington DC to build the most energy efficient solar powered house.  The project teams have been working for the past two years to design, build and transport an 800 square foot house to be judged in 10 different categories (hence a decathlon) including engineering, architecture, communications and more. Traditionally held on the National Mall, this year’s Solar Decathlon will be held in West Potomac Park on Ohio Dr SW in Washington, DC.  The competition was required to move for 2011 because of the ongoing rehabilitation of the Mall.  As a result, getting to the Solar Decathlon will take a bit more planning this year.  Organizers will run a shuttle from the Smithsonian Metro stop every 15 minutes between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm on weekdays and from 9:30 am and 6:30 pm on weekends.  Be warned however, that it will be crowded!  Alternatively, you could walk the approximately 1.3 miles from the Smithsonian Metro Station or 1.5 miles from the Farragut West Metro Station (each way).  But, don’t even think about driving!  Only a few first-come, first-served parking spots will be available and we’re guessing traffic will be up to the DC standard: terrible! But don’t fret – you can always go by bike!  We’ve mapped out eight bike routes with cues sheets from different parts of the region.  The routes begin in Vienna, Arlington (Ballston), Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, Capitol Hill, National Harbor and Alexandria.  The cue sheets are available to print off in PDF format with turn-by-turn directions and approximate mileages.  Google Maps has directions for bicycling to produce your own cue sheet if you are coming from another part of the region.  It should also be noted that bicycles are allowed on the Metro all hours except during weekday morning rush hour (7:00am – 10:00am) and evening rush hour (4:00pm – 7:00pm), which provides the option to ride just one way if you get tired or if the weather turns bad. And when you get to the Solar Decathlon, WABA will be running a free bicycle valet for you! The valet will be located near the southern end of Solar Village near the welcome tent.  Our bike valet service works just like the coat check at your favorite fancy restaurant: roll up to the valet, drop off your bike and go enjoy the event secure in the knowledge that your bike is safe with our staff and volunteers.  When you are ready to go, bring your claim ticket back to the valet, retrieve your bike and ride safely home.  We do ask valet users to please plan on collecting your bike at least 15 minutes before the valet is scheduled to close.  If you forget, you just might get a friendly reminder phone call or text message from us.  There will also be an ample number of bike racks around Solar Village if you prefer to lock up yourself (use a U-Lock!). The valet will be open the following times:
  • Thursday, Sept. 22 – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 23 – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 24 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 25 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 30 – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 1 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m
Learn more about the Solar Decathlon at solardecathlon.gov and about WABA’s bicycle routes and valet for this event at waba.org/events/solardecathlon.php.  We would like to thank Perkins + Will for their generous support of the Solar Decathlon and the bicycle valet. Take our advice – bike to the Solar Decathlon!

Call for Bike Valeters

WABA is proud to partner with the Nation’s Triathlon again this year to provide our bike valet service for over 5,000 triathletes, and we need your support! Without the helping hands and smiling faces of volunteers like you events like this wouldn’t be possible. Every year WABA members and supporters volunteer to check tens of thousands of bikes at local events like the Casey Trees Open House, to the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Bike valets are a great opportunity for WABA members and supporters  to get involved, support your regional bike advocacy organization and have a good time.  Join us for an afternoon of checking in bikes, checking out bikes and talking about bikes! Please consider volunteering at  The Nation’s Triathlon Bike Valet! Check out our sign-up page for more information. **volunteers at this valet will receive a free T-shirt and snacks from the Triathlon’s organizers. And you know the deal, those who volunteer with WABA 3 times per year receive a free annual membership!


WABA will be staffing the valet at the Marriott Wardman Park during Course Briefings, Packet Pick-Up & Registration.

Dates and Shifts

Friday, September 9th from 11am to 4pm (Shift full). To sign up for Friday, September 9th from 4pm to 8pm, click here. To sign up for Saturday, September 10th from 9:30am to 3pm, click here. To sign up for Saturday, September 10th from 3pm to 8pm, click here.

Upcoming Spring Bike Valets

NCBF valetWABA is hosting a variety of bike valets this spring, and we’d love to see you out there! We’ll be at the following locations through April:
  • National Cherry Blossom Festival: Saturdays and Sundays throughout the festival (March 26/27, April 2/3, and April 9/10). We’ll be at the Jefferson Memorial from 10am-6pm each day, though the racks will be available all three weeks, and unattended racks will be available at the other location at 14th and Independence. Check out our Cherry Blossom Festival page for more information.
  • Fireworks during the Cherry Blossom Festival, sponsored by PN Hoffman: Saturday, April 2 from noon to 10pm. We’ll be stationed at the Southwest Waterfront (7th and Water St., SW), so leave your bike with us, enjoy the festival and fireworks, and bike home safely after you’re done.
  • National Sustainable Design Expo: Saturday, April 16 from 10am to 5pm and Sunday, 17 from 10am to 3 pm. The expo will be on the National Mall and will bring together students, scientists, engineers, and business leaders whose innovative technologies are designed to advance economic growth while reducing environmental impact.
We need 4-8 volunteers for each one of our bike valets, and we’d love your help. Check out our events page for more information, and email kevin@waba.org with questions or to sign up for a shift or two!

The Economics of the Bike Valet


Bikes parked at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration

We announced on Facebook earlier today that we will not be able to provide a bike valet for the Stewart/Colbert Rally this weekend, and have since been inundated with calls and emails asking why. The short answer is: parking isn’t free. Not even for bikes. We can run valets of all sizes, and our determination of whether we can do the valet comes down to a combination of the following factors: (1) Is the valet needed & will it encourage folks to bike? (2) Can we find a way to ensure we will cover our costs? (3) Will we be able to make a little money to put toward our advocacy and outreach efforts? Bike valets are a balancing act. Sometimes we’ll accept the loss of a little money if it means we can encourage a ton of people to bike. Sometimes we’ll do a valet where we don’t think it will be heavily used if it allows us fund further bike advocacy efforts or WABA programming. But as the scale gets larger, the risks go up for us. We have enough racks stored at strategic locations around the city that we can handle the valet for neighborhood events on the scale of the H Street Festival or Adams Morgan Day. But when the numbers start reaching into the thousands, we have to find auxiliary bike racks. And while we can use our few hundred feet of snow fencing to ensure the security of a small rack, we have to use real event barriers for the larger valets. And with all that equipment comes rental fees. And rental fees for the vehicles to carry them, as we can no longer carry them by bike. And extra time to pickup, set up, take down, and return the equipment. Then there’s the staff time to do all this prep work. And printing of valet tickets and supplies. (Not to mention permits to operate at the event in the first place, outreach to let folks know where the valets are located, and the million phone calls to coordinate all the logistics.) Phew. But all that said, we LOVE to do it. We think valets are a huge inducement to event attendees to choose to go by bike, and that’s what we’re all about. WABA is extremely proud of its valets. We do them the most professionally and reliably. And we’re especially proud to have done the largest single-day bike valet in the nation for the President’s 2009 Inauguration. But it takes time. It takes coordination. And it takes money. Just like event organizers have to pay for the toilets or go without, they have to pay for the bike valet or go without. The only difference is that I don’t think the toilet guys really care if Jon Stewart’s rally has a toilet. We tried REALLY hard (as our Facebook fans know) to do this valet because we REALLY want people to be able to arrive by bike. But it didn’t work out this time. If you want bike valets in the future, let event organizers know that you expect it. And let NPS know that you’d like to see bike parking considered when they’re granting permits for giant rallies and events in our backyard. (And while on the topic, we would be remiss not to thank the DC Department of Transportation for its longstanding support of bike valets. They are the reason that DC has historically been so well-served by bike valets at events on the National Mall, and have helped us get to the point that the bike valet is expected at major area events. They have frequently stepped in to cover WABA’s costs for these services when the organizations hosting the events and the federal agencies overseeing the events have balked at providing a much-demanded service.) But it’s time for event organizers to realize that for these large-scale events, bike parking soon won’t be just another optional amenity, but will be a logistical necessity. Like toilets.

Bike Valets, Bike Racks, and WABA’s Parking Efforts

When we first heard of Jon Stewart’s plans for a “Rally to Restore Sanity” in Washington, DC, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to The Daily Show offering a bike valet during the event and re-posted it on Facebook.  In addition to a great deal of support for the idea from our friends, we’ve gotten a fair number of questions about valets and about bike parking in general.  (What we haven’t gotten is any response from the event organizers–but we’re still hopeful.) But I wanted to take this opportunity to explain WABA’s bike parking efforts and how they fit into our overall mission: First and foremost, we want people on bikes.  And we do everything we can to eliminate barriers or impediments to cycling.  Sometimes that includes advocacy campaigns for better street design.  Sometimes it means fighting for stronger enforcement of safety laws.  But in some cases, it just means giving people a safe place to put their bikes once they get where they’re going. Bike Valets: For large events expected to draw a substantial number of cyclists to the same space, we host bike valets.  Essentially, a bike valet is a cordoned-off area with sturdy, portable racks.  You show up, hand the bike to the valet staff or volunteer, sign your name and cell number, and we watch your bike for the duration of the event.  You don’t need a lock, you don’t need to compete for rack space, and you know someone is keeping an eye on your bike. For us, valets are a rather significant logistical undertaking involving moving many racks (usually by bike), setting up fencing, organizing check-in and check-out, and ensuring staff and volunteer coverage for the entire event.  (Most folks who try to do it themselves once decide to let us handle it the next time.)  But for you, it’s meant to make arriving by bike easier than any other mode of transportation by taking away the parking-related stress entirely. Our costs for providing valets are generally covered by the event organizer and any profit goes to fund WABA’s advocacy and educational activities.  So one way to help WABA as an organization is to ask event organizers to include WABA valets.  And where there is a valet, please use it. Bike Racks: More recently, WABA has begun a program, in partnership with DDOT, of installing bike racks in the District.  At the outset, we are focused on installing racks in locations where they have already been requested through DDOT.  But we soon hope to be able to provide secure rack installation as a fee-for-service program, with all proceeds again going to fund advocacy and education.  Our partners at Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling have also submitted an application for grant funds to allow them to install a limited number of racks in Fairfax County, VA.  So we are hopeful that our capacity to install permanent racks in response to user demand will grow rapidly with the support of property owners and local jurisdictions. Bike Parking Expertise: If you have questions about bike parking, need advice on how to configure your setup, or want feedback from a guy who has researched the options, managed the parking of thousands of bikes, and locked his own bike to nearly every type of rack/sign/and possibly tree in the District, please contact our Bike Parking Program Coordinator, Danny Koniowsky, at danny@waba.org.