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!