I have a Hungarian friend, Charlie, who works at a catering agency in Washington, D.C., and he is NOT looking forward to next week. The U.S. capital expects a record crowd for the inauguration of Barack Obama -- an estimated 3 million visitors to a city whose permanent population is less than 600,000. Not that Washington, D.C. is a stanger to big crowds, but this will be something else altogether.
Charlie stands to make some good money waiting tables or tending bar at one of the scores of inaugural parties and balls on the docket. Despite this, he's dreading the event and the days leading up to it because the crowds on the streets will be practically impenetrable. I guess we can imagine something like St. Stephens Day and the Sziget Festival all rolled into one and crammed into a city somewhat larger than Győr.
One of the major problems is the shortage of parking. With America having crappy train service and air travel being expensive and hassle-ridden, most visitors will come by car. City authorities have enlarged the no-parking zone around downtown to make way for people, and also for the thousands of charter buses that need someplace to unload. You can imagine that thousands of motorists will idle hours on end in traffic jams trying to find a parking spot within walking distance of downtown.
There's a remedy to this situation, and you probably won't be surprised what it is: bicycling. Some quick thinkers at the Washington Area Bicycle Association put together a one-off bicycle valet service (not unlike what they've had at the Sziget Festival in recent years), with two stations in the downtown area. People who bike into the city can leave their bikes free-of-charge in a secure, guarded parking station -- and pick up a commemorative inauguration spoke card if they get there in time.
It seems there's not much that can't be readily solved with bicycles.