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Locals navigate cherry blossom crowds during peak bloom

WASHINGTON — You want to see the beautiful cherry blossoms. You hate the idea of fighting that traffic. So would hoofing it or hopping on a bike solve the problem? Maybe not.

Last year, more than 18 million tourists flocked to the nation’s capital, and many of those came during cherry blossom season.

With Thursday’s mild weather and bright sunshine, and the pale pink blossoms reaching their peak, the crowds packed the sidewalks and roadways ringing the Tidal Basin all the way down to the tip of Hains Point.

Tony Kelly, a dedicated cyclist, hoped to get in a workout at Hains Point. The loop there is a favorite of cyclists thanks to its flat course and (usually) uncrowded pavement. Not on Thursday.

“After one and a half laps, it was just not tenable. There was just so much traffic,” Kelly says.

The problem wasn’t the behavior of the crowds, it was the sheer numbers.

Of the throngs of tourists, Kelly says, all were “fairly well behaved, all going slow, all doing the right thing.”

“It was just too congested,” he said.

One cyclist, who identified himself only as “Lupe” says, “It is kind of hard to move around through the traffic,” but keeping your cool and being polite help.

He says giving pedestrians a gentle heads up with a few well-placed “excuse me’s” make the going easier.

“You don’t necessarily have to be rude or anything,” he says.

Fellow cyclist Tanja Stroble says there were some short tempers among the crowd checking out the cherry blossoms.

“Yeah, we got yelled at,” she says.

Stroble and Lupe say they think the short tempers come from pedestrians and drivers who see someone on a bike and expect the worst.

“I think a little courtesy goes a long way,” she says.

When she sees a car with an open window, she will thank a driver for their cooperation or exchange some other pleasantry. Then she says, “people mellow out” as kind words take the edge off “because you know, traffic is stressful.”

Moises Miranda, who was riding along with Lupe and Stroble, says cyclists who typically head to Hains Point to get in some speedwork should skip it during peak cherry blossom season.

“Hains Point is good” but not when people are trying to slow down and enjoy the scenery, Miranda says.

“Everybody comes here and they’re focused on one thing.”

Local residents say while the crowds of tourists can generate some stress, it’s also nice to see others enjoying the beauty of the nation’s capital.

“The tourists just amaze me, how they come and get a thrill out of D.C.,” says Fatima Azeez.

Azeez was out for a lunchtime walk with her coworker, Deidra Lawson.

“It is nice to see all the people that come down and take advantage of all the things that sometimes we don’t,” Lawson says.

Azeez agrees, adding that the tourists bring fresh eyes to all the things that make D.C. special. She says she can’t help worrying on their behalf about one fact of life in D.C.

“I just hope and pray they’re parked in a good spot so they don’t get tickets!”

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