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D.C. area riders/commuters(11 posts)

D.C. area riders/commutersSteve98501
Oct 29, 2002 10:39 AM
I've read that several of you live and ride in the D.C. area. I visited my daughter there a couple weeks ago, taking her an upgraded classic Pinarello - it's rose colored if you see it. She's commuting on this now instead of her mountain bike and is loving the light road bike.

I've a question about commuting, however. There have been a number of threads about appropriate and legal riding technique in heavy commuting traffic. I talked with my daughter about the concepts described in Forrester's Effective Cycling. The commute she described kind of scares me, but I live and ride around the capitol of the "other" Washington. She rides down 14th, a one-way street. The right lane is too washboardy for safety, so she uses the left lane, which seems OK. But at the intersection at the bottom of the hill it splits into 3 lanes, and she bobs into the middle, going to the front, because, as she says, "it's all gridlock." She takes a right on M but has to weave among the parked or barely moving cars to get into the left turn lane to catch the Key bridge over to Arlington. This kind of manouvering seems unthinkable here where I ride, but seems "normal" to conditions there. The lament seems to be that if you ride the same as if you drive, you're stuck in the gridlock and forego the commuting benefit of cycling.

I rode around some with her while I visited, and altho there's heavy traffic, it wasn't bad riding. Naturally, I just want her to be safe. Your comments, please.
I was scared to death the first time I rode in DC with locals.MB1
Oct 29, 2002 11:01 AM
Coming from the SoCal I was expecting the cars to be racing down wide streets and that bikes had to hug the edge of the roads in town.

Not so here in old and congested DC. Now after a few years here I ride right out in traffic and break just about every traffic law there is. About the only thing I won't do is ride the wrong way or on downtown sidewalks.

"Effective Cycling" is fine but won't get you through town much faster than cars. The book seems to be intended for bicycles moving in free flowing traffic. I got a lot of good ideas from it and believe it helped me become a safer cyclist.

Tell her you love her and care about her safety. Ask her to never put herself in a position in traffic that could get her hurt. She needs to stay on the safe side of the line between getting there as fast as she can and getting there and back again (over and over again, every day, each time out).
Oct 29, 2002 11:20 AM
East-coast urban traffic LOOKS much scarier than it is. I feel safer in Philly and DC traffic than on the farm roads of SJ.
The first time I rode with you in town...........Len J
Oct 30, 2002 3:09 AM
I thought you were nuts!

On the Eastern shore with 1/10th the traffic, we stop for lights & stop signs, In DC, it's good form to race a bus.

Like anything else, I guess you get used to it.

Just tell her to be careful.

re: D.C. area riders/commuterspmf1
Oct 29, 2002 12:29 PM
I sometimes take M Street to the Key Bridge on my way home. Traffic moves so slow, and the road is in such bad shape, that its really not all that dangerous if you pay attention. Knowing the traffic patterns is the key to riding around here.

Often you can just take the lane and ride with the cars because things don't move more than 15 mph at best. A lot of times, I ride between the cars when there is a large number of them waiting for a light. There are no bike lanes and riding on the sidewalk isn't really an option. Cabs and buses -- especially cabs -- are the least tolerant.

As long as she isn't being stupid (i.e., riding like a messenger), I'm sure she's OK.
re: D.C. area riders/commutersdg73
Oct 29, 2002 12:54 PM
Small world, I saw your daughter last week in Dupont Circle while I was waiting for the bus.

Going cross town, I generally use P or Q streets which flow pretty well but don't have multiple lanes of traffic. She can cut down on 34th from either and be 1 block from the key bridge. (she might have figured this out as she was on P street when i saw her)

Instead of 14th st, 13th or 11th might prove better as they carry less traffic.

Columbia road might be a good option depending on where she is coming from. It cuts diagonally from columbia heights to dupont circle. I use it to connect to florida to Q street. Its pretty efficient.
I have been thinking about her route.MB1
Oct 29, 2002 4:40 PM
Since she is going to Arlington she could miss a lot of nasty Georgetown traffic by crossing one of the other bridges (14th street, Memorial or Roosevelt) into Virginia. Might add a mile or so to her commute but it could be a whole lot safer and might be faster.

Miss M works on the Hill and even though we live in the District we come home in the evening via the 14th street bridge and the Mt. Vernon trail in Virginia before crossing Key Bridge and droping down onto the Capital Crescent Trail. We will do pretty much anything to avoid Georgetown in the evening.

Just an idea...
I was having the same thoughts....Gregory Taylor
Oct 30, 2002 5:10 AM
Skip the nasty traffic and bail out of town over the 14th Street Bridge. It is a LOT easier, certainly safer, and probably faster.
Good idea.djg
Oct 30, 2002 7:01 AM
The 14th street bridge is a bit out of my way, but it's how I go to and from home in Arlington--it provides a nice ride along the river, the bike path is not-at-all crowded during commute time, and the path runs right up onto the very wide (and separated from traffic) bridge sidewalk. You can ride right up onto the mall without dealing with traffic, and take the mall as far east as you like with relatively light traffic.
re: D.C. area riders/commuterscommuterguy
Oct 30, 2002 5:29 AM
I can't offer specific route suggestions, since my commute is quite different (Bethesda to downtown via CCT, Rock Creek bike trail, Ohio Drive and then 15th street north). But I will second the recommendation to look for alternate routes with less traffic and/or better quality roads. For instance, my route is a full 2 miles (>20%) longer than my most direct option, solely to avoid traffic and potholes. (My longer route actually takes less time than my shorter options.)

I really don't mix it up too much with traffic, but I can also second the others' doubts about the merits of adhering to a literal reading of the traffic laws.

Here are a few rules I've adopted for bike commuting in DC:

>Never usurp a motorist's right of way (e.g., don't blow through a stop sign if you are going to make a car that has already waited its turn alter its speed or direction to miss you). This seems obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many cyclists do this, out of ignorance or under the assumption that they will be both seen and avoided.

>Be as visible as possible. If you are going to ride in dawn/dusk or complete darkness, wear lots of bright, reflective clothing, have as least one bright blinky light in back, and a good quality light (12 watts halogen min.) in front. (Of course, take care not to blind other cyclists on an MUT with a misaimed HID light.)

>If you are weaving through slow/stopped traffic, try to make eye contact with drivers you are turning in front of. I.e., if traffic is crawling, you are on the right shoulder and need to work your way across two lanes to turn left, try to get the drivers to acknowledge both your presence and intentions before you commit to your turn. Most drivers will go out of their way to accommodate you; some will try to block your progress.

In sum, I try to be pragmatic about the decisions I make in traffic. In highly congested, stop and go traffic, I don't think motorists or cylists benefit from the latter slavishly following the laws to the letter. Similarly, it would be foolish to assume that motorists will always follow the law (I've had to take evasive action after waiting my turn at four-way stops when motorists blew through the intersection).
Thanks, everyone.Steve98501
Oct 30, 2002 9:26 PM
I should have said she's 26, bright, and knows better than to ride like a messenger (altho that's her Halloween costume tomorrow night). I'll suggest that she consider the 14th St. bridge as an alternative, and that the most direct route may not be the best for riding. It is reassuring to hear experienced locals say that strict adherence to traffic regulations isn't pragmatic and not necessarily safest either. Believe me, I did remind her to think before putting herself where a car could whack her. I did see some idiotic cycling behavior, but I see that everywhere. I just wanted the opinions of serious and experienced cyclists in the area, and you did not disappoint. Thanks.