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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 04-09-07, 08:06 AM   #1
bdcheung
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Tips for Commuting on W&OD Trail?

I will be moving out to Herndon, VA and commuting into DC soon. Ideally, I would hop on the W&OD trail at the Sunrise Valley entrance and ride into DC. Some questions:

1) Is this a feasible commute? I'm a roadie right now and I've ridden the trail loads, but riding it for pleasure and commuting are, understandably, two different ballgames.
2) What is traffic on the trail like during commuter hours?
3) Anything else you think I should know?

Thanks guys!
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Old 04-09-07, 10:54 AM   #2
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Hmm, that would be about 14-15 miles to Shirlington or via Custis Trail to the Key Bridge. I suspect it's doable at 20 miles each way. If you split commute by leaving your car overnight for a round trip home, it'll be even easier.
The trail is usually sparse except for the first warm afternoons in spring and weekends. In winter I see about 4 other commuters in 8 miles.
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Old 04-09-07, 12:03 PM   #3
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I agree--it would be an excellent commute, but it may be pretty long for a round trip. There are buses going from D.C. to Herndon, though I don't know if they carry bikes. The bridges into D.C. are very bike-friendly and the downtown isn't bad for bikes.
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Old 04-09-07, 12:33 PM   #4
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Long round trip? It's all relative I guess.

-D
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Old 04-09-07, 12:47 PM   #5
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If you are living in Herndon, you should be made aware of the bike lockers at Herndon-Monroe PnR.

My Cycle-Safe bike locker

The 5A metrobus goes from Herndon-Monroe into DC (L'Enfant Plaza, via a stop in Rosslyn), and has a bike rack on the front. Possible to cycle one way and bike from/to Herndon-Monroe PnR.
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Old 04-09-07, 02:46 PM   #6
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Hey! That's my commute!

I go from the Franklin Farm area, to Ballston. It's 21.5Mi each way, and I only do it 1-2X a week. I get on the W&OD at Sunrise Valley, and follow it to the Custis, then bail @ Ballston. Getting to the trail, I take the FFax county parkway to Sunrise Valley (I take the shoulder for the first part because of a dangerous hill/bridge crossing on the MUP). Switch to the MUP until Sunrise Valley, then stay on the sidewalk to the first intersection. I'm on the road on SVD until the turn-off to the W&OD.

On the return trip, I turn back on to SVD, then left on South Lakes to Reston Parkway, then R on Franklin Farm. All the roads are divided 4-laners with a hard curb instead of a shoulder, but the cars are (most times) fairly generous in passing.

W&OD is fine, and most peds are fairly attentive. I still slow when approaching, and give plenty of warning. There's a detour at Piney Branch (just after Hunter Mill), that's pretty dicey if you're using skinny road tires.

Need to watch out for:

Walkers w/headphones
Dogs on retractable leashes (or no leash at all)
Guys on XMart bikes (no helmet, no sense of any kind of a lane)
Afternoon track teams (they'll take up the whole trail and then some)
Road crossings - people don't look at all. If you're crossing a street, make sure you look for vehicles approaching for the 'no-stop' right turn. Also, even with a red light, I've seen drivers blow right through the Vienna/Maple street intersection....same goes for Gallows Road.
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Old 04-09-07, 02:53 PM   #7
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There are definitely some hairy intersections - watch particularly the Hunters Mill intersection around the 14 mile marker. There have been people I think killed there in the past year (I think it was that intersection). The road is twisty, so you can't see far in either direction. Also, the people that drive that road don't seem to understand the concept of a crosswalk.

All in all, it's doable if somewhat long. Do bear in mind that the first 12 miles from the Potomac into Virginia are pretty much uphill, so that may be an issue depending on your tolerance for hills. The hill up to 495 is particularly fun.

All in all, though, it's a rather pleasant ride. If you can do the miles day after day, I'd do it.
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Old 04-09-07, 03:36 PM   #8
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I don't cross Hunter Mill unless it's completely clear, or BOTH sides stop. (that's true of most other intersections with the W&OD). I've had lots of cars stop and wave me on, only to see the other direction accelerate to blast by so they don't have to stop. Be careful - don't think they see you, because they don't.
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Old 04-09-07, 04:05 PM   #9
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Is that little dirt road detour in Vienna still there? Might be one thing to consider if you'll be riding on skinny tires.

Also, keep in mind that it's ALL uphill coming back to Herndon. I rode all the way to Shirlington and bonked halfway back to Herndon on my first round trip last year. (Of course, when you tell your grandkids about how you bike commuted when you were their age, it will be Uphill Both Ways.)
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Old 04-09-07, 04:10 PM   #10
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Yeah it's still there, I rode it the other day with my road bike/23c tires without problem. When I build up my commuter I'm either going to put heavy puncture-resistant 23's on or use bigger tires. Haven't decided yet.

Hills are no problem, it's mostly the distance/suck-factor that'll get me. But, I'll give it a go and see. Worst case scenario I'll just take the bus, per eibeinaka's suggestion. Thanks for the replies, all!
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Old 04-09-07, 04:16 PM   #11
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What part of Herndon are you in? I've found that going down Fox Mill to Fairfax County Parkway, then connecting to the Trail, is easier than going down Buchanan (or Van Buren, or whatever it's called) just because the street gets so narrow around the Herndon Parkway intersection.
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Old 04-09-07, 04:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kokomo61
I don't cross Hunter Mill unless it's completely clear, or BOTH sides stop. (that's true of most other intersections with the W&OD). I've had lots of cars stop and wave me on, only to see the other direction accelerate to blast by so they don't have to stop. Be careful - don't think they see you, because they don't.
...or if they do, they don't particularly care if they hit you. You're absolutely right - if you want to ride in DC and live, you'd best wait until everything is clear. Fortunately, most intersections on the W&OD either have crossing lights, medians, or light traffic. Hunter's Mill is the only one I can think of east of Herndon that has none of the above.

OT: if anyone has advice on crossing the toll road without risking life and limb, I'd love to hear it. The only way I know of is to go along Sunrise until it goes under the toll road, but that's miles out of my way. I've definitely given up on the MUP along Farifax Co. Pkwy. Anyone have luck with Reston or Wiehle? I'd like to start biking to work, but I'm not willing to risk death daily to do so.
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Old 04-09-07, 04:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rotten Bastard
What part of Herndon are you in? I've found that going down Fox Mill to Fairfax County Parkway, then connecting to the Trail, is easier than going down Buchanan (or Van Buren, or whatever it's called) just because the street gets so narrow around the Herndon Parkway intersection.
I live near the intersection of Sunrise Valley and Fox Mill, right by A-1 Cyclery
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Old 04-09-07, 04:56 PM   #14
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Another option would be to ride up to Gallows Road, park your bike at the Metro (Dunn Loring) and ride the metro in. Or go to East Falls Church and then ride the metro in. If you want a shorter bike ride. If before 7, you could take your bike on the metro and then ride home. When the weather isn't that great in the morning but its suppose to be good in the afternoon, I'll ride the metro in and then bike home.

I go into DC from near the Vienna Fairfax metro. At Ballston I go onto Fairfax Ave and follow that down to Courthouse to miss the hills in the morning. Not too much traffice around 6 to 6:30 AM when I'm going in. Coming home, I just take the Custis and the hills so I don't have to deal with the traffic.

Have fun, John
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Old 04-09-07, 07:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdcheung
I live near the intersection of Sunrise Valley and Fox Mill, right by A-1 Cyclery
Sunrise Valley is a decent trip to the W&OD - it's slightly uphill to the top of the golf course, then some great rollers down to the trail. Watch for right hooks at USGS, Reston Parkway and South Lakes. Also, the drivers from South Lakes tend not to look (or even stop) when turning on to SVD.
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Old 04-10-07, 12:26 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by bdcheung
I live near the intersection of Sunrise Valley and Fox Mill, right by A-1 Cyclery
Looks like we're neighbors
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Old 04-18-07, 07:30 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Underbridge
OT: if anyone has advice on crossing the toll road without risking life and limb, I'd love to hear it. The only way I know of is to go along Sunrise until it goes under the toll road, but that's miles out of my way. I've definitely given up on the MUP along Farifax Co. Pkwy. Anyone have luck with Reston or Wiehle? I'd like to start biking to work, but I'm not willing to risk death daily to do so.
I cross on the MUP. Slow and annoying, but I can't think of anything better that isn't out of my way (my commute is Dranesville/Herndon to Fair Lakes). No way would I try on the shoulder, though I've seen a few brave souls do it.
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Old 04-18-07, 07:41 PM   #18
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I worked at the corner of Wiehle and Sunrise Valley. The first/last part of my commute was along the sidewalk over the toll road. Part of the reason was getting out on Sunrise Valley, down Wiehle, and having to cross over would have taken another 5 minutes. On the way back I'd have to dodge the traffic uphill.
That said, crossing the couple intersections on the sidewalk is very hazardous. In particular, Sunset Hills, where the turn on red drivers hit stopped speeds in excess of 15 mph - and are NOT looking right.
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Old 04-19-07, 02:09 PM   #19
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Easy, Easy commute round trip. I get on the trail at Clarks Crossing (House backs to trail) and head to Crystal City. 0 dark 30 in the am is the best-very few slow-downs on the trail. Custis trail is a bit up and down and around and around-other words slowest portion of the commute. I normally continue past the Custis turn-off to four mile run, down Glebe under 395 to the end of AN Drive into Crystal City. The whole thing is no big effort, just eat lunch to fuel you home.
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Old 04-20-07, 01:26 PM   #20
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Where in DC? Most roads in DC are pretty tore up,so wider/puncture protected tires are a good idea. I personally don't go skinnier than 28mm. Also,are you commuting year round? The trails around here don't get plowed,so while we don't(usually) get that much snow,it's still something to take into consideration.
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