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DC area bike routes and snow...

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DC area bike routes and snow...

Old 12-01-08, 02:53 PM
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Jerseysbest
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DC area bike routes and snow...

I just moved to DC from Northern NJ and am currently living in Capitol Hill, but am looking to move to either Arlington and Alexandria.

How much snow do you really get down here? And does it stay on the bike paths in VA long? I've only commuted on roads, so even in NJ, if I tough it out one day through the snow, the road will be plowed by the next day.
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Old 12-01-08, 03:01 PM
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Total snow varies from zero to nearly 50 inches per year. None of the bike paths are plowed, and significant snow can persist there for weeks. It's best to have alternate routes that do not use bike paths. Maybe someone here can comment on how passable the 14th Street Bridge path is.

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Old 12-01-08, 03:36 PM
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Yeah I've never seen the park service do anything to the GW Parkway trail. Here we typically get wet or ice rather than snow, significant snow seems to stay north of DC. Of course there's that blizzard we had in 2003...
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Old 12-01-08, 03:48 PM
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it seems that every few years we get a blizzard. it's been about 5 years now so we're due for one. some winters we get nothing. Most of the time there could be snow cover here anywhere from 1 day to 3 weeks.
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Old 12-01-08, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
Total snow varies from zero to nearly 50 inches per year. None of the bike paths are plowed, and significant snow can persist there for weeks.
The W&OD trail was plowed last year. I'm not sure if it will happen this year but they seem to be clearing the leaves.
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Old 12-01-08, 06:36 PM
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I don't recall the W&OD ever being plowed.....but maybe I didn't ride those weeks. Usually it's fine until the first persistent snow - then it melts into ice and makes certain sections of the trail impassable until it melts completely off. There are a couple sections near Gallows Road that seem to keep ice forever.
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Old 12-01-08, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by kokomo61 View Post
I don't recall the W&OD ever being plowed.....but maybe I didn't ride those weeks. Usually it's fine until the first persistent snow - then it melts into ice and makes certain sections of the trail impassable until it melts completely off. There are a couple sections near Gallows Road that seem to keep ice forever.
Whoops, I meant through Arlington. In Fairfax I don't think it was plowed. You're right that section near Vienna never melts.
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Old 12-01-08, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by kokomo61 View Post
There are a couple sections near Gallows Road that seem to keep ice forever.
Must be the same stretch that stays wet 5 days after a rain... I'll bet the stretch between Hunter Mill and Vienna is fun too.

-R
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Old 12-01-08, 07:58 PM
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I've lived here in the DC area all my life. Every 5-6 years we get a big whopper (more than a foot). However, a mere 1/4 inch of snow shuts just about everything down, so in the event of snow you really shouldn't worry about having to go anywhere (unless you are a health care provider that has to go into work). The big problem here in the winter can be ice. Even if we just get rain, the cold overnight temps cause all that water to freeze, and this especially seems to be true on bike paths. I've been bike commuting pretty regularly for the past 10 years and have never had too many issues with bike commuting in winter. However, I would have a contingency plan for the really nasty weather days (which should be few) and maybe invest in some studded tires if you really don't want to miss any biking. Oh, and in the threat of snow, be sure to stock up on milk, bread, and toilet paper fast because people here FREAK OUT when they hear "snow."
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Old 12-01-08, 08:48 PM
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Another consideration for the roads here is that they are treated with pebble type ice that lingers throughout the season after the snow has melted esp. on shoulders. I find myself baby wiping my bike every 2 weeks so that corrosion doesn't set in too much. A good soaking rain can rid of a lot of it, but we never seem to get that much rain in the winter.
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Old 12-01-08, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulH View Post
Maybe someone here can comment on how passable the 14th Street Bridge path is.
Paul
Not great. It usually clears faster than the overpasses by National Airport, but it's not treated in any way. I've picked my way through snow and ice patches on narrow little 28c tires, and I'm thinking of getting studs this winter.

And I would put in a word for Alexandria as a good place to live for bike commuters to downtown. Great riverside trail (Mt Vernon) and just far enough away for a good ride each way.
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Old 12-02-08, 12:13 PM
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I've been commuting by bike on a daily basis for the past 14 months. Last winter we had only two or three days of real problems with snow/ice on the bike paths inside the Beltway. That said, I did invest in studded tires last year although I haven't had to use them much so far. Also, one of the positive items of being in most parts of Arlington and Alexandria is that if there is a big snow and you can't ride and still have to get to work, Metro can generally get you into the District if that's where you have to get to work.
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Old 12-02-08, 01:02 PM
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DC completely shuts down when it gets 2 inches of snow. So all you have to really worry about, is getting home from work. Usually no big deal in fresh snow.

Do carry a lighter, I had snow that melted on the large chain ring and then froze to the point the ice built up and forced my chain off the small ring. Had to melt the ice off the chain ring to keep riding.
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Old 12-02-08, 01:48 PM
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The worst event last winter was the ice storm that hit during the evening rush hour. All the metal parts of my bike iced over so my rim brakes did not work. I walked most of the way back and slipped several times on the sidewalk and street.
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Old 12-02-08, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by krater View Post
Not great. It usually clears faster than the overpasses by National Airport, but it's not treated in any way. I've picked my way through snow and ice patches on narrow little 28c tires, and I'm thinking of getting studs this winter.

And I would put in a word for Alexandria as a good place to live for bike commuters to downtown. Great riverside trail (Mt Vernon) and just far enough away for a good ride each way.
I'm looking at a few places in Alexandria now. It would triple my 2 mile commute from Capitol Hill, but I think the cheaper (I think) income taxes and rent make up for it, and more time on the bike isn't a bad thing. I didn't know about that bike path when I moved here or I would have definitely given Alexandria more thought then I did a month ago when I was looking.
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Old 12-03-08, 02:05 AM
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we usually, knock wood, only get a few days of snow per "winter" here in DC.

and the paths are never plowed, if you asked city officials about plowing bike paths they'd laugh in your face. they barely half-assedly plow the roads here.
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Old 12-03-08, 08:39 AM
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Alexandria is very commuter friendly: bike lanes, close proximity to several trails, DC, etc. You'll likely take the Mount Vernon Trail to the 14th street bridge, then surface streets to your destination. Fortunately, we get little snow in the DC area, I think we had one snowfall last year totalling about 3/4'. The only problem is the re-freezing that occurs overnight. Main roads and surface streets are attended to, however, I have yet to see any of the trails plowed or salted.
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