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anyone from dc metro?

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anyone from dc metro?

Old 12-24-04, 01:53 PM
  #1  
pilar
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anyone from dc metro?

i'm a senior at UVa in charlottesville and i couldnt ask for a better biking town... i've never have one honk or a mean glare, and i've never been passed in my lane. i'm here in springfield, va, for the holidays, and wow, what a change. cars whizzing by as if i wasnt there, horns and stares galore. perhaps it was because i was going to and from the mall (procrastinators cant really be in a good mood can they), but does anyone commute around the d.c. metro area and find that its not the most pleasant experience? i'll most likely be moving up here post-graduation and wondered if i can count on more of the same unkind treatment.
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Old 12-24-04, 04:15 PM
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I commute in prince georges county, MD. My main problem is how much traffic there is, I'm not used to it having grown up in a college town. It seems like most people in DC suburbs (a) are pissed off by bike on the road and/or (b) expect us to ride dangerously. The good thing is that there ARE a lot of bike trails in the suburbs, but riding on many of the roads is not very pleasant. DC itself is pretty nice to bike in, I would say, drivers are generally courteous and there are bike lanes or wide shoulders. Where in the DC area do you think you'll be living?

EDIT: I commute from Beltsville, MD, to the University of Maryland campus. It's about 5 miles each way. I can either start on route 1 (yech) and then hop over to a really awesome bike trail for 3 miles, or hop on rhode island (much safer) and then take that all the way to campus.
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Old 12-24-04, 07:47 PM
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It's too bad you're leaving Charlottesville. I checked out their Critical Mass web site and their attitude is the only one of the three around me that I liked. Maybe they're the reason Charlottesville is so bike friendly?

I'm 10 miles south of Springfield. Motorists here are usually the opposite of what you experienced, but in a strange way. The majority of them act like they've never seen a bicycle and can't figure out how to deal with me. OK, maybe the fact that I ride a recumbent is part of it. They tend to hang behind me like they think that I'll plop over in front of them if they try to pass in the lane even though the lanes on the major routes are plenty wide enough for most vehicles to pass me. Hanging behind me makes me more nervous than the aggressive drivers. I wonder when they're going to finally make their move and whether it's going to be a stupid one. I've gotten tired of waving them past and don't bother anymore. I've had my share of jerks, but they just make fools of themselves by yelling slurred insults.

My theory is that there are too many traffic signals as you must have noticed in Springfield. The constant stopping, starting, and hoping the next light stays green for them gets on their nerves. A bicyclist "playing in the street" is just another irritation for them. And, yeah, Christmas Eve isn't the best day to mix it up with them around the malls.

The good thing is that as Moxfyre says, there are bike paths around the Metro area and Va. is beginning to accomodate peds. and cyclists with more paths when they widen or build new major roads. You may or may not care for riding on them, but the option is there. You should keep that in mind when you look for a place to live.

Did I mention that it's a shame you're leaving Charlottesville?

Last edited by Hal Hardy; 12-25-04 at 03:35 PM.
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Old 12-24-04, 08:06 PM
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I can't imagine riding a bike in Springfield--ugh! Dreadful! Yuck! I avoid it at all costs in my car.

If you move to DC, you might want to consider living in the District, or at least closer to it than Springfield. Like Moxfyre, I live in Prince Georges County, Maryland and commute through DC to Alexandria, Virginia. It's a great commuting city, DC is! Lot's of bike paths, and even in town, there are lots of options for cycling.

I highly recommend DC and it's immediate surrounding towns and cities for living and commuting by bike. Please don't confuse Springfield or its ilk with DC for biking or anything else!
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Old 12-24-04, 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by velogirl
It's a great commuting city, DC is! Lot's of bike paths, and even in town, there are lots of options for cycling.
We are talking about Wash. D.C., right? Granted it's been a while since I've been there (and never during rush hour), but I've never seen anything attractive about traveling around in there with ANY type of vehicle. I think of riding there the way you think of Springfield. What am I missing? I've often thought of transporting the bike to some place like Arlington Cemetary, leaving the truck, and toodling around in D.C.
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Old 12-24-04, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Hal Hardy
We are talking about Wash. D.C., right? Granted it's been a while since I've been there (and never during rush hour), but I've never seen anything attractive about traveling around in there with ANY type of vehicle. I think of riding there the way you think of Springfield. What am I missing? I've often thought of transporting the bike to some place like Arlington Cemetary, leaving the truck, and toodling around in D.C.
Driving in the DC area bites, agreed. But the metro system is very nice (I've never lived in another large city however) in my opinion. And I think it's pleasant to bike in many areas, though NOT northern VA.
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Old 12-24-04, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
...though NOT northern VA.
Ain't that the truth. I've heard the George Washington Parkway bikepath is a nice ride along the river, but is usually crowded. I'm looking to just park in Va. and then cross the river into town. The last time I was in D.C., I didn't notice any accomodations for bicycles such as bike lanes, but then, I wasn't really looking for them either. I just wanted to get to my destination without losing my bearings resulting in my usual 3 laps around the block.

Last edited by Hal Hardy; 12-25-04 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 12-24-04, 11:27 PM
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hal, charlottesville has definitely grown on me over the past 4 years, and i'm doin what i can to find a job in the area... and i have checked out their critical mass website (although their last advertised ride was in april so i'll shoot them an email to see what's up) and am definitely interested in riding at least once before i graduate. you're right, their website definitely portrays an aura about them different from what i've been seeing about CM on this forum at least. although we'll see how long c'ville remains a quaint southern town; starbucks, panera, and five guys are weaving their web northern virginia suburbia further and further south.
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Old 12-25-04, 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by pilar
i'm a senior at UVa in charlottesville and i couldnt ask for a better biking town... i've never have one honk or a mean glare, and i've never been passed in my lane. i'm here in springfield, va, for the holidays, and wow, what a change. cars whizzing by as if i wasnt there, horns and stares galore. perhaps it was because i was going to and from the mall (procrastinators cant really be in a good mood can they), but does anyone commute around the d.c. metro area and find that its not the most pleasant experience? i'll most likely be moving up here post-graduation and wondered if i can count on more of the same unkind treatment.
What memories you evoke. When I was in high school I lived in Annandale and would ride my bike to Springfield mall. This was back around 1976 and although it was built up pretty well in that area, it was nothing like it is today. Back then, K-Mart was one of the big stores in the mall and was where I bought my first pair of cycling gloves and one of those old style mechanical odometers that attached to the front fork.

Ah, memories of riding my 10 speed to Lake Accotink and Burke Lake. Believe it or not, it was actually rural out past Kings Park on 645.

Oh well, enough looking in the rear view mirror. Time goes only one way. Thanks for triggering some fond cycling memories. Good luck with DC traffic!
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Old 12-25-04, 07:53 AM
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I've never commuted anywhere else and neither have I rode my bike around Springfield. But having driven through Springfield a few times, I am not surprised with your experience. I live in the District and reverse commute out to Alexandria. My commute usually goes pretty well. Most of the commute while in VA is on a bike trail and on a street that is mostly marked with a bike lane. The speed limit on most of the street route is 25 mph and people are generally used to seeing bicyclist. But there is definitely a difference in VA than in the parts of DC that I ride in. When I ride in Old Town Alexandria on streets with no bike lane, people seem a lot more likely to nervously gun their engines getting around me. In DC people are more likely to just drive past calmly.

DC does have bikelanes on some streets. There are plans to stripe lanes on some streets as they are repaved. Then there are plans for finishing the Metropolitan Branch Trail. They built one part along with the New York Ave Metro station. Personally, I hope they never stripe the streets in my neighborhood. The wide curb lanes and the normal speed of traffic work just fine.

Overall I enjoy riding my bike around here. I would never have thought about utilitarian cycling back when I lived near Memphis, TN.
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Old 12-25-04, 08:00 AM
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I live and commute in Arlington, Virginia, and also run errands to downtown DC and Falls Church. I'd consider it a great areea in which to live and ride. Don't be fooled by Springfield -- it is one of the suburbs in the outer wasteland surrounding the metropolitan region.

The main drawback is the proliferation of urban freeways -- multilane, limited access roads from which bicycles are banned and which bisect the road grid and destroy significant connectivity. As a compensation, there is what I have to (grudgingly) admit is a very good sidepath system. Because the roads that these sidepaths parallel are limited access, the usual fatal flaw is mitigated -- there are few intersections. In fact, I can ride a six mile stretch between my office and the dealership where we take our cars and encounter no stoplights or stopsigns.

The greatest strength of the region is that almost every lane is wide enough to be easily shared. This may account for the success with which bicyclists and motorists coexist.

Paul
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Old 12-25-04, 01:12 PM
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As always, "it depends" - on where you live, and where you want to go. I live out in the Northern VA 'burbs; fortunately I can ride most of my commute on the W&OD bike trail. The only really "dicey" spot is the approx 1/2 mile before I reach the trail/when I 1st leave it in the evening - the lane on the return trip is narrow, no shoulder. I try to maintain a steady line and take my lane when I need it. I've noticed a lot of people have NO idea where their right fender ends and my bike begins and drive way too far to the left to stay clear. Maybe my constellation of red blinkeys is giving them a headache? Whenever I am sharing roads with cars, I try to be predictable and behave as any other vehicle should behave.

If you can live/work near one of the bike trails, and especially if you have a safe place to secure the bike, then riding to work can be feasible. Some of the roads have parallel paved trails, the trick is finding a route that connects to them while avoiding busy streets. NoVA is infamous for trails and paths and sidewalks that don't connect to anything. Other options are to use bike lockers at Metrorail stations or Metrobus or Montgomery County bus routes - all busses have a 2-rack bike carrier. Fairfax Connector does not and Metrorail prohibits bikes during commute times. There is a service providing emergency rides home for people who use alternative transportation.

Some communities have extensive paved trail systems. Reston has one, I think Burke may as well. The combination of the W&OD trail and the Reston trail system and winding side roads actually makes commuting in that area quite feasible. The major employers are located on 2 major roads parallel to the Dulles Toll Rd (Rt 267) and there are multiple acess points from the community trails and the W&OD, especially on the north side of the Toll Rd (off Sunset Hills Rd). The W&OD is a reasonably safe route to get in to the closer-in suburbs (Vienna, Falls Church, Arlington) or to DC - I know of a few people who commute into DC and the Washington Area Bicyclists Assoc (waba.org) runs several "Bike to work day" rides down the W&OD and connecting trails into DC. Just watch traffic at the cross-streets!

At the opposite extreme, locations like Tysons Corner are generally downright dangerous to anyone not in a car. Although I have a triathelete friend who does training rides with a group in the Tysons area EARLY before the commter traffic builds up. Everyone's in a hurry, the lights are too short or too long, and there is no place for a cyclist or pedestrian.
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Old 12-25-04, 01:45 PM
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Hi-- I ride in and around D.C. all the time and have few complaints. Given all the traffic and the unusual road patterns, I think it's a good area for cyclists. Northern Va. has a lot of trails and paths and the bridges over the Potomac accomodate cyclists. I live in Gaithersburg, Md. and on weekends can ride all the way to downtown D.C. without much of a problem. Plus, the are more bike lanes on D.C. streets than ever. Biggest problems are the heat and the thunderstorms.

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Old 12-26-04, 12:41 PM
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Like Paul H. says, the streets in DC are interconnected, and there are plenty of options from getting from point A to point B without riding on the busy, state-named diagonal streets. It's a great way to see more of the city's interesting neighborhoods. Bike paths and lanes are handy, but if you learn the quiet city streets, you'll have alot more options for moving around the city.

The Metro is pretty good, but being a spoke-and-wheel pattern limits connectivity around the city. Compare Metro maps of DC and Paris and you'll see the difference. Paris' Metro is more of an interconnected web.

DC Metro does limit non-folding bikes to off-peak times, but folding bikes are allowed all the time, which increases flexibility immensely.
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Old 12-26-04, 05:47 PM
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So a little zigging and zagging is the secret. Which of the city's "interesting neighborhoods" would be best avoided? Kind of getting off the commuting theme, but I'm sure Pilar would like to know, also.
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Old 12-27-04, 09:14 AM
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I would recommend that you try going to waba.org -- there are great online maps there that give you a decent idea of bike friendly routes in VA/DC/MD. There is also an ADC bike route map available at any LBS in the region (I think it's available online at waba). The map is definitely a little more detailed for inside the beltway so coverage of Springfield may not be great. An alternative to Springfield might be the Alexandria region of Fairfax county. It's close to Springfield, but it's pretty bike friendly and you can get to the Mt Vernon trail and into DC pretty easily. I used to live in the SF Bay Area and Los Angeles. Compared to those two metro regions, I find Northern VA to be a lot more bike friendly in my experience (but I'm talking about Alexandria/Arlington/DC). Good luck.
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Old 12-27-04, 09:18 AM
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I've had no problems in any of the neighborhoods that I ride through, most of which are not on the top of most tourists itineries. I pass along side a "notorious" housing development, but I've never had any problems at all. There are some neighborhoods that I do not know very well. I ride through NE and SE (Capitol Hill) DC on my commute. I ride smart and vary my route, which makes for much more interesting urban discoveries, and keeps me from getting bored.

I don't ride at night at all, regardless of the neighborhood. It's smart to be aware of what's going on around you, even in Georgetown and Foxhall (considered the "nicer"--but a heck of alot more boring--neighborhoods). I don't see too well at night, so I just don't ride at night.

Pilar--if you want to know about neighborhoods to check out for living and riding, just let me know. I've lived in Georgetown, Cleveland Park, and now in Prince Georges County, Maryland (just over the DC line near Catholic University). I work in Northern Virginia, and know a little bit about some of the neighborhoods close in to DC on the Virginia side. The rents are shocking, but once recovered, it's a neat place to live and ride.

Check out the ADC Washington Bike Map, available from Washington Area Bicyclists Association at www.waba.org.
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Old 12-27-04, 10:50 AM
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I think the DC area is a great place to ride. I commute into DC from Alexandria (and from Arlington where I used to live) and have easy routes. There are extensive networks of trails and bikelanes. I would try the websites of the municipal governments to get maps. I know that Arlington has a good PDF map on its website.

My general sense is that it is easier to bike in more urban areas, due to the slower speed of the cars on the surface streets. As you go farther outside the beltway, the areas are more typically suburban, with faster car speeds and less bike-tolerant drivers. Whenever I venture outside the beltway on bike, it's usually on a bike trail like the C&O canal trail or the W&OD trail.
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Old 12-27-04, 10:59 AM
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Hi commuting to DC from the Vienna area is fairly easy as most of my commute is on the W&OD or the Custis Trail. If you live near a bike trail in Northern Virginia, you can ride out to the Blue Ridge on the weekends. I have also lived in DC and in NOVA, any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
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Old 12-27-04, 11:17 AM
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thanks for all the great info... i suppose i'll use my break to explore the abundance of trails in this area in the event that i do end up back here and choose to commute by bike.
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Old 12-27-04, 02:46 PM
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http://www.fhiplan.com/novabike/

i just ran across a northern virginia map from vdot highlighting bike routes... also on that page is a 125-page report detailing the "coordinated and strategic approach to developing a regional transportation system for bicycling in Northern Virginia." i havent bothered to even skim it; it's about 124 pages too long, as all they needed to say was that there will be no successful bike transportation system in NoVa for at least a decade since we threw all our money away with the springfield interchange project. it seems as though i'm in a bicycle vacuum here in springfield; arlington and alexandria are where it's at.
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Old 12-28-04, 01:51 PM
  #22  
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Please excuse my question if it has already been answered elsewhere. I have just moved to Fairfax (Mantua area - Rt. 50 @ Pickett Rd.) and want to commute in to Dupont Circle. It looks like the W&OD to Custis trail is the way to go but I have some specific questions.

1. Is there a way to get to the W&OD without riding up Nutley Street to 123 and then over to the trail if I am on Route 50/Arlington Blvd. at Pickett Rd?

2. Once I get into Rosslyn on the Custis how do I get to Dupont Circle without too much risk of being killed by a car? L street? NH Ave.?

3. What's the best way back home in the evening?

Your help is really appreciated!

PS - I should mention I ride a skinny tire road bike - no gravel trails, please.
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Old 12-28-04, 02:30 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by map
2. Once I get into Rosslyn on the Custis how do I get to Dupont Circle without too much risk of being killed by a car? L street? NH Ave.?

3. What's the best way back home in the evening?

Your help is really appreciated!

PS - I should mention I ride a skinny tire road bike - no gravel trails, please.

You should get the ADC Washington bike map mentioned previously.

I don't know about out where you live, but once you get to Rosslyn, you have several options.

1. Key Bridge, cut up through Georgetown (NOT Wisconsin Ave)--34th Street or so, to Calvert, to Mass, to Dupont. Mass Ave can get a bit trafficy, but look at side streets and try different alternatives.

2. stay on Virginia side and go to the Memorial Bridge, go up to Dupont by GW University on 22nd or so.

The map will really help. Try out a few options and see which ones you like. Vary your route and you'll find a few that will work for you.

Welcome to the area.
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Old 12-28-04, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by pilar
http://www.fhiplan.com/novabike/

i just ran across a northern virginia map from vdot highlighting bike routes... also on that page is a 125-page report detailing the "coordinated and strategic approach to developing a regional transportation system for bicycling in Northern Virginia." i havent bothered to even skim it; it's about 124 pages too long, as all they needed to say was that there will be no successful bike transportation system in NoVa for at least a decade since we threw all our money away with the springfield interchange project. it seems as though i'm in a bicycle vacuum here in springfield; arlington and alexandria are where it's at.
Arlington has done alot bike-wise. Maryland and the District are also worth looking into. www.waba.org is a good place to start.
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Old 12-28-04, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by velogirl
You should get the ADC Washington bike map mentioned previously.

I don't know about out where you live, but once you get to Rosslyn, you have several options.

1. Key Bridge, cut up through Georgetown (NOT Wisconsin Ave)--34th Street or so, to Calvert, to Mass, to Dupont. Mass Ave can get a bit trafficy, but look at side streets and try different alternatives.

2. stay on Virginia side and go to the Memorial Bridge, go up to Dupont by GW University on 22nd or so.

The map will really help. Try out a few options and see which ones you like. Vary your route and you'll find a few that will work for you.

Welcome to the area.
Thanks - I'll give those a try!
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