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Local Advice for a Visit to Washington DC?

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Local Advice for a Visit to Washington DC?

Old 09-07-11, 12:12 PM
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Local Advice for a Visit to Washington DC?

I'm going to be visiting our nation's capital for the first time next week and have grand visions of seeing the city by bike. I'm actually traveling on business so my time will be limited. I am staying in Arlington near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N Fort Myer Dr.

Questions for you locals:
1) Is there a bike shop close to that intersection where I can rent a bike? I don't care what kind of bike as long as it's fast . If there is no shop close to that location is there one within a short drive where I can park and ride?

2) I'd like to see the National Mall and the various memorials and sights. Any recommended routes or loops that you like that hit the high points? Anything less than 30 miles round trip is fair game.

3) What should I expect from drivers/infrastructure when I get there? Is it survival of the fittest/fastest or lots of bike lanes and MUPs?

4) Which bridges are bike friendly? I don't want to end up on some interstate with 65mph traffic giving me the bird.

5) Anything else I should know?

Thanks!

Last edited by Level 2; 09-07-11 at 05:06 PM.
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Old 09-07-11, 01:31 PM
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Welcome to DC.

1) Simplist for a quick ride on a sturdy, low-end bike is Capital Bikeshare. You pay for access (by the day or week) and the first half hour of any ride is free. You can also check it back in at any station, go see something, and pick up another one when you are ready. Couple of stations near where you are staying. https://www.capitalbikeshare.com/
Bike-and-Roll and the Thompson Boat Center (Georgetown) also do rentals. Some local bike shops rent, but I’m not sure about the ones near you. Closest shops are actually in Georgetown, other end of the Key Bridge. Revolution seems to do rental https://revolutioncycles.com/
About a mile away in Arlington is Big Wheel https://www.bigwheelbikes.com/

2) https://bikewashington.org/ is a good resource for trail information.
For bike routes in Arlington https://www.bikearlington.com/pages/maps-rides/
For bike routes in DC https://ddot.dc.gov/DC/DDOT/On+Your+S...s/Bicycle+Maps
A lot of good routes and loops. Couple of suggestions -
-Mount Vernon Trail to Mount Vernon and back. About 40 miles but mostly flat.
-Go past Iwo Jima and down the MVT to Alexandria, through Old Town and back up Commonwealth Ave to the Four Mile Run Trail, west to the W&OD, Custis Trail back to Rosslyn.
-Key Bridge, M St, Wisconsin Ave, and K St to Washington Harbor, River Trail to Hains Point (cyclist like to do laps here), then back up to the Mall and downtown, or to Capitol Hill and Eastern Market.
-Custis and W&OD west.
-up Wilson Blvd (big hill) to Clarendon and Ballston for good night life. Return using Clarendon Blvd.
-If you are around on a weekend, take the route to Washington Harbor but go right at the foot of Wisconsin. Up the Capital Crescent Trail to Bethesda, continue to Jones Mill and come back through DC using Beach Drive an Rock Creek Trail. Beach is mostly closed to cars on weekends. After Pierce Mill I’ll often take a side road out of the creek valley, either Park or Tilden or Calvert or the Zoo. Bit of a hill, but the neighborhoods are a nice rides.

3) Drivers around here are used to bikes. Drivers are generally ok, but DC is notorious for its traffic. MUP’s are no exception. The Mount Vernon Trail, River Trail and W&OD can be crowded, but that really depends on the day and the time. Plenty of MUP’s and bike lanes, and many roads aren’t bad for biking.
Ride careful and ride smart.

4) Several bike friendly bridges near you, all with sidepaths:
-Key to Georgetown. Closest to you, but the M Street traffic at the other end can be hairy.
-Roosevelt to the Kennedy Center
-Memorial Bridge linking National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial. Also close to you.
-14th Street to the Jefferson Memorial.
Farther out is the Wilson Bridge at the south end of Old Town, crossing over to National Harbor.
My favorite is the Chain Bridge in north Arlington. Bit harder to get to, but the view up the Mather Gorge is one of the best in the whole DC area.

5) Be aware than a large part of downtown DC does not allow bikes on the sidewalks. This doesn’t apply to the Mall and monument area, where all the paths are mup’s.
Old Town Alexandria also bans bikes from sidewalk, and the city police watch for bikes running stop signs.
A particularly nice ride is to see the monuments and Mall at night. You might want to check it out during the day first to get your bearings, but a night ride is magical.


When is you actual visit? Maybe you can meet up with some of the local BF members. I was hoping to do another monuments-by-moonlight ride this weekend, but will have to watch the weather.

added - Here's a loop that hits the major sites. Mall, museums and monuments, but also China town and parts of the old down town.
https://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5066510

Last edited by cc_rider; 09-07-11 at 04:32 PM.
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Old 09-07-11, 03:13 PM
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1) Is there a bike shop close to that intersection where I can rent a bike? I don't care what kind of bike as long as it's fast . If there is no shop close to that location is there one within a short drive where I can park and ride?
I used Capital Bikeshare when I was in DC on business. Not high performance bikes, but the price was right. I wrote about it here. If you want to try a more high-performance bike option, you can get to Revolution Cycles using the Metro (get off at the Crystal City station, south of the Pentagon). I think a hybrid bike was something like $40 a day, a CF road bike was $80 a day. Something like that.

2) I'd like to see the National Mall and the various memorials and sights. Any recommended routes or loops that you like that hit the high points? Anything less than 30 miles round trip is fair game.
You're only about a mile away from the Mall it looks like. Just rent a bike and wander. I spent about 3 hours doing that and got to see quite a bit (although I didn't go into any buildings).

3) What should I expect from drivers/infrastructure when I get there? Is it survival of the fittest/fastest or lots of bike lanes and MUPs?
Lots of bike commuters, so you won't be an anomaly. There are on-street routes, and at least some of the bridges have separate bike lanes. Consult Google Maps with the Bicycle option selected to see the good routes.

4) Which bridges are bike friendly? I don't want to end up on some interstate with 65mph traffic giving me the bird.
Looks like the Roosevelt Bridge, just east of where you'll be, has a bike lane on it and connects you with all the touristy stuff.

5) Anything else I should know?
Not really. I found it a little disorienting at first just because the nature of the traffic was different from what I'm used to, but other than that, I enjoyed the experience and recommend trying it. There are bicycle tours led by guides. While I was riding I tagged along with a couple groups to hear what the guide had to say, but didn't stay with them.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

Last edited by Doohickie; 09-07-11 at 03:28 PM.
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Old 09-07-11, 04:26 PM
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Sweet! Thanks you two!

cc-rider, I'm in town Monday through Thursday of next week. Scheduling is a bit up in the air but I'm looking at Wednesday night/Thursday morning ride. Your recommendation for a night ride sounds awesome and not something I was considering until you mentioned it. I'll PM you and perhaps we can meet up.
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Old 09-07-11, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Level 2 View Post
I'll PM you and perhaps we can meet up.
Denied! Apparently I have to have 50 posts to PM someone...doh!
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Old 09-07-11, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Level 2 View Post
Sweet! Thanks you two!

cc-rider, I'm in town Monday through Thursday of next week. Scheduling is a bit up in the air but I'm looking at Wednesday night/Thursday morning ride. Your recommendation for a night ride sounds awesome and not something I was considering until you mentioned it. I'll PM you and perhaps we can meet up.
I'm heading out of town Thursday afternoon for a ride in NYC. If work and weather cooperates, Wednesday evening or Thursday morning might work.
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Old 09-07-11, 05:56 PM
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I just went on a trip to DC last month and brought my bike. I'm far from an expert, but here's what I did:

On my first day (https://connect.garmin.com/activity/107137170) I took my bike up to Vienna and took the W&OD trail towards DC. Then I switched to the Curtiss trail which follows I-66 and takes you directly to the Potomac, which turns into the Mt Vernon Trail. I took the Theodore Roosevelt memorial bridge across into DC, but then had to wander around aimlessly trying to find the National Mall area. I would recommend against taking that bridge as it doesn't really leave you in an area that's very interesting. The Arlington Memorial bridge is much better and drops you off right near the Lincoln memorial. I took that back, but unfortunately could not find an easy way to get back on Mt Vernon trail without crossing a very fast moving highway. Later examination of the maps showed I should have headed south a bit to catch the trail. My fault for deciding to do this with no maps whatsoever . It was fun. Be Prepared To Ride On The Street. The walkways are packed full of pedestrians, and even though there's lots of car traffic, the cars seem more than comfortable sharing the road. When I first got there I was scared and tried riding on the sidewalks because drivers up here in Buffalo are fairly hostile to cyclists. It was nice cycling in an area that's used to cyclists for a change.

The Curtis trail has lots of "hills". At my weight they were very tough to tackle and my 35 mile route took a whole hour longer than I originally planned. The traffic on the trails was very heavy compared to what I'm used to (Tuesday night), and when I talked to an elderly couple who saw me struggling up the hills they said it was a good thing I was riding on a "slow night", and that there's easily 10x more bikes on a Saturday.


Second ride, I decided to see the rest of the W&OD trail (https://connect.garmin.com/activity/108023267). It's beautiful and takes you out to Purcelville, which has a very-aptly-placed-and-named bike shop at the very end called "Trails End Cycling Co". Went on a Saturday, parked at the Rt 28 lot, and it was nearly impossible to find parking at 8am. By the time I got back the parking lot was empty, which seems to indicate that the cyclists prefer the morning.


Next time I'm in DC I intend to check out the rest of the Mt Vernon Trail. I hear it's really nice.
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Old 09-18-11, 08:26 PM
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Update for everyone: First thanks for all the great advice! From a cycling perspective, my trip to DC was a great success. We'll see from a business perspective.

cc_rider: your tips were great and helped me have a fighting chance of figuring out where I going.

I first rented from www.capitalbikeshare.com. The bikes are exactly what you'd expect from a generic commuter bike but this option was very accessible and economical. I took one out from literally across the street from my hotel and rode to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. They have a free event every night there at 6pm. This night was a Brazilian guitarist that reminded me of elevator music so I didn't stay long (there is another Capital Bike Share station right in front of the Kennedy Center). The drop stations can be a little tough to find but if you can get yourself reasonably close, ask around and someone can likely direct you the last 100 yards. I then cruised leisurely around the National Mall at sunset and saw all the buildings, monuments and memorials in the area. I got a stern talking to from a park official for riding down a ramp near one of the monuments. FYI that's a no-no. I also got yelled at by the Secret Service when I was riding near the White House. No riding allowed south of the White House between the Ellipse and the South Lawn even on the street. Apparently that street is closed to general vehicle access. There were tons of peds everywhere but I was just cruising so it wasn't really an issue.

Navigating the nuances of where it was ok to ride on the sidewalk and not was a little tough. Coming across the Key Bridge I just rode in traffic but apparently it is ok to ride on the sidewalk there. The divider is not a curb but a sizable barrier between the cars and walkers so once you're on one side, you're stuck. Likewise on M St. the sheer quantity of peds made it tough to stay on the sidewalk. I took my chances with traffic. I had to hustle to keep up but it was rush hour so the cars were slow and I'd usually be able to keep pace light to light. The return trip after night fall got a little dicey since I tried coming back a different way rather than retracing my steps. I came up Rock Creek and Potomac Pkwy to near the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge and ran out of bike friendly options. The ramps, over passes and under passes looked like they were car only so I turned around and made my way to K Street which seemed innocent enough and pointed myself toward the hotel. K St. quickly went from a nice residential road to a bit terrifying. There are TWO K Streets; an upper road and a lower road. I found myself on the upper section which in the west we call a freeway. The speed limit was technically 35mph but the cars were doing at least 50 and there was only a very narrow shoulder to ride on. Once I realized the predicament I put myself in, it was too late to turn around. I lived.

I called Big Wheel Bikes who had multiple locations in the area to rent a road bike. I talked to the owner would could not have been more unhelpful. I wanted a road bike for early Thursday morning. I would return the bike within 3 hours as my flight out was the same day. They didn’t open until 10am so I would have to get the bike the night before. As this was technically a two day rental he wanted to charge me $200 since “rules are rules”. Thanks but no thanks.

Fortunately, I found www.bikestoborrow.com which was great! They rented me a Gary Fisher road bike for $75 and delivered it to my hotel the morning I needed it (I would have had a 1.5 mile walk to the bike shop). I simply left the bike with the front desk when I was finished and they came and picked it up. Great service and great price!

I rode the Mt. Vernon Trail from Rosslyn to Mt. Vernon and back (about 35 miles based on the mile markers). Really great ride and absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of Disneyland as everything was nicely maintained and well laid out. The people on the trail were really nice too. I think I liked it so much because it was very much like mountain biking single track through the woods.

Thanks again for all the great advice!
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Old 09-20-11, 06:46 AM
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Glad you had fun. I ride that area 2 or 3 times a week, and you were way more adventurous than I've ever been
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Old 09-20-11, 09:29 AM
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Glad you enjoyed the riding. Sorry I couldn't join you Thursday morning, but work always gets crazy when the clients find out I'm leaving on a long weekend.
The MVT is a good ride when it is not too crowded.
I wasn't familiar with bikes-to-borrow, but it sounds like a good service. I'll keep them in mind to recommend.
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