Erica Flock, EarthShare Online Manager
One sign of the bike’s popularity in Washington, DC is the nonchalance with which many of my friends and colleagues hop on one after work or dinner with friends. I regularly see cyclists zipping by at all hours on the street in my neighborhood or tourists grinning on red Capital Bikeshare bikes on paths and lanes around the city.
Ranked as a top 10 bikeable city by Walkscore, the District is, indeed, a great city for bicyclists, at least by U.S. standards. The two-year-old Capital Bikeshare just reached 2 million rides and the city continues to add new bike lanes and other amenities. With Bike to Work Week approaching, I decided it was a great opportunity to forgo my typical Metro ride and bike to work.
After mapping out the 4-mile route from my home in DC to to the EarthShare offices in Bethesda, MD (using Google’s handy bike map tool), I learned that biking to work would take a mere five minutes longer than taking Metro. Half my route would go through neighborhoods and half through the beautiful, forested Capital Crescent Trail—certainly a more low-key ride than most DC commuters face.
The Capital Crescent Trail was a rail line that carried coal and building supplies to and from Washington, DC for many years before our member organization Rails-to-Trails Conservancy helped turn it into a bike and pedestrian path. Like many trails in the DC area, the path gives a full spectrum of terrain: from verdant woodlands that make you forget you’re in the city to some of the most bustling neighborhoods in the region: Georgetown, Bethesda and Silver Spring.
My bike is nothing fancy (it’s an old, somewhat ugly hybrid I picked up on Craigslist for about $200) and I didn’t wear any special clothing—just threw on my work clothes and a helmet. The forest along the trail was thick and released a pungent, springy smell as I whizzed by. When I arrived in Bethesda and left the trail, I hopped on the city’s on-street bike lanes to make it most of the rest of the way to the office.
Thanks in part to another (local) EarthShare member charity, Bethesda Green, Bethesda is set to get more bike parking this week, just in time for the close of Bike Month. In addition to increasing bike paths and lanes, adequate parking is critical to growing a bike-friendly city.
Bicycle commuting in the U.S. jumped 40% in the last decade, but still remains marginal compared to countries like the Netherlands (watch this amazing video of rush hour in Utrecht and you'll see why). Many people in the U.S. feel understandably unsafe biking for transportation because their cities lack the infrastructure and laws to support cyclists.
Some of our members like the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and Natural Resources Defense Council are working hard to ensure that bicycling gets the attention and funding it deserves. Ultimately, bicycling will only become a transit option if we let our leaders know it’s a priority – for our health, safety and the planet.
Now that my route to work is no longer a mystery, I plan on making biking a regular part of my week. You can too! Take the first step by plugging your location into the Google/Rails-to-Trails Bike Directions tool, then get pedaling!
More on bike commuting from our members:
Biking to Work: How to Get Started, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Make biking to work your 2012 resolution, Natural Resources Defense Council
Smarter Cities, Natural Resources Defense Council
Bicycles Belong, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy