“Metro estimates unprecedented crush loads unless rail riders find alternative modes.” – Martin DiCaro, WAMU 88.5 News
We applaud Metro’s Safe Track initiative, and are big fans of using public transportation. Washington DC needs a safe and reliable Metro system, and now the work is getting done to make it that way. But, according to ABC News, city officials are encouraging the 700,000 daily riders to avoid the Metrorail entirely for stretches at a time, in anticipation of extremely crowded train cars and platforms.
The related shutdowns and closures will affect our regional transportation system, stretching it to its limits. Many will experiment with starting to use a bicycle to get around town, and to and from work, at least on the nice days. We, at BicycleSPACE have been getting around by bicycle in DC, some of us for over 30 years, and have some tips to share. Here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: When and where will the Metro system be affected, is there a plan and can I see it?
A: See Metro’s press release here, and Metro Surge Schedule
Q: Do you guys ride right out there in the street?
A: Yes and no, it depends. A lot of times we see new cyclists riding out on major roads, which we would never ride on. We choose our routes based on our well-being, and fortunately there are an increasing number of options.
The safest place to ride is on a trail where there is no nearby automobile traffic. Examples are the W&OD Trail, the Four Mile Run trail, the Mount Vernon Trail, the Capital Crescent and Georgetown Branch Trails, the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and the Anacostia River Trail, soon to be completed.
Next down the safety list are physically separated bike lanes, or Cycletracks, such as the one on 15th Street NW, Pennsylvania Ave NW, on L and M streets downtown, and for a couple of blocks on 1st Street NE, right off the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the NoMa neighborhood near Union Station.
Then there are the painted lanes and secondary streets, which are better than riding out on the fast, busy thoroughfares.
Plan your routes ahead of time, and ask others which routes they use, and get familiar with bike maps. Be creative.
Q: Is there a place where I can see all this stuff?
A: Yes! Here is an official DDOT bike map which shows trails, Cycletracks, and lanes.
Here is a more regional map:
And a very good meshing of various regional maps.
Q: Ok, so I’m going to try biking, but I’m not sure I’m going to like it so I don’t want to spend thousands, what are the main things I should look for in a bike?
A: First off, it needs to be comfortable, meaning that it needs to be the right size and configuration for your particular body, and we’re all different. The best way to do this is to talk with people like us whose goal every day is to match potential riders with the best bikes for them, and then go on a test ride. We offer plenty of weekly opportunities to go on extended test rides at our shops and you may see a list of them here.
Next, the bike should be able to accommodate fenders and racks so you can arrive cleanly and comfortably to your destination. Most of the bikes we carry do this, and here is a sampling of some great bikes we carry for getting around town.
Q: I’ve got an old bike in Mom’s garage, or I found one on craigslist or DC Used Bike Marketplace and I was thinking about using that, is it practical?
A: There are some great classic steel bikes out there from the 1970s and 1980s, which can work great for getting around town, with a couple of caveats. If it was a low quality bike back when it was originally purchased, it still is. But if it was mid to better quality, it could be a gem.
Most of those bikes came with steel wheels originally, which made them both heavy, and impossible to stop in wet weather because the brakes wouldn’t grab. We pride ourselves in being able to modernize these bikes with lighter and brake-friendly aluminum wheels, and we are able to find many older parts, where necessary, to make these bikes quick and snappy, and great for the city.