Bike to Work/Airport Day

May 15 was Bike to Work Day, a nationwide celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun, and healthy way to get to work.

It’s a huge event in DC, with 79 pit stops around the region to receive refreshments, swag and a free commemorative t-shirt! I had shirts from the past three years – no way was I going to break my streak.

One problem: I was scheduled to fly out of National Airport at 8:35 AM. Could I attend Bike to Work Day and make it to the airport in time for my flight?

I was determined to find out. And I would do it by bike (of course).

That meant taking a backpack. Can’t exactly bike with a suitcase. But I was going to Florida so didn’t need much more than shorts and a swimsuit. And a Kindle. And sunscreen.

I prefer to travel light, anyway. Who wants to check a bag, pay a fee and then have to wait for it when you reach your destination? Not me.

Bike to Work Day dawned with perfect weather – sunny and in the low 60s. I hoisted my backpack, hopped on my Specialized Sirrus and hurried down the 15th Street Cycletrack.

My Bike to Work Day pit stop was Freedom Plaza. Located at 14th and Pennsylvania, it’s a great open-air plaza where you can see the Capitol in the distance. I got there about 6:45; they weren’t scheduled to open until 7. Pretty sure I got the first t-shirt issued – they had to open one of the boxes for me.

Early bird gets the t-shirt #btwd #bikedc
Bike to Work Day t-shirt.
Very early at Bike to Work Day #bikedc #btwd
Very early at Bike to Work Day
Let’s Riide.

I made a quick walk around the plaza. WABA was there, ready to advocate for biking in DC. Whole Foods was passing out granola bars and bananas. Riide Bikes offered me a test ride on an electric bike. Sadly, I had to decline – I had a plane to catch!

It’s a lovely ride to the airport. I went around the Ellipse, looped around the Lincoln Memorial, crossed the Memorial Bridge and then rode down the Mount Vernon Trail as bike commuters headed the other direction into DC.

Twenty minutes later, I was at National. It’s very easy – you just veer left off the trail as it goes by the airport. Then follow the service road to USAIR baggage claim. I rolled my bike into the airport – no one paid me any attention – up the elevator and across the pedestrian bridge to the Metro. Around the right of the Metro entrance are a couple of bike racks.

My route to National Airport.
Bike to Work Day is bike to airport day for me #bikedc #btwd #igdc
I’ve arrived!

And I mean a couple – just two, which were already occupied with bikes. I couldn’t squeeze my bike in there so locked it to a fence instead.

After going through security, I was at my gate with a good thirty minutes to spare. Biking to the airport is so easy that I’m surprised more people don’t do it. Good thing they don’t – DCA doesn’t have enough bike racks. And it would be nice if they had someplace a little more secure than some racks by the Metro.

But even better than biking to the airport is biking home. By doing so you miss the worst of the airport experience – luggage and taxis. My packed flight from Florida arrived Sunday night. While everyone trooped downstairs to wait for their bags, I headed for my bike. I wheeled by passengers plaintively staring at the carousel. Then I passed a line of broken-down cabs waiting to gouge people desperate to get home.

night biking
I am the Night Rider.
Lincoln Memorial at night
Best at night.

The Mount Vernon Trail was dark and buggy and gorgeous. There were plenty of people out. Kids clustered at Gravelly Point to watch planes land. Joggers huffed and puffed. I passed a couple of women on a long-haul excursion, their bikes loaded with panniers and lit up like Christmas trees.

It’s a good thing that I know the Mount Vernon Trail like the back of my hand because there are no lights on it. I might’ve ended up in the Potomac if I didn’t know where I was going. The headlight on the front of my bike seemed inadequate for the task.

I was glad to reach the streetlights of Memorial Bridge. I stopped at the Jefferson Memorial. It was calm and quiet, with just a few school groups climbing the steps. I took my time coming home.


WABA Honors the Best in Local Biking

Shane Farthing addresses a packed house at the WABA Awards
Shane Farthing, Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. addresses a packed house at the WABA Awards.

The tension was palpable at the 2015 Bicyclists’ Choice Awards. Washington area bike riders had nominated and voted on their favorite bike stuff in DC, MD and VA –  but who would win?

All was revealed on Friday night at the Thurgood Marshall Center in an action-packed evening put on by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA).

On a night when the temperature was in the teens, I wondered if people were going to show up for this. In fact, it was a packed house.

And people even biked there, despite the weather and the streets slippery with ice and snow.

Bikes parked outside the WABA Awards
Bikes parked in the snow outside the Thurgood Marshall Center in Shaw.

The City Paper’s bike advice columnist, Gear Prudence, aka Brian McEntee, was the host for the awards ceremony, which kicked off after everyone had a chance to mingle and get a drink from Port City.

It's @SharrowsDC, emcee of the WABA Awards
Gear Prudence rolled into the ceremonies on his Brompton.

But who won? These were the winners of the Bicyclists Choice Awards:

Best New Bike Infrastructure in the District of Columbia in 2014:
Winner: M Street protected bike lane

This surprised me because I think the M Street bike lane is a poorly-designed death trap. But there wasn’t a lot to choose from – the development of new bike lanes stalled under Mayor Grey.

Best New Bike Infrastructure in Maryland in 2014:
Winner: MARC train Bike Cars from DC to Baltimore

Now this is exciting! MARC is a cheap and easy way to get to Charm City and now I can take my bike there. Moreover, the MARC official who accepted the award revealed that they have plans for MARC train Bike Cars going out to West Virginia. That means you could take the train out to Harpers Ferry and bike back on the C&O Canal.

Best New Bike Infrastructure in Virginia in 2014:
Winner: King Street bike lanes in Alexandria, VA

The transportation officials who fought to get this done against a tide of wealthy NIMBYs deserve a hundred more awards.

Bike Friendliest Neighborhood or Business Improvement District
Winner: DowntownDC BID

Bike Friendliest Bar, Restaurant or Coffee Shop
Winner: District Taco, various locations in DC and VA

District Taco is good but I voted for Swings, since it’s home to Friday Coffee Club, where bike people meet every Friday morning.

Bike Friendliest Developer or Property Manager
Winner: Nationals Park

Best Bike Shop
Winner: BicycleSPACE

Bike Friendliest School
Winners (tie): School Without Walls High School, DC and the Washington & Lee High School, Arlington, VA

Bike Friendliest College or University
Winner: University of Maryland at College Park

Best Shop Ride
Winner: BicycleSPACE Hills of Anacostia

Best Use of Biking Data
Winner: Bike Arlington’s Freezing Saddles 

I voted for Bikeshare Visualizations, which is a fascinating look at how people use Bikeshare.

Best Media Coverage of Biking
Winner: Martin DiCaro for WAMU

Martin DiCaro covers the people who bike in this city like they’re real people, not a fringe group to be mocked or relentlessly trolled (I’m talking about you Washington Post).

Best Social Ride
Winner: BicycleSPACE’s 7th Street Social

What? DC Donut Crawl didn’t win?

Biggest Advocacy Win of 2014
Winner: Snow Removal on Arlington County Trails

Plowing the bike trails for the local citizenry doesn’t seem like a radical notion but the fact that Arlington County does it makes them unique and remarkable among local governments. Arlington County is innovative and amazing. They not only cleared their bike trails of snow they have cool videos and the best scarves.

I want to move to Arlington for this scarf
Bike Arlington believes in looking good while doing good.

Best Overall Trail or Bike Lane (anywhere in the region)

Winner: W&OD Trail

It’s easy to overlook this amazing trail, which stretches some 45 miles across urban, suburban and rural Virginia.

WABA also handed out special WABA Awards to honor bike advocates. See the complete list on their site.

It was a great evening, like the Oscars but without all the awkward patter (okay, there was some of that). They should call them “The Bikeys”next year.

And as someone who works in government myself… trust me, awards matter. If you’re a local official, being honored by the people you serve provides a cachet that you cannot get in the office. It will motivate you in the future. It’s a big deal. The WABA Awards may be in their infancy but they will prompt the development of Washington as a biking city.

WABA Ambassador Pete Beers Gently Educates Drivers

WABA ambassadors in action! Educating drivers in 15th St bike lane.
WABA Ambassador Pete Beers politely informs a driver that they’re driving in the bike lane.

You never know what you’ll see walking around on the streets of DC.

On October 11, I was on my way to get coffee when I happened to catch this little drama. It was a rainy and miserable morning but there were still plenty of cyclists in the 15th Street Cycletrack. More than just a bike lane, this is a strip of road reserved for cyclists, with bollards and parked cars protecting them from the madness of DC traffic. Bikers can go in both directions and the Cycletrack is packed every morning with commuters – an inspiring sight.

Except at 15th and M, where the bollards have gone missing. I ride through here all the time and was about to get a picture of the danger when this Audi pulled into the Cycletrack. Then the light changed and cyclists started coming the other way.

And it was Pete Beers! He’s a Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) Ambassador, charged with educating the public on the benefits of biking. As part of his outreach duties, he was riding around DC hauling the WABA “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” trailer

Pete nearly ended up on the hood of the luxury sedan. Despite this, he was polite, informing the driver that they were driving in a bike lane. It was a very civilized exchange that ended positively.

In contrast, when a cabbie made a u-turn in the Cycletrack last week, I peppered him with obscenities. “You’re a fucking idiot!” where my words, to be precise.

Maybe I should try Pete’s more Buddhist approach. Read Pete’s side of things, and his gentle approach to driver education on his blog, I Love My Commute. He also has a great Flickr feed where he obsessively documents DC-area trails, as well as his adventures in carrying large objects on bikes.

I tweeted this photo at the DC Department of Transportation. They say they will fix the problem. I hope so – it’s literally an accident waiting to happen.


Tour de Fat Rolls into DC

the colors of Tour de Fat
Costumes encouraged at Tour de Fat

Who wouldn’t want to parade around DC on bikes and then drink Fat Tire?

Well, maybe not cycle-hating Dorothy Rabinowitz, lest her wig get disturbed, but every other normal human loves biking and drinking beer. And we had a great Saturday to do it at the annual Tour de Fat.

Sponsored by my favorite New Belgium Brewing (maker of  Fat Tire, Shift, Ranger and Dig – all great beers), Tour de Fat was a big, whimsical bike festival that benefited local biking advocacy organizations like WABA. Continue reading “Tour de Fat Rolls into DC”