It’s Life Changing: Marc M. on #BikeDC Speaks

This week I’m launching a series of guest posts called “BikeDC Speaks.” And I don’t mean “Passing on your left.” We’re going beyond that. This series explores local cyclists’ thoughts and views about their bicycling experiences in the D.C. area.

My first post features Marc M., a fellow Tweep and FridayCoffeeClub regular. Thanks so much, Marc, and I hope you all enjoy the upcoming series!

Marc M.’s Bianchi on top of Sugarloaf Mountain (c) Marc M.

1. How long have you been riding in the D.C. area?

A little over a year. I bought a bike when I first moved here almost 7 years ago, but never rode it because I was out of shape and scared to ride on the roads.

2. What sorts of things do you do by bike?

In order of time spent, I’d say commuting, fitness riding, and picking up Chinese food. I also throw in some random evening rides, Target runs, and that kind of stuff.

3. What do you like about bicycling in D.C.?

The freedom. Sure, you can drive most places in the area, but traffic and parking are so unpredictable and frustrating.

On a bike, you don’t really have to worry about those things and you get to experience all the sights on sounds of the Nation’s capital while doing something as mundane as commuting or running errands.

4. What are the challenges of bicycling here?

I think there are universal challenges (bad drivers, infrastructure, etc.).

Specific to D.C., I’d say the challenges are things like the weather extremes (cold-ish winters and hot summers, with decent precipitation and humidity year-round) and geography/topography. I don’t just mean hills, but the rivers really limit your routes if you want to get in or out of the city, which most people do, whether it’s for work or recreation.

5. What parts of the city do you consider bike-friendly and why?

Well, I’ve lived in Capitol Hill the entire time I’ve been cycling so I’m biased, but I think it’s a fantastic place to ride. Plenty of bike lanes, the street grid is a bit more consistent, and traffic is much easier to deal with.

I’ve also had good experiences up in Columbia Heights. I don’t spend much time west of Rock Creek Park because I have no reason to go up there, but that area seems a bit more challenging for numerous reasons.

6. What could the District do to make it an even better city for cyclists?

Traffic enforcement. I get that crime is a problem, but if the city spent more time taming the 3,000-pound beasts, it would do a lot to make the place safer for everyone (and bring in lots of revenue).

Maybe then neighborhoods would become the walkable and bikeable spaces we’d all like, rather than vehicle thoroughfares.

7. Any thoughts about Capital BikeShare?

CaBi is what got me hooked on cycling, so I’m a big fan. I’m one of those Living Social deal converts, but I renewed my fiance’s and my memberships at full price because I think the system is so worth it.

Now that I have my own bike(s) that I really love (and bought after starting with CaBi), I don’t use CaBi as much. However, it’s nice to be able to ride a bike and not have to stress about theft or getting the bike home if you don’t feel like riding for your return trip.

8. What is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given you about bicycling?

The best clothes to wear and the best bike to ride are those that you enjoy using. It’s not about how you look or how much money you spend.

9. What advice do you have about cycling in the city?

1. Be cautious, but don’t be afraid. If you’re afraid to ride, you won’t, but if you pay attention, every ride is an experience.

2. Cycling is very safe, but assume no one knows you’re there.

3. Seek out other cyclists. Although cycling is something most of us learn at a young age, riding in the city comes with a fairly specific set of “rules” and best practices that aren’t readily apparent, but can be learned quickly from others with more experience.

In the long run, this will make for better and more consistent cyclist behavior, which will go a long way toward making cycling a “normal” mode of transportation from the drivers’ perspective.

10. What is a word or phrase that summarizes your D.C. bicycling experience?

Life changing!

11. What did I not ask about #BikeDC that you want to add?

Has cycling caused you to make different lifestyle choices, good or bad?

Since I started riding, my fiancĂ© and I sold a car and now just have one. I think it also has made me a more relaxed and patient person. I definitely don’t get as worked up dealing with traffic, or in as much of a hurry to get places.

Thank you again, Marc, for being part of #BikeDC Speaks. Have a question or comment for Marc? You know what to do. Comment!

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