As her blog suggests, Kirstin is an ultrarunner as well as a cyclist, and is one of few people I know who also run commutes when she’s not out bike commuting. Here’s what she had to say about riding in the Washington, D.C., area.
1. How long have you been riding in the D.C. area?
I’ve lived in the D.C. area for 17 years, and have always had a bicycle. I ride more now than I used to, but cycling has always been the best way to tour the city, whether it’s getting to and from the Cherry Blossoms, 4th of July fireworks, Screen on the Green, softball games on the Mall, taking a jaunt on the Mount Vernon trail, or exploring the C&O Canal.
2. What sorts of things do you do by bike?
I always enjoy riding to a ballgame or to dinner, but my favorite thing to do is bike commute. It’s fun in itself, but the best part about it is that it’s the antithesis of being stuck in traffic or crammed into a crowded train.
There’s no waiting (except at the occasional red light or for a pedestrian), you get your heart rate up, and you can pick your route based on interesting things to look at or stop into. My favorites are Whole Foods and Dolcezza. Did you know that Italians habitually eat gelato on a croissant for breakfast? You should really try it sometime.
3. What do you like about bicycling in D.C.?
It is the most enjoyable and fastest (in most cases) means of getting around the city, and the sights are wonderful. I love biking home at night in the summer. No long waits for a Metro train, and the air almost feels cool.
4. What are the challenges of bicycling here?
Because traffic is heavy in and around the area, I think drivers (and Metro commuters) are under a lot of stress, impatient and in a hurry to get OUT of traffic, even if they’re not in a hurry to get to their destination.
There’s a lot of frustration out there and being yelled at to “get off the road” is never fun to hear, even though it’s fairly rare.
5. What parts of the city do you consider bike-friendly and why?
I don’t do much biking outside of Northwest D.C. other than an occasional foray into Southwest to a Nats game or a jaunt to a friend’s place in Brookland. That area could definitely use some bike lanes!
I prefer the 14th Street bike lanes because there’s lots to look at and I like the timing of the lights for the most part.
6. What could the District do to make it an even better city for cyclists?
- Widen some of the bike paths. Rock Creek Park bike path is much too narrow in so many places. Practically, it’s only useful for a leisurely weekend bike ride.
- Continue to install bike lanes, especially a cross-town route. I usually take Pennsylvania Avenue to get across town and that works well, but bike lanes on M Street would be a big improvement.
7. Any thoughts about Capital BikeShare? Also, if you use it, what kind of trips do you use it for?
The bike sharing concept is fantastic. It means fewer bodies on the Metro system, fewer cars on the road, and less automobile emissions in the air I breathe.
I’m still sulking that the nimble SmartBikes were replaced with those sluggish, heavy behemoths with mountain bike tires. I haven’t used one in about a year (mostly because I have my own bicycles).
I used to love running partway to work, then hopping on a bikeshare bike and riding the rest of the way. Or I’d grab a bike for an impromptu ride with coworkers at lunch. It was great.
I definitely think that the proliferation of the big red CaBi bikes has resulted in a greater tolerance and acceptance of bicycles on the road. There may not be more patience, but drivers are now accustomed to seeing lots of cyclists out and about now as opposed to being shocked to see a cyclist riding in the road!
8. What is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given you about bicycling?
Stay completely out of “the door zone” even if you have to take the lane. It doesn’t seem that dangerous, but it is – think about where you’ll land when you bounce off that door. You can’t imagine how quickly a car door opens until you see it happen.
9. What advice do you have about cycling in the city?
Appreciate every moment and be grateful for your ability to get where you are going on two wheels. Notice the birds, the sunshine, the feel of the wind on your skin.
And if a driver yells at you, try to resist yelling back; ironically, I’ve found it only results in making myself more aggravated. Note: I’m not always successful at this.
10. What is a word or phrase that summarizes your D.C. bicycling experience?
11. What did I not ask about #BikeDC that you want to add?
What are some favorite bike rides you do just for fun?
Weeknight jaunt: Start at the Capital Crescent Trail in Georgetown and ride up to Bethesda for dinner and back. If it gets too late you can get back by Metro (bikes allowed after 7 p.m.)
1. Take in the sights on the National Mall, the Jefferson Memorial, Hains Point. Continue north along the Potomac River and (short option) stop for a refreshment at the Georgetown Waterfront or (longer option) cross the 14th Street bridge and ride the Mt. Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria.
2. Or (medium option) take the Capital Crescent Trail, go under the Canal and Canal Road (at mile 9.8) and head west, climbing a short hill up Foxhall Road and then head northwest on McArthur Blvd. Stop for brunch at Blacksalt or the Palisades Farmers Market (Sunday 9a.m. – 1p.m.).
Great stuff, Kirstin. Thank you for being a guest contributor and for providing a couple of local route suggestions. See you on the commute OR at #FridayCoffeeClub!