Making Yourself Part of the City: Laura M. on #BikeDC Speaks

Time for another edition of #BikeDC Speaks. This week’s post is brought to us by D.C. bike commuter and transportation cyclist Laura M., also known as @grafxnerd on the Twitterverse. Twitter and the magical #BikeDC hashtag is how I first “met” her!

Laura has a keen eye for detail which is not only apparent in the beautiful bikes she has built up, but also in the observations she makes about the positives and negatives of riding in the Washington, D.C., area. Read on and see for yourself.

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

I started riding in D.C. last September. I was itching to get a bike and ran to Hudson Trail Outfitters where, silly me, I went with a hybrid bike that was totally wrong for me.

I rode it for a month locally in Crystal City then decided it was too heavy and god-awful ugly. I found an 80’s Raleigh road bike on craigslist, fixed her up, and have been riding the streets of D.C. every since.

Laura’s Raleigh Pursuit

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

Almost anything I can by bike! I commute to work, both when it was 7 miles and now that it’s only 2 miles. I used to grocery shop by bike (store is now a block away and that’s just silly), do leisurely rides around, visit friends, stop at coffee shops, and run general errands.

My second bike has a Velo Orange porteur rack on the front of it which makes it extremely easy to haul a decent amount of stuff around.

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

There is an energy to it most of the time. When I’m on the bike riding the streets, I feel like I truly am part of the city. It’s silly to say that, but there is something, for me at least, to being on a bike that brings me closer to this place.

I moved here six years ago and have really not enjoyed it, trying to get out since arrival. But now that I bike, I’m finding new places, seeing a new side and just loving it. I think that District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been doing an amazing job of putting in dedicated bike infrastructure, which aids in the ease of the ride.

4. What are the challenges of bicycling here?

Education is the biggest thing for me. I’m not a complete stickler for laws and can be a scofflaw at times, but I run by the rule of “could this harm me or someone else?” Most of the time, as minute as it may be, I find it can, so I obey.

I think it’s a hard thing to pinpoint, but finding a way to get the casual cyclists—the one’s who don’t care about organizations like WABA or community events hosted by places like BicycleSPACE—to at least realize that they can’t just fly down the road with no regard for anyone else, would be something worth figuring out.

Education doesn’t just need to stop with cyclists. We have a LOT of motorists who also don’t seem to understand the rules of the road for themselves or our rights as cyclists. Within a year of riding, I’m sure every cyclist can say they’ve had someone tell them to get off the road. I’m not sure if that’s something a new organization needs to do, or maybe it’s the DDOT, I’m not sure.

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

I don’t get around the city too awful much; most of my time is spent in Dupont/Adams Morgan/U St so I’ll have a closed opinion. The circles are a killer for bikes, I try to avoid them as much as possible.

Thomas Circle (and maybe others) have bike lanes, which are a good addition. Generally, from what I’ve seen, lower Northwest D.C. (Woodley Park and south) and the Capitol Hill area are pretty bike friendly.

Laura’s Raleigh Olympian with porteur rack

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

Downtown is a nightmare, as are most of the major arteries in the city. If we could find a way to get bike lanes on roads like K Street and New York Avenue, we might find there are even more people willing to bike.

7. Any thoughts about Capital BikeShare?

I think it’s a great service. I don’t really use it since I have two bikes of my own, but have in the past. They are a bit clunky/slow, but maybe that’s okay. 🙂

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

Just ride.

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

Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be afraid. Start on side streets with bike lanes and slowly work your way into bigger roads. Or if you’re like me, just dive head-first into it and enjoy the ride. It helps to reach out to the community if you are unsure, and those of us on the #bikedc hashtag on Twitter are always willing to lend a hand!

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

Educational. I’ve started actually thinking about infrastructure and culture and how communities can thrive if our government systems take more than just the car into consideration.

True! Transportation policy should definitely be more inclusive. Thanks again for the excellent post, Laura. Your writeup has great information for both new and experienced riders. See you on Twitter and the commute!


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