Friday, May 21, 2010

Did you bike to work today?

Today was the annual Bike To Work Day in the DC area.  Local biking organization WABA organized the event and even had 'ride convoys' today to help beginners bike into their offices.  Did any of you bike to work today?

I took the plunge and rode my bike in from Wheaton to Farragut West where my office is.  It's about 13 miles each way (whew!).  I've been strategizing on bike routes since I moved to Wheaton because I would bike into downtown DC every so often when I lived in Silver Spring using either the Capital Crescent Trail (longer route but car-free) or Beach Drive.  A few weekends ago, I did a test run into my office using Plyers Mill, snaking through neighborhoods down towards Capitol View, then onto Jones Mill, which connects into Beach Drive.  The route worked, but the windy, curvy roads to get to Beach Drive were an issue both from a car safety standpoint (no shoulders) and because they were damn hard to bike up on the way home!

So after talking to some people and looking at a suggested route on WABA's website, I devised a new route, which I tried for the first time today.  Here's my disclaimer:  Part of my route to get to Silver Spring involved riding my bike on sidewalks along Georgia, which you're not really supposed to do.  I was thinking on my ride in how nice it would be if they widened the sidewalk enough to have a bike lane that people could use as a direct route to Silver Spring.  A link like that would give easy bicycle access to downtown S.S., the metro station, and the Capital Crescent Trail

Going from Wheaton to downtown DC:
-Ride the sidewalks along Georgia, using the 'bridge to nowhere' to cross the Beltway
-Take the right to 16th St., continuing to use the sidewalk until the road opens up into multiple lanes.  Then, I moved into the street
-At the weird intersection with Colesville Road, make a right turn onto North Portal.
-From there, I used the directions provided by WABA
Biking time:  1 hour
Distance:  13 miles

This route in was nice, but because of the hills, I devised a different route home through the city along streets with more gradual hills instead of the steep ones in Rock Creek.  I was pretty happy with this route.  You're always going to go uphill heading out of the city, but this route felt easier than alot of ones that I've tried and the traffic was fairly light:
Going from downtown DC (around Farragut West) to Wheaton:
-Go north on 18th St.
-Right on Florida Ave
-Left on 11th St (bike lanes)
-Hop over one block to 10th St once 11th becomes one way in the opposing direction
-Left on Randolph, then a quick right onto Kansas (bike lanes)
-Left onto Missouri, then a quick right onto 3rd St
-When 3rd ends at Blair Road, take a left then quick right to under the Metro Bridge.  This puts you onto Sandy Spring Road, which turns into Maple Ave
-Continue on Maple Ave through beautiful Takoma Park until you reach the intersection with the Sligo Creek Parkway.
-Hop onto the Sligo Creek Trail.  Once the road gets better shoulders (after you cross Colesville), I left the trail and used the road instead.
-My route home from Sligo Creek was to turn left on the trail connector leading to Windham Ln.  Windham eventually dead ends, but a foot/bike trail continues on and connects up with another section of Windham.  This road then intersects with Amherst Ave, and you're back in downtown Wheaton!
Biking Time:  1 hour 20min (like I said, there are some hills!)
Distance:  13 miles


  1. Sidewalk biking is fine in MD.

  2. This is very helpful information. It is a shame that you have to place your life at risk in order to bike to work.

  3. Thanks Anon #1, that document does make it sound like you're allowed to bike on sidewalks, so that's good. I still feel bad when I have to squeeze by pedestrians, but at least I'm not breaking any laws.

    Anon #2, other than having to cross quite a few streets while biking on the sidewalks along Georgia, this didn't feel like too hazardous of a route. My ride home, especially, was on a number of roads that had bike lanes and traffic was generally light. Also, even though I linked to that article about crime on the 'bridge to nowhere', it seemed safe enough during the day when I was biking it.

  4. I've been a fair-weather bike commuter from Wheaton to downtown (Capitol Hill) for a few months now. After experimentation, the route I've settled on is primarily 16 St/14th St.
    -at the weird intersection with Colesville Road, I move from 16th St to its western sidewalk and take that to Decatur St
    -at Decatur St, I move east to 14th St and take the bikelane (where available) to the Mall.

    I have taken 16th St all the way to its end at Lafayette Park, which would work perfectly for you (at least geographically). On the northern section of 16th St there are relatively few side streets on the west side, thanks to Rock Creek Park, making the sidewalk on that side nice for biking; also, there are few pedestrians until you cross the bridge over Piney Branch Park. It's actually feasible to move onto 16th St around the time you pass the tennis complex. Once you cross Piney Branch Park, you should definitely move onto the street; there are too many pedestrians on the sidewalks, and the flow of street traffic slows enough that you can pace it.

    I follow a similar route gong home, picking up 14th around R St and moving to (the eastern sidewalk of) 16th St at Aspen, where Walter Reed blocks 14th. Though a bit out of your way, it would be less so, and simpler, than the return route you tried. There are some pretty good hills along the way, but they build strong legs. ;-) While there are more road intersections on the east-side sidewalk of 16th St, pedestrians are just as rare on that side. The worst stretch is the uphill block between Colesville Rd and East-West Highway; the sidewalk is broken by several sets of steps, so I take the street, but it's slow going up that hill and the drivers can be impatient.

    I enjoy your blog. Bike on.

  5. Hey, Anon. Thanks for the bike route info. I have used 16th street to get into work when I lived in Silver Spring and I kind of forgot about that route. It's a really nice ride into the city. But man oh man, biking back up those hills is a killer. I may stick with my longer, less steep route home for now and move up to the 16th St. route once I get some stronger biking legs.