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Newbie_biker
04-19-2016, 09:00 AM
Hello,
My family and I are coming down to DC next week for a short trip and hoping to explore the area on bikes. We have 2 children, ages 3 & 8. I am a pretty novice biker and have really only done off-road trails and my husband is comfortable on the roads. Our 3 year old is in a co-pilot with my husband and the 8 year old has done non-busy roads with my husband. I was looking into taking the Rock Creek trail up to the National Zoo from National Mall. We are staying at the InterContinental next to the White House. Here are some of my questions:

1) Should I be nervous for myself and my 8 year old riding around the streets of National Mall (from hotel to start of Rock Creek trail)?

2) Is Rock Creek trail busy during the weekday?

3) Is the Rock Creek ride from National Mall up to the zoo all off-road and not ride along cars?

4) If Rock Creek trail is not a good choice to ride for our family, any suggestions on which trail is better?

Many thanks for any advice or tips!

dasgeh
04-19-2016, 09:39 AM
Hello,
My family and I are coming down to DC next week for a short trip and hoping to explore the area on bikes. We have 2 children, ages 3 & 8. I am a pretty novice biker and have really only done off-road trails and my husband is comfortable on the roads. Our 3 year old is in a co-pilot with my husband and the 8 year old has done non-busy roads with my husband. I was looking into taking the Rock Creek trail up to the National Zoo from National Mall. We are staying at the InterContinental next to the White House. Here are some of my questions:

1) Should I be nervous for myself and my 8 year old riding around the streets of National Mall (from hotel to start of Rock Creek trail)?

2) Is Rock Creek trail busy during the weekday?

3) Is the Rock Creek ride from National Mall up to the zoo all off-road and not ride along cars?

4) If Rock Creek trail is not a good choice to ride for our family, any suggestions on which trail is better?

Many thanks for any advice or tips!

Welcome! DC is a great place for family biking, and I hope your family has a great trip.

To your questions
1) I work near the White House and have ridden these streets with elementary school-aged kids (mine are 5, 3 and 11 months, but I've ridden with others). You know your kid and whether s/he is a listener, but I would think most 8 yos would be fine with a parent on the lower-volume roads downtown. The streets I'd avoid are: K, I and H east of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania west of 18th; E; 9th; 14th; 18th and 19th; 23rd. All streets have sidewalks and while sidewalk riding is technically illegal in this area, I doubt anyone would bat an eye if you're respecting pedestrians and biking with kids. I'd want to position an adult to the right of the kid at all times (at least until s/he learns the way of the streets). I find that drivers are far more respectful and downright nice when I'm riding with a kid. Along the actual Mall, you'll definitely want to take the sidewalk. Totally legal.

2) I believe rush hour is busy, but during the day less so. Others may know this trail better than I.

3) It is off road, but at times right next to a road. Even where it's beside a road, it's at a different level, but there are a few places where there's no barrier. Personally, it's the kind of trail that I don't like to ride on with my 5 year old, but I'd take an experienced 8 year old.

You didn't ask but: the trail is in pretty bad shape in places and may be under construction (has that started yet). There may be lots of runners. There are some street crossings. It's not very fast, and it can get frustrating to keep slowing so much, and you may not be able to ride beside your kid. It's totally doable, but for it to be pleasant, you need to set expectations. It's going to be slow, you're going to get stuck behind people, there's a super annoying bridge just before the zoo that's basically one lane (so you have to wait if someone is coming the other directions). Take lots of snacks and water.

4) It's the only trail to the zoo. When we go from Arlington, we stick to streets. If you want a map, I could probably put one together.

There are other trails which are lovely. For example, I'd take 17th to G, G to Virginia, then get on the trail and head south, instead of north. From there, you can stay on the DC side of the river and ride down to and around Haines Point (East and West Potomac Parks), or take the Memorial Bridge (you want the downstream side) over into Virginia. Arlington has tons of trails and great places to ride, and even has a "comfort map" (http://www.bikearlington.com/pages/maps-rides/)to show you which roads are comfortable to ride on. Most roads (in Arlington and DC) have sidewalks, so there aren't many places where you absolutely cannot ride.

Newbie_biker
04-21-2016, 07:57 AM
Thank you @dasgeh for your detailed reply! Now I need get a map to mark all the streets you mentioned to avoid! The Arlington map will be helpful as we are staying the latter part of our trip on that side of the river. I plan to try the Mount Vernon trail.

Amalitza
04-21-2016, 09:56 AM
Thank you @dasgeh for your detailed reply! Now I need get a map to mark all the streets you mentioned to avoid! The Arlington map will be helpful as we are staying the latter part of our trip on that side of the river. I plan to try the Mount Vernon trail.

I highly recommend riding the Mt Vernon Trail mid-day, mid-week rather than on a weekend if you have a choice. It's a great trail (that I absolutely do recommend riding) following the river with views of monuments etc, but it is very very crowded on nice spring weekends, (and somewhat crowded even on weekday evenings) and is a bit on the narrow side for the amount of people who use it. You'll be much more able to enjoy the views and a pleasant day in nature if you pick a time that avoids the crowds.