View Full Version : Newbie: Courthouse to Ronald Reagan

01-30-2012, 10:26 AM
Hey everybody, I have been lurking for a little while on here and I am considering beginning to bike in 2-3 days a week from Arlington Courthouse to the Ronald Reagan building. I am in reasonably good shape but biking is new to me. The last time I was on a bike was when my Trek was stollen out of my Ballston back yard about 7 years ago. I have never been an avid biker but the concept of the freedom of the bike, the extra exercise, and not having people snot on me while commuting on the Metro all seem like good ideas.

The only issue I have is my own fears about the drivers in the area. As we all know, the divers in the area are terrible, and being unprotected (well just with a helmet) on a bike is not safety insipring. I am trying to get over the hump by looking for the safest route from Arlington Courthouse (1300 N. Veitch St) to the Ronald Reagan Building in Downtown DC (1300 Pennsylvania Ave). I went out this weekend for a trial run and the bridge over 50 in Rosslyn looks like it could be sketchy during commuting hours. Looking for encouragement, tips, and some route advice from the experts on here. Thanks!


Justin Antos
01-30-2012, 09:17 PM
Hi Jason,
Welcome to bike commuting! You sound like you've got just the right attitude for your commute. The ride from Courthouse to downtown DC is a pretty reasonable one, and there are a number of different routes you can take.

Here's a suggestion (http://g.co/maps/rhvpv)for one of the more safe routes - nearly all on bike lanes or off-street trails, and easy crossings. But, it's also a bit long - about 6 miles, where a more direct route might take you 5 or so. Basically, this route sends you out of your way to avoid cars. There are more direct routes out there, if you feel more comfortable riding in mixed traffic. The views on the Mt. Vernon Trail are gorgeous, and the hill from Rosslyn to Veitch is fun in the morning but a slog in the afternoon. http://g.co/maps/rhvpv

If the morning ride is a bit tiring, you can always bail and use Metro or a bus for the other half of the ride - throw your bike on a Metrobus (38B or Circulator might help), or wait a bit and bring your bike home on Metrorail in the evening anytime after 7pm.

Good luck, and have fun!

Brendan von Buckingham
01-31-2012, 06:37 AM
I go through Courthouse, I'd suggest crossing 50 at Rhodes like this: http://g.co/maps/euz8t

15th Street is steep down off of Courthouse. After Rhodes Bridge the left turn onto the access road backs up sometime; take your turn and once you get through the access road is virtually traffic free and a nice long downhill. Practically no peddling your first mile. Through Iwo Jima to Marshall Drive onto a bike trail. You have to cross GW Parkway at Memorial Bridge. Use common sense caution, dismount and wait for both lanes to come to a stop. After some experience you won't have to dismount, but don't push it. This is your biggest kill spot.

At the DC end of Memorial Bridge use caution crossing traffic; in the a.m. they're good about yielding to you, but you always have to watch. Take a leisurely monumental path of your choosing from Lincoln Memorial to 14th.

Easy in the a.m. but you'll have to earn it on the way home. The last hill up to Courthouse is a killer. During dark evening commute you'll absolutely need a light for the section where you skirt the Cemetery. The trail is unlit, and along the highway, the oncoming headlights are particularly blinding. You'll want to go slow and careful to make sure you can see everything.

01-31-2012, 07:07 AM
Welcome! As you can see, there are plenty of alternatives (http://g.co/maps/mbs6r). you could also go over the Roosevelt Bridge and make your way through Foggy Bottom. I pass courthouse and the Reagan building on my morning commute. I'd be happy to show you any of the routes if you're willing to leave courthouse between 6:30-6:45.

01-31-2012, 08:16 AM
Hahaha. My post is almost an exact duplicate of americancyclo's. Of course I took twice as many words to say the same thing. D'OH!


Greetings. Welcome.

I'd start by taking Veitch heading north. Cross over Rt 29 and take the sidewalk for 50 yards east until it connects to the Custis Trail. From there you can ride into Rosslyn. Be careful crossing Lynn Street. Continue straight onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Go up and over Roosevelt Bridge to the Kennedy Center. At the traffic circle, cross over Virginia Avenue onto New Hampshire Ave. Turn right on H Street. Ride through GW University. That eventually connects up with Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the World Bank Building. That section of Penn is pretty easy to ride. Just keep your eyes open and be visible. Cross over 17th street and ride through the security barriers and in front of the White House. Turn right onto the 15th Street Cycleway. Turn left onto the Pennsylvania Avenue Cycleway. From there you can hop the crosswalks at 14th street and you're at the Reagan Building.

Here's most of the route mapped out for you: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/921164

This is one of the routes I use to get to work at least 3 or 4 times per week. All of the street crossings in Rosslyn are a little dangerous, but nothing that a little caution on your part can't handle to make them safe.

Depending on what time you're commuting, one or more of us can give you a guided tour of the route if you like.

Rock on!


01-31-2012, 08:22 AM
. . . kill spot . . . killer . . .
We want to HELP the new guy, not terrify him.

Welcome, Jason. My commute is 100% in DC, so I can't help you much with the VA stuff, but it looks like others have you covered. But, really, do be careful crossing the GW Parkway. Cars there are perhaps not as aware of bikes or their own speed as they should be.

01-31-2012, 08:32 AM
I'm in the Iwa Jima - Memorial Bridge camp, with Brendan von Buckingham. The Custis is great, but I don't know why you'd go out of your way to get to it, especially that section of it.

An alternative to Brendan's route is to stay on Fairfax Drive (on the north side of 50) to Meade Street. Take a L on Meade to get to the Iwa Jima. When I went that way more often, I found Fairfax better than Rhodes -> access road, but that was a while ago. I do agree with Brendan that the south side of the Memorial Bridge is better --> you have better sightlines when crossing traffic (btw, it's Washington Blvd there, not GW Parkway. It's not a great crossing, but it's not the terrible crossing of the GW Pkwy that has all those terrible accidents), and once you get to the Lincoln Memorial side of the river, you have normal cross walks. On the North side, you're crossing traffic that's coming off the bridge, and speeding up to get on highways, on the Lincoln side, you have 2 stop lights that aren't timed to speed your way. You have to cross Memorial Drive at the point marked by Brendan -- there are no curb cuts after the merge of traffic from 110.

I stop near the Lincoln, but my husband used to go past the RR building and he agrees with Brendan that the south side of the reflecting pool was a better route than along Constitution.

I'm happy to ride with you from Courthouse to the Lincoln - I can leave between 8am and 9am.

One thing you find commuting -- everyone has an opinion of what the fastest route is.

01-31-2012, 08:36 AM
WBut, really, do be careful crossing the GW Parkway. Cars there are perhaps not as aware of bikes or their own speed as they should be.

Don't worry - you don't have to cross the GW Pkwy if you don't take the Mt Vernon Trail from Rosslyn. You just cross Washington Blvd. In the morning, it's not any worse than the crossings in DC. In the afternoon, you have to be a bit more careful (there are fewer cars, so some are driving faster).

jrenaut's second point applies pretty much everywhere in the region. It's important to be aware of whether you're biking, walking or driving...

Justin Antos
01-31-2012, 08:50 AM
Lots of options! Now you'll have to report back for which you like :). Good luck.

01-31-2012, 09:09 AM
My suggestion is the Roosevelt bridge, but I wouldn't bother with the Custis trail. Take Clarendon to Rosslyn. After this becomes Wilson, turn left on Lynn Street. After crossing the ramp from I-66 (westbound Lee Hwy), turn right on the Custis/Mount Vernon trail and go over the Roosevelt bridge. The advantage of this route is that it avoids the worse of Lynn/Lee intersection, which numerous threads in this forum discuss.

03-15-2012, 01:25 PM
Sorry it took me so long, but its time to report back. I ended up with a route like Brendan's which ended up looking like this: http://g.co/maps/7q6ww Keep in mind that I am a non-bike person. I am a guy in reasonable shape that got fed up with the metro and decided to give it a go. I started out with a cheapie Giant mountain bike that a co-worker sold to me for a "gift" price of $50. I put on an inexpensive front light, got a helmet, and a rear blinkey, and went for it. I know I must have spent hours researching and figuring before I finally did it, but I did. At first, I was literally re-learning how to ride a bike. It was kind of like being tossed into the deep end of the pool and being told to figure it out. The trip in was totally easy, mostly down hill. Like one of the above poster said, on the way back, I have to earn it. There is still one hill that I have to walk the bike up because I am so zapped from the previous continuous serise of hills starting from Iwo Jima all the way to Rhodes street. Ironically, after the short walk up that hill, I am able to tackle just fine a hill that is even steeper right at the end of my ride. Since my first bike, I have already upgraded to a Cannondale quick 3. Its my first bike every with skinny tires. Its a revelation on how much easier it rolls. It is also 1000x's more maneurverable.

Now my big problem is tourists actually. I never expected them to be so bad, but now my afternoon ride home is plagued with them. I honestly dont know how to get away from them. I think I will try riding on the north side of Constitution on the side walk. The obvious answer would be to ride in traffic, but I am not confident enough of a bike rider, and my feelings on DC/Arlington drivers are pretty dim.

Thank you all once again for all your help. Riding in is much better for me and my body, and I get to avoid the metro! Now I just have to find a way to solve for tourists.

03-15-2012, 01:39 PM
Great to hear. You may want to try going to the South side of the Washington Monument/Reflecting Pool to get to the Lincoln. That should cut off one of the worst tourist spots (that corner by the North side of the Lincoln)

03-15-2012, 01:51 PM
Glad to hear you found a route that works for you. Your route reversed is how I usually head home, and the climbs from Iwo Jima through to 15th and Courthouse can be trying at times. keep it up, though and good luck with avoiding the tourists, particularly with cherry blossom season coming. You could also try taking the sidewalk along Independence Ave, it's relatively wide, and not as highly trafficked as the reflecting pool area.

03-15-2012, 02:03 PM
Yeah, I usually take the Independence Ave route to Lincoln Memorial in the evening rush hour and it's not as bad as the north side of Consitution EXCEPT during cherry blossom time (about three weeks of tourist throngs in a half mile radius around the basin - arghhhh). In the winter months, there are few peds or cyclists along that route.

If you don't mind adding about 2.5 miles to your route, you could try backtracking to L'Enfant Plaza, taking the Case Bridge, then George Mason Bridge to the MVT. More on this route can be found here:


Congrats and best wishes on your biking adventures. If you keep plugging away at those hills you will surprise yourself one day by being able to zoom up them all without walking. Even though my weight hasn't decreased with one year of bike commuting under my belt, my pulse and blood pressure have both decreased and my bad cholesterol levels have improved a lot even though I didn't change my diet. Yeah! And the hills are easier too. I also do a lot of recreational biking but nothing crazy.

03-15-2012, 02:31 PM
I did Independance last night, it was actually even worse due to the large number of school busses dropping off and mass numbers of school children amassed arround the WWII memorial.

03-15-2012, 07:13 PM
That Cannondale Quick 3 is a nice bike, enjoy! My only tips for avoiding tourists probably won't be helpful - ride on the roads, and/or ride off-peak hours...

03-15-2012, 09:08 PM
As an alternative, but maybe for when you get more comfortable with traffic, try Clarendon down to Lynn, then across the Key Bridge, then M st. and Penn all the way across town. I did it the other night on a CaBi (although I went all the way to Cap. Hill) and from Courthouse to Reagan Building took maybe 25 minutes. Traffic in the morning shouldn't be too bad, but M in the afternoon can be a challenge. Again, it may not be the easiest route traffic-wise, but it's fairly direct and sticking to the street helps avoid tourists, so it's a good route to at least be familiar with.

03-15-2012, 09:39 PM
You can also try cutting across the Ellipse, then taking a right on 18th then a left on G street to get to the Theodore Roosevelt bridge. This does require riding in the street though but at least these streets are one way.

Regrettably the city planners stuck most of the major federal agencies in a circle around the tourist mecca known as the Mall so we get a confluence of tourists and workers. It's unfortunate that the major tourist sites weren't more evenly distributed around the city (spread the wealth and the pain).

03-16-2012, 07:48 AM
Key Bridge, then M st. and Penn all the way across town.
This is part of my daily commute. I never encounter tourists, except when crossing behind the white house. It's not too bad traffic wise if you make it through M St. before 8am. Roads can be a bit dicey though. just be aware.

02-01-2017, 04:30 AM
hey out there; looks like i'll start a 6mth detail with CBP at the Ronald Reagan Building. I've been commuting by bike to ICE at PCN for 8 years. Can anyone give me some insight on bike/shower facilities at the Reagan building and how to navigate through it all