View Full Version : BikeDC / Route 110 OR 27 shutdown?

05-13-2012, 11:06 AM
Anyone know what happened that caused the hour-plus long back-up during BikeDC this morning? The Bike House group I was riding with made it out to the Air Force Memorial rest stop and back past Iwo Jima just as the folks headed down towards 110 started getting backed up (which led to massive confusion on the Roosevelt bridge).

Heading back into VA an hour or so after we finished the ride, I saw that the route was open again and riders were headed out to turn around point in VA (the air force memorial).


05-13-2012, 11:47 AM
It looked to me like it was just that choke point on Marshall Dr due to those metal plates in the road. Once a big pack of people started funneling in there it started backing up. Looked like a lot of the family ride folks were pretty tired out by that point also - lots of folks walking bikes. It definitely caused confusion for folks coming back around into DC on the full ride.

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2

05-13-2012, 12:00 PM
Brendan, I don't know if this is what you are referring to, but I was on the 11 mile family ride with my son. When we crossed the Roosevelt Bridge, we were directed to the 50 West off ramp if we weren't interested in riding on any part of the GW Parkway. Once on the exit ramp, those of us on the family ride actually had to cross oncoming bike traffic, which at the point we got there, were the frontrunners in the 25 mile race (and yes, I use those words intentionally) preparing to come back to DC. I had to get off my bike and yell at people to pause so the family riders could cross the stream of traffic.

I don't know if this was a mistake in route planning, or if it was intentional, to have cyclists crossing each other. I also don't know how it went later when more people were coming through in both directions, which may be when the backup occurred? There were NO course marshalls there when we went through. It was pretty scary.

I'll write more later about the event generally (with photos), but bottom line, I think all of us need to volunteer to be course marshalls next year rather than riding.


05-13-2012, 12:51 PM
I would send an email to WABA about the issue of crossing bike traffic. Talk about a bad idea! I presume this is what led to the backup on the Roosevelt Bridge at the "fork in the road". I ended up walking my bike for that bit.

Overall it was a great ride/day; thanks to WABA and all of the volunteers!! Great weather, exercise, etc. I got to meet Jeff, Laurie, and Melissa for the first time (though we got separated on the Bridge). All the riders were well-behaved and friendly.

ArlingtonRider - I saw you heading down the hill from the AF Memorial. Didn't get a chance to shout out hi. So sorry you have to work this afternoon.

05-13-2012, 03:55 PM
I must've come through about the same time as OP...clearly there was some confusion even on WABA's part as the small pack I was in was directed to stay left coming down from Lynn onto 50, where we inexplicably found ourselves riding into families who were riding on the same side of the road...them someone yelled and told us we were supposed to be on the right, but there was nothing to indicate that. And the people heading toward Iwo Jima were taking up the entire road, so it was pretty dicey.

Other than that though, I thought WABA did a good job directing traffic and making the route very easy to follow. I heard grumblings of registration issues, but it took me all of 5 seconds to get my little bike bib thingy, at 0630ish.

05-13-2012, 04:31 PM
I don't have any insight into why things went down as they did, but WABA didn't organize the ride. WABA is a beneficiary but they didn't design the course.

05-13-2012, 04:40 PM
WABA didn't organize the ride

That is a distinction that will be lost on a lot of people. I am hearing a lot of grumbling about BikeDC

05-13-2012, 05:05 PM
I was going to start a new thread, but might as well continue it here. I did think overall it went well and appreciate the efforts of the organizers and all the volunteers (I forgot to mention on the photo page I also saw consularrider). To say nothing of the various jurisdictions' police departments. The weather couldn't have cooperated better.

Aside from the unintended (I hope?) misrouting discussed above, the major downside (which probably contributed to the confusion discussed above) was an insufficient number of course marshals for an event so large, involving such a wide range of riders and riding styles. My son and I got separated at the point where we were narrowed down to single file (where there were metal plates on the other side of the road). After waiting for him at that loop by the Iwo Jima (hoping I'd catch him coming out if he'd gotten ahead of me or that he would catch up if he were behind), I couldn't find anyone to report the lost child to. There didn't seem to be any event volunteers around. Eventually I found a guy with a walkie-talkie (who was not in the green t-shirt, so he wasn't obvious to me) and a park ranger who got me to a park police officer. I eventually met back up with my son at the Air Force Memorial pit stop. I was in full maternal freak out mode but it barely registered with my son.

I realize the family ride is very popular, but I kind of wonder if it works given how large this event has gotten. As it is, I would advise parents not to bring their kids unless: (1) they are attached to your own bike (baby seat, trailer, trailer cycle), (2) they are teens or older or (3) they have a cell phone on their person to contact you if you get separated. There were just so many pinch points it seemed like there were a lot of places families could get separated.

Assuming I am in town and available next year, I will volunteer for the event and would encourage others to do the same. I think it is a fabulous resource for our region and I would hate for it to become a victim of its own success.

Finally, does anyone know how to reach the event organizers? I assume they have heard about the routing issue, but I just want to make sure.


05-13-2012, 05:19 PM
I never got to the Air Force Memorial or the Iwo Jima Memorial. At Marshall and Meade I and several hundred others were denied access to Marshall Drive and told to turn around. I have no idea if I was even on the right part of the course since I was given a Family Ride map by the volunteer at the start. This turn around led to a massive salmoning and chaos at the 50 ramp to Meade.

I subsequently learned that riders were allowed to go to the IJM and Air Force Memorials.

There were no marshals at all to direct us once we returned to DC so my group ended up wandering around Foggy Bottom in traffic.

This isn't the first time Bike DC has been a mess. I've done it after hurricanes, after 9-11, and in the pouring rain. The problems with those rides were beyond the control of the organizers. Today's wasn't. They simply were not up to the task.

It's ironic that the self-guided 50 States Ride has minimal support and is much more festive. (And a hell of a lot harder.)

05-13-2012, 06:55 PM
This definitely could have had some more marshals, along with some more signage.
I was trailing behind some of the lead group that ended up taking a wrong turn at the end of the Rock Creek Parkway segment. We all ended up on the Whitehurst Freeway then crossing over the Key Bridge and getting back on the GWB. Luckily it was still fairly early in the morning, so car traffic was light.

Other than that, I was able to ride the entire route w/ no issue.

05-13-2012, 07:07 PM
We also signed up for the family ride, once across the Roosevelt bridge we were directed to rout 50. We got up above the IwoJima memorial, and were told by the police to turn back, without making the left down the hill with the metal plates, even though we could see people below. We were then told to go back across the bridge, and all of the marshals were confused, plus we were forced to cross over on comming bike traffic twice. Not wanting to end our ride after 30 minutes we elected to ride up GWP and by the time we made it back to the IwoJima statue it was back open again.

05-13-2012, 07:11 PM
I don't think rootchopper mentioned it above, but he seems to have been close to where the incident occurred (excerpted from http://rootchopper.blogspot.com/2012/05/bike-dc-on-fumes.html ):

We passed Rosslyn and then doubled back on US 50 to take the exit near the Iwo Jima Memorial. A left hand turn took us to the road along side Arlington Memorial Cemetery where we (and I mean at least 200 cyclists) were stopped and turned around. I was told there had been a nasty accident, two cyclists collided head on near the bottom of the hill. So hundreds of cyclists found themselves riding into hundreds of cyclists. Brilliant!


05-13-2012, 07:28 PM
Oh wow, I'm very sorry to hear the news about a possible accident. I hope everyone is okay.

It's ironic that the self-guided 50 States Ride has minimal support and is much more festive. (And a hell of a lot harder.)

I agree -- but that is probably a self-selective group and a much smaller one at that. Still, when I did it last fall, expecting to be fully self-supporting, it felt like the course marshals were everywhere.

On a happier note, I should have mentioned earlier how great it was to see such a great turnout of not just us hard core cyclists, but so many casual cyclists and diverse in every way conceivable. I hope no one was injured seriously and that most people were able to enjoy their day pedaling the major thoroughfares.


05-13-2012, 07:33 PM
I'm curious when this hour-long backup happened, and when people were turned away from Iwo Jima and Air Force Memorial? I did the family ride, and we left the starting point right around 8 am. There was definitely a back-up at the off-ramp immediately following the Roosevelt Bridge, but only a few minutes -- no where close to an hour. Just had to get off and walk through the choke point. EDIT: It sounds like the accident shut down that part of the route before the family ride got under way, so I guess we missed it.

Part of the backup at that time was due to the fact that family riders and full riders were mixed in with each other. There was some confusion as everyone got sorted into the correct lanes. As a slower family rider, I was naturally on the right (and the full riders were on the left). We than had to navigate across each other to get pointed in the right direction. I feel that if the volunteers had megaphones at that point and were further into the traffic, they could have gotten people into the correct lanes earlier, to alleviate some of the crush.

Also, once the family riders did get on Rte 50, there were some scary moments were there was no instruction whatsoever as to what side of the road we were supposed to be on. The outbound riders were supposed to be on the left while the inbound riders came in on the right (their left, I guess). This is completely non-intuitive -- as a vehicle, you are used to riding on the right, and at this point, it was the first time we were on a two-way stretch of the route. A volunteer, or even a sign on the cones saying "keep left" (which ironically were present later on the ride), would have been helpful.

Riders were riding fast inbound, shouting at very confused people to keep left.

But, we made it to Iwo Jima and the Air Force Memorial with no further problems beyond what is expected when so many people on the road together. I think we got there a little after 9 AM.

EDIT #2 -- Just read Mark's post at WABA. Seems like there was an issue with the route to the finish line for earlier riders too: http://www.waba.org/blog/2012/05/recap-bike-dc-2012-edition/

This was my first Bike DC, and I had lots of fun. The weather's always this good, right?

05-13-2012, 08:38 PM
This year's BikeDC was a first for me, and although there were some hiccups I think it went really well. I had fun and it was a great day. While I wanted to scream down the hills, the number of other cyclists (particularly the families and neophytes) made that ill-advised. I'm cool with that.

The construction to the south of the Marine Corps Memorial was a bit annoying but given the number of riders, I am willing to accept the glitches.

As I said, BikeDC was my first. I plan on riding next year.

05-13-2012, 08:42 PM
Ok, there were routing and support issues, yes. Part of the problem may stem from the issue each year of "exactly how many riders will we have" and of course what will the weather bring...Gotta think that separating the full ride traffic from the family ride traffic - and then blending it back together again - makes trouble.

By the time I got to the approach to the IJM, we all had to stop and wait for 10-15 minutes. Not really sure why, tho I expect this was to alleviate crowding somewhere down the line. The subsequent hill with the metal plates was really tight going down and jammed beyond reasonable capacity going back up. Silly - that part of the route should not have been scheduled as supporting 2 way traffic.

Still many positives enjoyed, including:

- Friendly ride marshalls (when they were present)
- 2 dogs riding along
- 2 or 3 immense unicycles
- Copious snacks and water
- Wonderfully smooth pavement on the GWP
- And at the end, genuine BikeArlington telescoping Vuvuzelas! (Now I need to craft a special holder on my bike for the new accessory...)

05-13-2012, 09:03 PM
Still many positives enjoyed, including

- 2 or 3 immense unicycles

Yes. How did those unicycles get up the hills? I barely made it with two wheels and 21 gears!

05-13-2012, 09:04 PM
We too were turned back from Marshall, but not given any explanation or told that the route would reopen later -- I wish we had waited at the closure! However, it might have been difficult to do that -- the police officers were telling riders to turn around and go back, and didn't seem to want to have a large group gather at the turn for Marshall. Our group also had problems finding the finish -- no cue sheets were available at the start.

We picked up our t-shirts and biked around Haines Point so we could get the full amount of biking we'd planned.

I hate to have this leave such a bad taste about the event, which otherwise was extremely enjoyable -- loved the closed roads, the shouts in tunnels, being part of such a large group of cyclists, the views of the White House, Kennedy Center, and monuments -- but we really felt cheated out of a significant part of the ride.

05-13-2012, 10:15 PM
I guess dbb and I were lucky with our timing - we seem to have finished the ride with none of the issues others are reporting, although it was overcrowded in a few spots. Overall for us though, a fantastic ride and a beautiful day. I'm sorry to hear about the problems.

05-13-2012, 11:51 PM
I may have an explanation to this...

I don't think the course marshals expected the front runners to return so quickly and so were not ready. The cyclists returning from Air force Memorial were stopped by the police for the rest of the ride to come down on N. Meade. However few cyclists decided to go ahead as we did not want to wait only to find out further up the crowd has really grown and there were given no proper directions. This resulted in couple of cyclists hitting each other head on (atleast this incident was injury free and both riders continued their route)

However, the cops were a bit freaked out (probably because of lack of communication between the cops and with course marshals) and decided to turn around the incoming traffic. Marshals were supposed to direct traffic to stay on their side, but I don't think it was communicated as we were coming across traffic all across the road.

Also, The bridge was another bottle neck. The cops were supposed to be present to guide the returning traffic through the incoming traffic.

And lastly, E street and 66 ramp should have cones to direct traffic but were completely missing and cyclists were all over the road.

Last year the cops did a better job at keeping the traffic in the right lanes/directions and actually being a pilot, but this time because of the steel plates on Marshall, they did not go ahead until further notice/instructions!

Mark Blacknell
05-14-2012, 08:24 AM
I think this thread captures the ride pretty well - smooth sailing for some, a few hiccups for others, and an undeniably poor experience for a few. My own experience was somewhere in the middle. DCLiz linked it above, but here it is again: my recap posted at the WABA blog (http://www.waba.org/blog/2012/05/recap-bike-dc-2012-edition/).

Speaking of WABA - WABA's now a beneficiary, and no longer the organizer of, BikeDC. This change was made a few years back, and - some really miserable weather aside - I think the present organizer has put on some great Bike DCs. WABA staff were acutely aware of the issues yesterday, and you can be sure the concerns we heard were passed on to the organizer. I'm sure we all want this ride to succeed in the future, and expect the organizer will work on it.

All that said, it was great to see so many of you out there. I'm sorry it didn't go well for all, but I appreciate everyone coming out to support cycling and showing DC that biking can be for everyone.


Justin Antos
05-14-2012, 09:24 AM
I'm surprised to hear all the stories about mixups and miscommunication. My ride was pretty good! Our group was probably in the middle/rear of the pack - left around 7:20am, and hit most pitstops, finished around 10am. We hit a bottleneck around N. Marshall Dr and had to walk for a bit, but other than that, smooth sailing.

It was a great day for riding, and the views from the GW Parkway were breathtaking. Sometimes we had to take it slow, but it's a family ride - best just to smile and pedal onwards :).

The scenery and camaraderie of this ride made me wonder why we don't use our parkways as parkways more often!

05-14-2012, 09:31 AM
I guess dbb and I were lucky with our timing - we seem to have finished the ride with none of the issues others are reporting, although it was overcrowded in a few spots. Overall for us though, a fantastic ride and a beautiful day. I'm sorry to hear about the problems.

This was our experience too -- a great day. Only issue was with a couple of douchebags showing off their mad climbing and descending skills (instead of slowing down for all the wobblers and newbies) on the GW parkway. Was my first time doing this ride and I really enjoying seeing all the (tens of?) thousands of people on bikes!

05-14-2012, 10:43 AM
This was my fifth BikeDC and my third as a volunteer bike marshal. I really like this ride and appreciate the much nicer spring weather we've had the last three rides after a miserable cold and wet fall ride in 2009. This year I was in the second pair of marshals to leave the start and saw no issues as we came back into Foggy Bottom on K St. We then stopped to assist a rider with a broken chain and subsequently helped fix three flats, did three derailleur adjustments, helped with a dropped chain, and provided shifting/gearing guidance to riders along the GW Parkway climb.

As was stressed many times, this is a community ride and not a race and riders really need to go into it with that mindset. Slow down and be patient (keep the mantra of "What would Dirt do" clearly in mind). In terms of the problems encountered by event participants, I think one leading cause was probably a overall shortage of event volunteers to help direct traffic at choke points. The first rest stop on E St really needed volunteers along 18th St (or was it 19th) before the turn onto E separating through riders from those that were going to stop. Riders should have been told not to get off their bikes in the middle of the street, but rather to be on the left side of the street. Through riders should have been directed to stay right. Similarly at the Iwo Jima and Air Force Memorials, riders needed to be instructed to move to the side to dismount and not block the way for other riders.

The Roosevelt Bridge choke point was better this year than last, but clearly needs more thought as well as more volunteers. The route worked much better when the traffic came off the GW Parkway, went down Lynn St, and came around Wilson Blvd to the Iwo Jima Memorial. However, I expect having both the Key Bridge and the west bound lanes on the Roosevelt Bridge closed at the same time is a non-starter. I think there would have been fewer issues there if there hadn't been construction basically closing one lane of Marshall Drive, certainly, there was little traffic congestion there on last year's ride.

05-14-2012, 02:00 PM
This was our experience too -- a great day. Only issue was with a couple of douchebags showing off their mad climbing and descending skills (instead of slowing down for all the wobblers and newbies) on the GW parkway. Was my first time doing this ride and I really enjoying seeing all the (tens of?) thousands of people on bikes!

Oops. In my defense, if the "on the left" didn't work, I did slow down and wait until it did work. And was very lucky to have a huge open gap in front of me all the way down the GW Parkway hill (wheeeeeeeeee!).

Anyway, sounds like my initial impression of what happened was incorrect. There may have been a collision at 110, but if so, it only closed that portion of the course for a short period. I had thought the course had been closed for a while since there was a 30 or so minute period from 9ish to 930ish when I didn't see any returning riders at the finish, yet when i crossed back into VA at the memorial bridge around 10am (?), I saw tons of riders on 110.

I still don't understand why the choice was made to have most of the VA course have a flipped opposing traffic directions layout (ride on the left, opposing traffic on the right). That ended up increasing the danger right before the pinch point as returning riders are yelling for everyone who just showed up in VA to move to their left (non-intuitive) right before the returning riders...are forced to cross bike traffic and move to the right to cross the bridge.

Or maybe somehow things got reversed for a while then sorted out by marshals?


05-14-2012, 11:18 PM
Many of you probably received this email, but for those that are just browsing, Bike DC sent out this explanation (http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=iqzlw9cab&v=001fTNlOr47SjuWDcMSJ3jymV2_dzJxg6GcuMnr2gyBhn0V0 YUHPSwndd5kUbBLlgFT8PaVtHGCYQwe3bB4UC0FXJQC-ie9_msSFgsTcQWhGx8IhX0AeeagoQ%3D%3D) on Monday night. I appreciate that they realized they needed to communicate what happened with the participants.

05-15-2012, 09:07 AM
Full disclosure: I didn't do the ride because I was out of town. Sorry to have missed it.

But having read the letter, it sounds like the organizers are shirking responsibility here. It reads like "there are three things that caused problems: 1) more people showed up (not our fault); 2) there was construction (not our fault) and 3) the DCMPD screwed up (not our fault)." I call BS. People were required to register, so they should have known about the increase in numbers. The construction has been there for at least 3 weeks, but even if it were new the week before, they should have better communicated to participants what to expect and what to do. When it became clear that a new officer would be in charge on the DC side day of, they should have briefed him or her and made sure there were open lines of communication with that person.

At the very least, the organizers should have acknowledged their role in the problems. Without that much, I'm not hopeful they'll do better next year.

05-15-2012, 09:37 AM
I'm pretty sure they are aware of their role and working to make sure things go better next year. I didn't read the letter that way. Obviously, some important lessons were learned. In spite of the problems, I think most participants had a wonderful day. Later - Just re-read the letter, and I agree with ya'll that there could have been a little more acknowledgment of responsibility. I hope the organizers of the event are going over everything very carefully to prevent these problems next year.