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Thread: Realistic % of days available for biking to work due to weather

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    Default Realistic % of days available for biking to work due to weather

    Thanks to everyone who answered my questions about places to live within biking distance of the Pentagon. Now I have a new question:

    Given weather conditions (snow, thunderstorms), what percentage of days can my husband realistically expect to be able to ride to the Pentagon, assuming he'll be riding 8-15 miles one way? Cold/hot weather doesn't bother him, and he's ridden in rain before though he prefers not to. So, my specific questions, especially for the NoVA bike trails to the west and south of the Pentagon:
    - After a snowfall, how quickly do the bike trails leadin to the Pentagon get cleared enough to be rideable?
    - How about the roads with bike lanes (ARE there roads with bike lanes?)
    - About how often does it snow enough to cause a problem on the bike path?
    - When it rains, is it typically just rain or are thunderstorms common? Is there such a thing as a typical time of day for a storm? (We currently live in Tucson AZ, where monsoon storms normally happen in early/late afternoon)
    - And in general, what is the condition of the bike trails? There are some official bike trails here in Tucson that are in such poor shape that you're better off riding the shoulder of the road to avoid bumps and cracks, hence the question.

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    TL : DR answer - weather won't be a huge issue for your husband.

    Last winter was the first winter I commuted full time via bicycle. We had a major blizzard in January and while 2/3 of my commute is via plowed trail (yay for plowed trail!), the first third is NOT and that part stayed icy and rutted for week or two. (I commute on a different route that what you're looking at!)

    I just didn't feel like dealing with all the mess on the roads etc. so I lost maybe a week of riding. Yeah, I have studded tires but trying to get over that crusty snow isn't fun for me so everyone who cries Rule #whatever can go stuff it.

    Bike lanes will probably be blocked with snow from the plows. Our dedicated bike lanes and trails and multi-use paths are all decently maintained but they're low priority for snow removal.

    Snow is hit or miss. We can have a year with very little and then a year with a blizzard. Bad afternoon thunderstorms in the summer are pretty common however.

    The weather in DC changes daily. It can be 65F in January and then barely hit 35 the next day.
    Last edited by Tania; 11-07-2016 at 02:07 PM.

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    Generally speaking, he should be able to ride every day the Federal government is open.

    - it doesn't snow often, and lately the trend has been to get major storms that close everything when it does snow.
    - some trails get cleared of snow; others don't
    - if you end up west of the Pentagon, you'll probably be fine on the trails, with an exception of about 1/4 mile leading up to the Pentagon (for local folks, I'm thinking he'd get to Rosslyn, take the 110 trail, which is cleared, then the 27 trail, which is cleared for all but 1/4 mile)
    - if you end up south, trails are likely not to be cleared, but you'll probably have good road alternatives in Arlington (namely Eads Street, if you're looking at a map).

    We have thunderstorms, but not that often and they are usually short and predicted well in advance. If he doesn't ride on days where thunderstorms are predicted, I'm guessing he'd miss 10 days over the summer, but if he's willing to leave early/late or duck into a shop to wait one out, he'd be fine.

    Bike trails are in very good condition. They could be better (some without a great barrier between the road, some that have humps), but they are better than fine for an adult who's competent on a bike. They clear out any downed trees or big cracks pretty quickly.

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    Oh, and there are plenty of bike lanes, and even more neighborhood streets that are great to ride on without bike lanes. The protected bike lanes get cleared of snow. The other bike lanes often don't get cleared well, but many, many people still find it safe enough to ride.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Natalya Murphy View Post
    - After a snowfall, how quickly do the bike trails leadin to the Pentagon get cleared enough to be rideable?
    Arlington has gotten very good about clearing trails. In some cases, local trails are cleared before many of the roads. That said, some of the most important trails in the area (like the W&OD) are controlled by other entities like the US Park Service or regional authorities and therefore aren't cleared as quickly. This isn't really an issue that often though, as DC doesn't have that many snowfalls that really affect the trails from a snow-clearing perspective. The real issue is ice, and many folks around here keep a set of studded tires for those several days after snowfalls/icestorms where the trails and roads are icy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Natalya Murphy View Post
    - How about the roads with bike lanes (ARE there roads with bike lanes?)
    Major roads tend to get cleared quickly, but oftentimes the bike lanes don't get cleared until the second or third pass, sometimes days after major storms. But again, this is pretty rare, and the real problem is ice. DC area governments salt the s&*t out of roads though, so the bike lanes tend to benefit from that. There are a lot of bike lanes in this area.

    Quote Originally Posted by Natalya Murphy View Post
    - About how often does it snow enough to cause a problem on the bike path?
    From a pure snow perspective, maybe 3-5 times a season. From an ice perspective, maybe upwards of 10 (?) DC's average snowfall is only about 15 inches a year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Natalya Murphy View Post
    - When it rains, is it typically just rain or are thunderstorms common? Is there such a thing as a typical time of day for a storm? (We currently live in Tucson AZ, where monsoon storms normally happen in early/late afternoon)
    Thunderstorms are pretty common in DC in the summer, but it's not the south or midwest in that regard and we probably don't even get them on a weekly basis. We had some seriously long stretches without any rain at all this summer, and I think the region may actually be in a minor drought (but maybe that changed). Thunderstorms seems to be most common in the late afternoons, but any time in the year we may have a few days of constant--but generally not heavy--rain. If you look at the month-to-month precipitation levels for DC, they're basically even throughout the entire year.

    Quote Originally Posted by Natalya Murphy View Post
    - And in general, what is the condition of the bike trails? There are some official bike trails here in Tucson that are in such poor shape that you're better off riding the shoulder of the road to avoid bumps and cracks, hence the question.
    About as good as you can hope for in the US. I think compared to most cities, DC's trails are awesome, even if we're constantly griping about them. Virginia--and Arlington in particular--probably has a more commuter-friendly trail and bike lane system than Maryland. DC has a few trails, but most its cycling infrastructure is (fairly extensive) on-street bike lanes of varying levels of quality.
    Last edited by TwoWheelsDC; 11-07-2016 at 02:15 PM.

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    This is all good info, and just for fun, here's a blog I wrote last winter where I crunched weather NOAA data for the last three winters to show how many rideable days there are in the colder months, even if you skip snow and sub zero temps.
    Data from the post:
    "Snow*
    • 16 is the number of days (out of 121) that there was snow on the ground last winter.**
    • 14 is the number of days (out of 121) it was actually snowing.

    Freezing Temps***
    • 93% of winter days had a high above freezing
    • 66% of winter days had a low above freezing

    So you could sit out freezing temps and snow, and still be able to ride about 2/3 of winter comfortably."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Natalya Murphy View Post
    Thanks to everyone who answered my questions about places to live within biking distance of the Pentagon. Now I have a new question:

    Given weather conditions (snow, thunderstorms), what percentage of days can my husband realistically expect to be able to ride to the Pentagon, assuming he'll be riding 8-15 miles one way? Cold/hot weather doesn't bother him, and he's ridden in rain before though he prefers not to. So, my specific questions, especially for the NoVA bike trails to the west and south of the Pentagon:
    - After a snowfall, how quickly do the bike trails leadin to the Pentagon get cleared enough to be rideable?
    - How about the roads with bike lanes (ARE there roads with bike lanes?)
    - About how often does it snow enough to cause a problem on the bike path?
    - When it rains, is it typically just rain or are thunderstorms common? Is there such a thing as a typical time of day for a storm? (We currently live in Tucson AZ, where monsoon storms normally happen in early/late afternoon)
    - And in general, what is the condition of the bike trails? There are some official bike trails here in Tucson that are in such poor shape that you're better off riding the shoulder of the road to avoid bumps and cracks, hence the question.
    For trails being cleared of snow, it depends on where he ends up coming from. The Mount Vernon Trail does not get plowed. In most years, areas exposed to sun will clear up in a couple of days, although there are exceptions for extended periods of cold weather, heavier snowfalls, and packed-down footprints. Shaded areas obviously take longer. Arlington does plow the Custis Trail (Arlington is doing that again this year, correct? I thought I remembered hearing that was the case), so that trail clears up much more quickly. Freezing rain/ice storms seem to be almost as common as snow here, and they are worse for trying to ride. I dunno, for a typical winter I'd say there are maybe a half-a-dozen freezing participation events.

    Rain can happen any time of the year and at any time of day, although thunderstorms are more likely in the afternoon after the heat has built up. In the summer, thunderstorms are quite possible and can be very lively, lightning-wise.

    So, if he decides rain doesn't bother him but snow and ice does, I'd say >95%. If he wants to avoid chances of thunderstorms, I'd drop that quite a bit. Some summers have a 30%+ chance of thunderstorms most days. He could always leave the bike at work and make other arrangements in the afternoon if thunderstorms pop up.

    The trails range from newly paved to crumbling crap, but in general are pretty good. There are wooden bridges along the Mount Vernon Trail that require a lot of caution when they are damp.

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    If you are (irrationally) inclined to look at Freezing Saddles as some sort of indicator, there were 79 days in the game last year: Jan 1 to the last full day of winter.

    Here's the list of how many of those days some of the players rode, even notwithstanding the Jan 23 blizzard.

    Name:  79.JPG
Views: 191
Size:  67.1 KB

    (it continues off the bottom of the screen)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erin Potter View Post
    This is all good info, and just for fun, here's a blog I wrote last winter where I crunched weather NOAA data for the last three winters to show how many rideable days there are in the colder months, even if you skip snow and sub zero temps.
    Data from the post:
    "Snow*
    • 16 is the number of days (out of 121) that there was snow on the ground last winter.**
    • 14 is the number of days (out of 121) it was actually snowing.

    Freezing Temps***
    • 93% of winter days had a high above freezing
    • 66% of winter days had a low above freezing

    So you could sit out freezing temps and snow, and still be able to ride about 2/3 of winter comfortably."
    But what about the wiiiind chiiiiiiiill? It was like, -20F on most days last winter if you believe the weather people on the teevee!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    We have thunderstorms, but not that often and they are usually short and predicted well in advance..
    Wait, where do you live? I live in Arlington, Virginia.

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