Dutch family looking to commute from Takoma Park
We will be moving to DC from the Netherlands very soon.
We are used to biking with kids rain or shine and we would love to keep doing this in DC.
I am looking at where to live and I have a few questions that I can't find answers to on the maps, as great as they are.
Our kids will be going to school in Bethesda close to Sangamore Park and one of us will be working close to the Mall. Although I am getting a lot of recommendations in favor of living in Bethesda, I think Takoma Park might be lovely too.
However I am not sure how it would work bike-wise.
On the days where kids would need to be dropped off at school, the bike commute would be TP-Bethesda thru the Capital Crescent Trail then Bethesda-the Mall, and in the evenings, this would be much shorter - the Mall to TP following the Metropolitan Branch trail.
-I did find the bike trail that links Silver Spring to Bethesda, however I can't find any bike routes going from Takoma Park straight into Bethesda thru DC. Is it that the area is unsafe/too much traffic? It does seem to me that it would be a shorter distance bike across DC than up to SS then down to Bethesda. What am I missing here?
-how safe is the Metropolitan Branch Trail from the Mall to TP (especially at night). It looks like it's mostly a share the road trail,not a separate trail. Am I correct?
Thank you in advance for any advice! We are very excited about the move and thrilled to see how biking has gained in popularity in the US since we last visited a few years ago
A few thoughts:
Originally Posted by isaNLtoDC
- The Metropolitan Branch Trail from Union Station to TP is OK. It is a separate trail from NoMA to Franklin Street, and mostly share the road past the Brookland Metro Station. The connection from Brookland to Takoma Park is still an interim route. It's usable, but a little wonky at times (especially going up the hill past the trash transfer station).
- The "straight into Bethesda" through DC from Takoma Park is complicated by Rock Creek Park. Depending on where in TP you are, going up to the trail in Silver Spring is not that much out of the way distance-wise, and probably a bit nicer.
Also - do you have a distance limit to what you're willing to do at a time? It's about a 25 mile loop to go from Takoma Park to Bethesda to "the Mall" and back to Takoma Park, and about 8 miles or so from downtown to Takoma Park or about 12 miles from downtown to Bethesda.
Welkom op het forum!
The infrastructure in DC is getting better and better, a dramatic improvement over how things were only 5-7 years ago. It's not the same as back home, obviously, and you'll have to carefully decide where you'll live, but some bike routes are getting pretty good.
I'm a bit biased here, since I live in Bethesda, but I think you'll find it well suited to your situation. In terms of access to downtown, the Capital Crescent is unparalleled for getting to the Mall area. And although one can overstate the safety issues on the Met Branch trail, the fact remains that there are incidents on a regular basis, while there have been virtually none on the Capital Crescent. I would agree with the other poster's comment about travelling from Tacoma Park to Bethesda. The issue is that you must descend into a deep ravine and then climb back out, and the safe roads for doing so are somewhat circuitous. The SS-Bethesda route crosses that ravine on a bridge (though there are some issues with accessing that trail from the eastern side), but there are no other bridges crossing the park until you get virtually downtown. I don't know your fitness level, but the route you describe would be physically daunting for many, many people. You should also be aware that this area gets very, very hot in summer months.
You obviously have a lot of factors to consider, but I would recommend Bethesda. I've had Dutch friends living here and I know that the Dutch educators can be a bit snippy about accepting US school qualifications in terms of Dutch university applications. The schools in Bethesda are somewhat known to these educators, since Bethesda tends to have more Dutch parents than other neighborhoods.
Also, they may start construction of a light rail line on the SS-Bethesda trail within the next year that will result in that trail being closed and re-routed.
Also please keep in mind that not all of the trails around here are plowed/treated in the winter so you will want a backup plan like metro.
I used to live in Takoma, DC and rode the Metropolitan Branch Trail everyday. It is a nice ride and these days, there are lots of people on it. However, there are occasional incidents, I didn't remember hearing about any from 2016 but Googled and found this one. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local...=.b90ac5ca9105 and this one.
There are also some on-street sections which are not low stress such as getting to the trail from Takoma Park. I used 3rd St NW, Hamilton/Gallatin, and Fort Totten Dr, the latter of which goes up a large hill with lots of car traffic. Once you get onto the trail at Fort Totten, you have to watch for police cars which use the trail as an illegal shortcut to get gasoline. There is also 8th St NE which is chaotic in the mornings with parents dropping their kids at school. The new cycletrack on M/First St is great but then it dumps you into Columbus Circle in front of Union Station which leaves you either riding on the wide sidewalk, cutting through the Capitol Complex where they hate bicycles, or on multilane Louisiana Ave.
But listening to your situation and to Crickey7's point about the Capital Crescent Trail's impending closure for the Purple Line light rail, Bethesda or a neighborhood nearby is the way to go.
Within Takoma Park itself, there is no safe on-street bicycle infrastructure except for Sligo Creek Trail but it goes too far out of your way to be a commuter route. There are some nice low stress streets and Takoma Bicycle Shop but those low stress streets don't really connect except over high stress streets. There is also no low stress connection from Takoma Park to the Capital Crescent Trail either.
I agree with what people have said on the cycling-specific stuff, but just want to emphasize: Takoma / Takoma Park is a wonderful neighborhood, unique in many ways in the DC area in terms of its level of community organization, investment in maintaining an appealing and specifically local commercial core, neat gardens, and embrace of off-beat neighbors. It is a great place to live.
Bethesda is staid in comparison, but the CCT does make it incredibly convenient.
Edit: I'm not knocking Bethesda specifically (I'll leave that to my FS team captain), just pointing out that Bethesda and Takoma are not exactly close substitutes.
Last edited by secstate; 03-06-2017 at 01:57 PM.
Post Thanks / Like - 1 Likes, 0 Dislikes, 0 ELITE
Agreed - there is more to life than just cycling infrastructure, and in a vacuum, I (personally) would choose Takoma over Bethesda. However, given the constraint of the kids going to school in Bethesda - it becomes a question as to whether or not the charm/allure/positives of Takoma outweigh the associated transportation headaches.
Originally Posted by secstate
Post Thanks / Like - 1 Likes, 0 Dislikes, 0 ELITE
Y'all are hurting my feelings. But I don't really disagree.
I'd still say this particular situation is one where the funkier lifestyle might not be worth the added transportation hassles, which would be bad by any mode. And if the kids are taking the Dutch language classes, you're going to find yourself in Bethesda 6 days a week.