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Thread: Tourist looking for cycling safety info

  1. #1
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    Question Tourist looking for cycling safety info

    Hi everyone! I'll be travelling to DC in August with my hubby (we'll actually be participating in the Mt Washington Auto Road Hillclimb), and would like to do some bicycle touring around the city. My dad-in-law lives in Potomac and says cycling around the area is great, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to get more specific info from local cyclists.

    Specifically, as we're bringing our own bikes which are rather dear to us, I'd like to know what the general consensus is regarding cyclist safety on the roads (from traffic and pedestrians) and how safe our bikes would be if we parked them outside a café, or the Smithsonian, etc?

    I'm a bonsai enthusiast so we want to visit the National Museum of Bonsai and Penjing, situated in the National Arboretum in the North East of the city. BikeWashington.org reckons the north-east has "rougher neighbourhoods", but what does this actually mean?

    Also how safe is it to ride in the city centre, around Capitol Hill and surrounds?

    Would really appreciate your input.

  2. #2
    dasgeh's Avatar
    dasgeh is offline Queen of Family Biking & All Things Kidical
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    Welcome! DC is a great place to bike. Proper locking technique is key (good sturdy lock, ideally next to bikes that look nicer than yours), but, which theft is an issue, the vast majority of bikes don't get stolen. Especially in the middle of the day.

    Cycling around the museums and monuments is great - with a few notable exceptions of giant roads (like Constitution and Independence). It's legal to ride on the sidewalk along most of those, and there are often small parallel streets (e.g. Madison and Jefferson). People ride around the Arboretum all the time, but I don't know if from personal experience, so I'll let others chime in.

    I find google maps bike directions to be pretty good, particularly if you're used to biking somewhere else in the US (aside from Davis, Seattle, Portland).

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    "next to bikes that look nicer than yours" ---- OK Now I know I'm not the only one who use this strategy

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    The city is not as scary as you've been lead to believe. It's normal enough and safe enough that you should have no worries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maj View Post

    I'm a bonsai enthusiast so we want to visit the National Museum of Bonsai and Penjing, situated in the National Arboretum in the North East of the city. BikeWashington.org reckons the north-east has "rougher neighbourhoods", but what does this actually mean?
    The Arboretum itself is safe, and if you go during the day, you'll be fine (it's closed at night, so obviously don't go then). I rode there with Steve O a month or two ago when the azaleas were out, and had a great time. There are bike racks near the Bonsai exhibit to lock your bike to, and then you can ride around and look at all the other cool stuff they have. Bladensburg road was not the most fun road to bike on, so you might want to avoid biking on it during rush hour if that'd be part of your route.

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    Thanks for the help guys!

    We'll be looking to go on a Sunday morning, so I would think traffic wouldn't be too much of an issue, but good to know which roads are the really busy ones. Also glad to know we'll be able to lock up our bikes at the bonsai exhibit.
    Thanks, dasgeh, for the Google maps thumbs-up - we were planning on using it to navigate.
    Feeling pretty confident we'll be able to find our way around with a bit of common sense and good directions.

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  10. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emm View Post
    Bladensburg road was not the most fun road to bike on, so you might want to avoid biking on it during rush hour if that'd be part of your route.
    Agree. We rode out during the week on West Virginia, turning right on Montana, then S and 24th to R. That was fine.
    Enjoy.

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  12. #8
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    Capitol Hill and hill east are really pretty good for biking - at least, there are a lot of bikes and cars seem to be looking out for you, but there are lots of stop signs and lights, so unless you're into looking at the old row houses, it's not the best for "going for a ride." I'd also suggest Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the Anacostia River Trail system in general. It's a lot less crowded than the Mount Vernon Trail or Capitol Crescent, and quite scenic.

    I'm less familiar with the bicycling around Potomac. My memories of that area are from when I tried to keep up with some group rides that went out River road, which was not relaxing bicycling, but I can't remember if it was narrow shoulders or being in a paceline on a fixed gear.

    If you're doing a loop, it's a big loop no matter what, but it doesn't have to be quite THIS long... https://goo.gl/maps/HcE8BtQmBM32

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    baiskeli is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    The interesting thing about "rough neighborhoods" is that they change fast, so fast that you have to ask someone who has been there recently to get the real scoop. I can think of several places in DC that I would be terrified to go to the last time I ventured there that are now really nice, popular areas. The city has really grown for the better.

    Here's a recent article about a strip club that was in a seedy area four years ago. There was a building collapse and they had to shut down and rebuild. Now they are finally reopening and the neighborhood completely changed in four years and the neighbors are upset that a strip club is opening. It shows how fast things are changing.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local...=.627819fc30bf

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    Besides what others suggested, since you would be spending hours visiting museums, I suggest that you use Capital Bikeshare and other bike sharing services. That way, you don't have to worry about your bikes. You can use them when you are done with the museums. Capital Bikeshare only offers 3 options as far as I know when you use their kiosks, more options(Month/Year) are available online. You still pay extra if you use it for more than 30 minutes; but you can duck it and take it out again if you paid for a day pass or more to avoid the extra charge.

    There also dockless bikes that you find around, you download their app, find their nearest bike, unlock it and use it. These dockless bikes are available only in DC currently and you are not suppose to take them out of DC, although some do. We have a long thread about it here.

    Good luck!

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