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Thread: Metropolitan Branch Trail

  1. #1
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    Default Metropolitan Branch Trail

    How is the safety of the MBT really? I've heard some horror stories and also some sections seem secluded and scary, but is it really that bad for a lone female on a bike? Dc crime maps are no help, and internet searches can be warped by sensationalism. Am thinking of moving up to north brookland, so would be taking it all the way up past Catholic U for my commute, including in the dark. Yea or nay? Thanks!!!

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    Funny you should ask just now - I just rode it last night after work (6 ish).
    Others who ride it regularly (and in the dark) can tell you about their experience. Mine: I got on at R St. and rode to Brookland, and don't ride there often. It was not busy (i saw maybe 3 bikes and 8 walkers/joggers during my ride). I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I saw 2 bike cops on a bench on the trail. That made me feel better, because there were stretches when I was alone - and sometimes as a lone female on a trail , I do feel vulnerable.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by streetsmarts View Post
    Funny you should ask just now - I just rode it last night after work (6 ish).
    Others who ride it regularly (and in the dark) can tell you about their experience. Mine: I got on at R St. and rode to Brookland, and don't ride there often. It was not busy (i saw maybe 3 bikes and 8 walkers/joggers during my ride). I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I saw 2 bike cops on a bench on the trail. That made me feel better, because there were stretches when I was alone - and sometimes as a lone female on a trail , I do feel vulnerable.
    Thanks! Glad to hear about the cops, but the number of people during a weekday commute in summer is not a good sign- could be deserted in January

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  5. #4
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    Silly me...I forgot to say please ask this on Facebook on the women & bicycles page. Probably get lots of responses there...I know it's been discussed there before! And I do know of people who ride there all yr long but don't know them personally

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

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  7. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bunnyhop View Post
    Thanks! Glad to hear about the cops, but the number of people during a weekday commute in summer is not a good sign- could be deserted in January
    I feel like I've generally heard the opposite is problematic. Deserted in the winter is fine, it's during the warm weather that violent crime increases. FWIW I've never personally had any problems on the MBT (generally between R and Taylor), although I don't ride it often and I am a man. If I do ride it, it's almost always at night though.

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  9. #6
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    I've ridden it intermittently at various times and seasons, including winter and nighttime. I am not a woman (I'm a DUDE!). I have never had anything bad happen.

    That said, I think if I were a woman and were commuting up the MBT after work after dark I would wait at the NoMa Metro for another bike commuter to ride with. I suspect you wouldn't have to wait long most days and in just a few days you would make some bike commuter friends.
    Last edited by Steve O; 07-11-2018 at 02:32 PM.

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  11. #7
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    I've ridden the MBT semi-regularly the past 4 years, and on a near-daily basis the past 2. It is part of my daily commute (live near Catholic, work/daughter's school near Union Station). Like Steve, I am not a woman. Unlike Steve, I have a young girl on a trailercycle with me much of the time I'm on the MBT, which I think gives me more protection (who would dare hurt her?). We've never had anything bad happen (most frequently heading south around 8am and north around 6pm during the week, plus assorted other random times), but are familiar with a few of the incidents that have occurred in recent years. I agree with Steve's thoughts on commuting north after dark. The lighting is OK (supposed to get better), but the area under NY Avenue isn't the greatest, and the zig-zag right before R Street that requires slowing WAY down can be unnerving, though that'll be better in a couple of years whenever the trail straightening and development happens there.

    As far as popularity - there is a counter installed on the trail near Rhode Island Avenue. You can pull up the data (though it seems to not be counting this week) at http://counters.bikearlington.com/counter-dashboard/ if you want some numbers to look at. In my experience, there is usually a decent amount of bike and pedestrian traffic during regular commuting times, even in the dead of winter (more peds than bikes, then), but it's nothing like the MVT or Custis.

    One thing I hate to mention but to put it out there: during the daytime, the only concern I ever have on the MBT is afterschool. (This isn't that dissimilar to some issues folks have experienced on Metro.) It's hard to tell well in advance if there's a large group of kids if it's just a large group, if there's someone who wants to test someone's reaction time (for fun and laughs, not intending to cause harm), or if there's a mix of kids from different schools that don't get along. (This was a larger issue at the Metro station; the various local high schools have tried to alter their schedules to minimize those commuting interactions.) Most often this is between NoMA and R Street (especially near the NY Ave bridge); bailing on the MBT at R and taking Eckington through Dave Thomas Circle is a viable (though far from ideal because of that path) option there, depending on your destination. I'm sure 99% of the time it's nothing, but it does make me a bit nervous.

    As far as the cops: there's a decent rotation of bicycle cops who get assigned the MBT. One of the regulars in the rotation, I've noticed, often is observing things from a bench at Rhode Island Avenue (or just happens to be there on both legs of a round trip to REI/Union Market/etc.) Others will regularly ride the trail, at least between R and Franklin. But it is good to see them regardless.

    One other resource/way to meet other MBT commuters to mention: (generally) the 2nd Friday of each month, the WABA Trail Ranger team hosts a morning coffee hour, usually in the little parklet on the trail at S Street. The next one is this Friday (7/13) from 7:30-9:30 AM.

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  13. #8
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    I rode the MBT every week day for 18 months (night and day) and never had an issue (although I am a guy). One Saturday, I saw a large group of men way down by R St and was a little nervious. Turned out they were a motorcyclist club taking pictures of one of their bikes on the edge (but not on) the trail, harmless and kind of cute. The other odd and occasionally scary thing are the MPD cruisers which occasionally drive on the trail, mostly at Fort Totten Dr/Bates Rd at the top of the smelly hill. It is unnerving and illegal but hard to stop, even after one nearly hit me with their car.

    I suggest riding fast and don't wear headphones. I second LhasaCM's large group advice.

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