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Thread: Route suggestions - Capitol Hill to DC Water/Blue Plains/Naval Research Lab

  1. #1
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    Default Route suggestions - Capitol Hill to DC Water/Blue Plains/Naval Research Lab

    I've always driven to work, but I'm ready to take the plunge and start biking. I searched maps high and low for any route from the Capitol Hill area to Blue Plains/DC Water and cannot seem to find a safe route. I can take either the S. Capitol bridge or 11th St. bridge across the river. Getting to Blue Plains, I can take S. Capitol to Overlook, but Overlook is one-way in a section so I cannot use it on the way home. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. looks like the only other alternative, but it seems a little intimidating. Does anybody have any experience doing this route and suggestions on the best way to get to Blue Plains? Thanks much!

  2. #2
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    Just wanted to give this a bump in case anyone had some suggestions...

  3. #3
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    Is the access policy at Bolling like it is at Ft Myer? Can you ride through with just a gov't-issued ID? That would be the perfect route but I'm not sure it's permitted.

  4. #4
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    No one else has answered, so I'll give it a try. I bike in from Arlington to that area (Naval Research Lab) and use the Douglas Bridge-South Capitol-Overlook Ave route. There's really no problem doing that in the morning, as the traffic is pretty light southbound then and there's also a pretty wide shoulder between Firth Sterling Ave. (the Naval Annex gate) and Malcolm X. I should also mention the bike path between the South Cap bridge (or old 11th street bridge) and Firth Stirling.

    The problem, as you noted, is going back. I take a route through Bolling / Anacostia Base, but that may not be available to you -- It's not clear what their policy is right now but a few years ago they insisted that you needed an official USGov't Common Access Card (CAC) to go through the base, which freezes out all the contractors who work at the Lab (they just have lab badges, no CAC). [I say it's not clear, because I know of some contractors who got onto the base last fall just by showing NRL badges. That may have been oversight on their part, or a silent change in policy.]

    If you can't take that route, then you'll be shunted off onto South Capitol - you can still take Overlook Ave north until Chesapeake St, then go backstreets to the MLK ave/South Cap intersection. That stretch of South Cap from there to the MLK intersection by the Bolling main gate is not the best stretch of road for a bike (no shoulder and possibly speedy traffic), but it may be OK in the evening (since most traffic is then southbound).

    The one other option I've tried (when Bolling closed their south gate for some reason) is to go up Overlook until the Bolling south gate (where northbound Overlook ends), then go against traffic by staying on the grassy section between the street and the Base wall. That's not too bad except for a short stretch where Overlook joins South Cap -- there's a guard rail and a short steep downhill behind it between the guardrail and the base wall. You pretty much have to walk or carry your bike through that section. You continue on the grass until Malcolm X, then cross the bridge and ride South Cap north to the bike path at Firth Sterling.

    I believe there are plans for a real bike path along South Cap, but I don't know when that will happen and wouldn't hold my breath.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the bump Tim. DaveK, you cannot ride through Bolling without an ID; I've already tried going down that path. I may just have to patiently wait for a S. Capitol bike lane...unless anybody has any other thoughts. Thanks again.

  6. #6
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    americancyclo is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    What intersection are you trying to get to near the Naval Research Lab?
    Are Chappie James and malcom X not open to the public?
    On the way home, can you take chesapeake to mlk to s.capitol, avoiding the section of overlook that is one way?

    UPDATE:

    Gah, that whole area is gross! I've done some hill rides out in Anacostia, but mostly on Morris, Good Hope, Penn, Mass, and Ridge. Never that far south. S.Capitol St down there just looks like one continuous onramp for 295.

    What about taking Suitland Parkway?
    Last edited by americancyclo; 02-14-2012 at 12:52 PM.

  7. #7
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    I tried replying to you earlier, but my post has been stuck in limbo somewhere (Administrator?), so I'll try this one more time.

    I bike in from Arlington to that area (Naval Research Lab) and use the Douglass Bridge-South Capitol-Overlook Ave route in the morning. There's really no problem doing that in the morning, as the traffic is pretty light outbound and there's also a pretty wide (though trash strewn) shoulder between Firth Sterling Ave. (the Naval Annex gate) and Malcolm X. There's also a bike path between the South Cap bridge (or the old 11th street bridge) and Firth Stirling.

    The problem, as you noted, is going back. I take the route through Bolling / Anacostia Base, but that may not be available to you -- It's not clear what their policy is right now but a few years ago they insisted that you needed an official USGov't Common Access Card (CAC) to go through the base, which freezes out all the contractors who work at the Lab (they just have lab badges, no CAC). [I say it's not clear, because I know of some contractors who got onto the base last fall just by showing NRL badges.]

    If you can't take that route, then you'll be shunted off onto South Capitol - you can still take Overlook Ave north until Chesapeake St, then go backstreets to the MLK ave/South Cap intersection. That stretch of road from there to the MLK intersection by the Bolling main gate is not the best stretch of road for a bike, but it may be OK in the evening (since most traffic is outbound). I know at least one person who claims to use this route, but haven't tried it myself.

    The one other option I've tried (when Bolling closed their south gate for some reason) is to go up Overlook until the Bolling south gate (where northbound Overlook ends), then go against traffic by staying on the grassy section between the street and the Base wall. That's not too bad except for a short stretch where Overlook joins South Cap -- there's a guard rail and a short steep downhill behind it between the guardrail and the base wall. You pretty much have to walk or carry your bike through that section. You continue on the grass until Malcolm X, then cross the bridge and ride South Cap north to the bike path at Firth Sterling.

    I believe there are plans for a real bike path along South Cap, but I don't know when that will happen. And I wouldn't hold my breath.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by skrippy11 View Post
    I've always driven to work, but I'm ready to take the plunge and start biking. I searched maps high and low for any route from the Capitol Hill area to Blue Plains/DC Water and cannot seem to find a safe route. I can take either the S. Capitol bridge or 11th St. bridge across the river. Getting to Blue Plains, I can take S. Capitol to Overlook, but Overlook is one-way in a section so I cannot use it on the way home. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. looks like the only other alternative, but it seems a little intimidating. Does anybody have any experience doing this route and suggestions on the best way to get to Blue Plains? Thanks much!
    Skirppy11, I used to do this exact commute - Capital Hill to NRL - when the satellite I was working on was going through thermal-vac testing at NRL.

    Going to NRL I did just what you've described - S. Cap Street Bridge to S. Cap to Overlook. There is one slightly scary area but it is actually pretty safe.

    Coming home I used MLK (via Chesapeake). It may look sketchy, but I never had any issues. You can avoid MLK a little bit by taking some side streets - but I never found it to be worth it, and eventually you have to get on MLK. Maybe you could take a ride with someone on the weekend and see if you feel comfortable or not. But I've done that commute often and lived to tell the tale. Alternatively, you could bike one way and take Metro bus the other.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by papalena View Post
    I tried replying to you earlier, but my post has been stuck in limbo somewhere (Administrator?), so I'll try this one more time.
    Apologies papalena, your post was being held back by the system for approval since you're a first time user. It has been validated so all users can read your post now!

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I ran into somebody here that has been using the same route as washcycle suggested. I still need to try it myself, but it looks like that's the route I'll take. I'll let you know how it goes.

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