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Thread: MacArthur Boulevard

  1. #1
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    Default MacArthur Boulevard

    Hello. I am a DC native who has been away for a few years but is back periodically. I'm also a pretty active biker, and there is something I have never understood and was hoping someone could enlighten me. (I see this forum seems to have some relationship with Arlington and this is a Maryland question so my apologies if it's not appropriate.)

    Anyway, MacArthur Boulevard between the DC line and Glen Echo is, by my figuring, a horrible road to bike on. Two lanes, lots of traffic, and no shoulder for the most part. You could not pay me to bike on that road if it could be avoided. There is also a bike path next to it, which is maybe not the greatest path in the history of time, but is pretty decent it seems to me. And yet, bikers are always on the road and not the path! There are pedestrians on the path, but the nearby crescent trail has way more pedestrians and no biker seems to have a problem with that. Biking on this road seems to me it's dangerous and it holds up traffic and makes the bikers look like jerks. I mean, heck, bike races are a major hobby of mine and biking generally is probably the main type of transport in my life.... and the bikers on that road make even me want to hate bikers! And it's been this way as long as I can remember (I first moved to that area 30 years ago, living intermittently there since). So can anyone advise what the deal is? Is there something unacceptable about that path? Do cops actively hassle bikers on that path saying its a sidewalk or something? Is this some weird DC area bike tradition that no one ever told me about? Or some longstanding protest? It just seems like such a crazy state of affairs it seems like there must be a story here.

    Anyway, thanks to anyone who can enlighten me.
    Last edited by MT5; 09-28-2021 at 02:32 PM.

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    The trail is fine for toodling along, but it would in most cases not be safe for a cyclist (and especially a group of cyclists) engaged in a training ride to ride on it.

    I'm not that fast, but still wouldn't want to mix too much with dog walkers and strollers when the road is right there. Now, going eastbound when the trail is right next to the road, I'll drop onto it for a while if there are no pedestrians, especially if I hear cars coming up.

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    Steve O's Avatar
    Steve O is offline 5000+ Posts? The first step to beating addiction is admitting you have one.
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    I don't share your fear of biking on MacArthur Blvd., and neither do many other cyclists, evidently. In fact, your feelings regarding the safety of riding on MacArthur are actually the opposite of many. Everyone has their own level and perception of comfort and safety.

    There are a couple of thoughts that come to mind. I ocassionally ride on MacArthur, but there are others who ride it much more frequently who can also weigh in. I sometimes take the sidepath and sometimes take the road, based on a personal decision-making process that even I don't fully understand (sometimes I find myself in one place or the other and wonder why I am there).

    • The side path has more crossings, some with poor sight lines, which can make it less safe than riding in traffic.
    • People on training or exercise rides can maintain a steadier pace for the reason cited above, with less fear of dealing with intersections, driveways and other potentially unsafe interactions.
    • It's one of the most common routes used by cyclists for training, shop rides and the like. Given the above, one would expect them to take the safer option. Particularly for group rides, the road is much safer and easier to navigate.
    • True, the sidepath could be worse, but the road is typically in better condition, with less debris and more consistent surface.


    You mention that somehow this behavior might lead you to hate cyclists. Would you hate them if there were no sidepath? Would that suddenly make you love them? Or would you hate them regardless?
    I'm pretty certain that most of the drivers who get annoyed with people riding bikes on MacArthur would be equally annoyed if no sidepath existed. Knowing that it makes no difference in the attitude of the driver, I'll opt for the way that either speeds my trip or provides me a safer journey, or both.

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  6. #4
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    Huh interesting! The road seeming safer than the path seems wild to me. I'd be terrified on the road. I'd pick dodging the occasional pedestrian for dodging a bunch of cars any day. But this may be why I've only ever been a so so biker.

    Different strokes I guess!

  7. #5
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    I ride MacArthur all the time, even at rush hour. Drivers are used to lots of cyclists and accordingly that's really one of the lowest stress roads you could choose, though they can get a little bad on the stretch south of Glen Echo at rush hour.

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