Newbie: Silver Spring to Smithsonian
Last year I started riding my bike from my house near Forest Glen, along the Sligo Creek trail into Silver Spring and metroing from there to work. Loved the 6-mile round trip. Now, I'm considering getting in shape enough to ride from Forest Glen, through Silver Spring, all the way downtown to my job near Smithsonian Metro (and possibly leaving the bike overnight and riding home the next day). I love the idea of taking the MBT, but clearly it's not finished, plus I have no idea how to get to it. I don't drive, so I'm very unfamiliar with how to get to Silver Spring and pick up that trail. Or maybe riding along Georgia, 13th, 14th or 16th downtown is better? Once I get to Union Station area, I'd ride along the Mall. Can anyone recommend the safest route from Silver Spring to downtown? Thanks!
Here's a few options to consider:
16.0 miles - continue on the Sligo Creek Trail and then cut through Mt. Ranier to meet up with the MBT. http://g.co/maps/exg32
14.7 miles - Take the Georgetown Branch Trail to the CCT through Bethesda and down through Georgetown. http://g.co/maps/zx45b
10.0 miles - 14th St Bike lanes. Getting there might be hairy though, I only know Seminary Rd from the traffic reports. http://g.co/maps/2c78t
I have only ridden Mt. Ranier to Union Station on the MBT, so take these routes with a grain of salt. I'm sure others have more detailed input, and as always, try to scout the route on a weekend when you're not pressed for time and traffic is more forgiving before your first ride all the way in.
Good luck finding a route that works for you and let us know how it goes!
If you haven't already done so, the government produced MD and DC bike maps are very useful. They are available for viewing online but using a paper copy is much easier esp since you can carry it with you on rides. Area bike shops usually have them available for free or you can order them online for free as well.
In addition to the three routes AmericanCyclo recommended, you might also consider:
--5th/6th (just off the MBT in Silver Spring/Takoma Park and a pleasant ride through a neighborhood)
--14th (which you can also get to via the Met and Piney Branch road and which has a fun ride down the hill past Columbia Heights)
The CCT is my preferred way to go on longer commuting days, but I don't know what car traffic is like on Beach Drive during rush hour.
The Met isn't as hard to get to as it might seem (really just a turn on Fenton off of Wayne) but has a tough hill (at least for me) both ways.
I don't know about 16th just because of hills and traffic, but I know others like it a lot.
Sligo Creek down to MBT seems way out of your way to me, but I suppose it's doable. I haven't done the full MBT. In my mind I guess it depends on your starting and ending points. You said Smithsonian Metro so eventually ending trail portions by 15th St Cycletrack/lanes makes more sense in my head.
I would definitely not take Georgia. I watched a pedestrian be hit by a car at a crosswalk there about 4 years ago and the pedestrian had the right of way. I think outside of the literal highways in DC, it's the most traversed road by vehicles. Plus the sidewalks suck on it and parts of it are still a little questionable. 16th Street isn't a horrible alternative, but it has some killer hills and when you get down by Mt. Pleasant there is a ton of foot traffic so sidewalk use is out of the question there. 14th Street would require you takine GA or 16th to get to it and similar issues to 16th. Once 15th St bike lane starts, that makes perfect sense.
So I guess it depends where you are in Forest Glen, but if I were you, I would go over Seminary and then head down Brookeville Rd (sort of that annoying intersection by the little park and it's the roadthat goes by that small little industrial area back by Walter Reed--I may have the name of the road wrong) and then hop on the Capital Crescent Trail (it's called something else there, but same thing). I would take that west to the Rock Creek Trail and head south. I would RCT all the way to Irving Street and then take the Irving Street bike bit to 15st south on the bike lane there and ride that into the district and cut over by Independence to get to your destination. I can't remember in my head if 15th Street is one way up by Irving so I would double-check that and if so, then cut out of RCT further south by Harvard Street and come over to 15th. This is more of a straight line path that doesn't require using 16th/14th/GA. Granted part of RCT is on the road, nobody can really go any faster than 35-40mph because of the turns and it's well-known as a bike route.
That's my two cents.
Last edited by Terpfan; 03-27-2012 at 10:06 AM.