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Thread: How to get to Sligo Creek Trail from downtown DC

  1. #1
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    Question How to get to Sligo Creek Trail from downtown DC

    Another biker recently mentioned that the popular trails in DC are Mt Vernon and Capital Crescent and even that horrid Metro Branch Trail (although why a trail that requires users to lug their bikes up a long flight of stairs just to ride 5 miles seemed like a good idea I'll never understand). Sligo Creek Trail is underrated he said.

    I'd like to try Sligo Creek but the problem is everytime I try to bike anywhere along the eastern edge of the District I get frustrated and angry and end up having a miserable ride. I think this is the most bike-UN-friendly part of the DC metro area (though I'll admit I haven't ridden everywhere).

    There just seems to be no good way to get from downtown DC to neighborhoods like Mount Rainer and Hyattsville or College Park on a bike. Rhode Island is about the only through road and it's TERRIBLE for bikes.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for a relatively bike-friendly way to get to that part of the city? Alternatively, do you think there's any way we could advocate for a bike lane on Rhode Island? Are there any plans for something in the future? Seems to me that's a big chunk of the city that's relatively inaccessible to bicyclists.

  2. #2
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    Couple things, if you go up another block (to M street) you can take a ramp up to the MBT rather than climbing it up those stairs.

    Here's a thread I started on getting from DC to Greenbelt (mostly) via trails. If you take the NW branch trail left (instead of right, the way I go) from 38th or 37th street, you'll head toward Sligo Creek trail I think. There's a crude google map and a sped-up video of the route section from DC to the NW branch down a litte ways in the thread.
    http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showth...ttsville-to-DC

    OK -- need to go hit those trails now myself.
    Last edited by Greenbelt; 03-30-2011 at 09:47 AM. Reason: correction -- MBT ramp is off M street, not L.

  3. #3
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    When I lived in Takoma Park, about 100 yards from the Sligo Creek Trail my favorite route into town was via Kansas Ave NW / NE. From say Columbia Heights Metro take 14th north to Monroe, then east to 13th, north on 13th to a right on Kansas Ave. Very nice ride from there all the way to Eastern Ave. You will cross Georgia just a few blocks north of Qualia Coffee if you need a caffeine stop. There are several unavoidable big hills once your in Takoma Park before you arrive at Sligo Creek. I would suggest going left at Eastern Ave and following that to Laurel Ave then right to where it becomes Carroll Ave. Follow that to Old Carroll Ave and turn right down the steep hill to the park. If you cross a large bridge you've gone too far and crossed the park about 50 ft in the vertically wrong place. Google maps for bikes is your friend on this ride. All that being said Sligo Creek Trail is essentially Rock Creek Park lite. Closed to traffic on weekends partially but not fully, bad, root damaged paved paths elsewhere + a LOT of jogging strollers.

    While I'm not sure how "Mount Rainer and Hyattsville or College Park" relate to Sligo Creek Trail in Takoma Park I feel your pain and anguish about the dearth of good routes to the northeast of downtown.

  4. #4
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    Thanks y'all! I will investigate both of those options (and thanks for the tip about the MBT --i think they should advertise the existence of the ramp on M Street more)


    Doesn't the Sligo Creek Trail go all the way down south? I'm talking about getting on at the south end and biking north up to Takoma Park.

  5. #5
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    Here is more information about the Metropolitan Branch Trail - http://metbranchtrail.com/map

    In the concept plan, there is a connection between the Met Branch and the Anacostia Tributary Trail System (ATTS) at the West Hyattsville Metro Stop. Actually, the connection is built on the Maryland side. The DC side is controlled by National Park Service which is why it isn't built yet. Trail riders will be able to ride from Maryland to Fort Totten and south on the Met Branch Trail.

    See: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...44246&t=h&z=15

    There is also a connection from the ATTS in the works at the south end at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Maryland is building the connection right now to the DC border. The last section connecting the Anacostia Waterfront Trail to the Maryland - DC border is in the design stages. I can't even speculate when that might be build. However, when complete, a trail user will be able to ride from many parts of PG County into DC all the way to Poplar Point on a multi-use path. So cool!

    See: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...&z=14&lci=bike

    As for a bike lane on Rhode Island -- I don't think we should hold our breath for that!

  6. #6
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    I tried this route again this weekend and I have an update.

    Regarding the MBT, I'm glad it's improved 100 fold. I found the ramp on M Street bypassing the stairs and it seems the 6 blocks length has now doubled to 12 so the trail is beginning to become useful. I could actually imagine using it to get up to Mount Rainer and the murals and benches add a lot. The problem with rolling out the trail to the public before it was ready is that if someone goes out to try something and it pretty clearly stinks, it could be years before they go back to try it again and meanwhile they're probably going to tell others not to bother as well. That's exactly what happened to me. If I were the person in charge of promoting that particular trail I think I would've been more low-key about promoting it to the public until it was ready.

    The MBT comes within 2 or 3 miles of that other trail I was trying to reach: the Sligo Creek Trail. I realized that at the southern end it's called the Northwest Branch Trail. You'd think that since the trails are so close together and it'd be a reasonable assumption to think cyclists would want to get from one to the other, city planners would have figured out a way to link them but it appears they haven't. Michigan Avenue is not a bike friendly road but it was the most direct link between the two.

    Once I got to the Northwest Branch Trail I thought it was great. It was clearly marked and very pretty but even on a Sunday I passed hardly any other people on it. Other trails in the city, (Mount Vernon, Capital Crescent) are so packed with pedestrians, strollers and dogs they're almost unusable for cyclists on the weekends. I wonder if the city planners realize the difference between popular trails like Mount Vernon and Capital Crescent and under-utilized trails like the Northwest Branch and Sligo Creek has a lot to do with how accessible these trails are to the rest of the city. If you have to take your life in your hands riding on unsafe roads to get to a trail, the only people who will use it are people who live in the immediate area.

    I write that hoping that maybe someone who has decision-making power in such things will see it.

    It'd be really great if more bike lanes were added to that side of the city. It seems very neglected. Until that changes, cyclists, even ones who live on the east side of the city like myself, will probably continue to do most of our cycling in the west.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for giving it another shot! Just a few blocks north of the "end of the trail" is another long section up near Catholic. The signs getting there are pretty small but they are there. I've included a map:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&sour...&z=14&lci=bike

    A bit of history: the Met Branch is over 20 years in the making. I wish that the entire 8 mile trail could be built all at once and opened to the public. However, that's just not possible. For example, the section between aligned next to the NY Ave Metro Station was built in 2004 and sat for 6 years not connecting anywhere. The reality is that there are so many players involved: DDOT, NPS, CSX, M-NCPPC, etc.that it will take some time. On the bright side, progress is being made and it will be finished one day!

    Opening the trail section by section, allows the community to use it, get excited about it, be part of the planning process, etc. You're right that it's a bit of a let down when you ride out of your way to the trail expecting something grand. But as the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.

    WABA has been advocating for the trail for almost 20 years. If this is something that interests you, please get involved.

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