Monday, September 29, 2014

Rollin' through the D...C.!

Faithful 2W4W fans! You are all aware that Melissa and I get the privilege to travel these great states - and sometimes planet - of ours. I head to Washington D.C. so frequently for work - the waitress at the hotel I frequent actually knows the kind of hot sauce I like with my eggs in the morning. #reallife

One of my co-workers, David, a major public transit/biking/2W4W fan, has been asking me to take a tour of the D.C. bike-lane infrastructure for awhile. It hasn't worked out for various reasons, but I was totally nervous about actually taking this ride. WHY? Isn't the name of this blog something to do with wheels and biking?!

Yes, it is. The challenge is - in Detroit and SE Michigan, bike lanes are limited and it's honestly ok, and I'd venture to say, expected, by drivers that bikers be on the sidewalk. Biking on the sidewalk doesn't fly in most every other metropolitan area - mostly as the sidewalks are full of people. I've biked once in the streets of downtown Chicago - my life flashed before my eyes every single time a car whizzed by me. And a good friend of mine was recently was hit by a car as she bike commuted in San Francisco (she's ok, and healing well, thankfully). I was about to navigate these bike lanes in rush hour DC, on a bike-share bike, and without a helmet? Get your big girl bike shorts on, Julie, and let's get serious.

The helmet issue was solved quickly by David, who was kind enough to lend me his for this ride - but left me worried as he was helmetless. But we rolled on - I was grateful for the extra head protection to get started. First up, Capital Bike Share right outside our office. David has an annual pass that he let me use so boom - key fob - here's a bike. Awesome. The bike was heavy duty but felt sturdy as I hopped on - I will take it.
There she is - closest to me in the photo - let's ROLL.
David started our bike tour on lanes that were pretty protected from the road. Think two lanes of traffic - parked cars - and then a 2-way bike lane. A 2-way bike lane with marking down the middle!? These are things I've seen in renderings, in videos and in cities I've visited, but I've never actually experienced one. One word: brilliant. Ok, one more word: safe. It just made sense as you navigated it - even as someone new to biking in the area, and this was it - complete streets at WORK. A dream.

This picture is not the best - but you can see across the street how there's a parked car next to a 2-way bike lane - and most importantly - bikers using the bike lanes. 
 We even had the opportunity to check out a real live bike traffic light, which is the red mini-bike light to the right as you look at the photo below. When that thing turns green, you have about 2 seconds to literally traverse a busy intersection, and pretty much skip waiting for 3 traffic lights. I was a little confused as to what street we were going on, so my traversal turned into sort of a crescent moon shape across the intersection. Hey guys - this is a lot of awesome to take in so be patient with this little Detroit biker.
At 16 & U Street - when that bike light turns green, eyes on the prize, bikers! 
All and all, our tour of DC took about 45 minutes and was solidly in the 5pm rush hour traffic. Bike commuters definitely keep it moving - I was overtaken by those rockin' road bikes while I got an extra workout pedaling with my bike share bike. Please don't take this as any sort of knock against the bike share program, it was amazing to be able to pick up a bike and drop it off on the fly - and all bike share bikes come with bells = YES. And most of all - I loved it. I could not stop smiling the entire time. The infrastructure supports biking in the city, and seeing how people use it - I could only wish that we could start in this direction for Detroit. Bike lanes are a great start, but having a system where bikes actually get priority at times? That would really give our Motor City something to get used to - while moving us into to the future supporting ALL transportation options.

Until next time - thanks for the bike tour, David! 
I would feel so much better if we both had helmets on :) 

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