Prior to my arrival in DC, Natalie’s husband, James, had mentioned something about a bike-related event hosted by New Belgium Beer (that also included music and beer) on the Saturday I would be in town — the Tour de Fat. My friends and I weren’t making solid plans at the time, so I filed it as a possibility for later consideration.
Despite not having all that much information about what it entailed, other than some kind of costumed bike parade, followed by various musical performances, we decided to check it out.
On Saturday morning, after a quick early morning bike outing for pastries and toilet paper (I carried the latter lashed to the rear rack on the bike), I once again hopped on Chrissy’s bike and joined James, a regular DC bike commuter for the ride down to the riverside park area near Navy Yard.
I’d planned a route using 13th Street (a nice road with two lanes of traffic in each direction and no bike lanes) to connect to Pennsylvania Avenue, where I was going to check out (i.e., cautiously ride in) that center bikeway. In the name of flexibility, I ditched those plans to go with James’ suggested route (something he knew well as part of his regular commute), which involved using the 15th Street cycle track.
This was my first time encountering a cycle track as a cyclist, and, while better in some ways than a standard door-zone bike lane, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable there.
General thoughts on the cycle track:
- Not sure how much bike traffic this particular cycle track sees at peak times, but I could see it feeling claustrophobic. The “lane” in each direction was certainly not roomy.
- What the heck would you do if you needed to make a turn from one of these things? Certainly not anything that follows the normal rules of the road and/or normal traffic flow. I guess the safest option would be getting off the bike and crossing the street as a pedestrian?
- The cycle track poses many of the same risks as other forms of edge-riding behavior, especially right hooks and left crosses.
- I attempted to be very vigilant at each and every intersection, but that’s really a poor substitute for riding in a visible position as part of the normal flow of traffic.
Anyway, I obviously survived my cycle track experience and a bit of sidewalk riding as well (not in any hurry to repeat the latter). We made it to Navy Yard in time for the Tour de Fat bicycle parade, and, despite the promise of a slooooow five miles in high temps with midday sun (and our lack of awesome costumage), we decided to join the parade.
It was fun, despite the excessive UV rays I absorbed. I estimate that somewhere between three and five hundred cyclists took to the streets of DC for the parade. I soaked up the energy and enthusiasm of the group, which included great costume inspiration for future rides, cute kids on their parents’ bikes, and people pulling bike trailers rigged with big speakers to provide tunes for our ride.
We ended back at Navy Yard and met the rest of our crew to take in the various festivities: drum corps, various musical performances, food trucks, and a live, bicycle-themed recording of The Moth radio show.
I did snap a few photos on my phone’s not-so-great camera (the real camera was in Florida, capturing this), but they’re really not worth posting, especially since you can check out this nice, photo-heavy recap.
Thus more or less ended my DC cycling experience, since we used the Metro to get home after the event. I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but I’ll definitely be up for more biking!
I haven’t really warmed up to bike lanes yet. There’s one small section that I ride regularly because there’s really no good alternative, but it still scares me. The bike lanes here are all on fairly major streets, which, now that I think of it does avoid the door zone thing, since these are streets that are far too busy to have street parking. But it’s still scary when you’re jammed in with a lane that’s at most 2 feet wide (that’s being generous) with a 6 inch curb to your right and cars zooming past at 45mph on your left.
I have this little pipe dream that someday they’ll designate a few streets as bike only thoroughfares. Seems like you could still allow limited car access and maybe street parking for the people who live there – but with a no-vehicle blockade every block or two to ensure that there wasn’t any through traffic. I can think of a million reasons that it wouldn’t work, but my bet is that property values would skyrocket because you’d essentially be converting through streets to cul-de-sacs. Anyhow, it will never happen, but a girl can dream!