Apologies to District folks, I promised a couple of people who are in town for the Bike Summit that I would post up some items of interest for them to check out while in town, beyond the usual Mall-museum-meeting-meal-motel circuit one does at a DC conference. Chime in with other suggestions:
Sampling DC Bike Infrastructure -- For the big guns of advocacy who are in town, perhaps you'd like to see how our nation's capital stacks up. From the conference venue, head north on 15th St, hang a left on Pennsylvania Ave, and enjoy the best two blocks of no-car roadway in the country. Watch out for distracted administration officials, war protesters, Segway renters, and tourists squinting into viewfinders. Then, head north (right) on 17th St., through the chaos of the K St. intersection, brave Connecticut Ave (watch out for i-podded jaywalkers, u-turning cabbies, and driver-side doors), and bear right on 18th St.
Channel your inner Belgian on the horrible pavement on 18th, up the steep hill at Florida Ave., past all the restaurants and bars, and hang a right on Columbia Ave. Go 1 block, and you'll see a pretty cool bike shop. Please stop in and say hello. Keep on truckin down Columbia, straight over 16th St., where it turns into Harvard St., until you get to 14th St. Hang a right, and head down 14th. If you're pinched for time, or reluctant to venture into a slightly sketchy patch of town, just bomb straight down the intermittent bike lane on 14th, careful to take the right spoke at Thomas Circle, and you'll end up right near the conference venue.
Otherwise, go down to Q St. There's another shop at the intersection of 14th and Q, I won't invite you to visit on their behalf, but I'm sure they would love to say hello. Head left on Q St., avoid doors and double-parked construction vans on Q, and then zigzag your way over to 9th St, hang a right. Head down 9th, past our gleaming NOS condition Convention Center. Behold the bizarre 9th St combo bus/bike lane, and dodge all the cars that ignore that bus/bike restriction. Venture over to 7th St (to the left) if you want to ride it's similarly well-intentioned but largely useless northbound twin. Gawk and scoff like a jaded local at all the tourists, this is where they gather to eat. Otherwise, hang a right onto E St., and ride a nice traditional bike lane on back to your home base. Google says 6 miles in all, here's a map:
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This route basically gives you a good cross-section of what we've got inside the city. Some OK bike lanes, some bike lanes that just randomly start/stop, some odd good-intentions, and some major routes with no provision for bikes.
Training, Tidal Basin, and Monuments -- Maybe you'd like some exercise. Head south, to DC's closest thing to a velodrome, Haines Point. Head down 15th St, being especially careful of drivers itching to get onto the highway once you get onto Maine Ave. While trying not to hold up traffic, glance to your right, see the Tidal Basin, imagine it teeming with cherry blossom blooms and tourists. Try to negotiate a left onto Ohio Ave., which is long, flat, and hopefully your biggest danger here will be the triathletes learning to use their aerobars and ironically yelling at you to hold your line. At the turnaround, we used to have a cool statue called the Awakening, that most of us never really appreciated until it was bought, extricated, and reinstalled in a suburban fauxborfront retail complex. If being outdoors on a bicycle has you missing your rollers/trainer, use Buckeye Dr. to loop back around, and just keep doing laps of Haines Point. Similar experience.
Anyway, keep going under the 14th St. Bridge, and you'll end up on the other side of the Tidal Basin. Work your way around the Tidal Basin, and you are right in the midst of all the big National Mall attractions -- WWII memorial, Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Memorial, etc. I've plotted a route back to the Reagan building that includes Constitution Ave, which is a bit of a dragstrip. Plot an alternate route, or take to the wide sidewalks, if you're a bit leery of mixing it up with fast traffic. Again, consult the map.
Mixed-use Trails -- Finally, we've got a decent enough set of mixed use trails. I won't try to describe all of them, bikewashington.org does a much better job at that. Your best entrance onto the biggest trails is to follow the same route as described above, but don't turn onto Ohio Dr. Keep going straight, and then bear right onto Basin Dr. DON'T follow all the cars onto the bridge -- the sidewalk across the bridge is fenced off, and can't be accessed from the road. Zoom in on the map, i've tried to sketch out the proper way to go. And don't take 14th St. down to the bridge -- while it is called the 14th St Bridge, a bike can't access the bridge from 14th St. Crazy.
Anyway, once you cross the bridge, you'll loop around, and find yourself facing back toward the city (beautiful view, BTW). Go right, and you can take the Mt. Vernon Trail about 15 miles down to Mt. Vernon, going through Old Town Alexandria. Go left, proceed a few miles to the Key Bridge, cross back over into DC, and you're in Georgetown. Get a cup of coffee, gawk at how many people fearlessly pilot $80K cars in city traffic, pop into two other bike shops on M St., or head down to Water/K St., and you're at the head of the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) and the C&O Canal towpath. To get to Water St from the Key Bridge, hang a right immediately after the bridge into a little park, go down and across the C&O canal, and then either go down a nearby staircase to Water St (then hang a right), or just go right on the gravel towpath, with intersects with the CCT after a mile or so.
The CCT 7 miles of wonderful, slightly uphill trail all the way to downtown Bethesda. It gets really crowded on nice days with joggers and baby strollers on nice days, though, so bring a bell and leave your need for speed back on Haines Point. Keep going through Bethesda, onto the Georgetown Branch Trail, where the surface becomes gravel, proceed another 1.5 miles across Connecticut Ave., and you'll arrive at our Chevy Chase location. Please stop in and say hello.