Biking Friday

Mourning at Alice's ghost bike

Today for the first time in my adult life, I biked to work. My 2 mile commute from Shaw to Georgetown makes for an ideal bike commute distance. However, I usually take the G2 bus across P Street which usually takes 30 to 45 minutes since I get off at P and 30th Street in Georgetown and walk several blocks south. Today, I made the trip in just 15 minutes, meaning my average speed was around 8 miles an hour. My route took me by the ghost bike above, a memorial to Alice Swanson.

I’m not the only one with biking on my mind. Richard Layman posted this morning a roundup of various biking news. As for the much-discussed D.C. bike sharing program, although I posted about it in April and the Post reported bikes would hit city streets in May, WashCycle reports we will have to wait until sometime in August.

DSCN0922.JPGAn aspiring planner I met with yesterday asked me whether there’s a massive effort afoot to make every American city more bikable. While I can’t say it’s “massive,” it does seem like I hear about biking at every turn. After Alice Swanson’s tragic death, I was invited to a grassroots meeting to talk about ways to make DC more bike friendly. The bike lane network continues to expand here, and I noted with satisfaction that one graces the street in front of my new apartment in Cambridge (on the right, seen complete with bikers!).

Meanwhile, I’m noticing more and more bikers on D.C. streets. While I may just be more attuned to them, it’s reasonable to assume increased gas prices, more bike lanes, and crowded public transit may be causing a noticeable mode shift towards bikes. From a planning point of view, we have much work to do, both in the way of transforming our cities to be more accommodating to the bike and understanding the dynamics of biking better. Transportation planners regularly record automobile traffic volumes on city streets using automated devices, often reporting the results on maps. I’ve never heard of something similar for biking, but it seems it’s only a matter of time before bike lanes feature devices quietly counting their users, allowing planners to fine-tune the network with every bit the care we spend on automobiles.

Top photo by Rudi Riet

Author: Rob Goodspeed


  1. “Transportation planners regularly record automobile traffic volumes on city streets using automated devices, often reporting the results on maps. I’ve never heard of something similar for biking . . .”

    Now you have: Minneapolis uses them. See the city’s report for more than you could possibly want to know about bike traffic density on the Midtown Greenway, the largest trail:

  2. You have a two mile commute that takes 30 to 45 minutes???? 3.2 km divided by 6 km/hr walking speed is just over 30 minutes. My 14 km commute normally takes under 40 minutes by bicycle. Surely it’s not really just two miles, right? I know buses are slow, my GPS measurements are hardly faster than bicycle speed even not counting wait times, but, really.

  3. 2.6 miles and I may have exaggerated, I think it’s 30 on average, 20-40 the 95% range with the upper end only when I miss the bus and the next one is late.

    D.C. public bus service is mediocre with ancient buses that often run off-schedule.

    I walk home daily.

  4. Ancient buses or not. It’s not that unusual in places with surface transit for walking or biking to be faster. Those cars and all the stops and badly timed lights are a mess on transit. All those beautiful (newish) streetcars in San Francisco take forever and a day to get most places. When I lived there, I regularly walked home (or wherever, taxis are hard to come by as well). DC, like SF, is small enough that walking often makes the most sense. Last summer when I was interning at the Smithsonian, I used to walk home to Petworth from the National Mall. Not a bad walk at all. And only took me a little bit longer than riding Metro and then taking the bus.

    Back when I lived and worked in Charlottesville, I would ride my bike when I was late for work. It was always faster than driving and looking for parking at that point.

    I wish I could say the same for now, but working near Tysons pretty much negates getting there by any other way than a car. Unless I wanted to spend 3-4 hours a day commuting, instead of the 1.5 hours it takes me now.

  5. DDOT needs to transform the way the are evaluating and measuring traffic. The IPMA is still using the car-centric metrics of intersection efficiency per volume rather than considering cyclist, pedestrian and other factors.

    Until the Director and the Mayor get a handle on this, all of DDOTs actions will be stuck in the 1950’s.

  6. Congrats on biking to work Rob! And congrats to Libby for getting accepted to Harvard Law School! You guys will have a great time in Boston. Good luck!

  7. Good lord. You live right down the road from me. Welcome to the neighborhood, neighbor! You’ll occasionally see Cambridge bike cops riding side by side in the middle of car lanes on Mass Ave, slowing traffic. It’s a sight that should warm the heart of any biker.

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