From the Forum – Tips for Commuting by Bicycle and Walking a half marathon or 10miler

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How to Begin Commuting by Bicycle:

“I’ve been entertaining this idea that I might like to start commuting to work by bicycle. I work fairly long hours and I love seeing daylight in the mornings and evenings; additionally, I’d love to incorporate more exercise into my everyday life.

However, a few things are getting in my way. One, I am not familiar with bike-riding in the city and after reading RRRR, I’m terrified I’ll be killed by a rogue car. Two, I live in Park View and work in Crystal City. I mapped the commute and it’s about 7 miles, including crossing the Potomac. For someone who is fairly out of shape, this seems rather daunting.

Does anyone out there have any advice on how to start this kind of lifestyle change?”

Walking a half marathon or 10miler:

“Any suggestions for local half marathons or ten milers that accommodate walkers? I currently can’t run due to health issues but would love to work towards a spring weather challenging walk….for charity or otherwise.”

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29 Comment

  • I bike from 16th St. Heights near Upshur Park to Crystal CIty. It’s a fairly easy commute—7.5 miles door to door for me. Most of the ride, for me anyway, is on bike lanes (14th St. to 15th St. beginning at V) and then the Mt. Vernon trail once you cross the 14th St. Bridge, which has a bike/walk lane. It’s a pretty spectacular ride. I work a little later, though, so I don’t have to fight rush hour traffic. On the way home, if it’s still light, I shoot up 14th or 15th St. If i’m lazy, I put my bike on the front of the bus and take it up the hill to CH and ride home from there.

  • 1. The Washington Area Bicycling Assocaition (WABA) has a lot of great resources. Check out their website. They have info on safety, commuting, etc… 2. Invest in a rack with two panniers. It will make life easier. 3. Use lights and bright colored jackets/clothing every time you ride. 4. Ride as if you think everyone is texting or drinking behind the wheel. Best to assume they can’t see you and ride defensively in response.

    • WABA also has FREE classes (League of American Bicyclist curriculum) that teach you how to ride safely and confidently in vehicular traffic. I would not ride in traffic if I hadn’t taken this class (in another state). The classes are good for any level cyclist, even highly experienced. There are many things about bicycling safety that are not obvious or actually counter-intuitive, and it’s not like you can learn safe riding skills by watching how other cyclists ride.

  • If you feel like 14 miles in a day is a bit daunting at first, then do one-way trips for a while so you are only doing 7 miles a day, until you feel comfortable with the longer distance. Ride your bike to work then ride the metro home. Next day, ride the metro to work then ride your bike home.

    • Actually, if you work past 7, which I do, you can take your bike ON the Metro, which I do frequently when it starts getting dark earlier. The Mt V trail is very dark, even with good bike lights, and people stroll or just SIT on it at Gravelly Point, and you don’t see them until you’re right up on them.

  • Start by committing to ride to work once or twice a week. And if it goes well, ride more often from there. And yes, find a route that uses bike lanes and one way streets. From Park View, I’d probably take 11th or 15th to the mall, then head over the 14th St bridge to the trail.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    As mentioned above WABA is a great resource. Join and they will help you come up with a safe route. They have a pretty active blog at:

  • I had the same concerns as you did about being out of shape before I started bike commuting. My only exercise was walking around and short 1-mile bike rides on bikeshare, but my commute is around 9 miles. But on bike to work day last year I decided to just do it. I was worn out by the time I got home, but in a few weeks I was already seeing improvements in my physical fitness. You also don’t have to ride both ways. I take my bike up on the metro in the morning and then ride back (downhill) in the afternoon. Also remember, there is no shame in walking your bike up a steep hill or stopping to take breaks.

    For the lack of experience biking on the streets: I recommend WABA’s Confident City Cycling class. They teach you a few evasive maneuvers and take you out on the road (if you’re comfortable with that).

    I recommend trying out the route on a weekend first. Less traffic, and you don’t have to worry about getting there at a certain time.

    The Washington Area Bike Forum ( may also have lots of resources and advice.

    • Just remember that you cannot bring a bike onto Metro during rush hour. However, leaving it at work and biking home the next day is a great idea, as is riding the bus.

  • If you are new to urban cycling, I recommend getting a bikeshare membership and starting with small trips at first on the weekends or on your way to work. I live in Columbia Heights and work in Courthouse. When I bike to work I take a bikeshare bike from Columbia Heights to Foggy Bottom and take the Metro for two stops. I’ve tried biking all the way, but the last mile is uphill and I don’t have anywhere to shower when I get to work. You could start doing something similar by taking bikeshare to somewhere along the Green/Yellow line and gradually increasing the distance you go. I’m not sure how the 14th street bridge is for crossing into VA on bike, since I’ve never tried it. I like to use Memorial bridge, and it seems that even though it might be out of the way it could be a better ride because you would end up on the Mt. Vernon Trail. You could also use bikeshare within Crystal City to run errands or get lunch. Once you feel comfortable on city streets and long distances with bikeshare, you may want to upgrade and buy a bike that would be better suited for longer distances (if you don’t have one already).
    You should get in touch with Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). I think they have classes for urban cycling newbies. Always wear a helmet and lights. Good luck and happy cycling!

    • Also, I forgot to mention that using street view in Google maps is really useful in planning routes.

  • Plot a route that feels safe to you; include side streets, etc. that don’t have as much traffic and bike slowly. Speed kills. Be prepared to keep changes of clothing at work, especially in the hot weather.

  • The Barrett Branch library in Old Town Alexandria (717 queen street) has a program coming up on Saturday April 5 at 3pm, Bicycle Commuting 101. The panel-style presentation is sponsored by Alexandria city’s Local Motion, the Alexandria SpokesWomen, Alexandria BPAC, and the VT bicycle ambassadors.

  • Just start doing it. The vast majority of the city is bike friendly and 7 miles is a pretty easy ride. Should take you about 30 minutes.

    From Park View to VA I’d take Georgia/7th all the way across the mall, then take Independence over to 14th and hop on the bike trail. The bridge hooks you up with the Mt. Vernon trail and there’s a bridge to CC near the airport.

    After doing it once you’ll realize how easy it was and be baffled why you didn’t start sooner.

    • I would try the commute on a weekend or something to get an idea of how long it will take you. If you are not used to biking it is likely to take longer than 30mins. My commute is about 5 miles and I’m in pretty good shape and I allow myself 30mins. It usually takes me about 25 mins “to” work and close to 30 on the way home (all uphill) – granted these times include unlocking and locking up the bike plus I stop at red lights, etc).

  • Stay off Rhode Island avenue please!

    • And those of us for whom RI Ave is the most direct route from home to work? I’ve been biking it safely for years.

      • Take r street and get off the highway!

        • Rhode Island Avenue is not a highway. As long as it’s legal for bikes and cars to both be on it I guess we’ll have to learn to share!

        • R St doesn’t go where I need to go …. what an odd statement! Why don’t YOU take R St? The bikes won’t even be in your way because they have their own lane!

          Look: on the stretch that I ride as part of my route downtown (roughly N Cap to where it merges to M St) I do two *perfectly legal* things that by your tone probably annoys you: I split lanes/filter to the front of the line at stop lights and I may take the lane BRIEFLY and when I’ve checked my six and signaled when there is debris towards the shoulder. That’s it. I stop at lights. I don’t ride in the middle of the lane for blocks on end when I don’t have to (I’m very comfortable with cars occupying the lane with me, there is more than enough room for both of us for anything short of a semi). And guess what? On average I probably travel that stretch 5-7 minutes faster than a car during the height of morning rush hour. EASILY. You are not getting held up because of bikes that are ahead of you and getting further ahead at every light (that defies logic). You are getting held up because it takes three changes of the light cycle at RI/12th and Logan Circle due to all of the CARS and buses taking that same route, or because some asshole has left his CAR parked in the travel lane overnight or put flashers on while stopping the CAR in a travel lane to run his kid into the YMCA or whatever. Don’t hate on bikers because they’ve found a faster way to get to work than you. Your commute headaches are 100% not their fault.

          • But I’m angry frustrated and overweight, and because of delays on the road created by folks like me, I have no time for exercise, culture, community, friends or family, so I have to blame somebody! You cyclists remind me of my bad choices!

  • GiantSquid

    I used to bike to work and I really miss it. Remember that the busses have bike racks on the front of them. So if you bike to work and then can’t bike home (too hot, too tired, etc.) you can put your bike on the bus and ride it closer to home.

  • if you ride every day in rush hour traffic, get a helmet camera and a really good USB-rechargeable headlamp. oh and padded gloves for when you get hit by MD/VA drivers. makes a big difference

  • In re: biking– I echo the “start with Bikeshare” comments above. Definitely helped me get started on the city streets, on a bike that was heavy and sturdy. When I got my own, lighter-weight hybrid bike, I felt like an in-shape rockstar biking up the 18th street hill home. Good luck!

    In re: charity runs: Team Challenge, which benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, is starting training this weekend– great team, all sorts of levels (from walk, to walk-run, to run), and a really fantastic charity and cause. I’m joining for my fourth season this spring, and there are some great races to choose from. More info here: Do it! 🙂

  • Sounds like you need a Riide bike! Its an electric bike that is lighter and sleeker than other electric bikes and charges using any normal outlet in 4 hours and is 40% lighter than most e bikes. The range of mileage is about 25 miles ……….but you can also pedal.

    The company is a start up started by two GW and Georgetown graduates

    takes care of both exercising and not…when you can’t…and getting outside

  • I’ll emphasize the pannier recommendation. Carrying stuff on your back makes riding much harder and sweatier.

  • +1 to WABA resources. They have a lot of great information to get you started.

    In terms of starting this type of change, I’d say it’s best to go slowly. Maybe a couple mile rides over the weekend (tomorrow is supposed to be very nice out!) to get started and see how you feel after riding for a bit. I would say it’s best not to overcommit or ride more than you might be comfortable with. Often, I’ve ridden a lot and felt fine that day, but the next day, I was really achy. You don’t want to ramp up your ride too quickly; otherwise, you might run a higher risk of injury. You can ramp up your ride at select intervals (maybe adding a mile or 2 a week, depending on your fitness/comfort level) until you’re ready to commute to work. You should probably also do a dry run at a time when there isn’t a lot of traffic to see how it works for you.

    Best of luck!

  • If you can’t ride the bike the entire distance twice a day you can either ride the bike to a metro station, lock it there and take the metro to work (if it’s outside of rush hour you can take your bike on the metro). Or you can ride the bike to work, leave it there and take the metro in the evening. Next day take the metro to work and ride the bike back in the evening.

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