Monday, April 2, 2012

Cycling Washington D.C.: Ride On Washington

First order of business while in D.C. for the National Bike Summit was to participate in the finale of Tim Johnson's Ride On WashingtonThis is a 500 mile journey from Boston to Washington D.C. to raise funds for Bikes Belong. Tim Johnson invites all comers to ride with him for the finale into Washington D.C. on the first day of the National Bike Summit. 

People Power
Last year, the "Occupy" demonstrations reignited, in many, a long lost passion for fundamental change to our economy and society.  The movement grabbed international attention just by forming stationary groups in points of political interest.

Bike Power
Since then, many have realized what many cyclists already knew: that cycling is a great instrument for affecting economic and social change. Even before any stimulus,  legislation, or demonstration, a single cyclist immediately diverts money spent on financing, maintaining and fueling a car to something more stimulating, economically or otherwise. Whenever many cyclists do this, people see dramatic improvements to health, community, and economy.

Powers Combined
Tim Johnson's Ride On Washington is a unique chance to illustrate both the power of assembly and the power of cycling, and do it right in front of national legislators. What better way to begin the National Bike Summit?

Starting the Finale
First though, I had to get to the start of the finale ride. It began 18 miles out in the D.C. suburb of College Park, MD. That should have been a piece of cake. Google Maps showed me a bicycle-friendly way to Proteus Bicycles: the shop hosting the start. I had 90 minutes to get there. No problem.

Bike Trouble
Unfortunately, my reassembly of my folding bike had my derailleur missing 12 out of 20 gears. Ugh!!!!  My 90 minutes was going fast.

Devlin and Jimmy at Rollin Cycles
Persevering, I tapped Google Maps once again for nearby bike shops. Thankfully, one was 2 blocks away. Many thanks to Jimmy and Devlin at Rollin Bicycles for fixing my derailleur in seconds, at no charge. Thanks to them, I was able to make it out in time for the finale. I wound up taking the metro out to Greenbelt but I made it. 

Proteus Bicycles
Proteus Cycles: start of the finale
When I got to College Park, I found the utterly charming Proteus bicycle shop. This place is a fabulous combination of cement floors, folksy signage, and old wall hangings that reflect many years focused on the fun of cycling. 

Proteus Bicycles: Ride On Washington
Today was no different. Proteus was throwing a party in Tim's honor and contributed lots of support for the ride. Many thanks to them for their part in making it a truly pleasant experience.

Cycling Group Grows As We Hit Town

The finale ride meandered pleasantly through the suburbs of D.C. picking up more cyclists along the way. I especially dug one rider's 2 foot high head dress. It makes me wonder how helmet laws reconcile helmets with religious head dress.

Cycling Pennsylvania Avenue
Capitol View
The real highlight for me was the experience of cycling down Pennsylvania avenue with the capital building in the background. It was truly a dream come true. What a sight: the capitol, the bike lane smack dab in the middle of the street, and all these cyclists showing their support for more lanes. It fills one with pride and excitement.

D.C. Police Support?
D.C's Finest?
That said, there were a few surprises on this ride. The first was the lack of police support. It is not uncommon for rides of this type to get a police escort to secure intersections until the entire group has passed. Instead, police were found parked in the middle of a separated bike lane, forcing our group to ride in the gutter, literally.

Where Was Everybody?
A Typical SF Critical Mass Turnout
Seeing a thousand cyclists congregate peacefully is a relatively common site these days. Casual "fun rides" often get great turnouts. Given:

  • the recent turnouts elsewhere 
  • the fact that Tim Johnson just knocked himself out for 500 miles to support cycling
  • the fact that 800+ passionate cycling advocates had just hit town
I had visions of a sea of cyclists filling the streets of D.C. so completely that even the most distracted government representative would have to take notice. 

Nevertheless, by last count, we had 100+. Granted, it was a Tuesday but it is still too bad that so many local cyclists and visiting advocates missed a great opportunity to show support for cycling on a national stage. They also missed a really fun ride.

Great Finish
Regardless, the ride had a great finish. Tim Blumenthal, President of Bikes Belong, and many others joined the ride using bikes from Capital Bikeshare no less. The weather couldn't have been much better. It was a great day and a great ride. I am very grateful to Tim and all the others who made it happen.

More D.C. photos: