Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Biking the Heights: CH on Two Wheels

Though based on ArtBart's recent posts, it would seem that this blog has rededicated itself to booze reviews instead of notes on life in the Heights. I swear we've got more for you.

And today, we've got biking. ArtBart and I are both recent converts to the way of two wheels and we've noticed a plethora of cyclists in the area recently. I know some of you have been doing this for years, but many of you might want to jump on the band wagon with gas prices up and metro full of butts on poles. DC was recently ranked the most improved city for cyclists by Bicycling Magazine (read about it here on the City Bikes blog). So, in case you plan to pick up a new Schwinn at Target, we've got some notes for you on biking the Heights.

1. Going downtown = Easy, fun / Coming home from downtown = A bitch
For those of you who are employed south of the Heights, biking to work is a breeze. It's a smooth ride with few sweat-inducing moments. But it's not called "Columbia Lows" and that means the trip home is a climb. Be prepared to sweat through your oxford on the trip uphill, or do what we do - bring some extra clothes and consider the trip home your daily cardio.

2. The local hills are not all equal...
11th Street: Steep, but short, with a bike lane. This is a good option in both directions, even if it takes you off course a little.
14th Street: Long drag, no bike lane, buses. I do it all the time, but I don't always like it. Traffic.
15th Street: Super steep, awkward turns. I say avoid this, and as a commenter points out - it's one way, so don't go downhill as I previously suggested. I never take this street.
16th Street: Might be a bit gentler than 14th St. Also long, but with a sidewalk option to avoid buses. Lots of traffic.

3. Buses are thine enemy!
I think I hate the 50 buses the most when I'm on a bike. The S buses on 16th certainly aren't friendly, but they don't have any means by which to cut you off, thus they are forced into some degree of submission.

The 50 buses, on the other hand, are beasts. Between CH and U St. there isn't a bike lane, but as soon as that bike lane comes in north or south of CH, the 50 buses see a prime opportunity to cut off the ever-exposed biker. They pull into and out of that bike lane as if you aren't right there. It's a bit dangerous, and we all know Metro buses aren't known for NOT hitting people. Keep an eye on those 50s.

4. Bike Lanes = The Best
I frequently go off-route just to ride a street with a bike lane. In the Heights, this can mean going from 13th to 11th to R back to 14th. This route means only about three bike lane-free blocks. Washington now has 30+ miles of bike lanes, so we may as well use them.

DC DOT has a great map of local bike lanes. Here's the section where we live.

5. This is kind of unrelated, but bike taxis are fun!
This has nothing to do with the bike as a totally functional form of transportation, but ArtBart and I once bike taxied ourselves home from a bar and it was probably the best idea ever. They will even come get you! Check out DC Pedicab.


Anonymous said...

15th Street is one-way, north, uphill. Don't ride down/soutwards.

11th Street is good, but leaves you prone to pelting; so wear a helmet.

Spud Lite said...

Good point on 15th! I never go that away. Updated based on your comment, thanks much.

Matthew said...

I'm going to come to the defense of 15th street here: it's actually my favorite way to get home. All in all, its a very friendly street as far as not getting hit by cars is concerned, and although the hill is incredibly steep, its only about three blocks, then you get a nice calm ride to Irving St (I cut right to 14th, but you can also merge onto 16th).

If you are using your ride home for cardio, as I also do, nothing beats 15th street. You finish the ride with a butt-off-the-seat hill climb, followed by a nice cooldown. Its like nature's spinning class.

Anonymous said...

13th Street, now that's a cardio workout on the way up, and a thrill ride on the way down.