It’s not easy to get around Washington, DC. It’s really, really not!
There’s ample evidence of this. Tune into WTOP for the regular traffic report -- “traffic on the eights, and when it breaks” -- and listen to the anchor with a thick mid-Atlantic accent recite a real-time litany of congested area highways.
If you need more convincing, I present to you Exhibit B: An entire podcast, produced by WAMU, solely devoted to the chaotic commuting nightmare that is the Washington Metro system. It’s aptly named “Metropocalypse,” and it’s harrowing.
Or just compare it to other cities. Last year, the Urban Mobility Institute named the city the nation’s most congested.
So what should you do to get around the gridlock?
A bike. Just get on a bike.
“If you’re moving here and I know you, I’d definitely tell you to bring your bike,” says Natalia Rodriguez-Santos, who lives in Shaw and calls her bike her primary means of transportation. “It’s the easiest way to get around.”
It appears many Washingtonians agree with this sentiment. The number of residents who get around by bicycle has gradually inched up over the years, while the annual number of bicycle trips we’re taking around here has skyrocketed since 2000. Today, 4% of DC commuters do so by bike. Sounds like a little, but by headcount, that’s a lot.
And that growing constituency is among the reasons the city government has built out its bike infrastructure.
In fact, we’re in the midst of an expansion of the existing network right now.
In 2000, there were less than three miles of bike lanes in the District. Today, DC maintains 69 miles of them. And more are coming.
“Fifty-five to 59 percent of DC residents get around the city not in a car, which is pretty high, and the city has a goal to get that to 75 percent,” says Greg Billing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA).
Billing is referring to the city’s MoveDC program, which aims to get more of us out of our cars and onto buses, sidewalks, and bikes -- and by doing so, easing the gridlock. There are plans for pedestrians, and you can find them here. But the designs for the biking community are substantial.
The city’s master plan calls for a total 136 miles of bike lanes by sometime around 2040. We’ll all be old and grey by then, but still, it’s all about the kids.
“There’s a vision for a fully comprehensive network that connects neighborhoods to each other and neighborhoods to downtown,” says Billing. He calls the MoveDC goals ambitious -- and says the city’s a bit behind schedule -- but ultimately worth it for easing congestion. Bike lanes, after all, attract bikers. The cycle tracks that have popped up on 15th, M, and L streets in Northwest prove, “If you build it, people will ride.”