It occurred to me that if I am going to talk about comfort biking, I should talk about my daily commute, which I eventually settled upon because even though there are many options, this one is the most comfortable for me.
I have a pretty short, pretty easy route, and I confess that I am quite lucky in this. The first mile-ish is through my lovely neighborhood, then bike lanes the rest of the way. Honestly, the hardest part of my commute is hauling my bike up and down the stairs to our apartment.
Once I get out of my lovely, quiet neighborhood, I turn onto Clarendon Blvd. and have buffered bike lanes through most of Clarendon before hitting Courthouse and Rosslyn. It’s generally pretty light traffic, although I have to watch for cars turning into the Starbucks in Clarendon, because they always seem to be so focused on caffeine that they don’t notice where they are going.
The way home is more challenging. It’s uphill – not a huge, dreadful, painful, awful hill, but it is a hill nonetheless. I dislike hills. Now it take me past recently opened Tupelo Honey Cafe, a Southern restaurant where The Mechanic was able to indulge his Texas-reared okra-loving tastebuds. (It’s definitely worth a visit, but it has only been open a week and getting busier each day as worth-of-mouth gets around.) In the evenings, Clarendon is a bit of a mess – after passing Revolution Cycles, I arrive in the restaurant part of Clarendon, and everyone is trying to parallel park through the bike lane, and generally doing a bad job. I thoroughly disapprove of parallel parking to the right of the bike lane. But then I turn back into my neighborhood, and it’s easy pedaling the rest of the way home.
This is my normal route on a map: As I mentioned, there are options, as you can also see on the Google Map. There is also the Custis Trail, which runs just north of 66, straight into Rosslyn. It’s used by hundreds of bike commuters every day, and I prefer not to use it. I don’t find it comfortable.
There, I said it. I mean, bicyclists are *supposed* to want trails for commuting, and I do. But I find the bike lanes much more comfortable, even though I’m mixing with cars. The trail is full of roadies, whereas there are fewer in the bike lanes. I find the trail boring – not as much to look at before you get to walls separating the neighborhoods from those passing through. I like to see the shops and the houses and the people walking their dogs, and the people running to the Metro stations. I see some of the same people everyday, in fact. I have seen houses being built, office buildings going up (some more slowly than others), a small public space was created, and now a new hotel is going up in Courthouse and I get to watch that happen, as I bike over construction plates and dodge signs in the bike lane. It’s more interesting and it makes me feel more connected to my community. However, if I didn’t have the bike lanes, I don’t know that I’d follow the same route. I much prefer to be in a bike lane than trying to share a lane, so I’d probably find a different route, or suck it up on the trail, miserable though that would make me. (The Custis Trail is also really hilly in that stretch, which is probably really good training, but my knee isn’t interested.)
So comfort for me is:
- Bike lanes. Buffered bike lanes are better, and protected bike lanes would be heavenly!
- My community. Getting to see what is going on around me, the places where I shop, workout, dine, and spend time with friends and family.
- Nature. I think I get more nature in my neighborhood than on the trail. I see all the trees blossom, then turn colors, all the flowers in the yards, all the chipmunks and rabbits and birds, grass and weeds and shrubbery. I know it’s there on the trail as well, but I really enjoy people’s gardens. It’s different, somehow.
- Flat. It’s not a totally flat route but it’s flatter than the Custis! Thank goodness for the small ring….
What provides comfort on your bike commutes? Why have you picked the route you take? Do you have options, or do you make it work?