Housing Complex

Dear WaPo: Biking is Not That Hard

Today's Washington Post reports on how WMATA is making it easier for commuters to combine bike trips and subway rides, cutting down on the need for traditional vehicle parking. Sensible goal! But reporter Ann Scott Tyson wants you to know that it's really hard to ride your bike to the nearest Metro stop. She leads off:

With packs on their backs, reflective neon straps around their ankles and sometimes even headlamps, they are the proud few who brave traffic, rainstorms and thieves to bicycle to Metrorail stations.

And there's pretty much no reason to do it besides practicality:

Bike riders say they are motivated to mount up each day by necessity, a desire to save time and money, or, in the case of Ryan Buchholz, guilt.

Tyson then talks to "die-hard" cyclists who stop only when there's ice on the roads, and recounts their struggles with theft. Only at the very end does she include a perspective on why someone would actually look forward to their morning cycle commute: “It gives you a view of the city,” [one cyclist] said, and besides, “it’s energetic, fun and youthful.”

I've got to roll my eyes at the portrayal as bike commuters as hardbitten road warriors who brave adverse conditions either out of necessity, ideology, or simple masochism. Sure, some people stick it out through the winter, and have less bike-friendly routes to suburban stations, which can absolutely be improved. But as the weather has warmed up, I've seen more bicyclists on their way to work in the morning than ever before, many of them compromising not one bit in their style choices (I've got nothing but admiration for ladies pedaling in heels). Really, it's not some task out of reach to all but the toughest among us–it's just an alternative (and one that's a lot less stressful than sitting in rush hour traffic). I think the Post needs to find another frame.

  • J

    I find it interesting that the same people who claim that biking is dangerous and difficult, also seem to be the ones who oppose every effort to make biking safer and more convenient.

  • Dan

    The only thing "hard" about biking to/from work is the lack of support one gets from professional colleagues and employers. In this era of "green building," why is it not mandatory to provide showers for bike/jogging commuters in every office building? Why do we get treated like "the weird guy" in the office if we show up with a helmet and a pant leg rolled up?

  • Mark P

    Um, it's not hard when you live in the District. Try the same thing at Franconia/Springfield, Van Dorn, or some of those stations along the Orange Line and it is a different story. Those are the stations where a very high percentage of people arrive by car, and every parking space Metro builds will be immediately filled.
    East Falls Church just happens to get a lot of bikers because it is near a trail.
    +1 on the comments made by J and Dan.

  • DCster

    I think Mark P's right - the Post article, as seems to be the trend, is written primarily from the perspective of the suburban commuter. It doesn't reflect the people in the District who ride to nearby stations because they enjoy it.

  • Cap

    Motorists in the District and surrounding areas do not respect bikers or pedestrians. In DC, those driving view everyone else as an obstacle or a delay. Biking is hazardous not because of the weather conditions, but because of the danger from the many careless drivers in the District. Just an example, I was almost hit by a car while walking my bike in a cross walk in broad daylight with a "STOP for pedestrians, it's the law" sign.

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  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    hear, hear, lydia!

    mark p: i thought lydia pointed out that it's different for suburbanites (compared to DC residents), so i'm not sure what you're referring to there. you do make a good point, though, that our city's paper-of-record writes to a suburban perspective, because that's where all of their readership is these days.

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  • jdub

    mark p--you're a sexy beast. i saw you trackstanding at a red light in the ice in january. you commute more miles by bike than many do in their cars.


  • Bud

    Bike commuting is a great way to start your day, it's fun, you get a morning rush of fresh air, sun, too bad some employers like the fed. Gov. make it very undesirable.

  • http://www.godcgo.com Tarryn

    Dan - there is a program that works with District employers to make their workplace more bicycle friendly. Check out http://www.godcgo.com/home/get-my-employees-there/bikebrand-your-biz.aspx, we offer free consultative services.

  • Mike

    Right on. Cycling shouldn't be portrayed as hard, because it's not, even if it's not for everyone.

  • MDE

    Lyndia and others who agree with her, if biking to work/Metro is so easy, let's see you do it every day for a week and then report back to us.

    While they look really cool while doing it, urban and moreover especially suburban cyclists risk their lives every time they hit the road. My partner was hit by cars twice while biking to work over the two month span he tried it. I've had a few collisions with cars myself over the years, all because some car driver, feeling safe and snug in their multi-ton vehicle, took a risk and/or made a mistake.

    It's opinions like this that put the lives of cyclists at risk. The City Paper should put a muzzle on Lyndia.

  • OX4

    Well, hang on here. I started added biking into my commute because of Capital Bikeshare. I've been doing it for a few months now, several times a week. I love it, and every couple of weeks I go further and further on my bike. However, it was not easy to get started. Cycling alongside traffic is very intimidating at first. It took me a couple of weeks to find the safest and quietest routes. Think back to the days when you first learned DC by bike and I think you'll see where the article is coming from. With that said, the article is a bit melodramatic. I just hop on a bike after work and go a couple of miles to a metro station. It's not like I slap on spandex and loads of expensive gear.

  • jdub

    i've been cycling to work for 22 years now. i ride to work overall about 90% of weekdays. i have never had an accident.

    what else exactly would you like me to 'report back on'? what the heck is wrong with anything written above? the risks we take on our bikes are certainly present, but every mode of travel has risks.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    MDE: Been doing it for seven years now.

    You shouldn't advocate the quieting of a reporter you don't agree with, and you should learn how to actually spell her name right if you want anyone to credit you with an intelligent thought.

  • Mike

    MDE: I've been commuting by bike for 16 years now. Have had one minor accident involving a car (slight hand injury the only problem). I am risking my life by cycling no more than I would be driving every day, and probably even less.

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    It is easier to ride in the city compared to most suburban areas, because for the most part, the suburbs don't have the right spatial patterns providing cyclists with some safer alternatives. That being said, even the suburbs have opportunities for improvements. And that's all we need to focus on, is the areas for improvement.

    WRT commuting regularly, if you have the right infrastructure, it's a matter of commitment and routine.

    I bike for exercise and health reasons, plus time savings (most of the places I need to go are less than 5 miles away and transit usually takes longer to get there than biking).

    I did do biking to and from Union Station and from Penn Station to Towson and back when I was working in Baltimore County and getting to Baltimore by train.

    But the real issue is that 50% of most household trips are 3 miles or less, and something like 64% of trips are 5 miles or less.

    Biking is time competitive for a goodly number of these trips.

    Plus, 60% of people say they are willing to bike if they can do so safely.

    So it's up to us to provide the right infrastructure and programming to change the paradigm, which, we must recognize takes a long time. E.g., both Amsterdam and Copenhagen have a high rate of biking today, but they didn't in 1970. Starting then they changed their policies and practices (and continue to improve them incrementally year by year) so that today about 40% of daily trips in those cities are conducted by bike.

    We don't have their relatively flat terrain, but we still have a great deal of opportunity for improvement.

    Just like changing other public health problems (e.g., reducing tobacco consumption has been an ongoing public health program since the release of the Surgeon General's report in 1964...), this is a long term process.

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