One of the wonderful things about the D.C. metro area is its biking-friendliness. With scenic paths and designated lanes crisscrossing the city, cycling to work, school, or just for fun is simple and safe. According to reports, D.C. is one of the safest cities in the country for bicyclists.
Furthermore, biking to work has significant health benefits—namely a lower risk for both heart disease and cancer. A recent article in the Washington Post cites a study that found that biking to work can add up to 14 months to a bicyclist's life compared to their driving or even walking counterparts.
If you're ready to get around D.C. by bike, we’ve compiled a quick list of tips to get you from your front door to your destination.
1. Plan Your Route
It’s important to know how you are going to get from point A to point B before you hop on your bike. A common assumption is that it’s just as quick and easy to follow the route you would take by car, but that might not be the case. To research trail and road options, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) website has a comprehensive set of maps and wayfinding resources.
Some roads have designated bike lanes, but others do not. If at all possible, you’ll want to stick to the roads that have these designated lanes—it will help you feel more comfortable riding in the road alongside cars and buses. If your whole route isn’t covered by these convenient bike lanes (it probably is not), it’s important to know how to proceed. That brings us to…
2. Know the Rules of the Road
Before you set out, make sure you look into the traffic rules for bicyclists. While you’re on the road, you will generally have to follow the same traffic rules as cars. This means stopping at lights and stop signs, yielding right of way, and using your turn signals.
There are plenty of instructions available to review cycling signals such as how to indicate turns, lane changes, and stops to cars and pedestrians. The WABA blog offers valuable tips and suggestions to help bicyclists ride with confidence.
3. Be Safe
Once you’re on the road, be sure you engage in smart cycling practices every step of the way. For starters, wear your helmet. It may not be required by D.C. law, but it’s essential for your protection.
Always be alert and on the lookout for cars and pedestrians around you. Remember: just because you see them DOES NOT mean they see you. Don’t assume they will follow rules for right of way, or that they will stop for you. Just like when you are driving a car, stay alert and be aware of others around you.
Make sure that you indicate which way you will be turning, and always look both ways before actually making a turn, especially across traffic. If you do not feel comfortable with hand turning signals, it’s ok to walk your bike across the crosswalks and hop on again once you’re back on track.
4. Have Fun
Biking is an enjoyable, recreational activity and an effective, efficient means of transportation. It’s a great way to stay healthy, reduce your carbon footprint, and have fun. The more confident you are and the more safe you feel, the more relaxed you will be, making the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.
Join thousands of D.C. residents in celebrating cycling and alternative methods of transit on Friday, September 22 for Car Free Day. Sign up today and make the pledge to go car free!