Wednesday, April 14, 2010

DCMM: Rules of the Road

I commuted by bike from Arlington to DC almost daily for work through my 8th month of pregnancy with my older son. And I only stopped biking then because it was mid-July and the temps were busting 100, requiring me to stop and drink what felt like gallons of water and take breaks to the point that it no longer seemed an efficient way to travel. As a daily commuter, I learned the rules of the bike trail well--especially those in effect during rush hour, and even now, when I only recently began commuting via bike again (almost 5 years later!), I remember them. In case you're new to our extensive network of local trails, or wondering why some biker is cursing you with your stroller, I thought I'd fill you in.

Stay to the right, unless you are passing.

Signal that you are passing to whomever you are passing (and I assure you, adding 25 pounds of pregnant belly weight can make for a very fast downhill ride, as your husband trails you wondering why the heck you are all of a sudden a much faster morning rider than he is).

If you are being passed, a courtesy wave to the person trying to pass is a nice gesture of recognition, as is a further scootch to the right of the path.

Never, under any circumstances, be confused that your ride/walk includes a leisurely chat with your riding/walking partner. You have exactly one goal - to get to work in one piece. And if that's not your goal, know that it is the goal of others.

A recent trip to Key West reminded me that old habits die hard. My husband and I opted to leave the car seats at home, and instead rent bikes with child seats as our primary means of transportation. Key West is perfect for this, because a nice, wide bike trail circles the island and the cars drive carefully, watching out for erratic tourists on bikes. The downside is (and we run into this whenever we bring our bikes to Chincoteague or any other tourist destination as well) is that the trail is loaded with tourists, rather than commuters. This means that people often ride in pairs, side-by-side. As my husband and I close in on an unsuspecting cyclist, needing to pass, we shout the customary DC bike signal "on your left", and usually get either no response, or the person already crossing the center line veers even further to the left trying to hear what we said. At best, it's annoying. At worst, it's dangerous.

As summer approaches, I can't help but be reminded that the occasional mom will take advantage of the mid-morning break from the heat and find herself pushing a jogging stroller on the bike trail, often with Ipod in ears. At some point, she might reach around the stroller to insert a dislodged paci or offer a sippy cup. And when she does, I'll have the same feeling as I do in Key West.

Move to the right. It works best for everyone. I'll be sure to extend my thanks, when I pass you.

When not running people off the road as she rushes into work on her bike, Elaine blogs about her two children at Connor and Helen Grow Up!

This is an original DCMetroMoms blog post.

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Posted by ElaineMM on April 14, 2010 at 05:00 AM in Elaine | Permalink

Biking in DC, Comments

Thrift Store Mama said...
Very funny post ! Although I'm not a frequent bike rider now, I used to be a weekend bike rider, and loved calling out "on your left !"
Reply April 14, 2010 at 05:34 AM The Lowe said...

Sad to say I hear 'on yer left' more than I say it.
(Great to see you posting here)

Reply April 14, 2010 at 05:54 AM Helen said...
Great post!

Reply April 14, 2010 at 06:05 AM Sue @ Laundry for Six said...
Great post - I am in awe of your biking skilz! My husband rides to work in the summer but it makes me nervous because I have two former co-workers who were nearly killed commuting on bikes. Both were riding in the street which is what he has to do too for part of the ride. Car commuters totally don't look out for bikes.

Your rules remind me of something I wish was also posted on Metro for the inevitable tourist vs. commuter conflicts... blocking the doors, standing on the left side of the escalator... I feel a post coming on.

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