DC For Bikers : The Nations Capital Proves Itself as a Bikeable City

If you walk through most of downtown DC, you’ll notice that there are bike lanes that will take you just about everywhere throughout the city. In fact, the nation’s capital has become quite the attraction not just for tourists, but for bike enthusiasts as well.  In 2011, the city earned a silver rating from the league of American Bicyclists and was placed on their Bicycle Friendly Communities list.

DC’s Bike Lane Infrastructure

The capital boasts about 50 miles worth of bike lanes throughout the city; roughly the length between DC and Richmond, VA. The lanes have served DC as a major form of transportation and have seen increasing ridership since the implementation of the DC Bicycle Master Plan. With a large percentage of bikers in the city center, DC ward officials developed initiatives to provide longer and more efficient bike lanes, to increase the amount of bike facilities, and to provide every community in the District with a bike lane. After the initiative was in affect, the ridership between 2007-2010 skyrocketed with many popular routs like 15th street, which sees close to 50 bikers an hour during rush hour.


Washington DC bike lanes. Image via Bike Lane Diary.

Environmental Benefits of Bike Lanes

The environmental impact of such bike usage can be seen based on the amount of ridership. Based on how many people are biking determines the amount of cars that aren’t on the road which means less carbon emissions. In 2013 Arlington county VA, a part of the greater D.C area has reported that because of the increased ridership, 1.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions have been eliminated. Creating a positive effect on the air quality and reducing the impact of greenhouse gases.

Health Benefits of Bike Lanes

In addition to clearer air, there are many health benefits to bike riding such as cardiovascular health and weight loss. In 2013, DC bike riders have traveled 2.5 million miles and burned 100 million calories. According to the Georgetown Public Policy Review, 25% of bike riders a part of the Capital BikeShare program in which bikers can rent bikes from stations located around the city.  Bike Share users can pay for 3 days, monthly use, or annual use and can drop off their bike at any bike share location.

Despite its success, biking in DC does present some challenges. Because of increase ridership, DC’s transportation infrastructure is in need of some fine-tuning. Although the bike lanes are efficient and used quite often, there are still areas of DC that are in the process of developing bike lanes. The 8th ward currently has no bike lanes other than the trails through the Anacostia River walk. Also, on existing bike lanes, protection between bikes and cars has been an issue facing District Department of Transportation.

Bikers complain that drivers are not conscious bike riders, causing more car and pedestrian related accidents in the district. According to the Washington Post, there have been 20 bike accidents reported by Bikeshare users. There have been almost 100,00 Bikeshare users in the city, which reduces the severity of the number. However, there are still incidences that go unreported. A survey given to bikers in the city has tallied 80 accidents that have occurred in the past year. To make riding safer, some areas have plastic barriers that prevent bike and car interference. There are also wide bike lanes to help with distance.

Overall, DC has proven itself to be quite the contender for bike accessibility. Competing with cities like New York, San Francisco, and Portland, Washington DC is climbing in ranks as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US.

Feature Image: Capital Bikeshare program in Washington DC. Image via Flickr

About The Author

Originally from the rural suburbs of Maryland, Jonathan Terrell Midgett has always had a curiosity for urban life. His exposure to city life in the areas of Richmond, Washington D.C and Baltimore, would later lead him to travel throughout his college career. Jonathan began studying at Virginia Commonwealth University and then later transferred to Towson University where he would gain his Bachelors of Science in Metropolitan Studies. While studying at Towson, Jonathan studied urban design in Denmark at the Danish Institute for Studies Abroad. Currently, Jonathan is a freelance photographer and is enrolled in the Graduate Architecture program at Morgan State. He continues to express his love for urbanism and sustainable design through academics, Research, and freelance photography.