Greater Greater Washington

Bicycling


It takes a village to become a bicycle commuter

After four months in my new, inside-the-beltway job, I'm firmly entrenched within the ranks of DC-area bicycle commuters. The local bicycling and transportation community deserves much of the credit for giving me the information, support and confidence to bike to work every day.


Photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious on Flickr.

With nearly 500 miles of riding to and from work under my belt to date, I've saved money, benefited from a great new workout routine and developed an appreciation for some additional daily outdoor time. And, keeping my car off the road means that I've also made a drop more room on crowded transportation routes for traditional car users.

Looking back, I know that none of this would have been possible without an extensive and multifaceted network of resources available to bicyclists, and bicycle commuters, in particular, throughout the Washington region.

Last year at this time, I commuted by car 22 miles each way from Glover Park to Fort Belvoir. My three-day-a-week compressed shift schedule took me along the Key Bridge, Route 110, Route 395 and Route 95. There was rarely any traffic driving outbound for most of my oddly timed shifts, but on my return trip when shifts ended at breakfast or dinner time, I participated in and contributed to congestion on both Route 110 and the Key Bridge.

My work at Fort Belvoir consisted of three, one-year mobilizations by the Army Reserve. Some time ago, the temporary need for my expertise and labor started to wind down. I started my job search with a basic requirement to work inside the Beltway. Ideally, I wanted a position in downtown DC or Arlington where I could at least bicycle to work once in a while. At the time, riding a bicycle to and from work everyday was only a dream.

When the pieces fell into place and I accepted a challenging position in Arlington along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, I wasted no time breaking the news to my wife: with this change, at the very least, the car would become a last resort for my commute. In fact, I decided that the bus and Metro would play second fiddle to my leg-powered two wheeler.

My wife's concerns mounted as she peppered me with questions of safety and "What if?" scenarios at the dinner table. I had a number of concerns of my own. Luckily, the bicycle community in and around DC was integral in making me a smart, safe and road-ready bicyclist.

The initial inspiration for trying my hand at bicycle commuting came from a blog, of all places. With great admiration and awe, I started reading Brian McEntee's Tales From The Sharrows and following @SharrowsDC for his tidbits on Twitter. He didn't portray his daily rides as always easy or relaxing. Brian identified problems, some caused by others and some by him, and how he overcame them. I figuratively took notes as I plotted changing my commuting method.

I took my remaining questions to Gil Nissey at the free bike clinic he provides to patrons of the Glover Park-Burleith Farmers' Market. Beyond basic bike maintenance, I needed to know what it was like to rely on a bike for work everyday. Gil put my concerns to rest with one simple fact.

In a soft voice, and without an ounce of bragging, Gil stated that he had biked to work during every day of Snowmageddon except for one. I think that at least 10 times I asked him to recount his technique and equipment so that my novice mind could digest it all.

I obtained free printed bike maps from the District Department of Transportation and Arlington County. I also spent considerable time with Google Transit working through bicycle and WMATA routes. I needed to know all my options.

For better or worse, one of my shift rotations would begin earlier in the morning than Metro buses started to run. That meant that the bike would serve as my only choice for transportation to work during those times. I also mapped out several different routes because I knew that some of my rides would occur along side commuting traffic and some during the darkness of night.

On the DC side, it was a no-brainer straight route from Glover Park to the Key Bridge through Burleith and Georgetown. In Arlington, I selected two routes mostly based on bike accessibility, hills and scenery. Going to work, I take the Custis Trail uphill, pass through some neighborhood streets parallel to Wilson Boulevard and finish on the Fairfax Drive bike lanes. Coming home, I return on the Fairfax Drive bike lanes and turn onto the Clarendon Boulevard bike lanes.

After several rides, I had more questions than answers. I consulted the Washington Area Bike Forum to work through what I did not know about biking etiquette, traffic laws and rain gear. This supplemented what I had learned last year in WABA's Confident City Cycling part 2 course.

To address my wife's numerous "What if?" scenarios, I signed up for Capital Bikeshare and the free Guaranteed Ride Home program. I also carry a WMATA SmarTrip card and taxi fare. I have taken my bike on Metrorail a few times when I have had to run more distant errands after work.

I religiously track each trip with the free My Tracks app. This has enabled me to reliably predict the end-to-end time for my entire routine. Depending on weather, time of day and route, I know how long the bike ride should take give or take a couple minutes. I add in sufficient time to put on and take off all my gear.

For winter biking, I have up to seven thin layers for my upper body laid out and ready to go to compensate for the exact temperature. I also purchased inexpensive rain gear and a back fender for wet days. I'm close to purchasing studded bike tires to help me safely traverse winter hazards.

We have retained my car for now, which I still need for my monthly Army Reserve service. Its motorized four wheels remain as backup transportation, though the vehicle now sits unused most days. And, as my biking experience continues to broaden, with every workday, I can swap stories, good and bad, with the bike commuters in Glover Park who continue to encourage me with their many years of biking to and from work.

This transition into the world of bicycle commuters was a combination of luck, research, inspiration and encouragement. My small payback so far has been to coordinate a bike and pedestrian safety program at our local elementary school.

I'm almost beyond being a newbie among bicycle commuters. My gratitude towards the bicycle and transportation community grows with every pedal.

Mitch Wander first arrived in Washington, DC over 25 years ago as a US House of Representatives page while in high school. An avid promoter of DC living, Mitch has lived in wards 1, 2, 3, and 6. He and his wife are proud DC Public School parents. He serves as an officer in the US Army Reserve. 

Comments

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Score one for the scofflaws.

by X on Dec 27, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

You forgot BikeArlington.

Also please obey the traffic lights on the Custis trail.

by TGEOA on Dec 27, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

I for one welcome our new bicycle overlords.

by Jack Love on Dec 27, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

Thanks for this great piece! As someone who also started bike-commuting this year (a shorter distance completely in DC, but with the added complication of riding an extracycle so that I can pick up the kids after work/school on the bike!) I truly appreciate seeing how other people have made the transition.

Good luck and keep it up!

by elizqueenmama on Dec 27, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

While I appreciate the thoroughness of this article, it's actually quite simple to bike commute between arlimgton and DC if you're only doing it in decent weather or when its otherwise not too inconvenient. Just don't want anyone to come away thinking they need tons of prep for the casual bike commute.

by Falls Church on Dec 27, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

Don't hesitate or delay on those winter tires - they will make all the difference in the world.

For my previous two gigs I had intra-'burb bike commutes in Montgomery County, about half of which was along Rt. 355 and the rest along back streets or bike lanes.  The only thing I should have done differently would have been to go for a mixte or similar step-through frame.  With modern materials and engineering there's no structural need for that top bar and one painful thigh muscle overstretch is more than enough. 

I'm now working downtown and the MARC+bikeshare intermodal commute is the best ever. 

by cabi addict on Dec 27, 2011 1:24 pm • linkreport

The arrogance and entitlement with which this piece practically drips is like sweet music.

Congrats on your new job and commute!

by oboe on Dec 27, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

Great job! It's especially awesome that you're giving back to the cycling community. I'm in Rockville, and while it usually takes too long to bike in to DC to do it every day (I walk to the Metro instead), I'm hoping to ride in at least once a week come spring. The Rockville Bike Advisory Committee is going to start a bike ambassador program here next year, so I'm hoping that will raise the number of us further!

by Shannon on Dec 27, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

Anyone taught Mitch the secret handshake yet?

by Crickey7 on Dec 27, 2011 2:37 pm • linkreport

After a year of bike commuting, you will find it unnatural to even consider driving anywhere, esp once you become familiar with the extensive trail network.

Welcome to the fold.

by Kathy on Dec 27, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

And, keeping my car off the road means that I've also made a drop more room on crowded transportation routes for traditional car users.

Induced demand fail?

by Scoot on Dec 27, 2011 2:53 pm • linkreport

Thanks, and nicely written. I will say that it's possible to convert to commuting with little or no prep, depending on location. I just got on my partner's bike one day and headed out. After a few months, I began outfitting myself a piece at a time. I don't think I ever planned a bit of my conversion.

Certainly your approach is safer, and probably cheaper in the long term though.

by CJ on Dec 27, 2011 3:27 pm • linkreport

Cool story bro. Now, any advice for those of us who don't live so conveniently close to our jobs (because we can't afford the rent of Northern VA/NW DC)?

by Need help in Landover on Dec 27, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

Need help in Landover, Tranist helps a lot. I often walk to Metro, transit to New Carrolton and then bike the last 3 miles to work. Depending on how far you are from the Landover metro, that could work for you. Or even bike-transit-Capital Bikeshare. There are lots of options.

by David C on Dec 27, 2011 4:21 pm • linkreport

David-

I live in LAND-O-VER. http://g.co/maps/gduwv

Check that out. I'm supposed to have to walk 45 MINUTES just to get the to Metro since I'm not as affluent as You guys and can't afford a decent apartment around here?

It's not that I am resentful. It's just very paternalistic when you tell Us how easy things are for you. Do you think We're that naive? I can tell from the comments on here that many commenters think so. I would LOVE to live in an urban community with easy biking, but tragically I wasn't born into a family that could send me to college.

I guess it's my fault for not wanting urbanism enough. Always easy to blame us. More of the same...

by Need help on Dec 27, 2011 4:31 pm • linkreport

Well, walking 45 minutes isn't the end of the world, but that wasn't what I said. You're being awful defensive. I thought you were looking for help. Maybe I'm wrong.

If you are looking for help, it's only a 17 minute bike ride (click the bike image up on the top left to switch to those directions). So you can likely bike that. Lock your bike up at the station at one of the racks or rent a locker and then you can go anywhere Metro goes.

No one's blaming you for anything. Maybe biking doesn't work for you. If not, that's cool. No judgement. But you're being awful defensive. I think you're seeing an attack where there is none.

by David C on Dec 27, 2011 4:40 pm • linkreport

Need help,

David said he walks to transit. Anyway, that's two miles you can bike right there in your map.

Also, if you take time and read the blog you'd notice that a lot of the posts deal with how to make all areas of the region more ped./bike/transit friendly (making the region greater even). And there are certainly people in easily bikeable areas who need to be told/shown how easy it is for them. Maybe once they get it, then it can spread to other areas.

by Canaan on Dec 27, 2011 4:41 pm • linkreport

And it's only 15 minutes to New Carrolton Metro.

by David C on Dec 27, 2011 4:43 pm • linkreport

@ Need Help - I bike to a Metro Bus route. You could also bike to that Metro station.

You are unnecessarily making this about class. In fact, biking probably would be cheaper for you than driving. If you don't want to commute by bike, no big deal. But if you do, there's probably a way to make it happen.

by Greg on Dec 27, 2011 4:52 pm • linkreport

LOL@The irony in Need Help's post...

by HogWash on Dec 27, 2011 4:54 pm • linkreport

Excellent story...thanks for sharing. not everyone, as you noted, has your 'luck' or circumstances...but for YOU this mode of travel works. Would be great to have a follow-up story in a year or two. Thanks!

by Pelham1861 on Dec 27, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

Cool story bro. Now, any advice for those of us who don't live so conveniently close to our jobs

Yes: "If it's not about you, then it's not about you."

by JustMe on Dec 27, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

You are unnecessarily making this about class...

...and which reads like someone lecturing his inferiors...

The implicit point of this entire blog is to make DC more urban, to resemble European cities, in which the wealthy live in the central city and the less wealthy far-flung wards. Complaints about class bias are legitimate.

by goldfish on Dec 27, 2011 5:15 pm • linkreport

@Need Help -

If you're living in Landover and commuting into DC then you're probably spending a lot of money owning and operating your car - I don't know, $7000/year, perhaps more? So my sympathy for you is somewhat limited. Not that you're asking for any. Or are you?

In addition, there are plenty of transit accessible neighborhoods with very low rent right here in DC. You could try searching for apartments in Wards 7 or 8 or parts of Northeast or Southwest DC. You may even qualify for rent controlled affordable housing in some very desirable parts of NOVA or NWDC.

Of course that would probably require you to forego the suburban lifestyle you have come to enjoy, oops, I mean, that has been so painfully thrust onto you.

by Scoot on Dec 27, 2011 5:34 pm • linkreport

Scoot, you just illustrated Goldfish's point. We're never going to hear the end of You guys lecturing us. I would love to live closer to my job, but as Goldfish pointed out, we've been displaced by Other People.

I'm sorry that I want to get away to the suburbs where my kids have a less chance to get shot up. I can't believe how insensitive you guys are. Your lack of humbleness is sickening. That's why it will never be your city, and you'll never truly be welcome by the locals.

by Need Help on Dec 27, 2011 5:37 pm • linkreport

That is some criminally terrible street connectivity that turns Need Help's half-mile distance to the metro into a two mile walk.

by MLD on Dec 27, 2011 5:37 pm • linkreport

No MLD your missing the point. It's my fault that I don't want to walk 4x as much as I haf to on serpentine sidewalks. Haven't you heard everyone so far in this discussion?

Why oh why did I ever leave the hood? A few drive-bys on my block per year, and not being able to own my home are worth being able to bike, I guess.

by Help on Dec 27, 2011 5:43 pm • linkreport

I don't know if this is the right venue for talking about class, but when it comes to bicycling, there are two issues:

1) areas where it's safe and easy to bike are usually the ones with good urban form (inner-city nabes like Logan Circle, but also suburban places like Bethesda/Arlington/etc.), which in the DC area are really sought-after, so it becomes expensive to live in a place where bike riding is encouraged.

2) Mitch describes the process he took to become a bike commuter, which was really deliberate and thoughtful and a very responsible way to go about it. But it also seemed to require a large investment of time and money, which could easily discourage people of lesser means.

When I started biking to school & work in 2010, I did exactly four things:

1) I bought a used bike off Craigslist
2) I bought a helmet
3) I looked at a map of local bike routes near where I lived
4) I rolled up my pant leg

Obviously, my process isn't for everyone, either. But it's worth showing that become a bike commuter really isn't that complicated.

by dan reed! on Dec 27, 2011 5:45 pm • linkreport

@goldfish - Just because you claim something is legitimate doesn't make it so. You can go ahead and explain how class plays a role in riding a freakin' bicycle a couple of miles. Especially when the OP seems to live in a nice house that's an easy bike ride from a Metro station.

I'll be waiting....

by Greg on Dec 27, 2011 5:48 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry that I want to get away to the suburbs where my kids have a less chance to get shot up.

Don't be sorry. I wouldn't want my kinds to be "shot up" either. But at least be honest about why you want to get away to the suburbs. There are a lot of people in this city who want to stay here and try to make things like schools and streets and recreational areas better and safer for everyone. And then are those who flee and call it displacement.

And I cannot speak for anyone else, but I am welcome by the "locals" and I'm very happy to be living here.

by Scoot on Dec 27, 2011 5:48 pm • linkreport

Greg: dan reed already explained it. But to reiterate: Need Help cannot get to the metro because the station is basically impossible to get to from north side of rt 50 -- it was designed for the "kiss and ride" auto commuters. Elsewhere in the metro area, improvements have been made to correct such deficiencies; not so in PG county, where relatively low rents mirrors the low investment in infrastructure, which in turn stems from the low influence that the (lesser paid) people from these neighborhoods have. Don't imagine that class has nothing to do with it.

by goldfish on Dec 27, 2011 6:06 pm • linkreport

@Gold....good point but I would also argue that in PG, race affects what happens there moreso than class.

by HogWash on Dec 27, 2011 6:14 pm • linkreport

"There are a lot of people in this city who want to stay here and try to make things like schools and streets and recreational areas better and safer for everyone. And then are those who flee and call it displacement."

I remember a lot of a particular demographic leaving the city in the 50s and 60s. Curiously, most of the people that stayed were a different demographic. We DID try to fix everything that YOU GUY abandoned.

But now that I want to have a piece of the pie, I'm abandoning the city? Please, you have just lost all credibility with anyone who knows anything about this town. News flash...DC didn't spring up in 1995...

by Need Help on Dec 27, 2011 6:17 pm • linkreport

Also it's statistically as dangerous to live in the suburbs as it is in the inner city except the death comes from automobile instead of a gunshot.

Anyway, you don't have to bike to work if you live far away but maybe you can replace some of your local trips by bike. Its not like by riding your bike you have to give up all other modes of transportation.

And while European cities are nice its dumb to assume that by liking european urban patterns means one wants to push the poor to crappy neighborhoods. Personally, I want good design at all levels of intensity and income.

by Canaan on Dec 27, 2011 6:17 pm • linkreport

Not that it will make a difference to some here, but the costs of properties on that street are easily found. There are very few properties in DC at that pricepoint whether a condo or renting.

by selxic on Dec 27, 2011 6:20 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry for the white people who left the city. To make up for it I want to see DC and the surrounding close-in jurisdictions develop in a dense, compact, walkable and transit friendly environment which will hopefully meet demand for those types of neighborhoods. Also, ride your bike to the metro this weekend and see how it works out.

by Canaan on Dec 27, 2011 6:31 pm • linkreport

"Also, ride your bike to the metro this weekend and see how it works out."

I tend to like to do things that involve my family. And if your answer to that is to buy 5 bikes, I'm going to vote for the anti-white candidate every election till I die.

by Need Help on Dec 27, 2011 6:34 pm • linkreport

MLD, I thought the same thing. It is well past time to add a ped bridge or tunnel to the Landover Metro.

by David C on Dec 27, 2011 6:34 pm • linkreport

Nice try, and I agree that bike commuting is easy and fun for anybody who isn't a soft little princess. Unfortunately, we live in a nation of delicate little princesses, accustomed to getting their way. We're so advanced, we make fun of anybody who doesn't sit in a soft seat, out of the wind, with a heater. "Freedom" is something you get on your knees and suck through a hose at the gas station.

by Danny on Dec 27, 2011 6:42 pm • linkreport

Don't know who the hell you are, but my people didn't get a damn thing they wanted for over 300 years here. Alpert, if you have any integrity, you'll ban that MPC-like troll.

by Need Help on Dec 27, 2011 6:45 pm • linkreport

@ Need Help: That whizzing sound was the point going over your head, apparently. Take some deep breaths.

by Danny on Dec 27, 2011 6:48 pm • linkreport

But now that I want to have a piece of the pie, I'm abandoning the city?

There's nothing wrong with wanting a "piece of the pie" (depending on how you define it, I guess), but at least now you're being honest about your intentions. Earlier you said you were "displaced by Other People," implying a forced migration. Which is it?

I can't really control the migration patterns of others -- if people want to move to the suburbs for more land and easy access to bulk shopping and objectively better schools, that's their choice. Like most people on this blog, I'm all for enticing all manner of race and class to my neighborhood through conscientious initiatives, enhancement of infrastructure and education, and so forth.

by Scoot on Dec 27, 2011 6:54 pm • linkreport

Need help, you've done something that no one has ever done before. You've made me regret trying to help you bike commute. Congratulations. I see now that this was never something you were interested in. When it is, let us know.

We all have to make tough choices some times. You chose to live some place that is less than ideal for biking. I'm sure you had good reasons for that choice, and I'm not second-guessing. Neither is anyone else. So I just don't see what your beef is with this blog or this post. Where is the author criticizing you? I think you're being overly sensitive.

In light of all the race-based anger and excuse-laden replies to people who have offered you nothing but the help you asked for, I guess that all I can say is Merry Christmas to you too.

by David C on Dec 27, 2011 7:02 pm • linkreport

Then buy 5 bikes, your kids will thank you for it. I can't solve your problems for you but buying a bike is probably easier than waiting for prices in DC to come down. My white guilt will only get you so far.

by Canaan on Dec 27, 2011 7:04 pm • linkreport

selxic, since the costs of properties on that street are easily found, why don't you find them and report them to us, instead of punting.

by David C on Dec 27, 2011 7:04 pm • linkreport

How you travel is your business. Saying people who commute by bike have it easy is just ignorant. We're inches from death crushing death at all times, for one thing, and some of us live a lot farther from work than you seem to think. It's not a cushy gig. Hell, I used to WALK 10 miles each way to work, year round, starting at 5 in the morning.

Get where you need to however you need to. You don't have the right and haven't paid the dues to tell people who ride bikes how f#*king easy we have it.

by Danny on Dec 27, 2011 7:09 pm • linkreport

My bike commute is murder

by Need Help on Dec 27, 2011 7:16 pm • linkreport

Looking at Need Help's Google map route the contrast between physical proximity and actual accessibility is quite striking.  Not knowing the other other end of his/her commute but presuming it's somewhere along or connecting from the Orange line, it appears that the most bikeable Metro station would be Cheverly, which apparently has an underpass or tunnel under Rt. 50.  Other than crossing Landover Road the rest is all back streets. 

Of course what looks good on a map might not work out so well in practice, but it might be worth test riding that option to see if it helps.  If you do get a chance to do that, I hope you'll let us know what you find. 

by cabi addict on Dec 27, 2011 7:18 pm • linkreport

I remember a lot of a particular demographic leaving the city in the 50s and 60s. Curiously, most of the people that stayed were a different demographic. We DID try to fix everything that YOU GUY abandoned.

But now that I want to have a piece of the pie, I'm abandoning the city? Please, you have just lost all credibility with anyone who knows anything about this town. News flash...DC didn't spring up in 1995...

The people who could leave DC in the 50s and 60s did. Because of racist suburban housing policies, this meant white people left. When LBJ passed the Fair Housing Act at the end of the 60s, that (in conjunction with Barry's full-employment policies) kicked off the exodus of black residents from DC to the suburbs. If you look at the numbers, black flight looked exactly like white flight, only 10-20 years later. As people entered the middle class, they left for the suburbs. People with no other options stayed.

Bottom line is, lots of folks want to leave town for a big house in the burbs (and cash out if they have equity), all while maintaining their precious victim status. Sorry, not buying it.

I can't believe how insensitive you guys are. Your lack of humbleness is sickening. That's why it will never be your city, and you'll never truly be welcome by the locals.

Sorry, you're not a victim. And "the locals" are a pretty diverse bunch. You don't represent them.

by oboe on Dec 27, 2011 7:18 pm • linkreport

I've had it. I tried to be a good "urbanist" and the west-enders and arlingtoners give me this. No wonder Your boy lost the mayor election. I try to reach out, and I get a bunch of college grads telling me that I'm living in the wrong neighborhood, with the wrong commute, and the wrong job.

Amazing how easy it is for You guys to dispense advice. I hope your happy with what youve done.

by Need Help on Dec 27, 2011 7:23 pm • linkreport

This is just getting funny, I'm sorry for telling you how to live. But if you want to know how to integrate cycling into your commute then my only advice is to hop on your bike (and have your partner and kids hop on theirs) and try it out. Maybe it'll be nice, maybe it'll suck and maybe then you'll start working to improve cycling conditions around you to make it easier.

by Canaan on Dec 27, 2011 7:35 pm • linkreport

There's no "wrong neighborhood," only twitchy novices.

by Danny on Dec 27, 2011 7:36 pm • linkreport

"your partner"

You mean my wife? A partner is someone I drink beer with, not raise a family.

by NH on Dec 27, 2011 7:39 pm • linkreport

And fwiw, I started riding my bike (as an adult) in Fairfax/Burke which made biking in arlington seem like a cakewalk.

by Canaan on Dec 27, 2011 7:44 pm • linkreport

NH, for starters, this blog famously endorsed Gray (and Fenty). But second of all, stop blaming everyone else for your situation. If you didnt go to college, that's not your parents fault, it's yours. Lots of people go to college who are dirt poor. And if you don't want to walk 45 minutes to get to work, that IS in fact your fault. Who's would it be?

by David C on Dec 27, 2011 7:45 pm • linkreport

Sorry, goldfish. But Need Help doesn't say he can't get to a Metro station. He probably can in 15 mins or so. And I'm willing to bet he can bike to a number of bus routes as well. That works for me.

You keep trying to turn this into some grand issue of class. But NH doesn't seem particularly bad off. In fact, it should be pretty obvious at this point that NH isn't really interested in biking at all but is looking to push people's buttons. Maybe Santa didn't bring him that bike he wanted....

by Greg on Dec 27, 2011 7:51 pm • linkreport

Just because the average bike commuter is white and wealthy doesn't mean that it's IMPOSSIBLE for anyone but the 1% to bike, at least a little. In my 'hood, which you would probably say is "too dangerous" for your family, almost every kid has a bike, and I see a number of adults biking around as well. Bikes don't have to be expensive, and a number of other people have pointed out that it's possible for you to at least bike to the Metro. Whether you choose to do this (get your kids bikes and bike to the Metro) is your own perspective. I will say it because others haven't (though there's been a bit of an implication), if you live in a more transit-accessible location (both Metro and other methods like biking and walking), you can afford more house and better neighborhoods. Even my meager, owned-my-car-outright, lived-in-a-neighborhood-where-I-didn't-drive-much, single-person expenses for owning a car were well over $2000/year. Add a larger car and more miles and parking at the Metro and those costs go up exponentially. Let's say $5K/year to own/operate a car. That's over $415/month in extra housing costs, $250 if you continued to own a car but didn't drive it much (based on my experience, and I imagine that your insurance rates are lower than mine were since I was paying city insurance rates).

But why bicker about that...why not demand that your locality provide better non-car transportation options? If your local city streets connected better, the more-direct route to the Metro would be just a smidge over .5 miles (which is shorter than my walk to the Metro, BTW). Even at 2.1 miles, that's totally do-able on a bike with the right infrastructure. And with good bus lines, you would have yet another option to get to the Metro without a car. No one here is saying you have to live a fully bike-able distance to work (I certainly don't live a walk- or bike-able distance to work, especially in bad weather), but if you want the option of a less car-dependent lifestyle in the 'burbs, you're going to have to demand it. It's a shame that someone who lives so close to a Metro doesn't feel they can do most of their tasks without a car, but I can't do anything about that because it's YOUR city and YOUR neighborhood. If you want those amenities, DEMAND THEM. It's up to you to make your city what you want it to be, and a damn shame that someone can live so close to public transit and still feel like they're dependent on a car to get around. You'll get plenty of support here from people who want to make what should be a short walk- or bike-able commute to the Metro possible (and if things were planned right, to stores and other amenities near the Metro), but not a lot of sympathy if you just bemoan how you HAVE to drive everywhere.

by Ms. D on Dec 27, 2011 8:15 pm • linkreport

I wish I could take credit as being Need Help's sock puppet, but I can't.

by TGEOA on Dec 27, 2011 8:33 pm • linkreport

@Need Help -- If you want help, you have to be willing to receive help and be able to recognize good intentions.

by Falls Church on Dec 27, 2011 8:52 pm • linkreport

Landover area would benefit greatly from an extended WB&A trail to DC, which is on the wish list but not the drawing board. And the completed ART trail connection from the Prince George's line to the RFK stadium area in DC to connect with the Capitol Hill bike lanes. At least that's getting built we think. And Gosh, if we hadn't spent untold multi-millions (was it billions?) on the ICC maybe Maryland could have afforded to rebuild pretty much all our arterial bike blocker roads into nice multi-use streets that include safe bike tracks and sidewalks all through the suburbs. Would have been great for community redevelopment. Oh well. At least the landed estates of upper Montgomery county can now get to BWI faster. That was the purpose, right?

by Greenbelt on Dec 27, 2011 8:57 pm • linkreport

Argh. While Need Help's frustrations were not delivered well, you guys really miss a pretty key point. It is really expensive to live near transit. It is even more expensive to live near a neighborhood with transit that has decent retail and commerical options.

That part of Landover/Landover Hills - despite the walkability issues - has a lot of retail on 450. (I know, I have friends over there). Most of Wards 7 and Ward 8 - to be honest - is devoid of any decent retail, including a lot of the amenities that someone with a family wants. And yes, as another poster mentioned, it's actually affordable to live there. And there's not a retail desert there like in most of Ward 7 or Ward 8. Telling them to move a part of the city where retail is nonexistent, where the crime is higher, and where they pay a lot mreo for housing is ridiculous. So is expecting them to match your incomes and lifestyle decisions (which most of you are able to make because of the social capital, family safety nets, and other assets you have to bring to bear that a lot of local people don't have.

The biggest problem with this blog is the number of self-righteous white people (and I am white myself) who are unable to see past their experiences and their class privilege. I see this in post after post. It's really disheartening.

by AS on Dec 27, 2011 11:57 pm • linkreport

Need Help. You've made a valid critique of some of the privileges that make cycle commuting easier for white-collar whites. I buy your anger, but don't know what you want me to do with it.

Maybe this article wasn't written for you. Maybe it was written for people who can bike but don't. There are a lot of people like that reading this blog, and this was useful for them.

Yes, there's a problem if no one is writing about you because of your class. But I don't know your story, and I don't know if you want me writing like I do. If you want to pen an article about your own challenges as a commuter, this blog would probably publish it. I'm serious.

It's so easy to tear down, but give us something to build on. If the only thing that works is to fix systemic nationwide class and race disparities, well then this thread was pointless. If you think we need to build more urbanist neighborhoods, so that some are affordable, then that's at least half of this blog's advocacy. You see a problem, tell us what's missing, please.


You mean my wife? A partner is someone I drink beer with, not raise a family.

You should probably clarify what you mean here.

by Neil Flanagan on Dec 28, 2011 12:38 am • linkreport

Let's return this discussion to cycling.

One of my co-workers, who commutes on his bicycle to Bethesda from NNW DC, broke one of his feet in a collision with an automobile while riding. Because his work (and mine) requires standing and walking all day, he could not work for at least three months. His unfortunate experience has made me reluctant to buy a bicycle and ride it to work.

by The Civic Center on Dec 28, 2011 1:46 am • linkreport

"we've been displaced by Other People."

"That's why it will never be your city, and you'll never truly be welcome by the locals."

"We DID try to fix everything that YOU GUY abandoned."

Sometimes looking at racial undercurrents is very helpful in discussing OUR (all peoples) social ills.
Sometimes it makes it impossible to speak honestly! I hope we never go back to the Marion Barry era where everything was was seen through the prism of race relations.
Sometimes, what seems like a race issue is just a human issue. Change out the players and you'll find an example in OUR (human) history. One of the best things about the thousands of Brown immigrants to the DC area, proof that things get better.

by Thayer-D on Dec 28, 2011 7:16 am • linkreport

David C, in the future a simple polite question would be appreciated instead of accusing me of "punting."

For most properties, all you have to do is put the address into your search engine of choice. Websites like trulia or Zillow are often some of the first results. They give a good amount of information about the house and appraisal. Also, some local jurisdictions make tax and building information readily available on their websites. Zillow even has a nice feature where home prices are displayed on a bing map. (I was kind enough to not even use LMGTFY.)

by selxic on Dec 28, 2011 7:35 am • linkreport

selxic, I wasn't really looking for you to point out how to do research. I was asking you what your research found.

How much do houses cost in that neighborhood, and where can you buy a house of similar size and cost in DC? You never say. Even in your second comment. I can find a lot of houses in DC that are in the 100,000-200,000 range with 3-5 bedrooms. So I'm not sure what your point is. I called your comment a punt, because it was one.

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 8:23 am • linkreport

AS, I think you're being far too generous with NH. I don't think his point is nearly as nuanced as you make it seem.

But regardless, I don't really see the self-righteousness in "post after post" that you're referencing. Do you have any examples?

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 8:27 am • linkreport

@Need Help "I live in LAND-O-VER. http://g.co/maps/gduwv

"Check that out. I'm supposed to have to walk 45 MINUTES just to get the to Metro since I'm not as affluent as You guys and can't afford a decent apartment around here?"

Yes that's ugly alright. Most of the Metro stations towards the end of the line were set up for car and bus connections, but very little for pedestrians.

I've never looked around Landover Metro so I can't really say a lot, but it looks like that large residential neighborhood right across Rte. 50 could use better access the station. Overall it looks like WMATA just sited it on cheap, available land, with little regard for the neighborhood.

Two obstacles to a pedestrian bridge are funding and neighborhood impact. Such a bridge might run 10 million or so (again, no clue, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's more).

Then after your bridge opens, that's going to attract a lot of attention for free parking, which means a special parking district with resident permits.

No easy access to New Carrollton either...

by Jack Love on Dec 28, 2011 8:30 am • linkreport

$10M sounds high. The RI Avenue pedestrian bridge is only about $2M and the bridge over the beltway for the Bethesda Trolley trail was about $1.3M. There are several federal funding sources for such projects.

Parking may need to be managed. But that isn't any different than the streets east of US 50.

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 8:39 am • linkreport

Perhaps instead of being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative, you may want to re-read my initial comment, David C. My comment was made to assist in providing context to some of the arguments here. Since you "can find a lot of houses in DC that are in the 100,000-200,000 range with 3-5 bedrooms," you're welcome to compare those properties to the neighborhood the commenter mentioned.

by selxic on Dec 28, 2011 8:44 am • linkreport

@David C "There are several federal funding sources for such projects."

Yes maybe not 10 mill, but with funding sources available, there are ways to improve that neighborhood's access to Metro. And based solely on my Google street tour, it seems like it has nice homes in it.

But this has gone too far from cycling, so I'll drop that line of thought here.

by Jack Love on Dec 28, 2011 9:00 am • linkreport

Funny how some people so everything as being a race issue. Shouldn't we have moved past this by now? Biking can work for anyone, with a little effort.

by AlecF on Dec 28, 2011 9:27 am • linkreport

Amazing how easy it is for You guys to dispense advice.

If you didn't want advice, perhaps you shouldn't have begun your first post by asking for "advice for those of us who don't live so conveniently close to our jobs".

by cminus on Dec 28, 2011 9:33 am • linkreport

Uhm...this was odd. Funny but odd nonetheless.

@DAvid, seems as if you're being unnecessarily argumentative with selxic. IMO, the "housing cost" comment was in response to the notion of whether living in Landover workded for he and his family. Not that you don't know, but I live in Ward 8 and there are not many 3br homes I would want to buy for 100k-200 without a serious investment. Yes, it's impossible to say that there is NO home in DC at that price. But it's also akin to saying that there is no place in DC that isn't metro accessible.

@Jack Love, the pedestrian access in that entire area is pure horse sh**. Personally, I wouldn't want to ride a bike there in the first place..not on those narrow sidewalks.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 9:56 am • linkreport

I've reread your fist comment several times. And I find this statement "There are very few properties in DC at that pricepoint whether a condo or renting." to be entirely incorrect. So, again, I'm unclear on the point you were trying to make.

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

@Greg: you ever lived in a place like Landover? You pretty much have to start your car to do anything. Those 8-lane 50 mph streets are no place for anything other than a car.

In the 60s, how long you wore your hair was a political statement. Now it is walking or bicycling -- when you see walkers in Capitol Hill, you know they are getting some dinner; when you see one in Landover, you know his car broke down (or worse, he can't afford one). Most people on this blog are working to make DC more like the former.

The 50s and 60s DC flight was not a passive market phenomenon; there where real estate people that actively stoked racial fears, to encourage people to move out their neighborhood.

OTOH I agree that NH's is not helpless and it is his job to fix his problems with where he lives. Maybe he can start a new blog, something like "Bikable Landover". Maybe he should move.

by goldfish on Dec 28, 2011 10:04 am • linkreport

If "Help Me" is in fact on the square and not trolling, his/her resentment is a bit misplaced. It also answers those regular commenters who argue that sprawling suburban cul-de-sac development dominates in the US because "that's what people want." As more and more communities vote and work towards creating less car-dependent environments, the resentment and envy towards them is only going to increase.

It's no secret that living in an area that's close to transit, or to bike infrastructure is more expensive than not doing so. The solution to that would seem to be agitating for more such infrastructure, and building denser housing near those amenities. That's one of the core goals of GGW as I understand it. So while I understand where the carping is coming from, it's obviously misplaced.

In any case, we should be working together to make sure everyone in the region has opportunities to walk, bike, train, or drive to work, not acting like crabs pulling each other back into the pot.

(TGEOA's comment resonated with me as well: "I wish I could take credit as being Need Help's sock puppet, but I can't.")

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

Hogwash, maybe I am. But for starters, when you start your comment with "not that it will matter to many people here...." that sounds to me like a group dig to me. And then he follows it up with how easy it is to find the information, but doesn't bother to show how or what one would find. If it was so easy, why not just do it. Finally he ends with a point that is absolutely incorrect, and demonstrably so, which he would know if he did what he thought was so easy.

So when you start with an insult, end with a false statement and fill the middle with nonsense, I'm going to argue with that.

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 10:22 am • linkreport

@David, I think what you are experiencing is what I often chide as the really off-kilter sensimeter that permeates throughout many (and I mean many) comments here.

I can only speak for me on this but there is nothing particularly "argueworthy" in response to the statement "not that it will matter to some." I agree, it is a group dig. But it's not a false statement. It won't matter to some and that's what he/she said. IMO, if you wanted to get into the head of selxic, why not just ask "what did you mean by that 'not that it will matter' statement." Instead you asked for evidence and when that was provided, you went on to ask for DC comps arguing that there are 3-5br DC homes costing 100-200k.

You're right, selxic didn't provide links to DC comps and that seems to be part of your issue with the post. But in all fairness, although you insist it true, you haven't provided a link showing the many DC 3-5br/100k-200k either.

I clicked on the provided link and it showed home prices in the landover hills area..backing up the original assertion that you can't find comparable homes in DC.

All that said, "not that it will matter to some" is a very insignificant thing to be offended by.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

The 50s and 60s DC flight was not a passive market phenomenon; there where real estate people that actively stoked racial fears, to encourage people to move out their neighborhood.

Absolutely. Of course, "black flight" in the 70s and 80s was a response to the growth of the black middle class, and the collapse of legal and extra-legal barriers to emigration. That exodus (and the corresponding de-funding of the District) led to the collapse of District society over the late 80s and 90s.

The rebirth of the city was fueled by a coalition of long-time residents (both those who couldn't, and those who didn't want to leave) and newcomers who valued the unique character of the urban core: that it was still on a walkable scale in contrast to places outside of the city, and that it was largely exempt from the ever-increasing "congestion tax" that everyone else in the region was paying.

A lot of people left (first white, then black) because for a half century that's what middle-class people were supposed to do. It was literally the American Dream. Couple that with the fact that they thought the city was "done", and you have the massive out-migration we've seen that has just recently started to reverse.

The tragedy is that, some people who might have otherwise stayed left just before the "comeback." if I were one of the people who moved out to the suburbs because a rising real-estate market was finally making it possible for me to escape a District presumably collapsing into a crumbling crime-infested hell hole, only to see things turn around 10 years later, I'd be pretty pissed too. Especially in the face of the decay of our auto-dependent places as social preferences continue to shift.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

One comment on the question of housing in Landover versus DC. You don't need to live in DC proper in order to avoid auto-dependency. A close friend of mine bought a house in Hyattsville after he realized he could get a larger place for less money than in DC. He rides his bike to work every day. (And--*gasp*--he's a white person.)

It's all about prioritizing what you want...

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 11:05 am • linkreport

Thank you so much for this article! I live in Brookland/work in Dupont and I'm hoping to transition to being a bike commuter in the near future-- I'm immersed in researching my bike purchase and also getting comfortable enough with biking to go up against rush hour drivers. It's really helpful to read about somebody else making the switch, and to see how much thought and preparation you put into it. Thank you for the inspiration!

by Katy on Dec 28, 2011 11:06 am • linkreport

I was going to mention Hyattsville too but make the distinction between the City of Hyattsville and the big area w/ the same postal code.

Its some kind of myth that there's no affordable (really affordable to low and middle-middle class) neighborhoods close to DC that are bikeable, near transit and amenities and low in crime. City of Hyattsville is an example.

Of course Hyattsville is pretty well mixed-up ethnically/racially (~25% white, ~35% black, ~35% Latino) so if someone is looking for all black neighbors like in a lot of places in PGC (e.g. Landover is 92% black) that person might reject Hyattsville.

by Tina on Dec 28, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

@ Katy (and anyone else interested in making the switch)...the blog letsgorideabike.com was really helpful for me when I did it a few years ago (June 2009, I believe). It's focused on "city cycling with style" but also goes over a lot of the basics/how-tos and has practical advice. It's authored by two women, which I found made it more approchable/relatable for me.

And, I don't really want to really jump in the fray of this fairly hostile dialogue but I think that I can speak to part of the point a little bit. I'm totally committed to bike commuting (did Old Town to Capitol Hill for over a year, OT to Crystal City for a year, now OT to Gallery Place) but when it looked like my job was going to move to Suitland, I knew I'd have to stop and probably buy a car.

I really looked into it and investigated routes/options but it's really just not possible to do safely. Suitland is only slightly farther from Old Town than Capitol Hill is (13 miles vs 9) but the infrastrcture just is NOT there. It's not about "wanting it less" or needing to "work more" for it....it's really not a safe alternative some places. It would appear (and this is what I can't speak to with any sort of authority, just observation) that those places are increasingly less affluent (if not outright poor).

However, I do not think that this is necessarily an issue of race. There are a lot of places in Fairfax County that are overwhelmingly white but are as un-walkable and un-bikable as Suitland (and presumably Landover). Anything between Springfield and Burke immediately pops to mind. These aren't poor neighborhoods by any streach of the imagination but compared to the general area, which as we all know has huge concentrations of a huge amount of money, "less affluent" is about right. I think that THIS is the heart of the issue, really.

by Catherine on Dec 28, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

Hogwash, I'm going to disagree that he provided evidence. He showed what houses cost in Landover. Not that there are no such houses in DC. Here's a link to comps, but I'm not sure why it is that I have to prove him wrong, when he failed to back up his assertion.

I clicked on the provided link and it showed home prices in the landover hills area..backing up the original assertion that you can't find comparable homes in DC.

No, it doesn't. It shows that homes in Landover are not free. But since he never shows that you can't get comparable homes in DC, he doesn't back it up.

It's not so much that I'm offended by his statement it's just that it needs to be pushed back on. His first comment reads as "Hey closed-minded people, if you weren't so lazy you could find that something that isn't true contradicts your point. But I don't have the time to show you." I didn't want to let that sit.

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

@Oboe/Tina, both Hyattsville and Landover are close to DC, in PG County and on average have larger/nicer homes at better prices than in DC. That said, Hyattsville, as a community, is much more developed than in Landover. So while I get the point about the housing in Hyattsville as an option, it's still not in DC and the housing costs more.

@Oboe, I don't get what your friends race have to do with him living/biking in Hyattsville.

@David, I still think you're arguing just to argue. If you said, "houses in PG are lower than in DC," I just don't get what should be argued about that. As I said earlier, obviously you can't definitively state that every house in PG is less than in DC or even that most houses are. But, it's reasonable to conclude that the areas bordering DC (on the PG side) are, "on average" cheaper than what you can find in DC.

Hey closed-minded people, if you weren't so lazy you could find that something that isn't true contradicts your point.

Hey I get what you received it that way. That's why I brought up the broken sensimeter that needs to be fixed in here. He made one statement, and you interpreted as something totally different. In this case, it's all in how the message was received...not delivered. For the life of me, I wish some of you all would stop being so easily offended by stuff. No, you can't have all the answers all the time. No, everyone will not always love you nor what you do..even if you think you're looking at for them.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 12:12 pm • linkreport

@Catherine, if you're referring to Suitland, while I know that it's not the most affluent part of PG, it's not outright poor.

Also, when discussing development opportunities in PG, I believe race has always been the undercurrent behind the lack of them.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, thank you.

David C, the same link could have been used to see DC prices.

For what it's worth, my comment wasn't intended as a dig nor was it bullying/anti-discussion pushing.

FWIW, "for what it's worth" is not being used as a phrase to offend.

by selxic on Dec 28, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

Also, when discussing development opportunities in PG, I believe race has always been the undercurrent behind the lack of them.

I think this is a major reason:

http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/howard/news/ph-ll-leslie-johnson-sentencing-1215-20111209,0,4907970.story

The point about H-ville: its, affordable (avg income is ~50k for a family), walkable, streets are bikable and there are bike trails, shop/amenities, parks, beautiful architechture, lots of transit access and low crime. Its a myth for someone to say they have no choice but to live in PGC b/c its all they can afford and that means living somewhere w/o all the above mentioned things if those are things the person says s/he wants to improve quality of life.

by Tina on Dec 28, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, this isn't about me, so quit trying to make it about me.

This about the facts. And selxic still hasn't really provided any. Giving a link and saying "look it up" is not giving facts. I found the facts on my own and he's incorrect that there are few houses in DC of similar price. Despite your whitewashing, he never made any claims about average prices. He made a very specific point, and it was wrong.

He did in fact punt by not pointing to the facts which he claimed were easy to find. It was HE, not me, who got bent out of shape about me calling it punting. So if anyone is being overly sensitive, it's him.

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 12:54 pm • linkreport

@David C stop trolling bro

by acg on Dec 28, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

I'd like to offer an apology to the author of this post. Indeed I was being argumentative because I love to argue. I think you're doing everybody a service by sharing your experience the way you have.

My experience with cycling as an adult was that if you're really damn poor and live in a high-crime area, you can waste a lot of time sitting at home thinking "If I had a car, I could get around, and wouldn't have to walk to work."

Freedom of travel is a basic human right. Cycling got me participating in the world. I found that I could indeed ride so far that I could swim in a lake (if I carried enough bananas and peanut butter and tap water), or get to work in less than three hours.

Bikes offer freedom. Sucking the oil company hose does not. The average person spends 20% of their income on trasportation, as in car payments, fuel, maintenance, insurance, and taxes. There's NOTHING more elitist than car culture.

by Danny on Dec 28, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

@agc...humor? ...if not, pretty sure David C.'s comments are the opposite of trolling.

by Tina on Dec 28, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

@HogWash,

Go back and reread HM's comments. I'm sure he'll feel comfort in knowing that this isn't an issue that only affects black folks.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

HogWash says: @David, I still think you're arguing just to argue.

The irony, it burns.

by dcd on Dec 28, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

A couple of posters, like AS and Neil Flanagan, raise a good point. Most of the posters are White and middle class. We need to pay more attention to racial issues.

When I lived in Hyattsville, I cycled down to Union Station for my job. However, it wasn't an easy commute. There were a lot of turns and a number of hills. I used to race, so it was not hard for me. However, there were significant barriers to entry that a beginning cyclist might not be able or willing to overcome - someone might just not have the time or the resources to get the necessary equipment and to get in shape. The commute in from Landover might not be as hilly (I can't say because I don't know the geography), but I'll bet the roads aren't as friendly. Don't expect everyone to be able or willing to do it.

Smart growth should be about making sure that neighborhoods of all income levels are amenable to walking, cycling and public transit. It'll save everyone money, time and the aggravation of sitting in traffic in a car, or having to catch a bus to get to the Metro station.

That said, Needs Help, what you did was you asked for 'advice' on what to do, then you reveal (in a very patronizing tone) that you live in Landover, then you start flinging racially-oriented comments, and you say you'll vote for whoever's against the White folks. We have no choice to conclude that you're against bikes just to be against bikes. Clearly this doesn't help anyone.

by Weiwen on Dec 28, 2011 2:14 pm • linkreport

@Tina, I don't get what Jack/Leslie Johnson have to do with my belief that race is the undercurrent behind the lack of development in PG. You can't be suggesting that "political corruption" has been keeping PG in the dark. Or can you? Nah..I'm sure you're not.

@DAvid, sorry dude. But, as we southerners say, you seem to be just inching for an argument here. You and I have been here before. You focus like a laser on a very small point and turn that into a full-scale debate about much of nothing. So what, he didn't provide links to DC. He did provide links to PG area in question. If one of your many (stated that is) problems with selxic's post is that he/she (and likely every other person but you) believes you can find more affordable homes in PG than you can in DC, then why do you keep having to beat him over the head with that. You don't believe houses are more affordable in PG. Ok. We get that. But that does not change the fact that "most people" would think otherwise. And no, I'm not going to quantify "most people" here. Some things are simply commonly accepted knowledge.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 2:16 pm • linkreport

Bikes offer freedom. Sucking the oil company hose does not. The average person spends 20% of their income on trasportation, as in car payments, fuel, maintenance, insurance, and taxes. There's NOTHING more elitist than car culture.

I think this is true, and I think advocating for walkable communities is an environmental justice issue. That such advocacy has been cast as beneficial only to rich, white (and, of course, liberal) people shows just how distorted our national dialogue has become.

If the rich and powerful at the dawn of the 20th century had half the facility with propaganda as their modern equivalents, we'd have a broad consensus that anyone advocating for "the weekend" is a white gentrifier.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Tina, I also meant to add, Hyattsville is in PG. Although it's affordable and more walkable, everyone can't live in Hyattsville.

@Oboe, Go back and reread HM's comments. I'm sure he'll feel comfort in knowing that this isn't an issue that only affects black folks

Maybe it's a slow day for me. But NH lives in Landover (not a walkable/bikeable community) while your friend lives in Hyattsville (a walkable/bikable community). So the racial component based on what you said is still lost to me. Your "white" friend still lives in a bikable community right?

@dcd, and if you dip your face in it, you just might end up with 3rd degree burns. Care to try?

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

@Oboe, That such advocacy has been cast as beneficial only to rich, white (and, of course, liberal) people shows just how distorted our national dialogue has become.

Well yeah you're right. But it's really no different than those who didn't support the former mayor having been cast as "old school" DC or better yet, anti-education/bike lanes/dog parks. The charge only stings when you're on the receiving end. Otherwise, we level those sort of charges all the time. I have no earthly idea where the term NIMBY came from. What I do know is that it has lead to a coarsening of our "local" dialoge.

So yeah, both sides participate in this distorted dialogue. NIMBY is as disrespectul and negative as "myopic twit."

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, well homeboy, again, this isn't about me. If you just want to criticize and judge me, go at it, but I'm going to try to stay focus on the factual discussion.

If one of your many (stated that is) problems with selxic's post is that he/she believes you can find more affordable homes in PG than you can in DC...

It's not and he's never claimed that.

You don't believe houses are more affordable in PG...

When did I say that? I suspect the average home in PG County is cheaper than the average home in DC.

What I don't believe is that there are few homes in DC as affordable as the average home in Landover. That is very different thing.

BTW, I'm from the south and I've never heard anyone say that someone was "inching for a fight."

by David C on Dec 28, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

@Weiwen:

A couple of posters, like AS and Neil Flanagan, raise a good point. Most of the posters are White and middle class. We need to pay more attention to racial issues.

Not sure who's ignoring these. We talk about the intersection of class, race, and environment constantly on GGW. You may be right, but what would "paying more attention to racial issues" look like, exactly?

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

@HogWash-yes, I'm suggesting the long-term predictable corruption in PGC has stunted its development. This is the article title: "Researchers: Political corruption in Prince George's is cyclical: Leslie and Jack Johnson's corruption 'almost predictable' ". It didn't begin w/ the Johnsons.

Corruption stunted DC too (pre-Williams). Its a pattern you can find universally; the more corruption the worse the economy.

"Empirical evidence suggests that corruption lowers investment and retards economic growth to a significant extent."

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/issues6/

by Tina on Dec 28, 2011 2:38 pm • linkreport

I have no earthly idea where the term NIMBY came from.

"The term was coined in 1980 by Emilie Travel Livezey, and was popularized by British politician Nicholas Ridley, who was Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment."

NIMBY means "not in my backyard". There's an implied preface so "[I agree X is needed, but] not in my backyard."

Some of the confusion my arise from the fact that it's occasionally misused. But it's pretty straightforward.

Take the example of the Yuca Mountain nuclear waste repository: Most everyone agrees such a repo is needed. If you do, and argue that it should go anywhere but near where you live, you may be a NIMBY. If you already have a half-dozen nuclear waste repositories within five miles of your house, you have a convincing counterargument.

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIMBY

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 2:46 pm • linkreport

yes Hyattsville is in PGC. So is Landover and a bunch of other places that are car-dependent (no good access to transit, not bikeable & walkable). Thats my point. I do not think a plausible argument can be made that Hyattsville, which is not car-dependent, is out of reach for anyone who can buy a house in Landover. The "poor me, I'm pushed into PGC for economic reasons and now I'm car dependent" sob story doesn't fly. Living in PGC for economic reasons does not equate to being forced into living in a car-dependent community.

by Tina on Dec 28, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

Maybe it's a slow day for me. But NH lives in Landover (not a walkable/bikeable community) while your friend lives in Hyattsville (a walkable/bikable community). So the racial component based on what you said is still lost to me. Your "white" friend still lives in a bikable community right?

Let's see if I can refactor thise: White friend (a long-term DC resident) had to decide where to live in the last three years. He felt DC was not an option because of price-to-size ratio. Among the choices he had, rather than buy a 5000 sq ft house in a non-bikeable community, he bought a comparably priced 3500 square foot house in a bikeable community. (My family and I chose a slightly more expensive 1200 sq ft house in a very bikeable/walkable part of town).

The point is non-wealthy (working-, and middle-class) people of all races need to do the math and decide what's important to them.

Since HM wrote (repeatedly) that black folks are being forced into auto-centric neighborhoods by white people, I thought the counter-example was relevant. What's confusing about this?

The bottom line is, if you want to live in a very large house on a big lot, and you have to drive everywhere, don't blame effete liberal urbanists, blame geometry.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 2:59 pm • linkreport

LOL@David, ok dude, I'll let you have it. Although I took selxic's comment as a "there are few places in DC where you can get such a steal, you lasered-in on the word few and felt the word should be quantified and then offered up the idea that there are (in fact) houses near that price range in DC.

Re: BTW, I'm from the south and I've never heard anyone say that someone was "inching for a fight."

Uhmmm, oh ok. That could be attributed to a myriad of reasons including but not limited to race and class. But uhmm...ok.

@oboeWe talk about the intersection of class, race, and environment constantly on GGW.

Really? I disagree.

@Tina, was there follow-up link or some'n? I read it and none of the research answers why PG lags other counties in development. Based on my time here in DC, it seems like management (not corruption) and DC's unusual nonstate position hindered development pre-Williams. Most of the reading I've done fail to conclude that "corruption" kept DC in the dark, (to the extent that it ever has been)

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 3:08 pm • linkreport

If I didn't know any better, you'd think MPC had come back under a pseudonym. Just my 2 cents; been reading since spring 2008. Whatever happened to that guy anyway? I know he was coarse, but there was often a grain of truth in what he said, especially on things that people were uncomfortable to bring up.

D. Alpert...any insights onto our old friend?

by long-timer reader, first-time poster on Dec 28, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

none of the research answers why PG lags other counties in development.

PGC has a long history of documented corruption. Corruption is shown to stunt economic development. Ergo, PGCs economic development has been stunted by its long history of documented corruption.

Re; DC pre-Williams. Yes DC was far more corrupt than post Williams. Plenty of evidence. I was here and experienced it. I'm sure you can find some info if you're really interested. Here's an example: thousands of people were culled off the city's payroll when Tony Williams took over and at the same time services improved and city agencies became more efficient.

by Tina on Dec 28, 2011 3:20 pm • linkreport

@Oboe, oh! The first time I ever heard it was while reading this blog. I never knew someone here didn't make it up. Go figure! IMO, the phrase is often misused here. But that doesn't really change the fact that it is meant as a negative and the use here is an example of how our discourse has coarsened

If you already have a half-dozen nuclear waste repositories within five miles of your house, you have a convincing counterargument.

That's interesting because Lydia Phillips of the WCP will disagree. She called Anacostia residents NIMBYS over plans to host "another" social services facility in our n'hood.

@Tina, point. I do not think a plausible argument can be made that Hyattsville, which is not car-dependent, is out of reach for anyone who can buy a house in Landover.

I don't think you meant it in a negative way. But this is the sort of attitude many here and in similar communities are often chided for. Sure, if you can buy in Landover (although I don't recall him saying he owned) you can in Hyattsville as well. But Hyattsville will not and can not possibly be where everyone who can't live in DC..lives. Everything can't always easily work out for one person as it can for another. We should stop assuming such. There are lots of fully-detached single family homes EOTR that are accessible to transit. Vince Gray's n'hood comes to mind. It doesn't mean that everyone interested in space and transit will or should move there.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

@Since HM wrote (repeatedly) that black folks are being forced into auto-centric neighborhoods by white people, I thought the counter-example was relevant. What's confusing about this?

Because you never said your white friend didn't live in a walkable/bikable community. You implied the opposite. So the confusion was...black person pushed into autocentric n'hood vs. white person pushed into walkable/bikeable community. I simply didn't get the connection. I don't recall NH citing wanting a big house on a big lot as a reason for the move to Landover. To be honest, I would like to see a 3500 sq ft home in Landover...lol

@Tina, concluding that PG lacks a Harris Teeter or a mall due to corruption just seems really, really, really off base. How have developers taken a hit during PG's history of corruption?

Also, Tony Williams fired DC gov't employees. I get that. But were they corrupt? Poor customer service is not a sign of corruption nor is the inefficiency of agencies. Currently, people are calling for the fed gov't to shrink it's payroll by firing a lot of employees. That doesn't mean the fed gov't is corrupt though.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 3:40 pm • linkreport

I don't recall NH citing wanting a big house on a big lot as a reason for the move to Landover.

Actually NH explicitly cited that he moved to Landover because he wanted a "piece of the pie" which to a reasonable observer means the suburban lifestyle that whites had enjoyed for so long before the black migration out of DC.

by Scoot on Dec 28, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

Also, Tony Williams fired DC gov't employees. I get that. But were they corrupt?

The reason they were employees in the first place was because of corruption. Their jobs were payoffs/favors from DC politicians. The first step in reducing government corruption is to insulate civil service jobs from political favoritism and offer them to qualified people.

by JustMe on Dec 28, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, come on let's be serious. I can't argue for/against what was never said. While NH "explicitly" cited the reason behind the move, he at no point said that owning a large a big house on a big lot were. Even "whites" haven't much suggested that.

The reason they were employees in the first place was because of corruption. Their jobs were payoffs/favors from DC politicians. The first step in reducing government corruption is to insulate civil service jobs from political favoritism and offer them to qualified people.

I wasn't here before 1999. But are you really going to sit here and tell me that 1000's of former DC gov't employees were "corrupt" and that's why they were fired? And those 1000's only got jobs because of political favors? Really now, give us a break on the anti-dc gov't worker thing ok because you know daggone well that's illogical.

You are lumping the very few people who are/were hired because of political connections with the 1000's of others who don't have the hookup. Then you go on to wrongly assume that even those who are hired through hookups, actually "aren't" qualified for their jobs. There is no real historical evidence to back that claim.

by HogWash on Dec 28, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

There's a difference between institutional corruption and institutional dysfunction. We spent about 20 years converting DC's government from a provider of services to citizens to a provider of jobs. That was a conscious policy decision, and there are arguments for and against it (the great wealth of PG County is a by-product).

I'd go a step further and argue that when the primary role of government is no longer to provide services efficiently, but rather to provide patronage, corruption is much more likely, but that's speculation.

by oboe on Dec 28, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

here's an interesting video on suburban sprawl, and how we've been aware of it's problems since the 1950's. They haven't identified the car as the main culprit, but considering the marketing from Detroit, that's no surprise.

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2011/12/warning-urban-sprawl-1959/824/

here's an interesting article on gentrification, and how it's not all bad, unless you want to see it that way.

http://www.salon.com/2011/12/24/can_gentrification_work_for_everyone/singleton/

by Thayer-D on Dec 29, 2011 8:44 am • linkreport

This is an important post. In bike planning circles, I argue that the next generation of best practice has to address "programming" and complementary facilities as much if not more than infrastructure. (I also argue that planning needs to go down a level or two from "the city" scale to the district and neighborhood scale.)

I tried to develop these ideas in the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan, for which I was the project manager and chief author.

Just like you have to learn how to drive, and a network of supporting systems have been set up to support driving (gas stations, repair facilities, various forms of parking, signage systems, maps, etc.), bicyclists need comparable systems of support.

WRT your transition to bike commuting, I have been influenced by research at Stanford U on routinizing new, positive health behaviors, and I try to apply it to bicycling as a real transportation mode.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704314904575250352409843386.html

The problem is that best practice in bicycle planning hasn't caught up, and people fall back on what is stated "best practice" without truly considering what best practice is or should be.

by Richard Layman on Dec 29, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

Oh, and wrt the subthread about Landover/etc., FWIW about PG County, I have written a bunch of blog entries over the past year that PG needs to change its land use paradigm towards walkability-bikeability-transit, that it didn't when the Metro subway came in, but it has a second opportunity to reposition, given Purple Line Station planning.

It isn't doing so now, just like DC's legacy leadership hasn't been oriented to walkability-bikeability-transit either, despite ribbon cuttings. (I haven't read the Envision PG plan, maybe it gets to this more.)

I blogged about this today about DC in terms of managing the city for the future, instead of pandering to the past.

Anyway, PG's land use paradigm is still focused more on automobile-centric greenfield type development (National Harbor, Konterra) that is disconnected from other developed areas or from transit, or greenfield develeopment in ostensibly transit served areas (the article in the papers this week about development plans for the area around the Bowie train station) but that isn't really about transit as much as it is about development.

That's one reason I suppose why houses are cheaper in PG County, but also why the cheapness comes at great cost (car dependence) plus you still have bad schools and significant public safety issues, not to mention the massive foreclosure overhang which has depressed housing prices across the county.

You might pay more for houses in DC, but it comes back in other reduced costs, e.g., my household spends a couple thousand dollars/year for transportation vs. the $7,000 or so per person in typical U.S. households, and $10,000 in reduced costs/income supports $100,000 of mortgage. And there are areas in DC in W4 and W5 in particular that are more suburban (yards, etc.) still with Metro access, even if most people in the neighborhoods drive, they don't have to--and some of these neighborhoods are more convenient to Metro and have access to more amenities than Hyattsville, and lower property taxes to boot. (Incorporated towns/cities in MoCo and PG have much higher property taxes than DC, because they pay county and city property taxes.)

Be that as it may, what Needs Help ought to consider is how to develop a placemaking agenda that is relevant to greater Landover--I don't know the area that well, and focused on making better between neighborhoods connections for walking and biking, the neighborhood loop concept discussed by Engwicht in _Reclaiming our cities and towns_.

- http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/5072606534/

ANd I just read about something not dissimilar in Atlanta, linking cultural assets, a trail called the Midtown Romp.

And there is a similar project in Detroit:

http://www.detroitmidtown.com/05/doc_lib/Midtown_Loop_Presentation.pdf

I am trying to get a planning contract to do something like this for a community in NoVA, with a corridor/spine from Metro to the town and another major activity center, and developing complementary and connected intra-neighborhood loops along the corridor which in turn feed into the corridor, which would be redesigned from auto-centric to a complete place/street.

Anyway, yes on walking-biking-transit the suburbs have a long way to go compared to traditional center cities.

The issue is not so much to whine about whiteys in the city as much as it is to develop your own place-appropriate agenda. I can't do that for you, but people like me can help.

by Richard Layman on Dec 29, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

Another point for Needs Help. Kaiser-Permanente is supporting a walk to school program at Landover Hills ELementary School, and the fitness instructor there is a real dynamo. That's the kind of anchor building block to develop a broader walking-biking sustainable place agenda, because walk to school/bike to school planning principles are basic walkability-bikeability principles, e.g.,

- http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/5463FD69-F7B9-477D-B9AA-D21CEEFCF722/0/SchoolAdminGuide.pdf

Also look at the Pedestrian Road Audit publication from FHWA and the bikeability and walkability audits from the walking.info and biking.info centers. Placemaking Game from PPS, etc.

by Richard Layman on Dec 29, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

@HogWash - wrt Hyattsville vs Landover: I was trying to point out, in the same way as oboe, that everybody makes choices and compromises. If living in PGC is really a need b/c of economics, yet being able to bike and be near transit is a priority, there's ways to do it even in PGC. Or, as R. Layman writes, with reduced transportation costs and taxes maybe someone can even get a detached SFH in Brightwood. The other point is that, as Richard Layman and Mrs. D and some others wrote: if you live somewhere with really stupid design, like a half mile from the metro w/o access to it, empower yourself and advocate for improvements instead of blaming "OTHERS" and doing nothing to improve your own situation.

"Free your mind and your ass will follow". George Clinton

by Tina on Dec 29, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

"one more thing about Landover" , the idea would be to develop a station area urban redesign initiative, and maybe a bridge over Rte. 50 is in order. People have bandied about various prices, but I think they are either too high or too low. When I was doing the W. Balt. County plan, I was enamored of some of the projects that Rockville did, even if probably one of the bridges wasn't really necessary.

http://www.rockvillemd.gov/recreation/bicycling/bike-improvement.htm

http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/10152008/montlet175511_32499.shtml

http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/102407/rocknew201936_32358.shtml

by Richard Layman on Dec 29, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

@R. Layman-would a tunnel work at that location (landover metro under Rte 50) like the tunnel under the tracks at the Greenbelt metro stop that gives access to the neighborhood west of the tracks? Are tunnels cheaper? Maybe scarier to use..

by Tina on Dec 29, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

It all depends. People tend to not like tunnels and there tend to be more safety/crime issues, but it would probably be cheaper--bridges are built to pretty high standards, to last for 50 years, so they tend to be overengineered. SHA is willing to consider pedestrian-bicycle tunnels on a case by case basis. Of course, it would have been way better to do that when the station was constructed...

Personally, I think there should be walkability-bikeability-transit support plans (e.g., my mobilityshed thesis: http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2008/09/updating-mobilityshed-mobility-shed.html) for all Metro stations. This though should be the responsibility of the jurisdictions more than it should be WMATA's, although the planning should be coordinated.

by Richard Layman on Dec 29, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

As noted in one of the zillion comments above, the next station in - Cheverly - does appear to have such a tunnel, at least according to Google Maps w/ Bicycling overlay.  Based on the same source it would probably be a better bike-rail transfer point for Mr. NH, since the route is all back streets with only one major road crossing. 

I am hoping he gets a chance to at least give it a test ride. 

by cabi addict on Dec 29, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

There are ways to get from the Hyattsville area and the Anacostia Tributary trails to downtown DC without too much climbing. Well, there's some climbing, there are ways to make sure the climbs are fairly gradual: http://vimeo.com/33884169

by Greenbelt on Dec 29, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

@Greenbelt, thanks!

by Tina on Dec 29, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

Similarly, when the connection from MBT to the West Hyattsville Station is completed, those of us in Upper Northwest will have an alternative way to get to the Anacostia River Trail once it is completed.

In a regional bikeways plan, this connection should be prioritized.

WRT this trail video, the stretch of this trail from Rhode Island Ave. to the West Hyattsville station convinced me of the value of trail riding--you don't realize how much mental energy is consumed by defensive riding while riding on the street until you're on a trail--and how trails can be key connectors within neighborhoods and districts, e.g., in that stretch you have a basketball court, a connection to another park, a ball field, tennis courts, a creek, a playground, connections to shopping centers (4 grocery stores and a drug store are within a half mile in either direction), a commercial district, and a subway station.

I use this stretch of trail as an example of best practice parks planning all the time.

by Richard Layman on Dec 29, 2011 3:03 pm • linkreport

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