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Let's plan a Bike to Anywhere But Work Day

The annual Bike to Work Day is coming up on May 16. It offers a great annual opportunity to encourage people to try bicycling, but can't we come up with somewhere else to bike to as well?

Photo by the author.

Personally, I've attended the venerable Bike to Work Day so many times that I'm looking forward to Bike to Retirement Day. Nevertheless, B2WD is a great party with lots of food, free tchotchkes and activities. This year's B2WD will be hard to miss in Alexandria, with "pit stops" in Market Square, Carlyle, the Mark Center and a new stop in Del Ray. The only small weakness in this highly recommended party is that, when it ends, you are at work.

We in the DC area have been doing Bike to Work Day for so many years that I feel like it would be fun to branch out. By this I don't mean Bike to School Day, which is pretty much just B2WD for kids and is already scheduled for May 7. We can do better.

How about Bike to the Grocery Store Day? The best thing about B2GSD is that it eliminates the need to jockey a car through a small parking lot. Parking a car in an over-engineered lot is no fun and can take as long as the drive to the grocery store. The second best thing about shopping by bike is that, in my two bike-baskets at least, you can only carry enough food to feed two people for a week. There is no temptation to "stock up" on "food" that will live longer than you will, especially if you eat it, or on healthy food that will need to be wolfed down before it spoils.

Another boon to our local economy would be Bike to the Coffee Shop Day. With B2CSD, we would all get a break from working or errands and delight in the twin joys of exercise and gastronomic indulgence. On Bike to the Coffee Shop Day there is no pressure to bike to work and no need to get the groceries home before the ice cream melts. (Tip: pack the cold stuff together in one bag).

Instead of stopping at one pit stop and then biking to work, you can bike to the next pit stop. (Tip: please don't bike while holding coffee—I've done so and wish I hadn't). If the coffee is good enough you might speed through every stop in town before you know it!

In fact, bicycling and coffee shops go together so well that I remain astounded that so few coffee shops have bicycle parking corrals. I lead groups of cyclists to many of these shops and know they are handy to our local bikeways. Buzz and Perks are both handy to the Mt. Vernon Trail, Firehook is on the Wilkes Street Bikeway and the Alexandria Pastry Shop is just a stones throw away from both bike-friendly Arlington and the Spokes Etc. bike shop. A bike parking corral is like a big sign that says "cyclists welcome," deployable without input from the local architectural review board.

As an avid reader, I know I'd enjoy Bike to the Library Day. (Tip: please don't start reading that book while biking home). I'd also enjoy Bike to the Park Day. Either B2LD or B2PD could show off the wonderful services that Alexandria provides to encourage healthy minds and bodies. These events would also encourage people to visit all corners of our great city. Best of all, neither involve work.

Meanwhile, Alexandria residents can prepare for Bike to Work Day at a free event this weekend, Bicycle Commuting 101, where citizens will share information and offer encouragement. It will take place on Saturday, April 5, 3 pm at the Alexandria Library, Barrett Branch, 717 Queen Street.

Jonathan Krall is an advocate for bicycling and walking and a former Chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He lives in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria and has been car-free since 2011.  


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Bike to Church Day, sponsored by Metropolitan AME.

by JimT on Apr 3, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

YAY! I second your idea! I always felt that the Bike To Work Day has been a great idea--but the bar is too high for some people to try it out when getting to work on time is priority number one in people's mind. Unfortunately, I have never been able to participate due to my work schedule/location. A relaxed "Get There By Bike Day" would be a great opportunity for those who may be up for a short errand run, stop by a pit stop and have an all-day party. Local businesses could even give a $.25 discount for those who arrive by bike.

by Bob Smith on Apr 3, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

Part of B2WD should be Bike to Metro. Some people like baby steps.

by Falls Church on Apr 3, 2014 12:06 pm • linkreport

Someone should tell Whole Food that the crappy bike racks in their suburban Maryland stores are an embarrassment for a company that claims to be green and progressive.

by Crickey7 on Apr 3, 2014 12:10 pm • linkreport

Yes, absolutely.

Most people who are biking to work should be walking -- under 1.5 miles. from 1.5 to 3 miles I see the time saving -- I save about 15 minutes if I bike rather than walk.

But where biking excels is exactly these sort of casual trips. Bike to the bar. Grocery store. Casual shopping.

I'll reserve the car for the library however. 8-10 books is heavy.

by charlie on Apr 3, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

Bike King St. Day?

by movement on Apr 3, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

+1 movement

by JDC on Apr 3, 2014 12:31 pm • linkreport

Falls Church - my sense is the BTWD organizers welcome folks who use bikes at either end of a metro trip. Maybe more pitstops by metro stops would be good? As for bike to metro in general, FABB is planning events to focus on access to the Silver Line stations.

Bob Smith - I hear you. BTWD is on a Friday, and the publicty hopefully lets employers know what to expect. But I am sure there are work places where that does not help.

Charlie - whats the issue with biking under 1.5 miles? A. Its generally faster than walking B. In some places where sidewalks are deficient, but roads are walkable, it can be an easier and safer way to get where you are going C. Then you have the bike with you if you want to bike somewhere else. D. Its just more fun

Of course the time to lock up is a tradeoff.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

How about a ciclovia? They have them in NY, Philly, Chicago, even LA for chrissakes.

@Charlie: try panniers - or get fewer books and make more trips.

by John Henry Holliday on Apr 3, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

A. Lockup + helmet.
B. In my neighborhood there are a number of paths that are unbikeable so my bike route takes longer.
C. I can carry more stuff more easily when walking then while biking. I suppose I could get a saddle bag but then messing around with that would add to A. I wouldn't want that kind of bag on my bike when going for a 20+ miler.

by movement on Apr 3, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

Most people who are driving short distances to the library should be getting a basket or carrying fewer books.

by MLD on Apr 3, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

a. it takes me seconds to put on my helmet (this raises the q of whether it would be a good idea to wear a helmet while walking across the street in FFX - I think it often would be ;)

b. Well thats pretty geographically specific. IOW, it varies with your area and your OD pair.

c. And of course it varies with trip purpose. Some errands (like running to the bank, or to a hairstylist), do not involve carrying anything. Some (like going to the library with ONE book) the weight isnt enough to be a big deal, for many riders.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

There is a bike to the library day on April 19 in Arlington--it's a biking tour of seven public libraries in the county:

by MCR on Apr 3, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport


I think what AWITC was taking issue was was the blanket statement. Biking might be better for some and walking might be better for others.

by MLD on Apr 3, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

How about a Bike to Wherever Week? Or Bike Week? Or Month?

by DaveG on Apr 3, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

Yeah - it seems Charlie was saying that walking was the preferred mode to biking under 1.5 miles, the same way many bike advocates say biking is preferred to driving under 5 miles. I certainly accept that for many OD pairs or trip purposes or conditions, biking does not work well for most at 4 to 5 miles.

It seems to me that for most places and trip purposes, biking does just fine under 1.5 miles, other than the minor annoyances of locking up and dealing with your helmet (and many riders would say that on routes with good safety charecteristics, and slow speeds, they can do without the helmet)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

if you walk at 3 miles an hour, a 1.5 mile walk will take 30 minutes. You dont have to be super fit to do the same trip on a bike (in most places) in 20 minutes. I can easily put on my helmet, take off my helmet, and lock up, in less than 10 minutes. I guess if you are bothered having your helmet with you at the bank or library (but you could always wear it, in case a freak accident involving tumbling books happens)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport


I see what you're saying to some extent. I live a mile from the Metro and on days I don't commute all the way to DC, I ride.

I could walk, yes, a mile isn't much. But I'm a slow walker, the stoplights are timed for traffic not pedestrians and in sum total, I save about 12 minutes each morning (which is significant) (20 walking vs 8 riding). Plus, I'm not always going right home after work, so having the bike at the Metro makes me more mobile.

For me, I tend to walk anything under 6 blocks, and just bike the rest because it's simply easier, quicker and more flexible.

As for the library, all you need is a basket and you're all set.

by Catherine on Apr 3, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

Check out DC Bike Party! It's every month, with a few hundred riders. Meets at DuPont Circle, and has a mid-party and an after party. Facebook page is most often updated information page.

by Ben on Apr 3, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

Bike to the Brewery Day (take the metro home)

by Bizzle on Apr 3, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

First off: JimT's comment made me nearly fall out of my chair. Nice one.

I like the idea of "Bike Weekend", where for an entire weekend, people are encouraged to use bikes (incl. CaBi) to do stuff they normally walk/metro/drive for. It reminds me a bit of "TV Turnoff Week" from back in my early school years. I think we were given free "games and ideas" for other stuff to do at home other than TV, so there were incentives. Someone has already mentioned it, but local discounts could be awesome. Or maybe bike meetups in certain squares/parks. Bikeshops could do free/discounted tune-ups. There could be a Tweeter campaign, or an Instantgram involvement for the younger folks.

Most of us who read GGW probably already bike to get around a fair bit. Something like this could incentivize others to enjoy their neighborhoods and cities on two wheels.

by Atlas on Apr 3, 2014 1:59 pm • linkreport

Oh, and I meant to say, putting on/taking off a helmet takes about as long as buckling/unbuckling a seatbelt.

And where I live at least, locking up is a breeze (Old Town, tons of parking meters, signs and proper bike racks) and finding a spot and parking a bike is *always* quicker than parking a car. Even if you find a car parking spot right in front of where you're going (which you rarely will), I can lock my bike up in the same amount of time it takes to turn off the ignition and open the car door. Habits and repetition.

I wonder if part of the "convenience" problem is your bike storage? Do you have to drag it out of a shed? Take it up or down stairs? I keep mine locked up outside by my front door at all times which just makes it so easy and accessible. I specifically chose a style of bike that is meant to withstand such conditions and which was not too terribly expensive to begin with. 5 years and thousands of miles of near-daily use later, it is only just beginning to show any sign of rust, and that's on easily replaceable bolts/nuts. Not bad for $400.

by Catherine on Apr 3, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

You could cross promote a bike week with

by BTA on Apr 3, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

I don't think bike to a MILF's house would go over to well. Prove me wrong GGW.

Alternatively, bike to the grocery store, with lessons on how to load your rig on the cheap.

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 2:19 pm • linkreport

"bike to my wedding day!"

by Tina on Apr 3, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

If it's less than a mile I always walk, sometimes 1.5 miles or more even, but 1-2 is my biking sweet spot since I use capital bikeshare and other than walking to and from stations there is minimal effort in terms of find parking. Really depends on a lot of factors, if there is a faster metro or bus connection I'll usually take that. It's best on the weekends when schedules are more limited.

by BTA on Apr 3, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

Thanks for positive comments. I totally agree about the ciclovia idea. I hear from people often that we need one here in the DC area. I think it'll happen if a local business community gets behind it. Similar to the way an event like Art on the Avenue in Del Ray happens.

As for short rides, I have a "grocery store" bike with folding baskets, fenders and built in lights for local rides. That's the bike I leave locked up at the Metro after riding a mere 1 mile, just because doing so shaves 10 minutes off my commute (on days when I do the Metro thing instead of the B2W thing). I solved the helmet issue through the magic of science.

by Jonathan Krall on Apr 3, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

I thought DDOT looked into doing a ciclovia but Secret Service put the kibosh on it. Won't allow that many streets to close or something?

by MLD on Apr 3, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

I thought it was DHS that did it. The proposal was to shut down 14th.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

I was right on DHS (and secret service is a part of DHS anyway) but wrong on 14th street. It was K.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2014 3:53 pm • linkreport

At least for once this year they didn't schedule it on a DCPS parent-teacher conference day.

by contrarian on Apr 3, 2014 3:56 pm • linkreport

Oh yeah, it was an even dumber reason than I remembered.

by MLD on Apr 3, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

Yes, the bike is stored in a crawl space behind the house. Those of us in 80 year old houses don't have a lot of storage options.

Going to the hair stylist with a helmet on? Okay...

Other aggravations:
* It is cumbersome to walk around anywhere with a helmet.
* You can't (safely) listen to music while biking. (I don't always listen while walking but it is nice to have the option.)
* Re-inflating the tires takes as long as filling the gas tank and has to be done every week or two regardless of how much the bike is used.

Bottom line - a bike is the least convenient form of transportation out there. You really need a convergence of multiple parameters:
* time to walk is unacceptable
* inconvenient or nonexistent parking/public transportation
* not too much stuff to carry
* helmet is not a nuisance
* reasonable weather

I look for excuses to ride but those opportunities are still not particularly frequent.

by movement on Apr 3, 2014 4:18 pm • linkreport

@movement - I was car-free for 5.5 years in the UK and I can count on my fingers the number of times that I pumped my tires up on my bikes (about the same number of times per year that I do on my car now). As for the rest of your excuses, they sound a little thin.

by Thad on Apr 3, 2014 4:54 pm • linkreport

Going to the hair stylist with a helmet on? Okay..."

I would take it off and put it down there ;)

Other aggravations:
* It is cumbersome to walk around anywhere with a helmet.

I dont mind that much, but the other options are to put it down, to wear it inside, or to do without it.
* You can't (safely) listen to music while biking. (I don't always listen while walking but it is nice to have the option.) I dont walk around listening to music, and from things ive seen peds do, I have to question its safety.
* Re-inflating the tires takes as long as filling the gas tank and has to be done every week or two regardless of how much the bike is used.

You might want to look into new tires then. My tires do better than that. Plus I think my gas tank must be bigger than yours ;) And I would ride at least once every two weeks anyway.

Bottom line - a bike is the least convenient form of transportation out there. You really need a convergence of multiple parameters: I dont think so, but this surely explains some of your other views ;)

"* inconvenient or nonexistent parking/public transportation"

Where i live in fairfax the most frequent bus service on a weekend is about every 30 minuts. And I live in one of the best served by bus parts of Fairfax.

* not too much stuff to carry

well yeah, but that goes for walking too, unless you're pulling a grocery cart. I mean you could get a cargo bike too.
* reasonable weather But bad weather makes walking or waiting for the bus unpleasant. Ive ridden in wind, light rain, light snow flurries, cold, and heat. And I hardly think Im close to the hardier riders around here.

Perhaps time for Rule #5?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 5:12 pm • linkreport

Last year, my office participated in the Big Green Commute right about the same time as Bike to Work day. I think there were around 50 other offices in it too. They gave points for different ways of getting to work for a week. We ended up coming in second, but it was fun hearing people ask each other in the morning how they got to work and people actually walking and biking who normally didn't to get more points.

by 14th St Guy on Apr 3, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

My take on movement's comments:

* It is cumbersome to walk around anywhere with a helmet.

Easy solution here. Just lock your helmet to your bike. I always do that and have never had a problem.

* You can't (safely) listen to music while biking. (I don't always listen while walking but it is nice to have the option.)

My friend does this, but I wouldn't personally. I don't listen to music when walking either though.

* Re-inflating the tires takes as long as filling the gas tank and has to be done every week or two regardless of how much the bike is used.

I re-inflate my tires every week, but it takes less than two minutes. Maybe you don't have a good pump or enough practice, but it's really easy.

Other points:

You really need a convergence of multiple parameters:

* not too much stuff to carry

Panniers take care of this problem, you can hold more with these than you can on foot/public transit.

* helmet is not a nuisance

Then don't wear one. I do personally, but it's rare in other countries. I think we make too big of a deal of the helmet issue. If it becomes a barrier to you biking (obviously the case since you mentioned it twice), I'd say just skip the helmet.

by alex on Apr 3, 2014 5:51 pm • linkreport

Is cycling vs. walking really the debate we want or need to be having?

by drumz on Apr 3, 2014 6:00 pm • linkreport

My take is a bit different. I hate fenders, panniers and all the utilitarian bike stuff. I ride to get me personally from point A to point B in the minimum time possible. I can, and do, cram emergency groceries into a backpack, but I'll typically stack up shopping needs for the week and then take the car. So I concede the not too much stuff point, but for the vast majority of my trips by any mode, I don't carry much.

As for convenience, I would say it is just as convenient as any other mode, but that's not really why I do it. I do it because no other mode causes me to have a sh_t eating grin on my face the entire time, every time.

by Crickey7 on Apr 3, 2014 6:08 pm • linkreport

There actually is a National Bike to Church Day. It's in August.

I think baseball should do a Bike to the Game weekend where every team has giveaways for cyclists (Colorado Rockies bike socks? Awesome!). Other sports leagues could do something similar I suppose.

by David C on Apr 3, 2014 11:05 pm • linkreport

"Is cycling vs. walking really the debate we want or need to be having?"

Yes and no, in that order.

We would be capable of accomplishing so much more if we were able to all agree to disagree on such petty things as modal preference and focus first on making sure that all interests have their seat at the table.

There would be plenty of time to pit pedestrian interests against bicycle interests and bicycles against transit once we have reached the point where all modes of travel are treated as equal. We aren't there yet.

Right now, everything other than driving is still derided as "alternative" transportation, and because of that, we are all still in the same camp. Therefore, as of right now, pedestrian versus bicycle versus transit is not much better than infighting and we are at times cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

When mass transit isn't "alternative" anymore, we can all come back here and argue for or against bicycles as a replacement to transit.

When bicycling isn't "alternative" anymore, I will be more than happy to join many others on both sides of the argument in grand debate over such things as where bike/ped segregation is appropriate and how best to allot street space to dedicated infrastructure in those cases.

Until that time... well, to be perfectly honest, I will gleefully jump into those kinds of debates anyway, because recognizing that they accomplish little and do far more harm to the overall goal of modal equity is one thing. Putting my own inherent biases aside and ignoring my own inherent desire to jump into the aforementioned debates is something else entirely. In other words, no, this is not the debate we need to be having - but for me at least, and for others as well I'm sure, this is the debate that I want to be having.

by Ryan on Apr 3, 2014 11:29 pm • linkreport


Yeah, I live in a 190 year old house. I understand the storage issue. I'm not telling you that you need to change anything, I'm simply suggesting that's why it may seem more inconvenient to you than to others.

I agree on the helmet, I dislike walking around carrying a helmet. I either don't wear one for short local trips (yes, yes, I know...) or lock it up with the bike.

The music thing doesn't bother me, personally, and I don't see how that is a matter of convenience.

Too much stuff to carry--I can't really count the number of times that it has been suggested to "get a basket" on this thread. It's not brain surgery here.

Tires--(a) doesn't take that long (b) doesn't need it as frequently as gas (c) is in your house and free--no need to go to and pay for gas at a station.

Bottom line - a bike is the least convenient form of transportation out there. For you. Bottom line for you These are your opinions, your preferences, your aggravations and your bike setup that you have selected for yourself (inconvenient storage place, lack of cargo capacity) as a result of your lifestyle and your priorities. None of these are universal.

I personally find public transit to be the least convenient because of rigid schedules, transfers and distance to stations. I find car ownership to be aggravating, inconvenient and expensive (so much so that I stopped), and car travel mind-bogglingly frustrating about half the time. Walking is great, but knowing that I can accomplish the same thing in half the time with my bike and not have to carry my groceries/books/bags/laptop/whatever makes biking a no brainer for me. For me. The whole point of all of this is to have options. And the whole point of a bike to work day is to encourage trying out one of those options and see if it works for you.

by Catherine on Apr 4, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

@movement - "You can't (safely) listen to music while biking (I don't always listen while walking but it is nice to have the option)"

I am going to reiterate that it does not and should not matter whether one listens to music/talk/etc., as long as it's done hands-free, while walking/biking/driving/whatever. Hearing is not critical for that, but vision is, except where blind people are concerned. This is one reason why I oppose laws requiring people to leave one ear earbud-free. The other reason (full disclosure) is that I am hard of hearing and use two hearing aids although there are times I don't use one or both, such as when I bike or otherwise exercise, swim, shower, sleep, etc. I should not be forced to wear my HA's to bike simply because I have the right, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to be as deaf as I am naturally. Another reason is that when biking, especially in hot places such as DC, my sweat soaks my hearing aids rendering them temporarily useless for up to an hour or more. Therefore, to force people to not use one earbud is simply discriminatory against "normal hearing" people, since that law potentially starts us down a slippery slope to requiring full ("normal" hearing in order to drive/bike/walk/whatever, which would ban myself and the other 10% of the US population that is hearing impaired from driving or biking.

by DaveG on Apr 4, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport

Let me modify my above statement to say that one is probably OK holding a device in their hand(s) while walking or maybe skating since hands are not needed to do either activity.

by DaveG on Apr 4, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

A suggestion for biking to the store/library (especially if someone wants to start doing these trips regularly): I got a bike "baby trailer" (I don't know what they're officially called) on Freecycle. The fabric is a bit tattered, but it's mechanically sound. These trailers typically support enough weight for any grocery trip -- except, perhaps, a Costco run!

by Roger Wilson on Apr 4, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

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