D.C. Cyclists Deal With Tricky Commutes As City Bike Lanes Remain Snowy

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credit: Kris Ankarlo/All-News 99.1 WNEW

credit: Kris Ankarlo/All-News 99.1 WNEW

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — “Field of Dreams…if you build it they will come. I think if you maintain it people will ride.”

Those were the words of Andrew, one of the intrepid bikers WNEW reporter Kris Ankarlo crossed paths with while surveying the state of the District’s cycletracks Wednesday.

Intrepid is almost no longer an apt word to explain people like Andrew. Almost. The numbers show that more and more people are using bicycles as their primary mode of transportation.

Wednesday was a tricky commute for cyclists thanks to more snow than D.C. has seen in three years combined with temperatures that would make a penguin search for a cozy cave. Even so, by midday there were almost 500 trips taken on Capital Bikeshare.

Ankarlo caught up with Bill as he docked his bike at Dupont Circle.

“It was funny yesterday, as the snow was coming down, you get to the point where you’re like ‘it’s bad maybe I shouldn’t go’…’its bad I definitely shouldn’t go,’ and then it gets one point worse where its like, ‘oh God, it’s so bad I almost have to do it, I don’t want to miss out on this experience!'” he said.

But it wasn’t simply about proving something, according to Bill. He echoed sentiments shared by Andrew, who was found at the intersection of the 15th Street and L Street cycletracks Wednesday afternoon.

“I ride everyday, I think biking is the fastest most efficient way for me to get around town,” said Andrew, a Boston native.

Andrew was quick to point out the difference between a well-plowed L Street and the snow covered cycletrack.

“It’s night and day what we’re looking at right now, this hasn’t been touched by a plow,” Andrew said. “In fact, the plows have been pushing the snow into the cycle tracks.”

Mike Goodno, a bicycle specialist with District Department of Transportation, says they are aiming to have the cycletracks clear of snow by Thursday. But Goodno also says the cycletracks tend to lag behind the major roads when it comes to clearing, partially because of the special equipment and training needed to clear the paths.

“We have to usually take a small pickup truck, because the lanes at the widest are about 11 feet so a standard snow plow cannot fit in there,” he said.

Although it’s taking longer to clear the cycletracks, it’s important to note than many D.C. bike paths had already been cleared by Wednesday.

“The standard bike lanes…get plowed with the rest of the street, the majority of bike lanes are already already taken care of,” Goodno said. Once those are clear, DDOT turns its attention to the cycletracks.

Another reason for the lag depends on Mother Nature.

“It depends on the amount of snow,” Goodno said.

Even with the amount of snow there is to clean up, Goodno is optimistic that those who commute by bicycle will have an easier go of it for the Thursday morning rush.

While the raw numbers may not support the allocation of resources from heavily traveled roadways to cycletracks that may only be used by a thousand or so people, Andrew believes it should be more about showing a commitment to D.C.’s bike culture.

“It certainly doesn’t encourage anyone to bike if they see this bicycle infrastructure neglected because of a snow storm,” he said.

WNEW’s Kris Ankarlo contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.

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