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I wonder which part of GW Parkway the person writing to Dr. Gridlock was talking about? I wouldn't ride my bike on the parkway north of Alexandria, but I do it all of the time south of Alexandria, and there are plenty of other cyclists there too. If it's illegal, then I guess I'm breaking the law -- though it's notable that more than one park police vehicle has driven past me on the parkway without stopping an issuing a ticket -- maybe it's because I'm usually going a reasonable speed.

Steve Elkridge is absolutely nuts on this one. I have been riding that section of trail for 27 years. In recent years, walkers and runners have completely, actively abandoned their responsibility to work with cyclists to make the trail safe. "Charity" training organizations regularly hold formation runs on the trail, which is incredibly dangerous, and completely inconsiderate of other trail users. Walkers walk two and three abreast, and refuse to react to required warnings when being passed. When walkers and runners start sharing again, I will play along. Safety is a shared responsibility, the rules are clearly posted, and pedestrains are ignoring them.

MtVernonTrailBiker, you sound just like a motorist who was in Dr. Gridlock a while back, saying "I'll start respecting cyclists when they start respecting the law." Take responsibility for your own behavior. If someone "refuses to react to a required warning" you have to wait -- two wrongs don't make a right, that's not a license to pass unsafely. It's just the same as motorists who don't understand that a cyclist in their way doesn't make it OK to pass unsafely.

The Mt. Vernon trail is a disaster when it is busy -- which is just about any nice day. Like many of our streets, it just can't handle the level of traffic it gets. While there is a lot of discourteous behavior on many parts, I have to say that the primary safety risk comes from cyclists, simply due to their higher speeds and lower maneuverability. I'd much rather ride on just about any street in the city. What's sad is that many beginners think it's a good place to learn, and must come away with a warped view of cycling.

Kudos to Steve Eldridge for recognizing that dangerous and discourteous drivers are a hazard to cyclists. Or at least claiming that -- I read his column semi-regularly and I don't remember him making that point before. But at least that's better than the other guy, Dr. Gridlock, who is unapolgetic in his belief that cyclists don't really belong on the road.

Oh, and don't blame the author for the headline, they're generally written by someone else.

The GW parkway is an exception to the general rule, which is that bicycles are allowed on any road where they are not specifically prohibited with prominent signs at all entrances. Most states also have laws saying that bicycles can only be prohibited on limited-access highways.

The GW parkway is owned by the National Park Service, which has its own rules, distinct from the states in which the roadway lies, and often much more restrictive of cyclists. In our area, the NPS prohibits cyclists on the GW, BW, and Suitland parkways, but allows them on the Rock Creek Parkway.

Problem is, the GW Parkway, at least south of Alexandria, is less like BW and Suitland Parkways and more like Rock Creek. Perhaps this is why I see lots of cyclists out on the road on those spots; perhaps that's also why I haven't ever been stopped by the police when riding on the road in that part. It's good to know, however, that when I'm doing that, I'm breaking the law -- that way, I know NOT to argue with the police! :)

It's news to me that cyclists are prohibited from riding on the GW Parkway south of Old Town.

The Mt. Vernon trail has a 15-mph speed limit, and 15 mph is probably too fast on weekends given how busy it is. Cyclists who want to ride faster than 15 mph belong on the Parkway.

As for the driver who "nearly ran into" the cyclist -- check it out: the Parkway has passing lanes for faster-moving traffic.

Well, inquiring minds want to know. I couldn't rest until I got to the bottom of the GW Parkway issue.

If you read this link carefully: http://www.washingtonwatchdog.org/documents/cfr/title36/part1.html#1.5
you'll see that the NPS has limited authority under the law to close parts of the park to the public, which includes members of the public who happen to ride bicycles.


"Except in emergency situations, prior to implementing or terminating a restriction, condition, public use limit or closure, the superintendent shall prepare a written determination justifying the action. That determination shall set forth the reason(s) the restriction, condition, public use limit or closure authorized by paragraph (a) has been established, and an explanation of why less restrictive measures will not suffice, or in the case of a termination of a restriction, condition, public use limit or closure previously established under paragraph (a), a determination as to why the restriction is no longer necessary and a finding that the termination will not adversely impact park resources. This determination shall be available to the public upon request"

and

"§1.7 Public notice.
(a) Whenever the authority of §1.5(a) is invoked to restrict or control a public use or activity, to relax or revoke an existing restriction or control, to designate all or a portion of a park area as open or closed, or to require a permit to implement a public use limit, the public shall be notified by one or more of the following methods:

(1) Signs posted at conspicuous locations, such as normal points of entry and reasonable intervals along the boundary of the affected park locale.

(2) Maps available in the office of the superintendent and other places convenient to the public.

(3) Publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the affected area.

(4) Other appropriate methods, such as the removal of closure signs, use of electronic media, park brochures, maps and handouts.

(b) In addition to the above-described notification procedures, the superintendent shall compile in writing all the designations, closures, permit requirements and other restrictions imposed under discretionary authority. This compilation shall be updated annually and made available to the public upon request"


If the NPS wants to prohibit an activity they have to publish the prohibition in the Federal Code of Regulations, which is available here: http://www.washingtonwatchdog.org/documents/cfr/title36/part7.html#7.96

Section 7.96 is the National Capital Region. There is scant mention of bicycles. I say the byways.org website is wrong. And I thought the Internet was supposed to be infallible.

Here's an interesting link to what happened to cycling advocate John Forester when he tried to ride on the parkway: http://crankmail.com/fredoswald/Rt2Road.html#Forester

Suitland and BW parkways are definitely off limits -- see: http://www.nps.gov/nace/supt_compendium_2005.htm

Interesting. Thanks for the follow-up, Contrarian.

With the advent and popularity of the iPod, announcing one's intent to pass is often an exercise in futility. Not saying people shouldn't use them, but if someone chooses to walk/jog/bike with headphones firmly in place, I suggest (s)he stay well to the left of the side of the trail.

That should be "right" of the side of the trail.

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