I've got a letter from a biker I'm hoping to get some help with. Jodi Williams of Alexandria writes: "I started riding my bicycle once or twice a week from my home along Franconia Road to my office in Georgetown this May (14 miles each way). Until recently, that is. The pedestrian/bicycle passageway at the Eisenhower Avenue connector has been closed for construction associated with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.
"I've considered riding to Van Dorn, but that adds many miles to my route, and it would be risking my life to ride through the Telegraph Road/Beltway interchange. Do you have any suggestions about how to safely get from Franconia Road to the Mount Vernon Trail without adding significant mileage or major dangers to my ride?"
I'm hearing a lot from Beltway drivers about this new lane configuration on the outer loop at the Eisenhower Connector. My plan is to use next Sunday's Commuter page in The Post to explain what's going on and address some of these concerns.
Alexandria, Va.: I saw the question from the Franconia Rd. biker, and took a look at the Fairfax City bike map. With the Clermont connector to Eisenhower Ave. closed temporarily, bikers from Franconia and Springfield are really out of luck. The only way that I can see to get to the Mount Vernon trail is going to be a circuitous route through residential streets to get to Beacon Hill road. Or maybe Belle Haven Road would work - I don't know if there is a safe way to cross the GW parkway from there. Anything else leads to busy Rt. 1 or Telegraph Rd. - not safe. Glad I live INSIDE the beltway.
Robert Thomson: I know that the Wilson Bridge Project is suggesting Van Dorn Street as the alternative Beltway crossing now that the Eisenhower Avenue Connector is out of action (for drivers, bikers and walkers). I'm asking cyclists to suggest other alternatives, but think they're going to be limited.
If you've got ideas, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll make that part of the Commuter page feature I mentioned above.
Kevin, Alexandria, Va.: Was wondering about suggestions for those of us who used to bike through the Eisenhower connector. Will that really be closed until September? Will there be a new path put in place to allow us to get around the beltway without risking our lives on Van Dorn or Telegraph? Thank you in advance for your answer!Robert Thomson: Through September, I think. No, there's no special bike path to compensate for the loss of access to the Eisenhower Connector.
Has anyone got a better suggestion than the one above? I don't.
Anyway, the question must've brought out the ugliness...
Ballston, Va.: Could the Tour D France wannabes in their lycra shorts and shaved legs please give it up riding double file down a hill at 25mph on road with a posted speed limit is stupid and dangerous and upsets those of us in cars who are stuck behind your Lance Armstrong wannabe bike. I realize you spent over $7k on your carbon fiber road bike from Trek but it still doesn't give you the right to obstruct traffic on winding two-lane roads, especially when you are climbing at less than 5mph. Go play somewhere else besides the back roads of Loudoun, PW, and Fauquier counties. Better yet take up mountain biking where you aren't endangering yourself and others and you can also wear baggy shorts. Real men mountain bike! I do.
Nothing worse than spending a Sunday morning worrying about these spandex-clad fools. And yeah I follow the rules of the road, laws etc. You roadies don't!
[WC: As an anti-bike rant I give it a mere 6 out of 10. He covered some of the boilerplate territory: "lycra", "spandex", "Lance Armstrong wannabe", questioning of manhood, expensive bike and a toy/play reference but failed to mention "arrogant", "self-righteous/holier-than-thou", taxes, the proximity of trails or acting as though "they own the road"/"laws don't apply to them". He was pulled up from a five for poor command of the English language - critical to such rants.]
Robert Thomson: I think riding double is legal everywhere in our region -- if it doesn't impede traffic. Passing cyclists on winding, two-lane roads in the suburbs is difficult, so I understand drivers' frustration with this.
Alexandria, Va.: Cyclists are vehicles--so they have the right to be on the roads. Following the rules of course. The trails have a speed limit and most of those riders travel too fast for the trails. Cyclists have the right to travel in the lane. Passing on a twisting road is a bad idea period. If you're in a hurry pick another road.
Robert Thomson: That's fair. Maybe idealistic, but fair.
Re: cyclists: As I was driving in Arlington yesterday, I passed two cyclists (who were staying toward the right side of the road) without any problem. A few blocks later I came to a red light and was thinking how the cyclists would be catching up to me soon so I would have to be careful as we all proceeded forward when the light turned green. It wasn't an issue as the cyclists proceeded to go through the red light where I was stopped and the red light at the next intersection. Please remind cyclists that red lights (and stop signs) apply to them too.
Robert Thomson: Constant problem. I think travelers would show more respect for each other if they saw each other following the rules of the road. If people are going to seek the protection of some rules, they should be following them all.
Red light running: A friend's brother, who was 25 and a super cyclist (won all sorts of races) was killed last year because he ran a red light at an intersection and was hit by an SUV crossing on the green. She shot out in front of her, she didn't see him and then couldn't stop. It was awful for everyone. It is just stupid to assume cars see you, bikers (and the same applies to pedestrians. I was hit while running by a car making a right on red without stopping. I now always look to be sure no one is turning before I cross). Is that extra 30 seconds or so worth your life?
Robert Thomson: Intersections are the most dangerous point for all: drivers, walkers and bikers. Don't be lulled because you've got the right of way. Even smart travelers can become victims that way.
More red light running: I notice a frightening number of bicyclists that run red lights and stop signs without stopping. Isn't that prohibited here? It was where I grew up.
Robert Thomson: Yes. You have not entered a parallel universe. The same traffic rules apply to drivers and to cyclists.
Again, I have no criticism for Dr. Gridlock. And yesterday he recommended more bike facilities as a partial cure for congestion. Though I wish he would be a little more assertive with someone like Ballston whose insulting rant shows more than a little aggression and entitlement - the kind of things that get dangerous if they show up on the road. I understand his desire to stay above the fray, but his willingness to let it go unchallenged might be read as tacit approval.