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Bravo. I've noticed that since Shane Farthing took over WABA has gotten a lot more serious about right-to-the-road issues.

Agreed

+1 Nice to see WABA taking their advocacy up a notch. Maybe the next Critical Mass (https://www.facebook.com/groups/13030635429/ ) ride should be on the GW parkway.

"dirt and gravel path—a surface that is impossible or unsafe for many bicycles. An equivalent would be if motorists were directed to an alternative road that was navigable only by a 4-wheel drive vehiclewith high clearance."

I was reading about two yutes from my hometown who cycled across the country in 1910. Sad commentary on Washington cyclists if they can't handle a smooth gravel path.

Lack of alternative above Roosevelt Bridge, good argument.

Lack of plowing in winter, good argument.

Not a good argument: TheC&O dirt path being "a surface that is impossible or unsafe for many bicycles. An equivalent would be if motorists were directed to an alternative road that was navigable only by a 4-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance." I've ridden the C&O on my road bike with 25s many times, and lived to tell the tale.

One of the problems for cyclists wanting to ride on the Parkway (say) south of the Roosevelt is indeed the existence of the MVT. Cyclists don't want to be inconvenienced by slowing down for traffic on the trail, but see no problem in forcing drivers to slow down for them on the Parkway. Having read WashCycle Guy's point-by-point response to my earlier comment on this, all I really get out of is that it's super-duper annoying for cyclists on the trail, whereas only super annoying for drivers.

I don't know if the NPS would behave any differently if the trail weren't there, and judging from some other bizarre decisions, probably not. But this is an (unusually?) weak case.

Having read WashCycle Guy's point-by-point response to my earlier comment on this, all I really get out of is that it's super-duper annoying for cyclists on the trail, whereas only super annoying for drivers

I would say that is gross misrepresentation.

As for the C&O Canal, I believe sections have been closed for long periods of time due to storm damage. So that is impossible to traverse.

"...and the C&O Canal Towpath that NPS proposes as an alternative to the paved Clara Barton Parkway is a dirt and gravel path—a surface that is impossible or unsafe for many bicycles."

Impossible or unsafe? The first word is a terrible choice for the obvious reason that many people find it possible to ride on the C&O Canal Trail, even on skinny tires (I recently saw a unicycle trundling down the towpath near Georgetown). I think "difficult" might have been a better word choice.

The second word--ignoring for a moment the chilling effect it may have on beginner cyclists--may be true to some small degree in some sections (where trail is washed out or excessively rutted?), but really, the towpath is unsafe compared to riding in traffic on the parkway? That's a tough one to buy. In the context of asking for the right to ride on the parkway instead of the towpath, this sentence suggests that riding with traffic at speeds of 35 to 50 mph (not sure exactly which applies to that section) is comparatively safer than riding on the towpath. I don't agree, and I don't think NPS will either.

The concern in using such words is that they may come across as hyperbole, and the otherwise valid point of the sentence (and the whole response) may be rejected or dismissed outright, especially given that Shane commits here the sin he rightly accuses the NPS of committing: no empirical data offered to back up his claim.

Aside from those quibbles, I applaud the effort. It'd be nice if the NPS would give the letter some meaningful consideration.

WC, those areas of the towpath were open several weeks ago when I rode out to Harper's Ferry. Unless something happened with Irene, the towpath is sound and passable in that section, aside from the usual half-moon washouts and some ruts.

But there has been times in the past when it was impassable. Not that that is the case now.

Often the towpath is unusable due simply to excessive mud, not any kind of washouts or snow or anything. Mud occurs all year round and makes it impossible to count on the towpath as an every day route.

Also, it's not a trivial matter getting onto or off of the towpath. There are limited access points, and some of them are difficult to negotiate.

Furthermore, the lack of lighting means that the towpath is not safe to ride in the dark, even with a headlight. (I have done it, but you have to be very careful to watch for defects in the path. And, according to park rules, the path is closed from dusk till dawn anyway.)

To suggest that the towpath is a separate but equal facility for cyclists is ridiculous.

BTW, I love the towpath and ride on it often with my skinny-tired road bike. But I can't ride on it as often as I would like, mainly due to weather conditions and the fact that I don't want to wear out my bike parts with all the fine grit that gets into them, whether the path surface is dry or wet.

One of the problems for cyclists wanting to ride on the Parkway (say) south of the Roosevelt is indeed the existence of the MVT. Cyclists don't want to be inconvenienced by slowing down for traffic on the trail, but see no problem in forcing drivers to slow down for them on the Parkway. Having read WashCycle Guy's point-by-point response to my earlier comment on this, all I really get out of is that it's super-duper annoying for cyclists on the trail, whereas only super annoying for drivers.

If cyclists were trying to get pedestrians banned from trail you would have a point. But they're not, all they're asking for is the choice to ride with faster or slower traffic.

Agree with Nancy on the towpath grit. I almost never ride the towpath because every time I do, I have to spend 45 minutes cleaning my drivetrain afterwards. So it's useless to me unless I either want to spend all my free time cleaning or I destroy my chain.

@Nancy, ok, grit, wear and tear, (not to mention the dreaded skunk-stripe), yes, in those areas where there is mud (large mud puddles don't exist year round, but during and just after heavy precipitation. In fact, during much of the winter, the trail is quite frozen). That's a far cry from impossible or unusable. Challenging, maybe.

I think the word you're looking for is "won't," not "can't." It's rideable when it's muddy, but you have to be on your game a bit more and willing to get dirty (you and your bike). I've seen every kind of rider (and runner and hiker) you can imagine using the towpath after heavy storms, and the only thing that slows them down is the occasional fallen tree.

Shane is making a point about the necessity of having the option to ride on the parkway. Saying you don't want to get your bike dirty a few days a month isn't going to convince anyone, nor is making statements about the usability of the towpath that aren't backed by data.

I am in total agreement with your points about access to the towpath and about it being unlit (though I believe in using a bike light at night no matter where I ride). Both of those are legitimate concerns that the NPS should consider in their decision.

I wasn't suggesting that the two options are equal; only that the surface of the towpath doesn't make it impossible or unsafe to ride.

I meant to say, "comparatively unsafe to ride" at the end of that last sentence.

Is the towpath a better alternative than MacArthur for transporation?

Is there a plausible case for road diet here?

I'm not sure I get your point Jim. I would say that Clara Barton and MacArthur are substitutes. In fact, that's my response when people say cyclists should use the "perfectly good" sidepath on MacArthur -- why don't motorists use the "perfectly good" parkway right next to it?

Heck, if they hadn't gotten rid of the streetcar 50 years ago, motorists could use that instead of Macarthur (at least inside of Glen Echo).

My solution: Make one lane on the GW Parkway (south of old town) a bike lane on weekends from 6am to 6pm.

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