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What about Madison and Jefferson Dr.? There is little traffic on those in the morning.

I don't regularly bike on the Mall, but it happens that I did on three occasions this summer. All I can say is that much of the time you need to be riding at a walking pace, working your way around people. When it opens up for a stretch you can speed up a little, but I would never go particularly fast. It's either that or find another route. I had a bell; some people moved over and some did not. It's important to keep in mind that although bikes are allowed on the Mall, I would never think of it as a "bike path" or even a multi-use path. It's a big public park where bikes are allowed, but certainly not given preference.

She doesn't want to ride on Madison or Jefferson either.

The mall is full of tourist. When you ring a bell they think your selling ice cream. Independence or Constitution really are the best to ride on. Cars go very slow (tourist) and other trucks almost never get above 25. There are allot of people around there that will just walk into the street not looking or thinking that cars will stop for them just like in their hometown so that slows traffic down too. I only ride on the mall to people watch.

when my mom visited a few weeks ago, we took a bike ride on the Mall. Her bike has an old-style horn that makes a comical honk, that actually seemed to get the attention of the folks milling around because it is pretty ridiculous sounding, and elicited a few smiles for the same reason. Though not many people really moved over, because the mall just isn't a great thoroughfare.

Is it that bad on the Mall in the morning? I often ride it between the Lincoln Memorial and 17th St., but that's usually before 7 a.m. I come in so early because I know I have a lot of people to deal with. I leave Glenmont at 5 a.m. to a pitch-black sky, and by the time I get to the zoo, even the Rock Creek Park trail is starting to fill up. I think your reader just has to adjust to the nature of riding to work: There's just a lot of people out there, and the later you show up, the worse it gets. Leave earlier.

Slight aside: The absolute worst person on the trail in the morning is the lady who uses the trail bridge just south of the Taft Bridge as a place to stretch in the morning. Twice in the last two weeks I've almost run her over, and I only ride two or three times a week.

I don't have much great advice on the mall, except to go slow, avoid the busiest times (good luck), and ring that bell. In my experience, the bell is a little better than voice.

But in the long run, perhaps this person might benefit from one of the "Confident City Cycling" classes offered by WABA. http://www.waba.org/events/education.php

A friend of mine was new to cycling and worried about riding on roadways and got a lot out of a similar class in Seattle. It helped him choose the best routes and riding style for his comfort level.

Agree with Adam and NeilB.

I'll add that cyclists shouldn't expect the same responses from tourists as they do from Washingtonians. In the neighborhoods and the bike trails, people who live here are used to cyclists and have learned how to interact. You cannot assume tourists are familiar with cyclists, whether they're domestic from Nebraska or foreign non-Enlgish speaking. Both types of tourists will create their own type of hazard when interacting with cyclists.

Then there are the tour groups who set up their big tour group photo in the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lane. And why not? The capitol makes a great back-drop. Right? I've stated to see that recently.

@Thrillhouse, Do you mean stretchers like this person?


One other note on sounding when passing: Some folks cannot hear. DC has a large Deaf community, including a college and I have encountered many Deaf & Hard of Hearing folks while riding around DC, and especially on the mall.

So while some folks may not know what to do when you sound your bell, as others have noted, other folks may not be able to hear at all.

Avg. bicyclists (and I am avg.) travel 10-12 mph, while pedestrians travel 3-4 mph.
She is the disconnect. It's unreasonable to expect masses of pedestrians, tourists not supra-familiar with their surroundings, to conform to how this person wants to bicycle to work.

Just as I am not a big proponent of riding on sidewalks (although I do it too) because frequently bicyclists will ride too fast to safely mix with pedestrians.

Plus, every day she has a new group of visitors to the Mall to train with regard to how she wants to get around.

.... cycle tracks...

Pick your poison - bike on the mall at a walking pace, or bike in traffic on the surrounding streets. This choice is no different from that between biking on streets or on sidewalks - at least outside of downtown, where the latter is illegal and the choice therefore made for you. Choosing to ride with pedestrians is slightly selfish, since you're choosing to impose risks on them to protect yourself from the risks of cars, but there's a time and place for it. If you're a new cyclist, there might be a very good case for spending time on the mall (or sidewalk) - but it has a downside too. You have to go slow. Think of it as training wheels. If they are bothering you, it might be time to take them off. Or think about it like learning to drive - if you start to think all the people on back roads are going to slow, it might be time to try out the highway. And if you aren't ready for that, you shouldn't complain about them being slow.


Exactly! Now imagine her doing that across a 10'-wide trail bridge, after coming around a fairly sharp turn.

She was just arriving when I saw her yesterday, but last week she was fully stretched out, and her head was below the railing, so I couldn't see her as I came around the bend right before the trail.

This is where she blocks the trail: http://is.gd/eGOaB

I ride across the Mall on my commute route between Alexandria and downtown DC. I ride from 15th and Independence over to 17th and Constitution.

While I do occasionally get annoyed by pedestrian (particularly pedestrian tourist) behavior, I recognize it's a shared space and proceed with caution when around people walking. I ring my bell and try to give as much warning as possible. Sadly, washcycle's unsatisfying answer of "patience" is probably the best.

That being said, I don't find that the foot traffic is too bad generally speaking, especially in the AM. Some mornings I'll only pass a couple people... and I don't mean real early like 6 or 7 AM. I mean 9-9:30 AM. I think the key is to try to avoid the most heavily used sections if possible. For example, I don't ride the ring around the Washington Monument from April until September. Too many tourons out. I stick to the wide sidewalk along the north side of Independence and east of 17th St. It sees a lot fewer people.

I'd also second the suggestion of Madison or Jefferson Dr. Personally, when I've ridden them (even at rush hour on occasion) I never found either of those streets any more difficult or seemingly dangerous than navigating the MVT on a busy day. I'd encourage the reader, though new, to try those streets and take the lane a little bit. The auto traffic is slow there.

need more info on this person's commute. If she's coming from VA into DC, I understand where she's coming from (although its only a few blocks and we've all got problems), but if she's coming from like capitol hill and heading west, I would just take the PA bike lanes.

On the sidewalk, pedestrians have the right of way. That means they set the pace. A bell only announces your presence. It does not mean "get out of my way". So, I'm not surprised that the bell doesn't work.

She either needs to get interested in riding on the street, or get used to riding slow. There are no other options for us mere mortals.

If having to weave a bit, make sure your load (backpack, whatever) is attached and well balanced. Also, use a bike that sits you more upright: its easier to maneuver.

Don't expect people to get out of your way, they have the right of way. You have to go around them.

My commute took me across the Mall for years. I rode on Constitution. It really is easier than the sidewalks. Just learn to take a lane and be done with it.

I know she said she doesn't like these, but Jefferson and Madison are really great for this. You can take the lane without people getting upset usually, and there's usually enough of a buffer to ride against the curb and still let cars pass if you want. And it's never fast traffic or anything like Ind. and Constitution.

I can't say there's a "solution" for biking on the mall in the midst of peds, other than to bike elsewhere.

A cyclist will have to treat pedestrians with the care and patience we want cars to treat cyclists.

I commute from VA to DC and I find that riding on the sidewalk is more stressful because I have no idea what the tourists will do. Sometimes they move the wrong way and most of the times don't move at all.

I think it takes a while to get used to riding on the streets but, in general, motorists are fine with it.

Fat tires and rise on the grass and gravel.

Rode accross the mall from 18th and Penn NW to 4th st SW today at lunch. Intended to ride on the paths, but what appeared to be an early wave of Tea Partiers seemed to have begun their party. Lots of old fat very white people decked out in American flag themed clothes. Although they moved at a glacial pace they were very polite and moved over. I gave up on the paths and hit the road. Comuting home today might be bad on the mall.

I really dislike riding on the mall paths because of the pea gravel. She will enjoy her commute rather than endure it when she learns to ride on Jefferson and Madison. I fondly refer to pedestrian tourists as "Dervishes" as one can never tell which way they may whirl about.

@mike - Thanks for the warning. Thankfully I don't have too far to go to get across the Mall.

Days like this make me wish I had a whole Obama themed outfit I could wear for riding just to tick off the Tea Partiers. I do have a white undershirt here. Maybe if I write "GLENN BECK SUCKS" in Sharpie, I could elicit a response. :)

I don't know how much it will help, but this is what I do. On my way to work (Lincoln Mem to Cap Hill): along the reflecting pool path and then up to the Wash Mem. At this point, I go over and ride the sidewalk along Constitution. I ride at 7am and it is wide open.

Home in the opposite direction: down Madison (the Mall side sidewalk seems open enough to ride there too). At the Wash Mon, I get on the path and ride really really slowly until the Lincoln Mem.

It's especially bad in the evening around 5:30 along the reflecting pool. I just bite my tongue and ride slowly. The bell and calling out usually works, but not always. Patience.

I used to commute on the mall every day for years. AM commute on Jefferson is cake. Before 9 or 9:30 there are very few cars and they tend to travel slowly. It really should not be a problem.
In contrast to @rdhd, I would ride from Abe to George the same, but then take Jefferson to 3rd St., turning north on 3rd.

PM is different; a lot more people.
I agree that taking a confident city cycling class might do wonders.
Good luck.

IIRC, NPS officially lists the sidewalk along Constitution, from Lincoln Mem to Wash Monument, as a "bike path". Which this thread correctly points out is a joke.

So why not advocate with NPS to separate pedestrian and bicycle traffic? There's a broad open swath along that sidewalk, plenty of room for both.

The rest of the way, Jefferson and Madison are usually quite pleasant.

Or alternatively, after ringing the bell a few times, one could always try, "Where are the brakes on this thing?!"


Does she also lay on the horn when driving her SUV and expect the world to move?

Another option if she's coming from VA, is to use the 14th St bridge and bypass the Washington Monument/Lincoln Memorial area. She could take the sidewalk past the Tidal Basin, the Holocaust Museum, across Independence to Jefferson (although that section of 14th Street isn't bad). Then she could use Jefferson.

I agree with others, Jefferson and Madison are very bikeable. She just needs to be careful not to ride in the door zone, leaving about 4-5 feet between her and the parked cars. Taking WABA's Confident City Cycling classes is a good idea; they're free and even experienced cyclists will learn something from the CCC2 class. See:

Well, I rode along the mall almost every day for a year and a half and while the tourists can definitely be annoying, it really isn't THAT bad. The morning commute is not a problem at all, if you are riding before 9:00 am. In the evening, I usually found it worst between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument where I generally tried to stay on the paths. (I can understand when people don't hear you as you ring your bell approaching from behind, but some tourists don't even notice you when they are walking right toward you! WTF?) After the monument, I switched to the frontage roads and had no problems. The best part about the tourists is that they generally thin out after September.

I bike-commute every day between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. The lady should be patient -- because after Labor Day the tourist foot traffic drops off hugely. She should also not hesitate to bike on Madison and Jefferson. They are a biker's best friend.

I wrote to the NPS once upon a time and asked them to put up signs along the pedestrian/bike ways saying "share the road" or something. If the Brooklyn Bridge can accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, so should the National Mall.

My commute makes a similar movement (Cap Hill to Arlington), and biking east-west across the mall is such a pain that I head out over the 14th Street Bridge to pick up the MVT, as Bruce W. suggests.

The only problem with this is the pedestrians around East Basin Drive and generally inhospitable conditions around Raul Wallenberg/Independence. I posted about this here: http://bit.ly/bG7BWn

Jefferson and Madison are great but they don't go west of 14th. I think the best solution here would be to make bike lanes from 14th to 23rd, perhaps along Independence.

Something like this would do WONDERS for regional bike connectivity: http://bit.ly/cdYwFx

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