She says drivers seldom respect her right as a cyclist to the entire lane if she’s going the minimum speed of 15 mph. Drivers sometimes honk or nearly sideswipe her to get past.
“I’d get a lot more respect if I were a farm tractor going 15 miles an hour,” she says. Recently a driver who nearly knocked her over to pass her was stopped at a nearby red light. Ms. Egizi rode up to the driver to have some words.
“I said, ‘Was it worth it, to almost kill me?’” she says. “She didn’t say anything, just stared,” she says about the driver.
Safety is a big issue and probably the No. 1 reason many would-be bicycle commuters never take that first pedal, Mr. Gilliland says.
“If we’re going to get people out of their cars and onto bikes, we need more on-road facilities like bike lanes,” he says. “People have to feel safe.”
A bike lane is generally about 5 feet wide and part of the road on which cars travel. A trail generally is about 10 feet wide and is a road unto itself.
Things are improving on the facilities side, says Jim Sebastian, manager for bicycle, pedestrian and transportation demand management programs at the District Department of Transportation.
“We hope to install up to 50 miles [of bicycle lanes] in the next few years,” says Mr. Sebastian, who also is a bicycle commuter, logging about 10 miles a day. Twenty miles of lanes have been installed in the past few years, he says. The trail network also is increasing. All surrounding jurisdictions, including Montgomery and Fairfax counties, have similar plans, he says.
Then there is the “time cost.” Both Ms. Egizi and Mr. d’Eustachio say it takes longer to commute by bike than to drive or take Metro — but at the same time, they don’t need to spend any time at the gym to fit in some daily exercise.
“It’s a great workout, and it’s low-impact on your knees,” says Mr. d’Eustachio, who at 6 feet tall and 150 pounds is about the size as he was in his 20s.
So, let’s look at those riding-for-fitness numbers. A moderate rider, someone not quite as speedy as Mr. d’Eustachio, might bicycle 10 miles an hour. Say that person weighs 175 pounds. In one hour, that person would burn about 525 calories, says Annemarie Francis, a licensed athletic trainer at Inova Sports Medicine in Fairfax. If the round-trip commute is 20 miles, double that number, and you get 1,050 calories, which can make a big difference in weight management and overall health, she says.
“I think I would be 300 pounds if I didn’t bicycle to work,” says Mr. d’Eustachio, who adds that his wife is a wonderful cook.
It’s not just about exercise, though. It’s also a cost-saver, says Jim Nagle, 49, who commutes from Reston to Bethesda, where he works at the National Institutes of Health. The commute is 23 miles one way and takes him up to 90 minutes. His route has him on bike trails, sidewalks (which is allowed almost everywhere except in downtown Washington), bike lanes and roads without bike lanes.
“I think it turns out being about a 20 percent savings on commuting costs a year, which is pretty good,” says Mr. Nagle, who has done the bicycle commute about two times a week for about 10 years.
Many bicycle commuters also cite the environmentally friendly aspect of bicycling as a reason for using it as a mode of commuting.