It’s the morning rush, and breezing past the cars bunched up in Rock Creek Park or on 14th Street are the only commuters making good time — the cyclists.In Lycra or business suits and helmets, they look happy and fit, and they’ll get to the office long before the drivers do.
Why can’t everyone do the same?
Tomorrow everyone will have the chance. It’s Bike to Work Day in Washington, the culmination of Bike to Work Week and the highlight of National Bike Month, a program encouraged by the League of American Bicyclists and spearheaded here for the past 30 years by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA).
WABA wants the public to know that bike commuting is clean, green and should be routine. And tomorrow it expects to see thousands of cyclists heading downtown, or from one suburb to another, in 22 convoys from 25 neighborhood “pit stops” in the District and suburbs.
“Last year we had 6,000 riders at 23 different locations. We expect even more this year who want to celebrate a clean and healthy form of transportation,” says WABA Executive Director Eric Gilliland.
Safety in numbers
It’s clearly a form of persuasion, and it has government and private support.
According to Jim Sebastian, coordinator of the D.C. Department of Transportation’s bicycle program, the purpose of Bike to Work Day is to “raise awareness” of bicycling as a viable form of commuting.
The Washington Council of Governments Commuter Connections Program has supported and advertised the event since 2001. One commercial supporter, Bike the Sites, is even offering commuters free bike rentals for the day.
And the “convoy” idea — the offer of travel in packs led by experienced bike commuters — is obviously aimed at neophytes, who may be unsure of routes or the best ways to negotiate rush-hour traffic.
Some convoys will depart from designated neighborhood meeting points. Others will leave from the pit stops, where newbies can learn the ropes.
“New bicyclists can get assistance at the pit stops about their biking concerns, learn about new routes to work, and even get a free tune-up for their bikes,” Mr. Sebastian says.
Between 7 and 9:30 a.m. each pit stop will offer breakfast, entertainment, speakers and the chance to win bicycle-related prizes. Some will feature live bands: Barrelhouse Brawl, a New Orleans jazz group, will play at the Arlington-Rosslyn pit stop at Rosslyn Gateway Park.
All convoys — except those traveling from suburb to suburb — will converge on Freedom Plaza at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest.