- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sporting a pressed charcoal suit and salt-and-pepper hair neatly smoothed to frame his bespectacled face, Arlington resident Tom Hogue looks every bit the polished federal employee.

But the lean build and bike-chain bracelet under his shirt cuff reveals that Mr. Hogue,43, is also among the thousands of area commuters who — rain or shine — regularly cycle to work, a routine that will be recognized during National Bike to Work Week that starts Monday.

“I don’t have a problem with anything that brings more people into commuting on a bicycle,” Mr. Hogue said. “One more bike is one less car.”

Greg Billing, of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said the events are about throwing “the doors wide open” for commuters to consider a two-wheel commute and to remind motorists that they’ve got to share the road.

“It’s also about seeing our city from a new perspective, getting outside more, fitness and saving money,” Mr. Billing said. “There’s a laundry list of reasons why people might want to bike to work.”

Bike Week is part of the large Bike Month and Bike to Work Day on Friday, sponsored by the American League of Bicyclists.

To participate in the free event Friday, riders must register online, which helps them meet at 49 regional pit stops to get refreshments and ride with experienced commuters. The WABA is locally co-sponsoring the event and offeringresources for route planning.

The number of area residents already cycling to work has steadily increased in recent years.

Right now, the District alone has roughly 28,000 such commuters, about 4,000 more than in 2000, according to a recent American Community Survey.Maryland had 80,000 new bicycle commuters over the same period, though Virginia has had a decline, the survey shows.

Mr. Billing say the general increase is largely the result of the major gas-price increases during the summer of 2008 and “renewed focus on livability and smart growth.”

Mr. Hogue found commuting on two wheels to be faster than taking Metro. And about six years ago, he switched from a motorcycle to a bicycle largely to improve his fitness.

The direct route from Mr. Hogue’s home to his office near Metro Center is about seven miles. But he prefers taking a safer, more bucolic route that includes the Martha Custis and Mount Vernon trails — and multiple loops around Hains Point in East Potomac Park to reach an average of 120 miles a week

Area transportation officials say they’re continuously trying to make the area as bike-friendly as possible.

Maryland and Virginia consistently score high in the League of American Bicyclists’ rankings for Most Bike-Friendly areas. The District is not included in the league’s survey, but spokeswoman Meghan Cahill said the city has a bronze-level ranking for being a bicycle-friendly community.

She said the new 1,600 square foot, 100-rack Bikestation at Union Station, a major commuter hub, is one reason for the favorable rankings.

Much of the area’s recent growth as a bike-commuting community has been attributed to former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat and competitive cyclist who last year helped bring a major bike-sharing program to the city and used public funding to add bike lanes to city streets, including 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest.

Capital Bikeshare — a fee-based, bikesharing network — now has roughly 1,100 bicycles at 110 stations across the District and Arlington.

Daniel Hoagland, who runs the bike association’s bike ambassador program, said there is still room for improvement in the region, particularly with regard to safety, which is always a concern.

Just this month, four area cyclists reported being in an accident, from May 9 to May 13. And Arlington resident Fitzgerald Pollard, 44, died May 8 after he was struck by a vehicle at South Walter Reed Drive and Four Mile Run Drive.

Last year, 68-year-old Constance Holden, a writer for Science magazine, was killed in an accident involving a D.C. National Guard truck that was protecting a motorcade in Northwest.

According to the most recent information released by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, in 2009 the District had no cyclist deaths while Virginia and Maryland each had 11. In 2008 the District had one while Virginia and Maryland had 13 and 6, respectively.

Mr. Hogue puts some of the responsibility on the growing ranks of new riders.

“There’s a learning curve,” he said. “I went through it too. Some of it is figuring out what you’re capable of doing — how fast you can handle things and learning to judge all the angles to make a good risk-reward calculation.”

He also said the “litmus test” on whether Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, will maintains the Fenty administration’s efforts will be who fills the city’s vacant Department of Transportation director job.

Gray spokeswoman Doxie McCoy said the mayor “is a longtime supporter of alternative means of transportation that get people put of cars,” and is looking forward to the “planned addition of more stations and other efforts to improve access and safety for cyclists.”

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