The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail doesn't need a bike ban

I wrote something for Greater Greater Washington, which is one of the greater greater local blogs, about the needless and silly bicycle (and roller blade!) ban along certain sections of the allegedly multi-modal Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Many thanks to the editors of that site for allowing my contribution. They do great work and if you aren't regularly reading it, you should. Also, big ups to the Official Wife who greatly assisted me in writing and editing.

You'll notice, if you read the piece, that I played it pretty straight, avoiding my usual digressions into ALL CAPS, medieval Hungary references (in medieval Hungary, they didn't have a bike ban, they had a Bánk bán), and pictures of sad-faced poodles with captions like "Why does the Navy hate us?" It was an interesting experience and one that I found both difficult and challenging, which are more or less synonymous. But I think it was a worthwhile enterprise (like the air craft carrier?) and with some luck, maybe we'll see some change. Because, and I'm not sure I emphasized this enough, this ban is really, really dumb. It's like using a [big Navy ship] when a [littler Navy ship] would easily easily resolve the concerns about pedestrian safety. We all want safe spaces to walk and enjoy and play and we're all annoyed by jerks (bike jerks, roller jerks, walking jerks, pogo jerks, soda jerks) who choose to act in ways that prevent that. But a ban is a disproportionate response to that concern. Having the trail closed along this stretch, one of the nicer and more enjoyable parts west of the river, would be like shutting down the Beltway between Silver Spring and Bethesda from a genuine concern that some asshole is going to tailgate. We wouldn't do it for cars, so why do it for bikes? There are better solutions and we should try to find them.

But maybe more than the disproportionality of the response (ban for the whole thing because there are some choke points that *might* potentially cause issues), I think that thing that really rankles me about this is the misperception of who cycles in DC and who would use this trail. Sure, maybe the [space-age fabric-donning + disgraced Tour de France champion + Spice Girls song] would show up, as they do on almost all trails, but so would a lot of other people. Maybe it'd be a family biking from Hill East to a baseball game. It could be a woman who lives in Kingman Park who wants to get some exercise in nature. It could be me, desperate for page hits and trying something new. There are more types of bicyclists in heaven and earth, Horatio (Hornblower?), than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Making decisions based on outmoded, jaded stereotypes doesn't help anyone. And, frankly, it's more likely to hinder the people you're trying to help- the ones who would derive real use and enjoyment of the facilities, but happen to want to do so on bikes- than hurt those you're trying to ban- who will most likely just ride through anyway (because, as not stated in the piece, there's very little enforcement of these rules). 

So, that's my foray into semi-serious bicycle advocacy. I might drop back in to GGW from time to time (if they'll have me) if I can think of anything else semi-serious worth writing. Thank you all for reading the post and for your supportive comments. I promise to never ban you from my well-wishes. 


  1. @IMGoph http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJLIiF15wjQ. "Lycra-clad Lance Armstrong wannabe" is the bikey equivalent of Godwin's Law (h/t @ebooksyearn). I don't think I've ever seen a bike article comment section without it.