Category Archives: Bicycling

W&OD Trail clinched…again!

w-od-clinched
Eight years after I did it the first time, I rode the length of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail from Purcellville (Loudoun County) to Shirlington (Arlington County). This time, I rode solo though my brother contributed with a ride out to the western terminus.

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Riding the length of the W&OD Trail is enjoyable because just about every part of Northern Virginia is seen from a bicycle seat. There are the old towns of Purcellville and Leesburg. In the west, there are still working farms, whereas in Ashburn, there is sprawl on what were farms until about 25 years ago, maybe less. The old Partlow Bros. general store there has been turned into an excellent barbecue place and retains the old charm. Before even reaching Ashburn is the Luck Stone quarry with an overlook. In several areas adjacent to the trail are auto repair shops, just about the closest that we get to light industry in Northern Virginia. The practice bubble of Redskins Park stands out from a countryside awaiting its own sprawl. Sterling has its own sprawl from the 1960s and 1970s while Herndon seems almost quaint, particularly in the center with its restored rail station and caboose. Reston, one of the original planned communities, now has highrises and a skyline. Between Reston and Vienna, an area I spent a lot of time riding through as a kid, the earlier sprawl has grown in as it has in Vienna. My hometown also has a caboose and a restored rail station and a block away from the trail, the Vienna Inn. East of Vienna, the Capital Beltway (I-495) and I-66 are crossed with the latter bisecting the last significant hill of the ride. Falls Church, “the little city” has a little of the light industrial feel, but is mostly suburban, while aside from some on-street portions entering Arlington County much of the rest of the ride is through Four Mile Run Park which also has a caboose at Bluemont Jct. The last mile or so parallels Four Mile Run Drive which has apartments on one side, more “light industry” and high rises a few miles away, before terminating in Shirlington across from Weenie Beenie (closed Sunday).

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I could not specifically say how much has changed since the last time I made the trek, but there are so many grade separated crossings now that stops are relatively few. There are several stations for water and air too. I wasn’t stopping unless I had too, but there are numerous displays about the old railroad and the history that happened along it through the ride.

BEFORE AND AFTER

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SOME STATS

Distance: 44.9652 miles

Time: 4:21 total, 3:27 actually bicycling

Calories burned: 6,291

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C&O Canal towpath to become U.S. Bike Route 50, but will it be signed sufficiently?

In addition to a large numbered highway system, the United States has a modest system for numbering bicycle routes. Starting with U.S. Bike Routes 1 & 76, the system is on some maps, but not posted too often on the routes themselves. Bike Route 1, travels up and down the eastern seaboard — I’ve seen a sign for it near Mount Vernon at the southern intersection of US 1 and VA 235.

Here is a brief introduction of the system from the Adventure Cycling Association‘s “U.S. Bike Route System: Surveys and Case Studies of Practices from Around the Country” (PDF):

The U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) is a developing national network of bicycle routes that connects urban, suburban and rural areas using a variety of cycling facilities. State departments of transportation (DOTs) nominate routes for numbered designation through the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The first U.S. Bicycle Routes were established in 1982, then the project lay dormant for over 20 years. In 2003, in an effort to reinvigorate the U.S. Bicycle Route System, AASHTO formed a Task Force on U.S. Bicycle Routes comprised of transportation agency staff, Federal Highway Administration, and bicycling organizations, including Adventure Cycling Association, which began providing staff support to the project in 2005.

This month, a new route number was approved by AASHTO at the for the Maryland portions of C&O Canal Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage – U.S. Bicycle Route 50. From the meeting minutes of Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering (PDF) meeting in Denver earlier this month:

U.S. Bicycle Route 50Additional research on the Wikipedia entry for United States Numbered Bicycle Routes suggests that Bike Route 50 is proposed to be a transcontinental route from Cape Henlopen, Del. all the way to San Francisco, concurrent American Discovery Trail. It appears that the Maryland portion is the first to officially designated. I suppose the designation was earned because the two trails form a continuous route across the entire state or perhaps, Maryland was merely the first to officially make the request to AASHTO.

I hope that Maryland and the National Park Service team up to sign Bike Route 50 well. One of my frustrations as a cyclist is the haphazard nature of signing bike routes. In some ways, it has improved in recent years (i.e. New Shirlington Connector Signage), but I believe a numbering system at the national and local levels is warranted. Pennsylvania seems to do a pretty good job of it with their lettered bike routes(pahighways.com), utilizing the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices Bike Route signs that Richard C. Moeur has posted on his Signs for Bicycle Facilities page. With all the wonderful bike paths in BeltwayLand, especially in Arlington, Alexandria and the District, route markers would be very helpful, particularly for our growing cycling population.

ADDITIONAL VIEWING AND READING

U.S. Bicycle Route System – Adventure Cycling Association

H/T Southeast Roads group on Facebook

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Great NY Times bike map includes D.C. area

This month, nytimes.com debuted great interactive maps for bicyclists for several U.S. metropolitan areas, including Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco and others. The map “allows readers to annotate a map with their own inside knowledge and read what others have to say” – Interactive Map: Your Biking Wisdom in 10 Words

Pretty simple and informative. The D.C. area map has some submissions (including some of mine), but could use more. Get too work D.C. cyclists!

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The Great Allegheny Passage bicycle trail is officially completed tomorrow

Yurasko Bicycle LogoTomorrow, the 185 mile long Great Allegheny Passage bicycle trail celebrates its completion between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md. with events in Pittsburgh. Along with the C&O Canal Towpath, GAP provides a 335 mile continuous route between Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh.

MORE FROM THE POST-GAZETTE

Ride, festivities planned on last leg of Great Allegheny Passage

“It took us six years to get the last 9 miles completed. Of the whole 150 miles, that was the hardest part”

“The Great Allegheny Passage in the making”

It took almost four decades to build what now is known as the Great Allegheny Passage. It is a remarkable 150-mile trail that connects with the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath in Cumberland, Md., and makes possible a bicycling trip between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. The GAP officially opens tomorrow — Saturday, June 15.

Building the GAP seemed like an insurmountable challenge when the project was conceived, from finding the right name for the trail to finding funding to reconstruct the Big Savage Tunnel, the longest tunnel on the trail. Linda McKenna Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, a coalition of rail-trail organizations that built and maintains the trail, told the PG’s Larry Walsh, “Getting the [$12.5 million] for the Big Savage Tunnel … was the absolute biggest challenge. It came close to not happening.”

But it did get done, thanks to audacious people such as Linda Boxx and Jack Paulik, who came out of retirement to direct construction through the Steel Valley.

I aspire to someday ride the length of it.

UPDATE JUNE 17, 2013
Two more stories:

Bicyclists celebrate reaching end of Great Allegheny Passage trail

Person of Interest: Linda McKenna Boxx of the Allegheny Trail Alliance

Biking Adventures of the Great Allegheny Passage
– A blog detailing the weeklong journey from Washington to the Pittsburgh along the C&O and GAP trails.

PREVIOUSLY

Great Allegheny Passage, Pittsburgh to D.C. bike trails, nearly finished

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The Wilson Bridge is a viable bicycle commuter corridor

Trail
Wilson Bridge trail encourages bike commuting between Pr. George’s and Northern VirginiaThe Post
Years ago, not long after it opened, I raved about the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail – The Wilson Bridge trail is wonderful. At the time, I thought it was mostly a “great to have” recreational facility, but it is becoming a viable commuter option as well, despite not being in a particularly dense employment area on either side of the river.

Prince George’s officials said use of the 3.5-mile Wilson Bridge trail has increased dramatically since it opened in 2009. In March, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission recorded 26,827 crossings, up from 13,998 in March 2012. (In both cases, a trip back and forth was counted as two crossings.)

Biking across that sounds a lot better than my commute.

I’ll have several more bicycling posts over the next week or so.

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Great Allegheny Passage, Pittsburgh to D.C. bike trails, nearly finished

Yurasko Bicycle LogoLast section of bicycle trail connecting Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., set to openPost-Gazette
On my list of things I really want to someday is the approximately 335-mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Tow Path. The Great Allegheny Passage is expected to be officially completed in June.

Mind the GAP & avoid getting in a rut

From the Allegheny Trail Alliance’s About the Trail page:

The trail has a packed crushed limestone surface for a smooth ride. Built mainly on abandoned rail beds, the trail is nearly level with the average grade of less than 1%. The steepest eastbound grade – 0.8% – is from Harnedsville to Markleton and Garrett to Deal. The steepest westbound grade is from Cumberland to Deal at 1.75%. Near the Big Savage Tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. From that point going east, the trail drops 1,754 feet in 24 miles to reach Cumberland and, going west, it drops 1,664 feet in 126 miles to reach Pittsburgh.

From Cumberland to Washington, DC, you drop 625 feet to sea level on the C&O Canal towpath. The towpath is overall much less improved than the GAP, as it was built for mules and not railroads. Be prepared for ruts, tree roots, mud and mosquitoes.

Hmmm, maybe I just psyched myself out. Still, it seems like a great adventure, perhaps one of the best challenges for an Eastern cyclist. BikeCandO.com has a Trip Planner if you are interested.

2012 story from The Post that I never got around to blogging: Biking the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal from Pittsburgh to D.C.

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