In truth, there is no good way for me to get to work. On some days, the trip can take a solid hour by car, more if there are serious problems on the road, and paying nearly $250 a month to garage an eight-year-old dented Honda downtown is ridiculous. The 10-mile bus ride down River Road to the Friendship Heights Metro station, followed by the ride on the Red Line to the Farragut North station, costs less but takes 1 hour 15 minutes minimum. Sometimes the bus just doesn’t show up. And don’t get me started about problems on the Red Line.
The canal trail joins the paved Capital Crescent Trail, and my ride smooths and picks up speed as the downhill becomes steeper. Then I cruise under the Whitehurst Freeway, where I have sat fuming in traffic countless times, and up a short rise onto K Street.
A cyclist is about as welcome on K Street as a federal subpoena. But instead of calling in their attorneys, the endless line of stalled motorists in the two lanes at 27th Street NW, utterly unaware that I even exist, simply quash me against the steel guardrail. After a couple of close encounters of this kind, I decide to ride between the two lines of cars in the eastbound lanes, which is dangerous and just plain dumb. (On a third ride I decided to go up and around Washington Circle instead of through the tunnel beneath it, which was much safer.)
Conditions improve at 21st, where K Street adds a third lane separated by a concrete median. But with cars turning in and out of this service lane, switching lanes to maximize speed and stopping to let off passengers, and with buses stopping and delivery trucks parked in traffic, K Street is a nightmare. I use all three lanes before I turn left into the relative safety of the bike lane on 15th Street.
It’s not illegal to cycle on K Street. It just feels that way.
It is Friday evening and the city is nearly empty. So too is the Farragut North Metro station, where I have mistakenly entered on L Street. It’s about 6:15 and I know I can’t put my bike on the train until 7 p.m. But I’m trying to catch a 7:15 bus at Friendship Heights. Surely the station attendant will show me some mercy.
Not a chance. Faster than you can say “single-tracking,” she is out of her booth to make sure I don’t enter, hand me a pamphlet that contains the rules and send me to the K Street side. About 6:50 I approach the attendant there and ask for a little leeway to catch a 6:55 train, so I can make my bus. I point out that the purpose of the rule is to keep bikes off crowded trains. Tonight, clearly, most cars are nearly empty.
No way. “The policy is the policy,” she says.
I catch the 7 p.m. train and get to Friendship Heights at 7:12. The elevator is out (another Metro policy is that anything you really need won’t be working), and I take my bike up the two escalators, arriving on the street at 7:19. My bus is gone. I wait a half hour for the next one, put my bike on that handy rack in the front and head home.
Total time since I left my desk is nearly two hours. Unless (until?) I’m ready to ride both ways, or leave my bike overnight and ride it home, this is my fate. (In fairness, I catch a break on Tuesday, when the bus is running late and I manage to board before it leaves.)
Is this a better way to commute? Let me know what you think.
Also at washingtonpost.com
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