In a previous version of this story, Quiet Waters Park was incorrectly described as a "city park." It's actually a county park.
Touring Annapolis on green-powered boats, bikes and cars
Friday, June 11, 2010
My first visit to Annapolis was electric. After learning about the city's assortment of battery-powered bicycles, cars and even boats, I was fully charged up and ready to go.
With a day on my own before two friends arrived, I decided to get an overview of the Maryland capital, better known for its harbor and the U.S. Naval Academy than for its alternative transportation options. As a longtime cyclist, I thought that jumping on a bicycle seemed the best option for a tour.
Geoff Elliott, who last year opened Green Pedals, the city's first light-electric-vehicle store and rental outlet, offers two rental choices: a hybrid bike retrofitted with a BionX electric kit, whose power kicks in (if you want) when you pedal, and the much heavier eZee, where the juice is regulated by a throttle.
I chose the more bikelike BionX and requested Green Pedal's Global Positioning System device featuring Annapolis points of interest. Elliott also handed me maps of three loop rides he'd created, including "Historic Annapolis" and "Quiet Waters Park." The problem was, the routes started from the Green Pedals downtown kiosk, which no longer exists. Rentals are now done from the retail shop, 1 1/2 miles west of downtown.
Following the car-oriented GPS directions (I quickly forgot the more bike-friendly route Elliott had described), I got a first taste of Annapolis that consisted of a harrowing ride past a row of car dealerships along narrow West Street, with drivers speeding by at close range. Coincidentally, it was national Bike to Work Day, but no one seemed to notice.
Once downtown, I was in a crush of cars and pedestrians, so I skipped the historic city tour and pulled out the directions to Quiet Waters Park, printed in the smallest typeface imaginable.
With squinting eyes occasionally darting toward the map, I made it to the nature preserve three miles south of town, again feeling lucky that I'd survived the automobile traffic. The lovely Anne Arundel County park is set between the South River and Harness Creek, with a paved bicycle trail in the woods and a waterfront overlook. While there, I set my battery assist on high and zoomed up the little hills as fast as I'd coasted down them. That part was tons of fun.
As I told Elliott when I returned: "Loved the bike, hated the ride."
With pals Vicki and Lauren in tow the next day, I started with a dose of shopping. Keeping with the green theme, we checked out the funky West Annapolis "Art & Antique District," just a mile from touristy downtown. On a Saturday afternoon, it was nearly vacant of shoppers. Doing our part for sustainability, we came away laden with gently used goodies.
Back in town, I called eCruisers to hitch a ride over Spa Creek to the Eastport section of Annapolis, where we would hop on a Duffy Electric Boat.
The fleet of 10 electric cars (more like stretch carts) came to Annapolis this year. The rides, which usually clock in at less than a mile, are free, though you're invited to tip the driver. Member restaurants and advertisements on the vehicles underwrite the rides. I later learned that the service is aimed at diners traveling to or from sponsoring restaurants, but "we try to be inclusive and give rides to whoever wants them," said owner Russell Rankin.
SJ Koch Duffy Electric Boats Sales and Rentals is another new arrival in Annapolis. The two-boat rental fleet (expected to expand by five this summer), features an 18-foot boat for $100 an hour and a 22-footer, with toilet, for $125. We reserved the former and got the latter at the same price, thanks to a reservation mix-up.