On Sunday, a few thousand cyclists will take to the D.C. streets without fear of being sideswiped by cars, slowed by roaming pedestrians or — bless the cycling gods — “doored,” thrown to the pavement by an abruptly opened car door.
Seventeen miles of roadway are being closed to cars and pedestrians as part of the inaugural D.C. Bike Ride, in which an expected 8,000 registered cyclists — from Lycra-wearing road warriors to couples on tandem bikes and parents towing trailers — will take a leisurely, noncompetitive ride along the Mall and Potomac River. A festival featuring music from DJ and Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, as well as ’90s cover band White Ford Bronco, will be open to the public and mark the finish line on Pennsylvania Avenue NW near the Capitol.
“The number of walking and running events in our area is extraordinary, but there were zero mass-participation, closed-road bike events,” says organizer Greg Bibb, who heads Arlington-based Capital Sports Ventures.
Starting from Pennsylvania Avenue and Third Street NW, cyclists will cross the Mall and head west to Georgetown before looping back to take the 14th Street Bridge over the river to Arlington and then back toward the Capitol. (HOV lanes on I-395 will be shut down for part of the day.)
A similar event called Bike D.C. was held in the late 1990s and 2000s, but was cancelled three years ago when its organizers failed to negotiate the mess of red tape necessary to close roads overseen by the National Park Service, Capitol Police, Arlington and the District.
Like that event, a portion of the proceeds from D.C. Bike Ride will benefit the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. (Online registration, $60, ends Wednesday. If spots remain available, in-person registration, $65, will take place at packet pickup Friday and Saturday at NoMa Junction at Storey Park, 1005 First St. NE.) The group will use the money to work on the Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities in the District by 2024.
Greg Billing, WABA’s executive director, hopes the ride will encourage more people to get out and bike. He’ll be on his usual commuter bike, a LeMond Poprad, but expects to see mountain bikes, cargo bikes and a few rentals as well.
“The number one reason we hear people don’t bike is they don’t feel safe,” he says. “That’s sometimes too much of a barrier to overcome, and this takes away that big barrier.”
On a car-free road, he adds, “there’s a sense of low to no stress, just the wind in your face and a smile, that you don’t get on any other day.”
D.C. Bike Ride runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Go to dcbikeride.com for the course map and schedule.