Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was surprised to learn that the National Park Service policy barring bicyclists from the George Washington Parkway has been in place since 2007 but that signs have only recently been placed along the parkway south of Alexandria [Dr. Gridlock, Sept. 11]. That 2007 policy decision has been largely ignored, and not a single occasion of my using the parkway goes by without encountering and maneuvering to avoid bicyclists.

To be effective, the policy needs to be enforced through ticketing and fines, just like the procedures used along the parkway for speeding motorists. The days of the parkway being primarily a scenic route are many decades in the past; it is now also a major commuter route.

Bicycling on the parkway presents the case of an accident waiting to happen and jeopardizes motorists’ safety as well as that of bicyclists. In addition, biking on the parkway is extremely discourteous to the numerous motorists using that roadway when an alternate path exists parallel to the road. Perhaps the refusal of bicyclists to use the Mount Vernon Trail also confirms their inability to be courteous to pedestrians and other users of that trail. Regardless, there will be no alleviation of the current dangerous situation until enforcement begins — and the sooner, the better.

Bill Bennett, Alexandria

DG: Discussions about sharing the roads tend to pit different types of travelers against each other, and that happened in response to the Sept. 11 letter expressing dismay at the Park Service’s restatement of its bike ban on the George Washington and Clara Barton parkways. The Park Service says conditions on the parkways are just too dangerous to mingle bikes and cars. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association believes the policy is unfair and questions the Park Service view that adequate alternatives exist for bikers.

Sharing a parkway

Some travelers are looking for compromises for the south end of the GW Parkway.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have often ridden my bike on the parkway from Belle Haven to Mount Vernon, and I relished the chance to take my bike up to high gear for several miles on a relatively flat, straight stretch of well-paved road.

But I did so only on early weekend mornings because I would not have wanted to bike in rush-hour or weekend afternoon traffic. That suggests a possible solution, which is to permit bicycles during certain off-peak hours but prohibit them during periods of heavy vehicle traffic.

Edwin Fountain, Arlington County

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I use the south end of the George Washington Parkway for both biking and commuting into Old Town. It seems to me that a reasonable compromise would be to allow biking at certain times and on certain days. I usually ride the George Washington Parkway on weekends before 9 or 9:30 a.m. It’s a safer connector to rides south of Mount Vernon than Route 1, and it is not very crowded at those times.

I am also amazed, however, when I see bike riders on it during rush hour, when it is dangerous. (This doesn’t happen very often.)

Rather than just closing it to all bikes all the time, one compromise could be to keep it open on weekends to bikes, whether it be all day or only till noon. During the week, either close it to bikes all day, or open it only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The bike path that runs alongside it is crowded, narrow, twisty and, frankly, more dangerous than riding the parkway. Unlike some riders, I don’t begrudge the runners, dog walkers and parents pushing strollers their use of it. But between the poor design, the narrowness and the trail’s popularity, people should not point to the bike trail as an alternative.

What we need is a compromise — some hours where riding is allowed and others where it is clearly not safe to mix bikes and cars on the road. The blanket decision by the National Park Service needs to be fixed but not completely reversed.

Glen Bolger, Fort Hunt

Another bike route

The bicyclist association challenges the adequacy of the C&O Canal Towpath as an alternative to the Clara Barton Parkway, but this writer had another option for cyclists.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You badly missed the main alternative. MacArthur Boulevard is a wide road with shoulders heavily used by road bikers that runs right next to Clara Barton and includes a bike trail. Take a look at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Web site,

On a recent morning, I was driving on the parkway to Old Angler’s Inn to bike back home on the trail. There were two bikers on the parkway going side by side and blocking the right lane. I totally agree with the Park Service for the reasons you stated in your column. There are no shoulders on the parkway. I am a member of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, but I often disagree with its one-sided opinions.

Bob Youker, Bethesda

Side-by-side dangers

Before the parkway issue arose, I received this letter that also complains about side-by-side biking on roadways.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

For many years, I lived in western Loudoun County. We have narrow, windy, hilly roads with no shoulders. We also have bikers. Lots of them.

I have had several heart-stopping incidents involving bikes. The latest one was on The Plains Road. I came around a curve and encountered two bike riders, side by side, going about six or eight miles per hour. If there had been a car coming the other way, I would have had three choices: head-on collision, run over the bikers or hit the ditch.

Irene Moore, Nokesville