OK, so I didn’t bike the whole way to Washington D.C., but I did manage the trip without a car. I rode my bike from home to General Mitchell Field Airport on Milwaukee’s south side. The weather was cool and pleasant, so I just wore my linen suit jacket, seersucker shirt, jeans and the Allen Edmunds dress shoes I was bringing for the trip. I packed as light as possible so everything fit in my messenger bag. That meant one pair of shoes.
For the ride to the airport in Milwaukee, I strapped my courier bag to my rear rack with bungees. When I wear my work clothes I prefer not to have stuff on my back in warmer weather so I don’t sweat. I gave myself plenty of time so I could take it easy. The 11.4 mile trip to the airport took me almost exactly an hour. I find that for easy urban riding – I tend to average about 12 miles per hour. That speed sounds slow, but it includes stopping at lights and stop signs, and a consciously measured pace so I don’t sweat.
I parked at the bike racks at the airport, which are located under an overhang near the motorcycle parking on the east side of the parking structure. The overhang provides protection from heavy rain or snow. There were dozens of motorcycles parked there yesterday morning, but only one other bike. Free parking at the airport? Why don’t more people take advantage of that? Although I have a couple of folding bikes, as well as a coupled Waterford that I used to bring with me when I travel to conferences, and I have stopped taking bikes with me to D.C. since they have such a great Capital Bikeshare system.
When my flight arrived in DC, I used the Capital Bikeshare app “Spotcycle” to find the nearest bike station. The app for the Capital Bikeshare is called “Spotcycle.” I advise downloading the Spotcycle app via a wireless internet before you get here as it was slow to download via 3G. It works well, but my other warning is that it really sucks battery life, much more than other bikeshare and bike routing apps I use. Bring your phone charger with you if you plan on using Spotcycle throughout the day.
Washington International (DCA) is a pretty bike friendly airport as it sits right next to the Mt Vernon Trail. Getting to the closest bikeshare station was another story. Spotcycle app told me the station was only about 1/4 mile from the airport, but winding my way through the narrow pedestrian walks to get to the Crystal City station required constant check-ins on my phone’s map. Some signs would have been nice, or better still, a station right at the airport.
I hate to complain though, since it was sunny and 75 degrees and, once I got to the station, using the Capital Bikeshare was easy. The trip was made even nicer because the route to my friend’s house in Arlington is 95% on trail, and there is another Capital Bikeshare station 2 blocks from his house. So I rode to his house, dropped off my big messenger bag full of clothes I brought for the week and pared down to a smaller bag with my computer and raincoat.
I then used Bikeshare to get to the Bike Summit hotel, about 4 miles from his house. All of these trips were less than 30 minutes, so they were free (excluding the initial $15/3 day sign up fee). All in all, the Bikeshare has really made getting around D.C. super easy. The bikes have dynamo hub powered lights, but if you plan on biking on the unlit trails at night, I suggest you bring along a small clip-on light like the Planet Bike 1 Watt Blaze. The built-in lights on the bikes are bright enough so you can be seen in traffic, but do next to nothing to light the road or trail.
Stay tuned here to read about what happens during the day today, the first full day of the Bike Summit. I have limited internet access at the conference hotel, but I will write things up when I get back to my friend’s house at night and post in the morning. There are hundreds of advocates, citizen bicyclists and bike industry leaders here to take the pro-bike message up to the Hill and try to save cycling. I will have more on our message and “asks” in tomorrow’s post.
If you have any questions or messages you want us to take to your electeds, put them in the comment section below and we will pass them on. Our Bike Fed delegation has meetings scheduled with all Wisconsin Representatives and Senators.