Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. So said H.G. Wells, nearly a century ago.
Wells would be heartened if he could visit the District of Columbia today. The presence of bicyclists in the metropolitan area has been growing steadily, especially in recent years. A travel survey by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board in 2007-08 found that 3.3 percent of D.C. residents commuted to work on bicycles - up 50 percent in 15 years.
More good news is coming. There's progress on the Metropolitan Branch Trail connecting Union Station and Silver Spring and the expansion of cross-river bicycle access via the new 11th Street bridge. A Bike Center is set to open at Union Station in October, with guarded spots for 150 bikes, a locker room and bike merchandise for sale. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the SmartBike rental program, the first of its kind in the United States. SmartBike, with a pilot fleet of 120 bikes on 10 racks around the city, relies on a Zipcar model in which people purchase a membership to use bicycles for certain periods of time. The program has been a success, boasting more than 1,200 members who rent an average of 70 bikes on weekdays. Only one bike has been stolen.
All of these tangible improvements for the District's bikers reflect years of effort, thoughtful planning and dedicated advocates.
Such advocacy is still needed. Bicycling in the District is not all coasting. Theft remains a problem, as does sharing the road with cars. A lack of helmets at the SmartBike racks makes safety a concern, especially as an effort builds to expand the program.
Bicycling offers wide-ranging benefits for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. It eases congestion, uses space efficiently - 10 bikes can fit in a single car parking spot - and offers health benefits to everyone: those who burn calories on their bikes and non-riders who also benefit from decreased pollution and traffic.
- Washington Post
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