WASHINGTON — Riding a bike through downtown D.C. can be stressful, to say the least.
Cars weave in and out of traffic, buses pull in and out of stops and pedestrians don’t always wait their turn to cross the street.
But on May 19, all of those obstacles go away. For a few hours, 20 miles of the District’s most scenic roads will be closed to cars and open to bicyclists for the third annual DC Bike Ride.
“It’s completely a celebration of bicycling, a celebration of life on two wheels and a celebration of the D.C. bike culture and what makes biking so exciting here,” said Michelle Cleveland, marketing director for DC Bike Ride.
The event, which is open to riders as young as 3, starts at West Potomac Park and finishes with a festival on the National Mall. Participants bike past monuments and on roads that are traditionally off limits to cyclists, such as Whitehurst Freeway and Rock Creek Parkway.
“Our city, like many other urban areas, is trying to move people out of cars and onto bikes,” said Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director for Events DC, a partner in the event.
In D.C., about 5 percent of commuters are bicyclists, and the city ranks second on the list of top biking cities in the U.S., behind Portland, Oregon, according to census data.
“Everywhere you look, there are bicycles all around our city … and so this event really gives people a great opportunity to see and experience our city in a way that you might otherwise not be able to. We’re trying to make certain that people can experience their city, fully.” — And without all the honking and exhaust fumes.
Biking novices shouldn’t be discouraged; Cleveland said the event is truly open to all.
“It is a recreational ride, it is not a race, it is not competitive,” she said.
“And for the people who live in this region, I think this event helps to almost normalize biking. You’re not just thinking about the cyclists in spandex or the kind of crazy bike commuters, but you come out to this event and you see such a diverse group of people who are excited about biking and giving biking a try.”
Moses added, “It really is for everyone, you see little kids out there with training wheels on, and some folks who are serious cyclists who want to get out there and see how fast they can get through the course, but most of us are really soaking up Washington, D.C. and enjoying being outside and enjoying being active.”
The ride starts at 8 a.m. and the event goes until 12:30 p.m., with D.C.’s beloved funk band, Trouble Funk, headlining the after-ride party. Standard tickets are $70 (youth tickets are $35), and proceeds benefit the Washington Area Bicyclists Association.
Don’t have a bike? DC Bike Ride partnered with Bike and Roll DC to coordinate rental bikes for the event.
“(This ride) is able to bring down those barriers that a lot of people face when they think about biking in an urban environment, so it’s able to create that fun, that welcoming and that safe space for people to give biking a try and to kind of fall in love with biking,” Cleveland said.
See the course map, below: