Weekender Ride

People and bikes in Washington DC: A photo essay

Posted by on March 12th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Day on a bike in DC-44

This stylish young woman on a fixed-gear was spotted in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

In thinking about the quality of a city’s bike network, I think who is riding is often just as important as the type of infrastructure they’re riding on. With that in mind, I spent several hours walking and riding around Washington DC with my camera during my visit there last week. I was on the lookout for two things: bike-specific infrastructure, and people riding bikes. Taken together, observing these two things tell me a lot about a city’s bike-friendliness.

Today I’ll share a sampling of what I saw.

When looking at people on bikes, I tend to notice many things; the type of bike they’re on (drop bars or upright?), the clothes they’re wearing (spandex or suits?), their speed, their compliance with traffic laws, their age and ethnicity, their general demeanor (do they look calm or stressed?), and more.

What do you notice? And what, if anything, do you think it tells us about where DC is on the bike-friendly spectrum?

Day on a bike in DC-50

On the Rock Creek Trail.
Washington DC-6

Day on a bike in DC-36

Intersection of New Hampshire Ave/U Street and 16th NW.
Day on a bike in DC-9

U Street Corridor/Shaw District.

Day on a bike in DC-17

At R St and Florida Ave NW.
Day on a bike in DC-39

Columbia Rd and Adams Mill Rd NW in Adams Morgan.
Day on a bike in DC-5

The auto industry’s worst nightmare. Seen on R St at Rhode Island Ave NW.
Washington DC-20

DC bike people-14

Pennsylvania Ave protected bike lanes.
Washington DC-16

Washington DC-15

Washington DC-9

Washington DC-8

Washington DC-7

Washington DC-5


Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes.
DC bike people-15

Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes.
DC bike people-13

Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes.
DC bike people-12

Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes.
DC bike people-5

Madison Drive NW on the Mall.
Bike Summit bike ride-12

DC bike people-2

Near Union Station.
DC bike people-3-1-2

DC bike people-2-1-3

I Street SW.
DC bikeways -2

DC bikeways -3

DC bike people-3

4th Ave. SW
Washington DC-26


What I observed backs up my larger assessment of Washington DC’s bikeway network. I’ll share more thoughts on that tomorrow, along with photos of DC’s bike-specific infrastructure.

— BikePortland’s DC coverage was made possible by Planet Bike and Pro Photo Supply.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • 9watts March 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Could it be that dropbars are vestigial, like tailbones, or running boards?

    Great photos. I always enjoy these series.

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    • Spiffy March 13, 2013 at 7:58 am

      I hope so… tired of so many people riding racing bikes just to get around…

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      • spare_wheel March 13, 2013 at 6:49 pm

        well…some of us do race while we commute!

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    • Chris I March 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

      I use my dropbars on every commute. I guess if you have a shorter ride they aren’t necessary, but not all of us live within 5 miles of our job.

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    • Doug Rosser March 13, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Some of us ride drop bars because we need a bike that does everything. Commuting, grocery getter, and 50-mile fun rides on the weekend.

      And some more of us don’t give a splat what other people are riding, as long as they’re safe and happy…

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      • 9watts March 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

        Whoa. My question about dropbars was meant as a hypothesis not a judgment.
        I also don’t think riding 50 miles or 1000 miles necessarily calls for drop bars. I’ve ridden tens of thousands of miles and haven’t used drop bars since I was about 13.

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      • A.K. March 13, 2013 at 9:15 am

        I love the flexibility of positions that drop bars offer, I’ll never switch away from them.

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    • BIKELEPTIC March 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      I’ve always wondered why everyone is so fond of drops as well. I constantly have bruises on my thigh from my bike with drops. There are so many other options if you need a bike that “does everything.” Moustache, butterfly, etc. That gives you so many other positions. For touring, hauling cargo, trailers, etc. In these photos, everyone is on the flats, and only a couple people are on the ramps. No one is actually in the drops. My touring bike I run the classic ‘Scott AT-3’ bars which I love with a passion. Drops have their place, though. My road/racing bikes have them. My cross bike has flats. They stopping reflex is just much slower is you are riding with your hands on the flats and have to move to the ramps to brake like the majority of the people are displaying. That time in an emergency situation can cause you to go into an intersection, through a windshield, to hit another cyclist, pedestrian, etc. Not trying to start an argument. Different strokes for different folks. Just food for thought.

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      • Art Fuldodger March 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

        For urban riding in traffic i spend most of the time on the brake hoods (quick-draw stopping ability) – for longer climbs, or cruising slowly when there are no sharks in the water I’m on the bar top (or the bends) a lot. — & for fast descents i’m down on the drops. The multiplicity of hand positions (4 distinct, at least) is a great sales point for drop bars, and if you get them high enough even someone with a balky low back, like me, can find them very comfortable, with a relaxing & therapeutic pelvic tilt possible. Also, with hands on the hoods or the bends your hands are in an excellent neutral position (as opposed to palms facing down, like on straight bars) that is a great way to avoid carpel tunnel aggravation in the forearms.

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  • Jessica Horning March 12, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    #2 = BRUCE!! Grandpappy of DC Bike Polo and hardest working messenger in DC!

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  • Mark P. March 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    So great to see the diversity of bikes and people riding in DC!

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  • j.rob March 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Is it odd that 90% of folks are bundled up for winter and then there’s 1 shirtless guy in a sarong?

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    • art fuldodger March 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      nice photos.

      re: photo #1:

      – black, clothing (check)
      – boots, ankle (check)
      – bike, as prop? (check)

      mission accomplished.

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  • Rol March 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    #11: So fast, her ponytail’s a-flyin’!

    #26: Guy Piccioto

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  • granpa March 12, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    No. 21 is a great shot. A young woman with a pastel bike and shoes to match has a trio of DC lads captivated. Perhaps her color contrasting helmet is crafted of kryptonite

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    • 9watts March 12, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      a trio of DC lads and a fourth from Portland.

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  • Paul Tay March 12, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    We don’t normally see black people on bikes in Portland posted on BikePortland.

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  • dmc March 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    #11 – Beautiful and Fast!
    #13 – I like his style.
    #16 – I want his clothes.

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  • Hart Noecker March 12, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Almost everyone wearing a helmet looks they’re from Portland. Almost everyone without a helmet looks like they’re from NYC or Europe.

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  • SJ March 13, 2013 at 1:23 am

    Both pantlegs rolled up. 🙂

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  • Chris Shaffer March 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Why is #7 labeled the auto industry’s worst nightmare?

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    • Spiffy March 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

      young people having fun and being social without the need for a motor-vehicle…

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      • chucklehead March 15, 2013 at 9:04 am

        Maybe the woman should pay less attention to her iPhone and more attention to her surroundings. You know, like we expect drivers to do.

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  • spare_wheel March 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Did I really see two commuters wearing “normal” clothes riding carbon fibre bikes? How is this possible???

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    • oliver March 13, 2013 at 9:02 am

      Here are my top 3 answers.
      1. It’s not raining.
      2. Their commute takes less time than changing clothes.
      3. They haven’t yet abandoned the notion that what other people think about their riding attire is less important than their comfort.

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      • spare_wheel March 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

        1. if god had wanted us to ride carbon fibre in the rain she would not have invented trainers.
        2. interval training.
        3. riding a carbon fibre bike without the compressive properties of elastic fabrics is a major risk factor for atrophy of the quadriceps and gastrocnemius.

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  • DK March 13, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Denim appears to be the cycling attire of choice.

    #6 looks a little timid.

    Great stuff!

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    • Tacoma March 13, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Not timid, it’s just the sun (even with the glasses) in her eyes.

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      • Alan 1.0 March 13, 2013 at 8:51 pm

        What about the white knuckles? (Can’t say I blame her with a DC cabbie on her six.)

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  • LoveDoctor March 13, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Is it just me or does it look like #2’s bike is growing hair on the top and down tubes? Perhaps he sprayed some glue there and while wearing shorts his bike is providing a free waxing service.

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    • Editz March 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Looks like the result of a crappy spray paint job intended to cover the logos? Theft deterrent or stolen bike?

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      • Alan 1.0 March 13, 2013 at 6:00 pm

        Theft deterrent? Maybe. Stolen bike? No, see this post.

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  • Chrystal March 13, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I love all the diversity with race,gender and clothing!

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  • Paul Hanrahan March 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    not one DC rental bike?

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  • Paul March 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    The dream of the hipster is alive in DC.

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  • El Biciclero March 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    #13 & #15 tie for “coolest”.

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    • Tacoma March 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      #9 is on that “coolest” list just for his shoes alone.

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  • Joe March 14, 2013 at 10:22 am

    wow this is RAD! thanks for sharing these awesome ppl riding bikes 🙂

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  • Rickyd March 16, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    #26 is Jeff Schalk.

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  • KC March 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Out with the earbuds, por favor!

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