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Thread: Moving to DC

  1. #1
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    Moving to DC

    I apologize if this has been covered elsewhere; if so, please post a link to the thread.

    I'm moving to DC from Philly. I'm hoping to find a nice balance of a not-too-terrible commute to my Dupont Circle office and being reasonably close to some singletrack for weekday riding. I know about Fountainhead and a place close to Frederick, but Frederick and (roughly) Springfield seem a bit further out than I can talk my wife into considering.

    Can anyone recommend towns I should look into to balance my desire to have a sub-45 minute commute to Dupont and a sub-15 minute trip (by bike or car) to a trailhead?

  2. #2
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    Rosaryville is in Upper Marlboro. Its about a 40ish minute commute depending on how bad traffic is.

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    The closest trails to downtown are Fort Dupont, on the east side of the river, Wakefield/Accotink in Annandale, Lake Fairfax in Reston, and Laurel Hill/Fountainhead in Lorton. I don't think any of them are within a 45 minute rush hour commute of Dupont Circle. Traffic around here is really bad.

    Go for the short commute to work and drive to trails. Seriously. You commute to work at rush hour, which is traffic hell in the DC area. You drive to trails on weekends, when traffic isn't bad.

  4. #4
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    If I were you, I'd find the closest metro stop to your work and find a place on the same line. To me, bringing a car into DC on a weekday is basically a non-starter. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to, you've made mistakes and should be questioning decisions you've made.

    That would open up your living closer to trials. I agree, I'd chose a shorter commute to shorter trip to trails, but riding on weekday afternoons is still a requirement for me.

  5. #5
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    Reston's Metro Silver line will be available in 2014. It will take longer than 45 minutes but you won't have to drive to work. And you could bike to Difficult Run/Cross County Connector trails.

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    Aside from the Metro, there's also the VRE and MARC lines that go into the city during the work week. Unfortunately, you'll probably find a lot of housing sticker shock closer towards the city, especially if you are by a metro stop.

    I'll also re-emphasize what everyone else has said, avoid commuting by car into the city if you can. It's just not worth it.

  7. #7
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    Ditto the suggestion to live near the Metro. The Red line stops at Dupont Circle, and goes all the way out to Gaithersburg, MD. From Gaithersburg metro station, you're less than six miles from Muddy Branch trail, on an easy road ride. Muddy Branch trail is part of the MoCo Epic trail network, a 100-Km loop of trails that connects National, State and Regional parks in Montgomery County, MD.
    Last edited by joe_bloe; 10-29-2013 at 11:17 AM. Reason: Added "MD"

  8. #8
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    Sub-15 minute commute to a trail head is asking a lot. Like Jab's suggests- aim for a short work commute and drive (or pedal) a greater distance to trails on weekends when traffic doesn't blow as much.

    From where I live in MD (Rockville/Potomac; North Bethesda and Kensington might also be locations to consider if the rent doesn't keel you), I can get to four trails by pedaling ~3-12 miles: (Cabin John, Muddy Branch, Seneca Ridge and Schaeffer Farm).

    There are paved trails that are excellent resources for getting around on bikes- Capital Crescent Trail in MD; Martha Custis, Mount Vernon and WO&D trails in VA.

    This will give you some idea of trails and proximity to downtown DC...

    Crowley Google Maps Overlay

    You can get more detail about these and other trails in the area here:

    Where to Ride - MORE Forums

  9. #9
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    Being 15min from anything is about impossible around here...

    Looks to me like if you want after-work weekday riding you're going to be heading out of the city along with all the other commuters. Do you have a flexible schedule? If you can get out before 3PM to ride it won't be as bad.

    You can also use HOV lanes if you leave early enough while they're open to all traffic;
    I-95S before 3:30PM
    I-66W inside the beltway before 4PM
    I-66W outside the beltway before 3PM

    You must be off the HOV before these times. Cops (in VA) do sit at the exits and ticket people that exit after the cut-off.
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  10. #10
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    I would look into somewhere off the Red Line. The twinbrook/Rockville area has a TON of high rise living and sf home rentals and is about 15 minutes from Schaeffer Farm and the Seneca Ridge Trail.

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    I've answered this question a lot (especially on MORE, the local MTB advocacy group). Having trails nearby is definitely nice, but the harsh reality is that you're gonna be doing the home-work commute 5 days a week, at the worst traffic time. Especially if you're working downtown, I'd recommend just ignoring the "trails nearby" bit and focus on getting a nice commute to work. You'll have a lot less stress and a lot more free time (and a lot more money in your pocket) if your work commute is short.

    Its different if you work in the 'burbs somewhere. Trails are scattered around the area, traffic isn't as bad outside the beltway and its usually possible to figure out a way to be reasonably close to both. But even there I recommend people focus on the work commute first.

  12. #12
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    These are awesome suggestions, thanks! Like most here, I hate car commuting and so am focusing on being on the Metro.

    jabberwocky, I assume MORE has posts about various group rides, yes? I've seen their site but am only now becoming acquainted with what's out there.

  13. #13
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    Here's a link to MORE's Events Calendar: Events | MORE-MTB
    There's also a forum for group rides on the site: Rides - MORE Forums . Sometimes rides are set up in the form that don't get put on the calendar right away.

  14. #14
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    Moving to DC

    Quick tip. On days that I am going to riding after work, I pick up slugs (commuters) so that I can use the HOV lanes.

    http://www.slug-lines.com

  15. #15
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    I'm closer to Baltimore, but have worked in D.C. Like everyone else here is saying, if you are working in D.C. concentrate on your commute first. Being a general contractor, I never know where I'll end up, so for me the metro isn't always my best option, but when I'm working in DC, I look first to ride the metro, then drive. If you are looking for group rides, MORE is a great place to start. There is also a very active group on meetup, where people organize group rides all over the D.C. / VA / MD areas. Look up "The Washington DC/MD/VA Mountain Bike" group on meetup.com.
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  16. #16
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    Listen to what these guys have said. Traffic SUCKS! I know Philly traffic pretty well (wife is from Warminster) and DC is smaller but worse. Live on the metro. SO much easier pretty much all the time. Takoma Park MD is reasonable. Wheaton MD. I used to commute to Adams Morgan from out in the burbs on train/metro until I switched jobs. Adams Morgan is especially difficult because the Metro stops are a bit far apart. Bike commuting is the easiest, cheapest, most reasonable. DC is super bike-friendly. My Takoma Park to 16th St DC commute was money. 25 minutes by bike. I could get to Schaeffer Farm in 25-30 minutes if I left work early.

    I think another big issue is the NW side of the beltway on weekends. The traffic on the beltway is CRAZY even on the weekends. Closer to the ICC (MD 200) and I95 is better. NoVa heading west at almost any time during the day is PACKED with people. I wouldn't ever live in NoVa, personally. The others manage...

    Patapsco is the #1 best place to ride close to DC (even though it's next to Baltimore). If you are on the NW, W, SW, S or SE sides of DC (in or around), you are limited to some of the more tame and low-mileage, high-use parks. Patapsco has 60+ miles of really good singletrack.

    Good luck. DC is tough but the riding is amazing.

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    I agree with what everyone said.

    Some additional things to consider is that there are commuter buses in the area that go into DC. Where I know some people that ride it in from the Ashburn area into DC. I don't know the full details about it but it sounds like a lot of people in that area use it.

    I was actually in the Springfield area recently and took a good look at it's location in terms of everywhere else for the first time. And I don't think it's that bad. Not too far from a lot of areas, like Old Town Alexandria, right next to 395, etc. But that's probably one of the reasons why that mixing bowl area is always mentioned in traffic reports and I think got ranked as one of the worst traffic areas in the country several years ago.

    Anything closer than that, I think you're looking at more urban and would either be very expensive or might be kind of questionable.

    Maybe if you could provide more details on what you're looking for, people may be better to narrow down the areas for you to look in.

    ie how much are willing to pay, what type of area you want to live in, what type of place (ie townhouse, apartment, etc), what your wife will be doing and need to commute to, etc. Sorry if you already mentioned these things and I missed it.

  18. #18
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    x2: start looking at bike commute distances

    Quote Originally Posted by trailbildr View Post
    Listen to what these guys have said. Traffic SUCKS! I know Philly traffic pretty well (wife is from Warminster) and DC is smaller but worse. Live on the metro. SO much easier pretty much all the time. Takoma Park MD is reasonable. Wheaton MD. I used to commute to Adams Morgan from out in the burbs on train/metro until I switched jobs. Adams Morgan is especially difficult because the Metro stops are a bit far apart. Bike commuting is the easiest, cheapest, most reasonable. DC is super bike-friendly. My Takoma Park to 16th St DC commute was money. 25 minutes by bike. I could get to Schaeffer Farm in 25-30 minutes if I left work early.

    I think another big issue is the NW side of the beltway on weekends. The traffic on the beltway is CRAZY even on the weekends. Closer to the ICC (MD 200) and I95 is better. NoVa heading west at almost any time during the day is PACKED with people. I wouldn't ever live in NoVa, personally. The others manage...

    Patapsco is the #1 best place to ride close to DC (even though it's next to Baltimore). If you are on the NW, W, SW, S or SE sides of DC (in or around), you are limited to some of the more tame and low-mileage, high-use parks. Patapsco has 60+ miles of really good singletrack.

    Good luck. DC is tough but the riding is amazing.

    mk
    Trailbldr has it right. I came here from the Seattle area and I researched like a mo-fo. I came to the conclusion that Takoma Park was probably the best place to live if you wanted a unique non suburban sprawl type of place to live, yet centrally located to good trails (by car), but still bikeable to work (Washington navy yard for me).

    Long story short, I'm not living there...I'm in NoVa because I have extra special requirements for housing that Takoma park just couldn't offer: a true 2 car garage with a minimum of 2 car parking in front of the garage. BUT...I can bike commute to work at 14.7 miles each way. That gets my bike fix during the week and saves me a TON of frustration sitting in the car in traffic or trying to find a damn parking spot. I hit the trails on the weekend.

    I've done long distance moves something like 8 times in the last 14 years and so far, every single move has been to an area that I didn't already know...and only once did I get a chance to scope out the area ahead of having to show up and start working. A requirement for my last 3 moves has been that I live a bikeable distance to work. I did that becasue I knew that there would be times that the only riding I'd get done during the week is if I rode to work. The previous two places and now here....being able to bike commute when there would be no other option to get in a mid week ride has kept me out of the straight jacket. Here in DC being on a bike and sometimes getting home quicker than I would in the car only amplifies that 10x.

  19. #19
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    I'm still trying to get a feel for the bike culture here.

    One of the things that I'd like to do is ride my bike to work, which is a 5 mile commute or so.

    Some of the things that prevent me from doing so is the lack of showers at work and needing to be able to get home quick for child care issues.

    However the other main issue is trusting the cars.

    I live out in the suburbs and there aren't any bike lanes or paths for me to get to work. And the route to work is basically the same route that the majority of the people in the area take.

    I admit that I'm one of those drivers that get frustrated getting stuck behind a bicyclist and try to get around them as soon as I can. So would prefer to ride on the sidewalks to keep out of the way of cars. But then on sidewalks, I'd worry about having to navigate around other pedistrians and cyclists, when I'm not that proficient on my bike yet. ie so far every time I've had to navigate between tight spots I'd just walk the bike with my feet.

    Then there's one major intersection that I don't trust, which is one of the reasons why I ride the bus now instead of walking just to get past that intersection. I would contemplate riding on the sidewalk for most of the route and then when I get to that intersection ride on the road, and then back onto the sidewalk once I past it. But I think it's this forum, where I read it's not recommended to jump on and off like that because cars can't tell what you're doing and may be trying to do.

    And along the same route I've seen two incidents with a bicyclist. The first one it looked like a car had just hit a bicyclist when the bicyclist was riding through a driveway. By the time I saw it the guy was already sprawled out on the ground and the cops were there. Then another time a bicyclist was crossing a drive way and a car just cut him off turning into that driveway. Even for myself, one time I was trying to turn out of a driveway near that intersection. I didn't think I saw anyone on the right, and was only looking left to turn out on to the street. But as I was peeling out of that intersection, I suddenly noticed a bicyclist waiting for me to the right. I don't know how long he was there, but am glad he stopped because I probably would have hit him. And actually thinking about all three times might've been the same guy because I kind of remember the outfit being similar and it's all along the same route.

    Then there are articles where bicyclists complain about drivers being violent or antagonist against them. Such as yelling at them when they're parked or something.

    Then even in the trails, there were reports on the news how people were getting jumped and robbed on some trails.

    The one time I did take my bike out for a spin on the main road, I did like how a lot of cars gave me a lot of room. But I was still worried when going through on/off exit ramps and intersections and jumped on the sidewalk as soon as possible.

    Then when I was in DC recently I saw a biker, looked like a messenger or something because of his big bag to the side of his bag, who was weaving fearlessly in and out of traffic.

    So a lot of it may be a biker's attitude and mentality, but also things may be more bike friendly closer into the city, because traffic is more slow moving and there are more trails to get around. I also often think how much faster I would get home if I was on a bike versus being stuck in traffic in a car.

    Anyways my point is if it were me, I'm not sure how big of a factor being able to ride a bike to work would be.

  20. #20
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    @nmum - Well, to be fair most of what you describe is applicable to any city in America. Let's face it, bicycle infrastrucuture in the States is practically non-existent, especially in the 'burbs. Bike commuting is still something most Americans think of as an odd thing to do or for poor people. Even public transportation carries this stigma in a lot of cities.

    As for the "bike culture" around here, I think DC has got a great scene. The amount of people who ride and the amount of trails accessible in just the immediate metro area is astounding, not to mention all the places to ride as you go farther out. That's definitely not something commonly found around the country. Heck, in some of these fly-over states, you can count the amount of decent trails in the entire state on 1 hand.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmum View Post
    I'm still trying to get a feel for the bike culture here.
    I don't know about bike culture so to speak. But, if you use bike infrastructure as an indicator for bike culture, the DC metro area stacks up pretty well....just look at the number of bike share stations.

    In terms of bike favorable routes, I can leave my house and hit the Mt Vernon trail w/in 1.5 miles then I'm on the Mt Vernon Trail for 11 miles. Then I'm on sidewalk for around .2 miles and another 2 miles on actual streets in DC for a total of 14.7 miles to get to work. Anytime I want a big ride without getting in the car, I jump on my road bike and hit up the Mt. Vernon trail. From there the options are endless while mostly avoiding cars. You have the Custis Trail and 4 Mile run trails which will connect Mt. Vernon to the WO&D trail. You can even take the WO&D out to Leesburg and then do a bit of road to hit up white's ferry to cross the potomac and then hit the C&O trail. If you are adventurous, you could ride Natural Surface trail pretty much from D.C. to Pittsburgh and camp or credit card tour it for something like 335 miles one way. I've only done a one nighter 125 mile round trip ride from my house, but the whole thing is on my bucket list before I move.

    But hey, wait a minute. We are on MTBR and not Roadbikereview, right? Well, if you want some Fun on singletrack look at the NoVa Epic routes and MoCo Epic routes. MoCo has much more single track, but I think the NoVA100k has less distance on streets with cars than the MoCo 100k+ route.

    Again, from an infrastructure standpoint...not too many metro areas of this size that you have this many options for riding a bike and not having to deal with cars.

  22. #22
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    I agree with what you're both saying.

    What I was saying, was a long winded way of saying how I might not make being able to ride a bike to work a primary criteria. Although it doesn't sound like it was one of the OP's original criteria if he was considering Springfield and Frederick.

    I might've used the wrong word when I said bike culture. I meant on how car drivers and bikers interact with each other and share the road, as well as bikers encountering other bikers as well.

    I'm finding this thread useful for myself as well, where I'm finding more information on places to ride!

  23. #23
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    DC actually has some excellent road riding. Like any large metro area, the bike friendliness varies around the region, but it overall is quite good. For example, from where I live in Reston I can hop on a road bike and ride all the way to the Washington Monument in downtown DC (30 miles away) without ever riding on a road. And I have dozens of good road loops out my front door, all on roads, that I feel perfectly safe riding. You get the occasional dick driver, but Fairfax Police are generally well versed in cycling laws and etiquette and take complaints and issues seriously.

    I've been a daily bike commuter since 2005, and things have improved greatly in that time. If the OP is leaning that direction, I'd definitely recommend joining BikeArlington (Washington Area Bike Forum) (which, despite the name, covers commuting and transportation issues around the region) for advice on locations that are bike accessible to downtown.

  24. #24
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    Best bet is the Silver Spring MD area.

    Fairland Park is 5 min away and has decent trails right off of the ICC/MD 200 near rt. 29. The Redline metro station stops in silver spring. And biking to work via the Rock Creek Pkwy is fun and easy.

    Also, Schaeffer Farms and it's associated network of trails (Hoyles Mill, SRT, etc) are only about 25 min away. Patapsco is about 40 min, and Fountainhead is an hour.
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