As the line of eight bicyclists pulled out of the Dunkin Donuts parking lot on Commerce Avenue in Springfield on Bike to Work Day, the question remains: Is biking a viable commuting option?
Springfield resident Walter Brodtman led the group down Franconia to a rendezvous in Rose Hill with other riders and then on to Old Town Alexandria for an organized gathering. Brodtman, who does bike to his job at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., looked at bike commuting needs.
"Better facilities along the road. I believe Virginia is doing some things now," he said. "Certain cities are good, too."
Brodtman rattled off a list that included Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle and Chicago. "D.C. got an honorable mention last year," he said.
John Reed from Burke was also in the group. He wound his way from Burke on Old Keene Mill Road, which has no bike lane.
"An unsafe driving condition," he said of his ride.
Reed rides his bike to work in northeast D.C. only about once a week, but he noted some improvements that he'd like to see made.
"I think the roads need to be made wider, and motorists need to be aware [of bicyclists]," Reed said. "If they are committed to that, I am all for it."
Jim Gray works at the Hoffman Building on Eisenhower Avenue. If the weather is good, he intends to make it a daily routine. From his home in Springfield, his bike commute is 11 miles. He has showers and lockers at his job with the U.S. Army.
"I'll probably do it all summer," he said.
Carolynn Chamberlain just moved to Springfield from Newport, R.I. She worked at Starbucks in Newport and rode her bike to work every day. She hopes to find a similar situation here.
"I biked every day. I'd love to do it again," she said.
Fellow bicycle enthusiast Bob Michie handed out information on the Tour de Lee bicycle ride sponsored by Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), which is in October.
"When will Metro put the racks on the 11Y express bus?" Michie asked. "I'm trying to get them to put on those racks."
ARRIVING IN OLD TOWN, the group was greeted at Market Square by other bikers, Washington Area Bicyclist Association members, bike mechanics and others affiliated with the annual event. Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) spokesperson Ryan Hall manned the VDOT table, passing out information on the roads and biking.
"We're trying anything to make it multi-mode. We're not just building roads," Hall said. "People are frustrated with traffic, they are riding their bikes more. We're looking at most of our new construction to have bike lanes."
Metro superintendent David Crawford was on hand with a bus that was outfitted with a bike rack, which Michie talked about earlier. He said 85 percent of the Metrobuses have the racks now, and they are hoping to get them on all the buses. The racks are on the front of the bus, and riders put their own bikes on the rack and secure them with a lever before boarding the bus.
Alexandria resident Karen Jupiter sported a T-shirt labeled "One Less Car." She recently moved from Boston.
"It's 100 times easier commuting around here by bike," she said. "I bike every day. I would never take a job I couldn't bike to."
Mike Savage started commuting by bicycle in 1970, when he got out of college. He rides about 5,000 miles a year.
"My car averages about two to three thousand [miles a year]," he said, "I ride by the stand-still traffic all the time. I love it."