|Jersey Jaunts - Biking in (and around) New Jersey|
Washington DC has a vast network of interconnected paved trails that are perfect for a weekend of no traffic riding as well as touring of the nations capital. We stumbled on this car free urban utopia when riding the Bike DC bike tour in 2009.
Location, location, location. The key to our weekend of riding is Crystal City, Virginia, which is located right next to the Pentagon and adjacent to Regan National airport; we parked the car Friday and didn't move it until Sunday. Crystal city is home to a number of business hotels that typically offer fantastic weekend rates because of high vacancies. The key however to using Crystal City as a cycling base is the Multi Use Path (MUP) connector tunnel that provides access to the Mount Vernon trail under the VRE commuter rail line, once connected to the Mount Vernon trail you have access to hundreds of miles of interconnected traffic free trails. Crystal City also offers a number of good dinning opportunities within walking distance of all of the hotels, an important consideration if you don't want to drive in the city. An attractive feature of Crystal City is that it has its own stop on the Washington metro, this was invaluable for us in 2009 since we had heavy cold rains that kept us off the bicycle. The easy access to the metro allowed us to spend the rainy days visiting the Smithsonian museums on the mall.
The Mount Vernon trail is the backbone the DC trail system, from Crystal City the trail runs north and south providing connections to major trails such as the WO&D, Cutris, Capital Crescent and C&O canal tow path, as well as access to bridges over the Potomac river that link to the National mall.
The National mall is about a 3 mile ride from Crystal City on the trail, once you cross the Potomac (separate pathway, not just a bike lane) you end up in front of the Jefferson memorial, from this point you are riding on "sidewalks" for a couple of blocks, however the NPS designates all of these as MUPs and bikes are allowed. A park ranger (on a bike) told us that there are only two actual sidewalks in the mall where bikes are prohibited, they are in the Vietnam memorial, and the WWII memorial, otherwise bikes are permitted on all MUPs including the sidewalk, I mean MUP down Constitution avenue (there are no bike lanes on Constitution).
On one of our rides in Spring 2010 we rode through the mall and up behind the Capital building where we found bike lanes on the amazingly quite residential streets of the upscale Capital Hill neighborhood (Saturday morning). We came across the original Lincoln memorial (called Emancipation memorial today) in a park; you can not beat a bike for this kind of urban exploration.
Another ride we rode was the so called "Arlington Triangle", which is a 17 mile triangle of trails that include portions of the WO&D, Mount Vernon, and Cutris tails.