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The Independence of the Bike

When things go sideways, what’s the most reliable form of transportation around here? Quite likely your bike.

Tuesday’s earthquake, despite causing very little actual damage, ended up closing many area agencies and businesses. This resulted in a flood of workers headed home early. Who got there first? Cyclists.

Sure, there’s not a little bit of cyclist-side smugness in that statement. In fact, if you looked online yesterday, there was a whole lot of smug. Putting aside that mockery is, indeed, often the best way to deal with our fears, the certainty of cyclists about the reliability of their transportation home in the case of an emergency is well-founded.

Traveling by bike in the Washington area frees you from concerns about massive traffic jams. There are no worries about long lines at the gas pump. If a road is closed, there are always other ways around it. And for those who live or work in Arlington, the extensive network of multi-user trails provides a set of options simply not available to anyone in a car.

Many of these benefits are available to those who walk, of course. But it’s much quicker on a bike, and bikes can carry far more than a person.

And these benefits aren’t limited to emergency situations. Any big traffic-generating event – something that our area experiences on a regular basis – can be easily overcome on a bike. That was the case with the World Bank protests, 9/11, recent presidential inaugurations, and a countless number of unplanned events over the years.

When things get busy and you can only rely on yourself? Consider the bike.

~

Here’s an interesting thought exercise by a Portland-based blogger about the utility of using a bike to evacuate in the case of a natural disaster (like an earthquake). Given the near certainty of I-66 stacking up into an unmoving mess in the case of a D.C. evacuation, it’s something I’ve given some thought to (where the goal is getting away from Arlington as quickly as possible). Would you leave your car behind?

Mark Blacknell is chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, a member of the board of directors of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling instructor.

Megabeth August 25, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Right before The Blizzard, I rode over on my bike to the grocery store. There was a huge line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot. I rode by them, locked my bike, and grabbed my groceries. When I came out, the same cars were still waiting for a space. After The Earthquake, I rode on the bike lanes with no problems and made it home in no time. One more bike means one less car on the road, one more space for someone to fill on metro and one more parking space someone can take if they need it.

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