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Beautiful Day For a Wilson Bridge Bike Ride

Wilson Bridge Trail 3.jpg
Trail on bridge edge has three observation areas, with benches and telescopes. (Thomson)

The new Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail is a work in progress, but put the emphasis on the progress. I got my first chance to bike across the bridge today and had a glorious time.

The worst part was the return trip from the bridge up the long slope to Oxon Hill Road, where I felt much closer to God, but the rest of the ride was a breeze. In fact, there was a very good breeze on the bridge. That and the warmth of the sun make for a perfect passage over the mile-long path above the Potomac.

Trail Riders.jpg Riders, walkers share 12-foot trail. (Thomson)

To reach the trail, I drove south on Interstate 295, then got lost wandering around National Harbor before I found Oxon Hill Manor on Oxon Hill Road. No more than a dozen cars were parked there and it's close to the trail head, so I'd do that again, when starting from the Maryland side.

A series of ramps provides an easy crossing of the Capital Beltway to reach the north side of the bridge, and there are several good observation points right there above the highway. The road noise is quite loud, but the river views, soaring birds and those breezes are more than enough to compensate.

Turn out sign.jpg Signs describe view's history. (Thomson)

Two Maryland National Capital Park Police officers were on duty along the route. They moved from spot to spot on motorized scooters. Cyclists have been chafing over the 10 mph speed limit on the trail, but the officers weren't there to ticket anyone. They were just out to offer information and make sure trail users were safe.

I had no idea how fast I was going as I cruised up and over the span, stopping at several of the observation points that blub out from the trail. These offer benches and telescopes for the views of Old Town Alexandria, the Potomac river craft, Washington and the Prince George's shoreline.

Trail Sign.jpg Room for improvement on markers. (Thomson)

The trail contained dozens of walkers and bikers when I crossed, so it was not at all crowded. Police said it would become more crowded in the afternoon, so I'd very much recommend a morning start.

Trail users were well behaved, but they did what trail users do: I saw walkers stopped in groups of five and allowing their dog plenty of leash room. I saw bikers allowing too little passing distance when they moved out into oncoming cycle traffic.

The trail, divided in the middle by orange stripes, seemed very safe, though there is a little debris on the north side and a couple of expansion joints are jarring to ride over. A swerving biker would be offered a choice of concrete or steel, so a crash is likely to be spectacular. I understand the concern authorities have about the speed limit and other safety issues. They'll learn from experience what the trail can take.

Concerns: There should be better signs on both sides of the river and there should be more options to continue travel on the Maryland side. The new trail map, showing connections for hikers and bikers indicates the Potomac Heritage Trail continues south from the bridge trail. But it would take a cyclist braver than me to ride down two-lane Oxon Hill Road from the point where the bridge trail ends.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 27, 2009; 2:16 PM ET
Categories:  Biking , Safety , Wilson Bridge  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Wilson Bridge Trail, cycling, walking  
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The 10 MPH speed limit for Bicycles is a real problem. Some (although not many) runners exceed that speed. Most roller bladers easily go faster than that and have inferior control and stopping ability. A reasonable speed limit? Sure. But 10 MPH, which is barely above the minimum speed needed to safely control a bicycle, is too low. (A bicycle under a certain speed becomes much harder to control... the best control is above 8 and below 15)

Posted by: dcraven925 | June 28, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Kudos Dr. Gridlock for getting on the bike and taking a look at it from that perspective. As a cyclist, I'm convinced the most dangerous drivers are the ones that have never been on a bike and don't understand things from my perspective. I drive and bike so I understand both views.

Posted by: Alsatian1 | June 30, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

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