In celebration of Fairfax County’s Bike to Work Day, some local cyclists may ride along the 8.5-mile section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway between the Beltway and Mount Vernon to get themselves to work on Friday.
And though cycling along the George Washington Memorial Parkway is technically prohibited by the National Park Service, some say the inadequacy of the adjacent Mount Vernon trail leaves local riders little choice.
“The fact that people are willing to ride on a road like that shows just how deficient a trail like that is,” said Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “It’s a beautiful trail but it’s over-capacity right now. The fact that people are willing to ride on what’s basically an interstate highway, it shows there’s a need for more facilities there.”
Farthing said if the Mount Vernon Trail were to be reconstructed now, he would advise officials to build a "less meandering" trail and include separate areas for both pedestrian and bike traffic.
According to Farthing, the trail sees major swings in ridership patterns depending upon the time of day and the day of the week.
Cyclists caught riding on the G.W. Parkway face a $95 ticket, which includes a $70 and $25 in court costs, according to U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser. Though he added tickets can be contested in court.
Schlosser was unable to provide a figure for how many people have been caught this year because the Park Police don't separate the amount of people cited for cycling from their total number of citations issued.
When asked how often Park Police give warnings, Schlosser said that depends on when the cyclist is caught riding on the parkway. For instance, he said, a person riding early on a Sunday when the road is empty may be handled differently than another riding at the peak of weekday rush hour.
Farthing, said many cyclists may not even be aware of the G.W. Parkway ban, especially since it isn’t well-marked. And though its long stretches of wide roadway unencumbered by traffic signals may be tempting to some cyclists, Farthing ultimately advises WABA members against riding along the GW Parkway.
“If it’s not legal to ride on that road, then you probably shouldn’t be riding there. We can’t advocate trespassing. If anything were to happen to them, it would be very difficult for them to show the injuries weren’t their fault,” he said.
The following regulations apply to bicyclists on designated trails in George Washington Memorial Parkway, according to the National Park Service:
- The speed limit for bicycles in 15 mph
- Cyclists must stay to the right and give “ample audible warning” when passing on the left
- Cyclists must adhere to local helmet laws
- Trail users must keep to the right and travel single-file
For more information on Bike To Work Day click here.