Kaid Benfield Archive


Two Wheels Good

Kaid Benfield

Posted April 11, 2008 at 3:41AM

, , ,


Davis, California is the country’s most bicycle-friendly city, according to the League of American Bicyclists.  More about that soon.


In the meantime, though, be advised that a highly self-indulgent post follows.  Yes, even more than usual.  But think of it as a bonus.  I’m on vacation this week, after all. 


 photo by Kaid photo by Kaid  


Everyone who knows me knows that I am an avid cyclist.  And, above, you see my two favorite bikes, sitting pretty in our back yard.  I’m showing them because, for me, this week is all about getting my lazy behind in gear and getting into some semblance of decent physical shape.  Gaining 10 pounds every winter and losing five every summer is unsustainable, to allude to the popular environmental word, and all I did this past winter was work too much, stress too much, and watch basketball.


So it’s time.  I’m riding some every day (indoors when it’s raining), alternating hard days and easy days, and also lifting weights on the easy days.  I think it’s fairly environmentally friendly as self-indulgences go, completely non-polluting and all about health and clean living.  Even the very important glass of cabernet every evening is for my health.  Totally. 


I’ve tried to take a week off in the spring and do this every year for a dozen years or so.  Some years, like last when work was sheer hell, not to put too fine a point on it, just don’t work out.  But most years, I do it.  And this year I will not be denied.


I am quite fortunate to live in a community that has great training routes, as well as great just-loafing-on-the-bike routes, within easy riding distance of my house.  Below are some of my favorite places to ride.  Today (Thursday) was a recovery day, so I went through Little Falls Park, on the trail that you see in the left image, before connecting to another trail and then some pretty suburban neighborhoods, including the one on the right, loaded with cherry trees in full blossom.  Even though I was wiped out from yesterday’s ride, it was a welcome treat, since today was (finally) the first sunny day of the week.


 Little Falls trail; photo by Kaid  Kenwood, Bethesda MD, photo by Bryan Murahashi 


If I’m feeling more serious, like I plan to be tomorrow (Friday), I might do one of these other two routes.  The first is Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, absolutely beautiful and a favorite training route of just about every cyclist who lives in DC.  I run into friends or impromptu pacelines there all the time.  I can do variations from 15 to 40 miles, with little traffic and few stoplights.  On the right, in the countryside less than an hour away, is a favorite road through Montgomery County, Maryland’s justly famed Agriculture Reserve.  The enlightened planners who created the country’s most successful farmland conservation program weren’t thinking of bike routes, but I’ll gladly take the side benefit.


 Beach Drive, Rock Creek Park, Washington DC; public domain  Montgomery County MD; photo by bikewashington.org  


I don’t ride my bike to work, for a variety of personal reasons, but lots of NRDC colleagues do.  We also have some very strong riders who either are now or were in the not too distant past successful amateur racers.  Amanda Eaken, Metromint CyclingAmanda Eaken, Metromint CyclingI’ve mentioned my friends Rich and Geoff before, and I could have mentioned Bobby, too.  I can’t beat these guys (all of whom are 10-25 years younger than me!) but, hey, I can keep up with them, unless they are trying to drop me, in which case I’m toast.  But without a doubt NRDC’s best cyclist is our San Francisco-based smart growth analyst, Amanda Eaken.  If you know bike racing, be impressed that Amanda is category 1, as good as it gets and good enough to race with the pros.  In fact, less than two weeks ago she raced with the pros in San Dimas and took second place in the field sprint and fifth overall.  That was impressive enough, but last Saturday Amanda WON the Ward Valley Road Race over a field of cat. 1 and cat. 2 riders.  Last year, she won the Northern California-Nevada district road race championship (!) for her class.  Hot stuff indeed.  Amanda races with the Metromint cycling team.


Speaking of bike racing, this is the best time of year if you’re a hard-core fan, the season of the “spring classics” in Europe, legendary one-day races that are almost always won by true champions.  This Sunday is the 108th running of one of the most famous, Paris-Roubaix, “The Hell of the North” through northeastern France over 259 kilometers, many of them on cobblestones


Davis, CA; public domainFor us mere mortals, apparently Davis, California is the place to be.  (Told you I’d return to it.)  As described by David Takemoto-Weerts, bike coordinator for UC-Davis, the city is “sometimes referred to as ‘The Bicycle Capital of the US’ because of the its high rate of bicycle use (with estimates of 20 - 25% of all trips being made by bicycle) and its long history of providing its thousands of pedalers with a 'cyclist-friendly' environment. Wide streets, an extensive bikeway network, gentle terrain, mild climate, supportive official policies, and an attitude of mutual respect between cyclists and motorists have resulted in a community with perhaps the most bikes per capita of any city in the U.S. and a real ‘bicycling culture.’” You can read the story of how Davis earned its reputation here or, even better, watch a video showing why Davis is the only city to receive a platinum rating under the Bicycle-Friendly Community program of the League of American Bicyclists.  And then get out on your bike and have some fun. 


Incidentally, I’m sure many of you know but, for those who don’t and are curious, this was the inspiration for my title today.  Bonne route.