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This American Road

Experience America this summer with Andrew Burmon

How to Navigate Washington, D.C. Without Going Nuts


I've been on the road for more than a month, and here's my number one tip: Don't drive in Washington, D.C. Nightmare would be a measure too generous.

As soon as I could park my ride, I did, content to not touch it until I pulled out of the District two days later. And considering the byzantine fare structure and bizarre routing of the Metro, it's something I avoid, too. Here's a better idea.

Trade four wheels for two: Rent a bike. While you can certainly walk the city-getting to your destination eventually-it's much easier to just pedal there, particularly in the summer, when temperatures in Washington hit roughly "surface of the sun" levels. Best to limit your exposure by riding where you're going in a hurry.

The newest option in town is the Capital Bikeshare program. Another in a growing list of bike-sharing efforts around the world modeled on Paris' Velib, the initiative is open to visitors because it offers 24-hour and five-day "memberships." Any riding up to 30 minutes is free after that, with longer rides racking up bigger bills. (The clock resets each time you dock your bike, so it's possible to do the whole day for five bucks.)

But the claim that Capital Bikeshare "puts 1,100 bicycles at your fingertips" is a stretch at best: On the occasions that you actually stumble across a station, there's no guarantee you'll actually find one to ride. A couple of smartphone apps have been developed to help with this problem, but they're not foolproof yet.

The easier solution is to buy some convenience with a Bike and Roll rental. You'll pay a little bit more, but you'll have the same ride all day-and ditch the hassle of looking for docking stations while on the clock. With your bike dialed in, you'll actually want to ride from the Capitol all the way down to the new Martin Luther King, Jr. monument that's scheduled to open to the public before the end of summer.

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