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Gear Prudence: What’s the best bridge for bicyclists in D.C.? —Big Rivers In District Getting Eclipsed

Dear BRIDGE: The one that takes them from where they are to where they want to go? GP surmises that you mean to ask: Which of the D.C. river bridges is best-designed for bicyclists? Unfortunately, it’s more a matter of overlooking deficiencies than singing praises. 

Chain Bridge is rarely crowded, but the ramp is labyrinthine. The Key Bridge is heavily used by cyclists and pedestrians traveling in both directions, so it’s a slow-going dingfest—a victim of its own success. GP would rather not mention the Roosevelt Bridge, a mid-century mess with a narrow sidewalk that only connects on one side. Hope you pick the right one! The Memorial Bridge is a showcase historical bridge with reasonably wide shared paths, but the traffic circle on either end prevents it from being excellent. The 14th Street Bridge does yeoman’s work, but gets pathletic (a ‘pathlete’ is a  cyclist who rides competitively fast on trails) during rush hours. The Douglass Bridge will soon be torn down and replaced, and that’s the nicest thing GP can say about it. The 11th Street Local Bridge is easily the best for bicyclists: It’s wide, the sight lines are good, and the slope is pleasant. The Sousa Bridge, uh, crosses the river, but the pathways are uninspired. Likewise, it’s possible to cross the Whitney Young Bridge by bike, but you won’t like it. And finally, the Benning Road Bridge gives way to narrow sidewalks on both ends, which is suboptimal. All in all, pretty crummy. —GP

Gear Prudence: You know how sometimes when there’s a staircase, there are thin ramps next to it where you’re supposed to put your bike to wheel it up? Does anyone actually find those ramps to be useful? They don’t seem to help at all. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, or maybe somebody needs to go back to mini-ramp-for-bikes design school. Stop installing things that don’t work! —Goofy Ramps Often Offend Very Egregiously

Dear GROOVE: These are called runnels, and in theory, they’re supposed to make the process of bringing a bike up or down exterior stairs much easier for you. Place your tires in the guideway groove and push! But theory isn’t real life. Too often, these “features” are designed in a way to make them impractical, if not wholly unusable. Getting the bike in and out of the runnel can be hard, and if it’s anything other than one smooth straight diagonal, you may find it awkward making the transition at the joints. Some runnels are too close to walls or railings, causing you to smash your handlebars into whatever comes nearest. GP sympathizes. Niceties for bicyclists should actually be nice, and while maybe somebody doesn’t need to repeat all of mini-ramp-for-bikes design school, some continuing education credits would go a long way. —GP