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Think it’s hard biking in D.C. these days? Try 1982. The District Department of Transportation has just posted a guide to cycling in the District that it initially put out in 1982, when conditions and rules were a bit different.
First, the infrastructure: There was hardly any. The guide opens with a list of “D.C. Bikeways,” but they’re mostly just signed bike routes, which, as cyclists today know, generally appear arbitrary and all but useless. The Northwest quadrant, where new bike lanes proliferate each year these days, had no bike lanes at the time. Nor did Southwest or Northeast. The only two striped bike lanes were on Capitol Hill.
But maybe cyclists could take their bikes on the Metro to avoid the vast areas without safe biking facilities? No such luck, at least not five days a week or without a special permit. “Bicyclists are now allowed to take their bicycles on Metrorail on weekends if they have a permit,” the guide states.
Nor could you ride unrestricted on the quiet streets of Georgetown. Bicycles were banned from O and P streets NW in Georgetown due to “hazardous trolley tracks.”
In fact, you couldn’t bike anywhere without first registering your bike. “All bicycles ridden in the District must be registered within 14 days of acquisition,” the guide advises. “Registration costs $1.00 and is good for five years. Proof of ownership and identification are required of all persons registering bicycles. Bicycles may be registered at any District police station or fire station between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. daily.”
And then there’s this line that Courtland Milloy would love: “The majority of bicyclist/motor vehicle accidents in the District are caused by bicyclists.”
But on the plus side, there was a handy call line for a list of upcoming cycling-related events: (202) HEY-BIKE.
The full guide is below:
Illustration from the 1982 guide