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Gear Prudence: Tourist season is coming up, and it kicks off in a major way with the cherry blossoms. I went to see the blossoms by car last year and it was a total traffic nightmare! This year I’m thinking about biking, but I’m a pretty trepidatious cyclist and wonder if it’s maybe not a great idea given all the crowds. Even still, I think think the trees are pretty and want to see them. Any tips for getting around by bike? —Biking Likely Overall
Superior Scoping Out Method
Dear BLOSSOM: Here’s the thing: If you are going to be anywhere near the cherry blossoms anytime near peak bloom—whether by bike, car, on foot, pogo stick, bus, whatever—it’s likely going to be crowded. You know that already, but it’s really important that you fully grok the implications. Scads of people, many of whom don’t know their way around, are overcome by the distracting allure of trees and crammed within a finite space. This sets up a situation in which mobility will be severely curtailed, and coping with this will require both patience and wits.
Getting to the blossoms by bike is a great idea. Car traffic truly is a disaster and riding a bicycle allows you to bypass most (but not all) of it. If you ride on the street, be mindful of distracted and frustrated drivers. Be especially wary of tour buses. There are many of them, they take up a lot of space, and their drivers have serious blindspots. If you ride on the paths, make way for pedestrians and be courteous. It will be slow going. Deal. Literally zero people will have any sympathy for your inability to go fast. This is not the time for that and you should modulate expectations accordingly.
While a bicycle is a great way to get down to the Tidal Basin, it’s not the best tool for getting around it. Those are narrow paths, so lock up the bike and perambulate if you must take a closer look. Do not lock your bike to a tree. If you do, you are worse than Saruman and should be dealt with accordingly. If you’re a Capital Bikeshare member, this might prove a much better option than riding your own bike. This will be especially true at the times when the D.C. Department of Transportation sets up a corral to ensure that all arriving bikes can be successfully docked and accommodated. (Check @bikeshare for details.)
Overall, GP’s advice is this: Keep moving. If you must go, go early on a weekday morning when there are fewer visitors. Marvel at the fact that trees, once again, did their tree thing. Natural beauty is fleeting and so should your visit be. Don’t stop, even to take a picture. Repost the one you took last year. No one will be able tell the difference anyway. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets at @sharrowsDC. Got a questions about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.