Gear Prudence: I’m looking for a place where I can ride laps on my bike in the city, get some exercise, and not worry too much about cars. I know about Hains Point (it’s all right), but I’d like to try somewhere new. Do you have any ideas? —Looping Around Places, Sites
Dear LAPS: East Potomac Park, aka Hains Point (aka a seemingly endless list of misspellings with needless apostrophe’s and/or superfluous letteres), is by far the most popular place to ride laps in D.C. It attracts local riders looking to do this at a fast pace on fast bikes and in groups large and small. Aside from sporadic ticket blitzes by the U.S. Park Police, everyone has a pretty good time. Hains Point also draws folks in search of a few quiet, leisurely laps down by the river to shake out the legs or because they got lost trying to get to or from the Jefferson Memorial. Hains Point can be stultifying, especially if you have little interest in (or aptitude for) hammering out some serious wattage in the paceline. If you’re easily bored, mindlessly perambulating a golf course on long flat stretches of road doesn’t provide a ton of variety for the eyes or legs. During cherry blossom season, it is worth a visit as it’s rather pretty and vastly more exciting given the plethora of opportunities to dodge distracted tourists whose desire to see pink flowers far surpasses their desire to pay attention to those on bicycles around them.
If what appeals to you about Hains Point is the boring flat circles, head a few miles east and explore the wondrousness of the parking lots of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Some might see the soon-to-be totally defunct stadium surrounded by seas of excessive and underutilized surface parking lots as a ghastly blight to an urban neighborhood, but others might see it as that but also a really good place to ride a bike in loops for long stretches unimpeded by much car traffic. The venue has been host to auto races, and there’s still remnants of a track you could follow and really zoom on. But keep an eye out for broken glass.
If RFK doesn’t woo you, check out the National Arboretum. Gentle undulations of terrain and copious arboreal splendor make the park an exceedingly pleasant setting for some laps. As with all places not restricted to solely bicycles, be mindful of the other visitors (both on foot and in cars) and ride politely and with deference. It’s not the best spot for a big group or a speed demon, but GP can think of no better place for a contained but aimless ramble amidst nature still firmly within the confines of the city. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.