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HEALTH: It’s summer. Jump on your bike!

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HEALTH • BY JAMIE LEE

Note: scroll to the bottom for maps and other biking resources

An old adage says that bikes run on fat and save you money, while cars run on money and make you fat.  With the warm weather, don’t pass up the great chance to explore and expand your fitness regimen—dozens of trails wind around Takoma Park into D.C. and beyond.

For beginners, consider the Long Branch Trail.  It measures 1.2 miles from start to finish and is composed mostly of paved neighborhood streets.  Young children should be closely supervised at the beginning and end points, as there are busy roads bisecting the path, but its short distance makes it manageable even for first-time riders (and adult riders who had to dust their bikes before hopping on).

There’s also the Wheaton Regional Park Trails, which have both compacted and natural surfaces.  These trails feature pathways that border water and picnic grounds and form a web-like presence throughout the Wheaton Regional Park.

For those with a little more experience, there’s the Sligo Creek Stream Valley Trail.  It’s 10.2 miles long and has some hilly terrain.  It also crosses some busy streets, but is entirely paved.

The Capital Crescent trail is similar in distance at 10 miles, and mostly paved (after four miles of crushed stone, between Silver Spring and Bethesda).  It runs from Georgetown, D.C., to Silver Spring, Md.  It’s often populated and serves as a commuter route during the week, so prepare for some tricky navigation at times.

Also check out the Rock Creek Trails, which span over 32 miles in total across Silver Spring.  Bikes aren’t allowed on all surfaces, so bring hiking shoes along with you to enjoy the area entirely.

And for all ages and backgrounds, there’s the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail, which is a whopping 184.5 miles in total—unless you plan on camping along the way, it’s best to do in sections.  It spans three counties (Allegany, Frederick, and Montgomery) in addition to D.C.  It isn’t paved, so non-road bikes are recommended.  The terrain is varied. A more comprehensive map of difficulty levels for hikers and bikers can be found here: http://bikewashington.org/canal/

Takoma Bicycle owner Bruce Sawtelle sees a lot of customers who gladly partake in the wealth of bike trails nearby.  Some, like the University of Maryland students who live in the area, use paths to commute to school.  But many are “casual recreational riders,” Sawtelle said.  “We have a lot of families with kids, so for them, living in this area and having the resources like Sligo Creek Trail is great.  [They’re] safe places where they can go and ride without worrying about cars or traffic,” he said.

Bruce Sawtelle

Bruce Sawtelle assisted riders on Bike to Work Day in May. Photo by Jay Keller

His favorite ride is a loop that combines the Capital Crescent Trail and the Rock Creek Trail, which totals roughly 20 miles.  And he sells a lot of seats.  “People are always looking for a more comfortable seat!” he said.

He also sells many helmets and for good reason: remember that all bikers, even passengers, must wear one if they’re under the age of 16 in the state of Maryland.  And once you’re geared up safely, hit the road and begin to fearlessly traverse the world—or just find a new, eco-friendly route to your favorite hangout spot.

Resources:

Featured photo by Jess J.

About the author: Jamie Lee

Jamie is a rising senior at the University of Maryland where she is a journalism and English double degree candidate. (She was awarded the "most inspiring future author" superlative in her fourth grade class which spurred her love of the written word and storytelling). In her spare time, she enjoys tennis and swimming.

1 comment

  1. Elizabeth Hoyt says:

    Love this article. It clarifies all the places we can ride, which is sometimes confusing. Love that there are attached maps.
    I just wish Takoma Park would incorporate more bike lanes. If we want to be bike-friendly, we need space to ride next to the cars. Philadelphia, Maple & Carroll (all!) would be great places to start.

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