Throngs of cyclists descended upon the streets of D.C. Saturday for the District’s sixth annual DC Bike Ride, breezing past quintessential landmarks along the National Mall and Potomac River.
The only organized bike ride sectioned off from city traffic in D.C. shut down 20 miles of streets – running along the Potomac River before passing campus via E Street and finishing near Capitol Hill – to unite bikers of all experience levels with a chance to get active, enjoy the outdoors and explore D.C. The event raised $50,000 from participant donations for nonprofit Dreaming Out Loud to fund its initiatives combatting food insecurity, Danielle Berman, DC Bike Ride’s events and partnerships coordinator, said.
DC Bike Ride spokesperson Kimber Westphall said about 9,000 riders joined the event in total.
“This is a bike ride for all,” Berman said. “Whether you love biking and you compete and you ride all the year round, or you’ve never picked up a bike before, this is for you.”
As the event expanded over the years, Berman said the event’s route has incorporated live music near the finish line, more sightseeing landmarks – like the Jefferson Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery – and even entertainment, like a pit stop at Shake Shack. She said the ride continues to attract serious cyclists, though they understand that the event is about having fun instead of competition.
“People are coming more for the entertainment and seeing everything than necessarily trying to ride 20 miles,” Berman continued.
Cyclists, pedestrians and astute eyes alike have criticized the District for failing to prevent soaring traffic deaths – like one near campus over the summer – which have increased every year since 2015 and reached a 14-year high of 40 in 2021. Berman said she hopes the event provides a secure opportunity for cyclists to enjoy a ride, away from any risk that D.C. traffic may pose.
“We hope it means for the D.C. cycling community that cycling can become safer for D.C.,” Berman reflected. “It’s more accessible, hopefully, and that we can actually bring people together from all different parts of D.C. to make a big cycling community.”
Cyclists whizzed by the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Capitol Building along the route, which hugged the National Mall, Potomac River and Capitol Hill. Berman said the organizers worked with the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the Executive Office of the Mayor to close roads along the route and avoid ongoing construction projects without missing the notorious sights of the nation’s capital.
“We’ve had a really great relationship with the city – they are a huge reason why we’re doing it, why we’re able to keep doing it,” Berman commented. “It’s really important to us just to continue that relationship.”
Cyclists at the event could give back to the community with donations combatting food insecurity through Dreaming Out Loud – which works to create an equitable, healthy food system for marginalized communities in the D.C area. Berman said DC Bike Ride has donated about $170,000 to charities like the Wounded Warriors Project and the Washington Area Bicycle Association in its six-year history through rider donations.
“We love having them as partners,” Berman explains. “Every year, there’s a community component. And that’s a huge part of why we continue to do what we do.”
Kelvin Gordespe, a New York native who has lived in D.C for the past decade, said he participated because of his love of cycling, the crowd of participants and traffic-free roadways. He has biked to work the entire time he’s lived in the District, which he views as a better alternative to driving.
The ride offered free admission for children, making it especially family-friendly. Addie Rosado, a fourth grader from Alexandria, rode the 20-mile course with her parents. This was one of Addie’s first races after an incident in which she fell off her bike, scarring her chin.
“We just got her a bigger bike a year or two ago, and now she can ride up and down these hills and do the whole 20 miles with us,” her mother, Debbie Rosado, said at the event.
Like many other participants, the Rosado family participated to tour the District and bike through the National Mall without traffic. Debbie said she enjoyed the cheering audience, which included enthused spectators who rang bells as the riders emerged from underpasses along the route.
“I liked when we would go up a hill and then whenever we went downhill was probably my favorite part,” Addie said when reflecting on her accomplishments.
The event continues to grow each year and attract more people, including cyclists who participated in the event last year. Pansy Walker, who attended with a large group of friends, including one who came from Charlotte, North Carolina, said they participated in the DC Bike Ride in 2021 and hope to again next year.
“Cycling especially brings people together from different parts of the country,” Walker reflected. “We have something common that people like to do together.”
Through the hugging, cheers and revelry along the course that lasted through from the start of the ride to the live music at the finish line, DC Bike Ride was a diverse, feel-good party all around. Whether the cyclists participated by way of Capital Bikeshare, a rusted bike from their parents’ garage or the finest model on the market, everyone rode as one.
“So that’s really the goal, right,” Berman, of DC Bike Ride, said. “It’s to get people more excited about biking, to bring people to biking that maybe never would have gotten there in the first place.”