Another Dr. Gridlock column about whether the National Park Service should allow bicycles on the George Washington Parkway. Though it's in response to a reader question, it's a follow-up to a letter that WABA sent to NPS.
The argument, as it has been said, is that cyclists use the Parkway because the existing Mount Vernon Trail is crowded and inadequate, and there are no good alternative routes. While Fort Hunt Rd largely parallels the Parkway south of Alexandria, it has several issues of its own...inconsistent shoulders and pavement quality, bigger hill and curve issues than the Parkway, and the anathemia of hardcore road cyclists: traffic signals.
I'm somewhat torn on the issue. As a bicyclist, I'll be the first to say that the MVT is very inadequate and needs major improvement. As a driver, I'll echo NPS's concerns about safety...the narrow lanes, curves, and drainage issues on the segment south of Alexandria, and the limited-access nature of the Parkway north of Alexandria.
Ultimately, the limited-access nature of the Parkway north of Old Town should preclude its use for bicyclists...but this is also the most crowded segment of the MVT and the MVT really needs to be widened on this stretch. South of Old Town is more controversial and I'll admit I don't have a good solution for this segment.
I'm expecting this issue to be taken up again on TheWashCycle Blog. Look for some spirited discussion there.