This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and-true trail voices around the country, and how trails impact the lives of Americans. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
A Day in the Life: Finding My Joy in Biking and Exploring the Community
Hi! I’m Albert Ting, and I’m a photographer and social media strategist based in Washington, D.C.
I’ve loved trails since I was a kid. I grew up in California’s Oakland Hills, where I enjoyed biking the local nature trails and taking in the sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay. I basked in the dense shroud of mist on my face on foggy days as I biked to weekly practice at my piano teacher’s beautiful home on Skyline Boulevard. Nothing felt better than racing down dirt paths on my BMX bike, feeling the adrenaline pulsing as I created a trail of dust behind me, even if that meant stumbling into my piano lesson with a thin layer of dirt on my pants (fortunately, my teacher was usually quite understanding).
After moving to Washington, D.C., for grad school, I finally gave up driving, in effect stopping my years-long reliance on cars—something that was quite difficult to do after growing up where I did in California—to lead a more car-free lifestyle. For me, the positive impact that going car-free has on air quality, reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing traffic congestion far outweighs the benefits of owning a car (which I was just using to take short weekend trips out of the city, anyway).
I started relying more heavily on e-bikes and e-scooters, which have become my primary modes of transportation to get to my photography gigs in and around the city. During the pandemic, I reacquainted myself with the city’s trails, including the nearby Rock Creek Park Trails—which host part of the Great American Rail-Trail’s 3,700-mile cross-country route through Washington, D.C., a trail project that will help create more ways to connect by bike and on foot around the city and across the country. In the process, I rediscovered the joys of biking as a means to reconnect with nature and friends as well as explore my community.
On a beautiful Saturday, I organized a bike outing with my good friends Lou, Anthony (who happens to work at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy) and Nessa. I grabbed my favorite red Capital Bikeshare helmet and rented the nearest e-bike I could find–a Lime e-bike. Below are just a few places we stopped along the way, and a few takeaways from the day.
1Mount Pleasant: A Strong Community
Mount Pleasant, known as the “Village in the City,” given its strong community vibes and lush canopy of trees lining the neighborhood’s streets, is a diverse, vibrant neighborhood. Our first order of business was to grab delicious breakfast tacos at the newly opened La Tejana (www.latejanadc.com) and explore the weekend farmers market. I made sure to stock up on dumplings from the Chinese Street Market stall (www.chinesestreetmarket.com), as well as duck eggs, and other things for my pantry. If I know I’m going to bring back a large haul from one of the many farmers markets around my city, I make sure to attach a pannier to the back of my bike so I have ample storage to bring my goodies back home. Some of my friends attach a fruit crate to the back of their bike, which is a classic, cost-effective and practical solution.
2Rock Creek Park: Trails Do A Body Good
We then pedaled down Klingle Road and biked into the adjacent Rock Creek Park, the oldest and largest urban park in the national park system. We stepped off our bikes at the park’s exercise trail, between Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue and put in a few reps at the different workout stations, including equipment for pull-ups and a stretching area. The trails offer great spaces for recreation and exercise, and fall is a wonderful time to work out on the trails as we transition to cooler temperatures in the area.
3National Zoo: Bike, Don’t Pay for Parking!
We zipped up Connecticut Avenue and made a quick stop in front of the National Zoo, where we took an obligatory photo with our bikes in front of the zoo marquee. Pro-tip: If you bike to the zoo, you can avoid the $30 general public parking fee.
4Politics and Prose: Exercise for the Body and the Mind
Biking and books have a lot in common. One exercises the body; the other exercises the mind. I’m as passionate about biking as I am about books, so it was natural for me to invite my friends to stop in at Politics and Prose (www.politicsandprose.com) on Connecticut Avenue to rehydrate in their cafe and browse for books.
5Friendship Heights: The Bikeability Factor
We finally ended our bike adventure in Friendship Heights, a unique location that spans both D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland. Whenever I look at places to visit, I check out their Walkscore (www.walkscore.com) rating and nearby Capital Bikeshare docking stations. With a Walkscore of 97 out of 100 (a “Walker’s Paradise”) and plenty of Capital Bikeshare bikes, I’m assured that I’ll have plenty of transit options to choose from when visiting the neighborhood.
Speaking of Capital Bikeshare, the docking spaces at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market were all taken up by the people swarming to the event from across the city. If the last few years of navigating the pandemic taught me anything, it is that biking throughout the city, whether on the streets or on the trails, is one of the best ways to explore one’s own city. Whether I bike to work or for pleasure, it can help keep my immune system healthy, strengthen connections with the community and allow me to help make our planet a better place to live. Biking inspires me to spend more time outdoors, bringing me joy, comfort and new experiences every day.
Related: Top 10 Trails in Washington, DC
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