Arlington, VA

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) It was clear skies for commuters this morning (Friday) celebrating Bike to Work Day.

The annual tradition encourages commuters to ditch their cars and ride their bikes to and from work. In Arlington, 10 pit stops and themed celebrations were sprinkled across the county.

The Bike to Work event at Rosslyn’s Gateway Park filled the park with spandex-clad cyclists mingling and expressing exuberance at the perfect weather. In the tight-knit community of cyclists, there were frequent reunions between riders throughout the park.

“It was a great ride today,” said Henry Dunbar, director of active transportation for Bike Arlington and a coordinator of the event. “This is about as ideal as it gets.”

Dunbar said the event caters to the one-third of riders who are first-time bicycle commuters. Dunbar said the goal is to teach them about bicycle safety and encourage them to make bicycle commuting a daily habit.

For new riders, Dunbar said the best thing to do is find a more experienced rider and tag along with them.

“Ride with experienced cyclists,” Dunbar said. “All the brochures in the world aren’t as good as someone guiding you through that one tricky intersection on your way into work.”

Dunbar nodded over to the N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway intersection — a crossing regularly packed with cyclists, pedestrians and cars. The crowding is exacerbated by construction around the intersection that’s part of the Custis Trail improvements — construction Dunbar said is likely to continue for another full year.

Several bicycling-focused organizations had stands set up in Rosslyn to help encourage a car-free lifestyle. Robert Santana attended on behalf of the Arlington Car-Free Diet campaign and distributed information about the impending Metro closures.

“I was worried we’d be talking mostly to people who were already car-free,” Santana said, “but people have seemed really interested.”

Tents were set up around the park, with businesses like Nando’s Peri-Peri offering free meals or other local organizations offering bicycle-specific services.

“Today has been fantastic,” said Bruce Deming, a “bike lawyer” who specializes in representing injured cyclists. “There’s a huge crowd, just tremendous turnout. I’m proud to be a part of this event.”

Deming said his favorite part of the event was meeting other cyclists from around the area. For those who may be new to cycling, Deming urged them to be extra careful today and take care of each other on the road.

“It’s been really good today,” said Laurel Sonnenschein, a 30-year resident of Arlington who was commuting from Virginia Square to an office in Rosslyn. “Bicycling around here is usually really good, but today I almost got hit by someone turning and not looking.”

Sonnenschein said she’s hopeful a new dedicated bike lane can be built between Courthouse and Ballston. Her preference would be for a European-style lane between the cars, but she acknowledged that other cyclists have their concerns about the idea.

Cyclists — both those affiliated with regional groups and lone wolves — also chatted about favorite routes and gripes about the steep hills on the Custis Trail.

“I thought today was really great,” said Kent Brown, another Bike to Work Day participant. “I love seeing all the different people and groups out here supporting cycling in the region.”

Region-wide, 18,000 commuters participated in Bike to Work Day today, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

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