It took Maywood resident Stephen Young nearly 19 months, 92 rides, and more than 1,000 miles to bike every street in Arlington. He finally finished the goal Saturday morning in front of family and friends in Cherrydale.
“And I thought it would take six to nine months,” 58-year-old Young tells ARLnow, chuckling.
Of course, challenges arose: a broken finger, confusing street signs, hills, dead ends, and a seemingly endless supply of cul-de-sacs.
“All of the dead ends, all of the cul-de-sacs,” Young says. “And we have lots of cul-de-sacs in Arlington.”
It all began in May 2020, when he was getting a bit restless like many people during the pandemic. Young has always been an avid biker and came up with the idea to bike every street in Arlington as a way to get outside, get exercise, and help others in need.
Originally, the plan was to use the project to fundraise solely for the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) and help provide food assistance for those struggling. But then the police killing of George Floyd happened and Young shifted gears to also support the Black Swan Academy, a D.C.-based non-profit that empowers Black youth through civic engagement and leadership.
“I actually launched it in honor of Juneteenth and went from there,” he says.
Over the next year and a half, once or twice a week, Young jumped on his bike and hit up Arlington’s street. He made sure that each ride lasted only about an hour.
Young biked short streets, long streets, flat streets, and hilly streets.
“One of the good challenges was the hills. There are actually a lot of hills in Arlington,” he says, mentioning the so-called “Superman Hill” along S. Walter Reed Drive, near Four Mile Run Drive.
He was sometimes joined by family, friends, and, once, Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. But Young mostly biked alone. He often posted his exploits on social media, as well as GoPro videos on YouTube of a number of rides (he plans to post all of them in the near future).
All in all, he didn’t have any major problems, besides it just taking longer than he initially thought. For example, Young found that he had to double or, even, triple back often, to hit every street.
“You can’t just get to every block without going around things at least twice,” he notes.
This caused him to bike about 1,000 miles, which is significantly more miles than paved Arlington roadways (of which, there 376 miles of county-maintained roadways, a number that doesn’t include state or federally-maintained roads).
Young only fell once during 19-month odyssey. While turning onto one of Arlington’s many cul-de-sacs, he hit a rock. The crash was very minor, he says. At one point he broke a finger in a non-cycling related incident, which prevented him from riding for several months.
Besides the many hills and cul-de-sacs, another thing he discovered while biking every corner of Arlington is that road signs are sometimes inaccurate.
“One of the most interesting things… is how often the signs that day ‘dead end’ or ‘no outlet’ are wrong,” he said.
He theorizes this is likely to prevent motor vehicles from cutting through the neighborhood to get to a major roadway.
There have also been some accidental discoveries.
“On one ride I came across a kid’s snow cone stand (like a lemonade stand) and ordered a snow cone, and told a dad who was there what I was doing, and he said ‘oh, then you might want to know that the kid bringing you that snow cone lives in Jim Morrison’s old house,'” he said. “Which was so amazing — I had no idea he grew up in Arlington! It was in the Yorktown neighborhood.”
The project has gotten Young to appreciate where he lives even more.
“Arlington isn’t perfect, obviously, but there’s so much green space, parks, and trees,” he says. “We are lucky to live here.”
He’s happy to be done biking every street in Arlington, though the fundraiser is still ongoing and people are welcome to donate. So far, the project has raised just over $5,100.
And Young remains a man with goals.
“I’m trying to resist the urge to start something new,” Young says. “We could start playing croquet in every park in Arlington. I think that would be fun.”
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