Photo by Steve Fernie.
Last week at Greater Greater Washington, Palisades resident Brett Young argued for the creation of a new bike/pedestrian path from Georgetown out to Glen Echo. It would follow the old Cabin John trolley path owned by the city and WMATA.
The trail was once wide enough to accommodate two trolleys, about 25 feet. On this section, the trail would need to be paved, and the bridges rebuilt. Even with paving just 10 feet wide the trail could have room for bicyclists, joggers, and others to enjoy this resource.
The challenges for a project like this are legion. But let just consider for a moment what this would look like if it were built. Yes, there are two significant bike/hike trails parallel to this (the canal towpath and the C&O trail), but this would address a need not met by these trails. Most of all, consider how difficult it is to use the trails to get between Georgetown and Palisades. If you use the trail from Georgetown, there is really only one spot way out by the Delcaria reservoir where you can awkwardly cut up off the trail and access the neighborhood. And that’s, of course, after traveling all the way down to the waterfront to get to the trail in the first place.
Of course, you could always just use Reservoir to get between the neighborhoods, but that has several fairly long and steep inclines. Plus, cars drive too fast on that road.
Now imagine leisurely biking through the west Village to GU via Prospect, and then drifting over a restored foundry branch bridge. Traveling westward, you never encounter a steep hill as you pedal through the leafy beauty of the Palisades, passing the excellent Palisades rec center and the charming homes of Sherier Place.
That narrative just biked directly over several humungous challenges. The first and foremost is the bridge. Advocates for the trail argue that it’s salvageable with reasonable efforts. Others, however, think it’s a fragile and rusty heap that ought to be torn down as soon as possible.
And even if the bridge were not a problem and Georgetown was willing to build an access path to the bridge, you’d encounter some loud opposition in Foxhall Village. At least one neighborhood leader has argued that the specter of a pedestrian bridge connecting the campus to Foxhall Village is an anathema. The fear is that this would immediately make the neighborhood a much more attractive location for GU off campus housing.
And even if that could somehow be addressed, many of the owners of those charming homes on Sherier Place have come to view the path behind their house to be their backyard. The idea of turning it into a popular bike path is, shall we say, inconsistent with that attitude.
The advocates did get one possible sign of support recently. As described by GM last week, DDOT recently issued a comprehensive plan for the future of transportation in DC. Part of that plan was a detailed report on biking. In that report was a recommendation for a new trail “along Canal Rd.”. That’s sort of nebulous. Do they mean actually along the road? That would be odd seeing as unlike the trolley trail, it would add almost no benefits over the towpath. It could be seen, instead, as a endorsement of the idea of building a bike path on the old trolley trail, which is an idea that has been kicked around long before the most recent advocacy.