Bike Riding with Kids in Arlington County

Wednesday October 5, 2011


Today is “Bike/Walk to School Day” in Arlington and apparently October is “International Walk or Bike to School Month.”   We’ll be walking to school this morning, but since my youngest just learned to ride a bike (he’s not street ready, yet), I thought I would share some tips and resources for learning to ride and bike riding in Arlington County.

Learning to Ride in Arlington County

Bike Friendly Parks

When I visit a park or playground, one of the things I always assess is how bike friendly it is.   Click on the links below to find parks that meet this criteria:

  • Good For Ride-On Toys or Gliders — these parks have a smaller paved surface — they might not be big enough to satisfy established riders, but are good for little ones learning to ride or use a glider.
  • Good for Bike Riders — these parks have longer trails or paths that are suitable for kids who already know how to ride.

Of course there are many more places in Arlington ride than the ones I’ve outlined, but here’s a little more detail about my parks and playgrounds for young riders.

Bon Air (22205)
Bon Air is my top pick because it has a nice paved path adjacent to a playground.   My bike riders can go up and down the shady path to the bathrooms and basketball court and remain in my line of sight.   The path continues and connects up with the W&OD Trail but it is not as heavily trafficked as other trails.   It also has a basketball court which provides another surface for young riders to use.

Hayes (22201)
Hayes Park has a great paved trail that circumvents the playground.  It also has a full-sized basketball court, all of which make great riding spaces.   Not all of Hayes is flat, however, so care should be taken in the area that slopes towards the parking lot.   This is one of my kids favorite places to ride, and I like that my kids can do a variety of things here (some ride, some play, some spray).

Madison Manor (22205)
This park and playground has a large open black (green) top making it a great place for young riders to practice their skills.  There’s not enough pavement to satisfy advanced riders, but it’s a good place for moms who need to keep track of both kids on the playground and riders on the blacktop.

Fort Ethan Allen/ Madison Center (22207)
This park has a large blacktop inside the fenced in park area, as well as a basketball court adjacent to the playground. This is another of my favorite spots for managing multiple kids with different interests.

Parkhurst (22205)
Parkhurst, aka “the Secret Park” is a lovely little playground with a paved loop around the playground.   This makes it easy for moms to keep an eye on multiple kids.   The loop isn’t long enough to keep older/more proficient riders engaged, but is a good choice for beginners.  It does have a slight pitch to it, which means some parts are flat, some are slightly downhill (which is a good thing for gliders), and some parts are slightly uphill.

Woodmont Center (22207)
The Woodmont  Center aka the YMCA Gymnastics Center has a playground and paved loop path around a small field.  It’s just the right size for a new rider to try out his or her skill.

Bluemont (22203)
Bluemont is a major thoroughfare for bike riders in Arlington.   The W&OD runs through the park, and the Bluemont Junction trail intersects here as well.  These trails are higher traffic and thus require more vigilence, but are nice and flat and have good visibility.   The playground sits off and away from the trail a bit, so you can’t really ride and have kids on the playground, but the playground makes a great post-ride destination.

Lubber Run Community Center (22205)
Lubber Run has a paved volleyball court that makes a good riding surface.   There is another paved trail close to the community center that has a steep decline and leads towards George Mason Dr., however, so parents should remain vigilant.

Butler Holmes (22204)
This park has a paved path leading from the play area to the basketball court.  The path has a slightly downhill pitch, which is a good thing for gliders.

Dawson Terrace Community Center (22201)
There is a large blacktop surface (several contiguous basketball courts) adjacent to the playground which make a great riding surface.

Dominion Hills / Mace (22205)
The playground is adjacent to a spur of the W&OD trail which provides some opportunity for gliding or riding.  It’s not as high traffic as the main W&OD path, but you can’t really be in the playground and on the trail at the same time.

Lacey Woods (22205)
Lacey Woods doesn’t offer much for established riders, but it might be a good option for moms who have kids who want to ride and play.    The only suitable riding surface is a basketball court adjacent to the playground.

Tyrol Hill (22204)
Tyrol Hill has a paved path that circumvents the playground, as well as a basketball court.  It is all enclosed within the park boundaries, however, moms should take note that there is a paved trail that leads down a steep hill towards Long Branch Nature Center.

Virginia Highlands (22202)
Virginia Highlands has paved trails that run through this large park, making it a good choice for established riders.

Other Resources

Arlington is very much pro-biking.   They created a website called Bike Arlington, which is a treasure trove of information — especially maps (I love maps).  You can request a free Arlington Bike Map — it features trails, bike lanes, steep hills, difficult crossings, even bike shops.   You will also find links to lots of other regional bike maps on the maps page.

National Park Service Learn to Ride Program

The NPS has developed a wonderful program that teaches kids how to ride a bike, for free!  I haven’t done it but I’ve heard several other moms speak very highly of it.   It is listed on their schedule of events page for the GW Parkway (tho it doesn’t take place on the parkway) and advanced registration is required.  Several of the dates have for Fall 2011 have already passed, but there are still future dates available.

Phoenix Bikes

If you are in the market for a new bike, I suggest checking out Phoenix Bikes.   It is a youth and community bike shop that refurbishes used bikes and does low cost repairs.   They are also a non-profit that provides training and youth development teaching kids how to repair bikes and earn the opportunity to get their own bike.  They have limited weekend hours but are wonderful organization.

Bike Races

The Air Force Cycling Classic is a bike race held each spring in Arlington.  It is a professional bike race, but also includes a kids bike race, which my kids have loved participating in.

Arlington Fun Ride — this family-friendly 17 mile ride through Arlington is coming up this weekend and benefits Phoenix Bikes.

The weekend forecast looks gorgeous, it should be a great time to go for a ride!


One Response to Bike Riding with Kids in Arlington County

  1. 1
    Viviane says:

    In search for a place for kid to learn to bike thanks

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