Tour de DCPL VI
Tour de DCPL: A Rider’s Review
by C.T. Lechner, Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library Patron
For more information and photos from the ride, head to dclibrary.org/tourdedcpl
Whew! That was fun – and informative. It’s around 1 p.m. on a sunny day in mid-May, and about 60 of us bicyclists just completed the 11-mile-long, 6th Annual Tour de DCPL. Cyclists of diverse ages, colors, shapes and sizes rendezvoused at the bustling entrance to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.
Hosted by the DC Public Library, and led by a handful of its capable and knowledgeable staff, the tour visited several of the city’s most interesting libraries, including Mt. Pleasant (my local library), Cleveland Park, West End (temporarily in the Watergate), and even the impressive Abner Cloud House (a colonial home located along the C&O Canal near Fletcher’s Boathouse). From there, we climbed a long hill up towards the Palisades Library. There was plenty of hill climbing on this ride to satisfy the more advanced cyclists. Fortunately for me, the pace was relaxed and the terrain was easily doable.
Just before leaving the shade of the historic MLK Jr. Memorial Library, Maggie, one of the tour leaders, described the route as riders referred to our handy mini-maps with tour directions conveniently provided on the reverse side. She also gave us a quick lesson about the central library (e.g., MLK Jr. Memorial). For example, it was designed by architectural icon Mies Van der Rohe, his only library design that was ever constructed. Another librarian-cyclist that co-led the tour, Bobbie, introduced our four police escorts – all avid cyclists carrying gear that probably weighed close to 25 pounds on top of their tank-like, white police mountain bikes. In the shade just outside the Palisades Library, the police-cyclists gave a short talk and answered our questions. They told us about their bike policing work and shared some key safety rules for us to abide by in order to avoid being pulled over for violations that could result in fines. Riders on the tour were paying close attention.
Before leaving our starting point, we were given five minutes to make last minute bike adjustments, use the lavatories, stock up on snacks and water, apply sunscreen, and get commemorative T-shirts, pins and nifty DC Public Library slap-on pants cuff protectors. Our happy group then headed west-bound on G Street NW. It was delightful to be simultaneously riding alongside a dad towing his kid in a Burley trailer while chatting with a friendly policeman. Among other roles, the bike-mounted police were there to direct automobile traffic at intersections, ensuring safe passage for our tour group. Our policemen pals also kept an eye on our bikes at each stop along the way. Next year we’ll remember to lighten our load by leaving bike locks at home!
The very first stop on the tour - the sunny West End Library, temporarily located on the ground floor of the famous Watergate Hotel, along Virginia Avenue NW. To our pleasant surprise, it was full of people surveying the shelves of books, magazines, and videos. I noticed a bulletin board displaying various announcements and flyers, one containing details about an author talk in early June. It sounded fascinating – just like at Politics and Prose. I will be sure to visit this library again soon!
At each location, friendly library staff greeted riders with smiles, snacks and refreshments. They also offered brief, welcoming remarks that included background information that makes their libraries unique and worth visiting again. For our part, cyclists asked interesting questions. For instance, there were many questions for DCPL’s roving zoo librarian at the Cleveland Park Library on Connecticut Avenue. Who knew there even was one?!
There is lots more to tell about this wonderful bike ride, but my best advice is to plan to join the Tour de DCPL in 2016. I had almost forgotten about it, but DC Public Library staff had a table at Freedom Plaza on Bike to Work Day. To our friends the generous and talented DCPL librarians, thanks for the reminder and for selecting and offering us lots of great biking-related literature and guide books.
- C.T. Lechner