Being one of the most visible leaders in DC requires making sure you can see what’s around you, too. Mary Cheh, DC’s Ward 3 Councilmember, likes to see the city from the seat of her bike. And she is committed to ensuring that DC’s cyclists and pedestrians are also able to enjoy the health benefits of getting around without a car.
An avid athlete since her youth, Cheh was a dedicated runner until an injury left her unable to train for races. She has found that biking to work from her Forest Hills home keeps both her brain and body sharp. In her free time, she also enjoys riding along the Crescent Trail and in Rock Creek Park.
Councilmember Cheh is the chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation, and loves every minute that she gets to spend on her bike.
“I’m so proud that Washington, DC can be such a bike-friendly city,” Cheh says. “We really are lucky to have the green space and infrastructure to support this culture.”
Bike-friendly, yet not the friendliest
[quote_right]Cheh believes that educating the public on cyclist’s rights and safety is the way to make the entire city more bike-friendly, and therefore, healthier.[/quote_right]Even though she has commuted to work on her bike for more than 5 years, Cheh says “(riding) can still be scary, and unfortunately, there are some places that likely can’t accommodate bike lanes.”
Connecticut Avenue, for example, is unlikely to get a bike lane. DC’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) says it’s logistically impossible. But Cheh knows that creating a bike-friendly city requires work, patience and money. She works tirelessly with DDOT, advocating for smaller changes that have a big impact on safety, such as bike “boxes” and bike crossing signals.
“One of the most scary parts of riding on a major road is when you are stopped at an intersection, and cars accelerate past you as soon as the light turns green,” Cheh says, “If bikes can’t get a dedicated lane, they need to have a place where they are designated to cross.”
She admits that cycling in the city can take some real getting used to. “You don’t know where to turn, where a bike lane appears, if you should go through a tunnel, etc.,” Cheh says. She also says that a ride can become instantly less enjoyable if you happen to have a WMATA bus rush ahead of you, leaving you smelling its exhaust fumes.
Cheh believes that educating the public on cyclist’s rights and safety is the way to make the entire city more bike-friendly, and therefore, healthier. Recently she put out a statement about the importance of cycling safely along the new streetcar lines along the H Street corridor. Cheh has directed DDOT to commence a public education campaign about the hazards of streetcar tracks. This will include signage and exploration of safety along routes where streetcars exist.
Bikes for everyone to shareCheh has advocated for more comprehensive public transportation options. One of her favorite projects has been the Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) system. Today, CaBi operates over 1200 bikes from 140 stations, including one right next to the Van Ness Metro. Approximately 4,000 people use CaBi every day, and there are over 126,000 members.
“It has really changed our city, and we are so proud that the program is one of the largest in the country and a model for other cities,” Cheh says.
Mary Cheh’s passion for creating a safe and healthy community is contagious, and her strategies successful. As a fellow DC commuter cyclist, I’m glad to have Cheh as my neighbor, my representative on the DC Council and my advocate.