Emerson Rising is not unique in his support for the bike lanes DDOT is planning to install on 2.7 miles of Connecticut Avenue. But he might be one of the younger advocates.
Emerson is 15 years old. He attends Georgetown Day School and bikes there from his home near Lafayette Elementary. But when he first came to our attention, he was an eighth grader at Deal Middle School. DDOT was collecting community feedback on its Connecticut Avenue Reversible Lane, Safety and Operations Study, and Emerson crafted and circulated a petition in support of one of the concepts being floated by the agency. That was Concept C, which proposed bike lanes on both sides of Connecticut and was ultimately selected by Mayor Muriel Bowser and DDOT Director Everett Lott.
He collected and submitted 136 signatures, mostly from fellow Deal students, then wrote to the signers urging them write to ANC commissioners, then-Council member Mary Cheh and DDOT. He also encouraged them to get the adults in their lives involved. That is how Forest Hills Connection learned of the petition, and of Emerson.
For him, such advocacy makes sense. “Biking is obviously much better for the environment than driving,” he wrote to Forest Hills Connection. “Limiting CO2 emissions is one of the best ways we as people can support our world. Biking is also a consistent way to stay fit. A commute to stores, work or school can be invaluable in staying active.”
Emerson’s earliest memories on a bike are with his parents. He’s in a bike trailer, coasting through Rock Creek Park. “I was not particularly interested in learning to ride a bike,” he admits, even though both his parents are avid cyclists. He learned to ride around eight or nine years old. When asked about friends who bike, he said, “I am an outlier in using my bike to get to places I want to go.”
Emerson says he started biking regularly when his parents “made it clear they were not interested in driving me to Deal Middle School.” The fastest way to get to school was on a bike. He rode on the sidewalk down Connecticut Avenue from Western to Nebraska, which was “like an obstacle course.” Pedestrians tried to avoid him, and he tried not to bump into them. Nebraska Avenue was not a problem. There were few, if any, pedestrians there.
Eventually, Emerson developed a passion for biking, and it had a firm grasp by the time the Connecticut Avenue study was under way. He credits his father Josh Rising, a bike advocate in Ward 3, with getting him interested in doing something at Deal.
“He worked with me to put out a petition at my school supporting Concept C, which would make it easier for kids to bike to school,” Emerson told me.
Although his current bike route to Georgetown Day no longer includes Connecticut Avenue, he still believes that bike lanes would make a difference in his life in Chevy Chase.
“I would definitely visit local businesses in the Connecticut corridor more frequently if I had a bike lane to reassure me,” Emerson wrote. Where, specifically, would he go? In a later conversation, Comet Ping Pong got a special mention.