Try It By Bike!: A Guide to Riding Around Red Line Metro Closures

For all of us who can’t take off a leisurely July 21st to Sept 3rd vacation and avoid some very humid days, the Metro closure of the Brookland and Rhode Island Ave Red Line stations are going to affect many travel patterns. There will be bus shuttles between stations and a temporary bus lane on Rhode Island Ave (!). But it can also be a easy bike ride—there is a trail that parallels the Red Line!

Want to avoid crowded roadways and train platforms while Metro undertakes maintenance? The Metropolitan Branch Trail follows the Red Line from just south of Fort Totten past Brookland, Rhode Island, NoMa to Union Station with some great connections to downtown and points east & west.

Metropolitan Branch Trail signage.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail runs along the Red Line in D.C., and you can pick it up just south of Fort Totten! An easy alternative route to use while Brookland and Rhode Island Ave. are closed.

How to Prepare

Check your brakes, pump up your tires, and give biking a try! A few things we’ve seen that are useful for beginning to bike for transportation:

  • No need to start with the Big Ride. Maybe test out a daily commute on a weekend when there isn’t a 9am important meeting. Where are you going to park your bike?
  • Options are your friend. You can drive a car to a park-and-ride, and ride your bike from there. Take bikeshare downhill and bus home. Try out a bikeshare bike for a week and see how getting around feels.
    • A Capital Bikeshare corral with unlimited parking will be available at 3rdSt. NE and M St. NE from 8am-1pm, on Monday – Friday from 7/23 – 8/31, so you can easily drop off your bike.
  • You do need a working bicycle, a u-lock and some way to carry your things. A helmet is encouraged. But, like so many things, no need to go all in on all the fancy gear to start with! Are bike specific bags nice? Sure! But you can also use the random Aldi’s reusable bag you got free that one time. If you’re going to be biking when it is dark, a front light is legally required and you should have a rear light too.
  • It’s hot! Sunscreen, a water bottle and sun protection are probably a good idea. I like wearing casual clothes on my ride and changing at work to avoid sweaty clothes. But for folks with shorter rides or who aren’t perennially biking fast to avoid being late for meetings, a slower pace should help minimize sweat.
  • Trails are kind of like roads, but better. Ride to the right and pass folks on your left. Let people know that you’re passing them and give them space. Don’t do anything sudden. And above all, be courteous about the shared space.
  • We’ve got maps, events, classes, and all sorts of other resources below to make your bike commute comfortable, safe and fun.

We’ve also got tools for employers looking to make life a little easier for their staff.

What’s WABA Doing?

  • Pushing local transportation officials to create space and infrastructure for biking during the surges.
  • Steering our existing programs and resources to help and support people impacted.
  • Leading the bike community to help by providing resources, programming and events.

For press inquiries, please contact Colin Browne.

Already a Bike Commuter? Help your neighbors and your coworkers!

Metro maintenance is huge and we need your help to make sure that nobody on a bike is left behind. How can you help?

  • Be a resource for their questions.
  • Can you go on a ride with them? Collaborate on route route planning?
  • Connect them with other resources – any WABA events that they should join?

New to Bike Commuting?

Join us at a City Cycling class! This class is the right fit for you and will give you three things you can’t get anywhere else:

  • A safe and supportive environment to practice riding and build confidence
  • Access to the best bike teachers in the region to answer all your questions
  • Riding techniques, tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your ride

View the schedule and register for classes here.

And check out our extensive resources for new riders!

Ask our Trail Ranger team questions! We’ll be at a few more outreach events this summer with free bike maps, resources and answers. Can’t make it to a market? Email us at or give us a call at (202) 518-0524 x208 and we’re happy to help.

Takoma Farmers Market
July 8th, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Laurel Ave, Takoma MD

Met Branch Coffee Hour
July 13th, 7:30 am – 9:30 am
4th and S St NE

MBT Meander Ride
July 15th, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Silver Spring Metro
Details and registration here.

NoMa Farmers Market
July 22nd, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
First and Pierce St NE

Oh, and here’s what you need to know about bikes on Metrorail and bikes on Metrobus.

Help Your Employees Bike to Work!

Make commuting the best part of their day by hosting an Everyday Bicycling Seminar with WABA.

Our bike experts will solve bike mysteries and bust bike myths in a relaxed and engaging “brown bag” format.

Complete the form here and our coordinator will be in touch.

It’s time for Tales & Trails!

Which bridges were burned in the War of 1812? What is the story of the ship Pearl? Where in Anacostia Park did the Bonus Army camp? What led to the violence at the Anacostia Pool in 1968? Anacostia River Trail and Anacostia Park have seen both the freedom and oppression of people, to just and unjust decisions by those in power. Our Tales & Trails ride series in collaboration with National Park Service goes beyond the built trails to the vibrant history these lands have seen.

Join the WABA Trail Ranger team and National Park Service for a dynamic guided history tour of Anacostia River Trail in Anacostia Park as we celebrate the Year of the Anacostia. These rides were so popular last year, that we’re doing them again! Explore the Anacostia River Trail though a different lens on a guided history tour of the trail.


Sunday, July 29th – “The Bonus Army at Anacostia”
Good Hope Rd and Anacostia Drive SE
10:30 am – 1:00 pm

Join us to 86 years to the day since the Bonus Army camped in Anacostia Park.

In 1932, over 30,000 World War I veterans camped at Anacostia Park in peaceful protest for a wartime bonus that ultimately resulted in the G.I. Bill. This bike tour leads visitors through the former encampment and details their struggle as they lobbied Congress during the Great Depression.

ASL interpretation for this ride is funded by National Park Service – Anacostia Park.

Registration required here

Sunday, August, August 12th – “Where Botany Meets History”
Good Hope Rd and Anacostia Drive SE
10:30 am – 1:00 pm

As part of the celebrations for the Year of the Anacostia, we’re biking to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. From the native to invasive, this tour focuses on the flora and fauna you will meet along the way. Upon arriving at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, riders will dismount and have a Ranger-led tour among the flowering lotus and lilies. Find out how this part of the Anacostia became the premier site of flowering lotus in the District of Columbia!

Registration required here

Saturday, September 1st – “Happy Birthday Anacostia Park!”
Good Hope Rd and Anacostia Drive SE
10:30 am – 1:00 pm

As part of the celebrations for the Year of the Anacostia and the 100th Birthday of Anacostia Park on August 31st, we’re touring the park! On September 1, explore the entire history of the park from the prehistoric era to the present day. Stories of ornithologists, Civil Rights leaders, environmental activists as well as the famous and infamous make this tour one to remember!

ASL interpretation for this tour is funded by Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

Registration required here

We will bring extra water and snacks but please bring a water bottle, helmet and a working bicycle.

We will be primarily on trails and this will be a no-drop social pace ride primarily focused on history. We will be starting promptly at 10:30 am to make sure we end on time – lots of history to cover! We’ll also reimburse you for your usage fees if you use Capital Bikeshare for the ride.

If you are no longer able to make it, please let me know at We want to make sure that all of our allotted spots are filled.

Should there be substantial rain, rides will be rescheduled.

Welcome the 2018 Trail Ranger Team!

Welcome to the 2018 Trail Ranger team – Trey, Carly, Tim and Matthew! The Trail Rangers are all about providing a consistent and helpful presence on DC’s mixed-use paved trails. We help trail users, engage with trailside neighborhoods, improve trail conditions, and work with city agencies to keep the trails clean, bright, and clear of obstacles. Keep an eye out for them on the Marvin Gaye, Anacostia River, Suitland Parkway and Metropolitan Branch Trails (Click here to see where these awesome trails are!).





What’s your favorite snack?

Milkshakes – Tim


A simple trail mix of almonds, dried cranberries and chocolate! – Carly

Cheese and crackers – Matthew

What is your bike story – how did you start and what has the journey been?

“I rode a bike as a kid, but stopped riding as a teenager and adult. Three years ago I decided that I wanted to bike from Arlington, Virginia to Dallas, Texas. I bought a bike, did very little training, and started biking to Texas. During this trip, which took me 28 days, I fell in love with biking again and remembered the joy I had of riding my bike as a kid. Since that time, I have been riding my bike often throughout the Virginia/DC area.” – Tim

“I’ve been biking since my first year of college… because walking to class is boring. I then started riding more and exploring places I could never get to in a car. Biking is now my favorite hobby!” – Trey

“As a child growing up in Gaithersburg, I loved biking on the C&O Canal towpath and on the trails of Seneca Creek State Park. In college in the suburbs of Boston, I took my bike to the roads for the first time; on the weekends, I would pick a new direction, hop on the bike, and ride for a whole day, stopping to talk with people and investigate new places. I regularly biked a few miles to the west to volunteer at an organic farm, and a few miles to the east to attend classes at a different college, and fixed and maintained the bikes at my cooperative house. Thanks to my bike, I connected with and gained an encyclopedic knowledge of quirky locally owned businesses, beautiful parks and preserves, and communities beyond my campus. Now back in my home region, I look forward to connecting similarly with communities across Washington, DC.” – Carly

“I learned to bike a long time ago but I never regularly biked anywhere in the city until I bought my first $40 Flying Pigeon bike while living in Beijing. I loved biking in the city – there were protected bike lanes even before America had them! When I moved back to DC after China, I was determined to continue biking. I’ve since lived without a car, relying on my two legs or my bike to get around DC, and I love it so much! I’ll never go back to driving!” – Matthew

Favorite thing about biking?

“I love being outdoors in nature and being able to exercise at the same time.” -Tim

“My favorite thing about biking is being able to customize my bike so it is one of a kind.” – Trey

“Creating a sense of place – understanding the characteristics that are special to a particular community – has been a favorite activity of mine throughout my life, whether in my own backyard or in a new state or country. For me, a bike is an unparalleled vehicle for discovering and appreciating the unique features of a place, and easily stopping, continuing, and connecting with people along the way. In urban areas, biking provides the speed and convenience of traveling just about anywhere in a reasonable amount of time, while maintaining close contact and a dynamic, spontaneous interaction with one’s surroundings. “ – Carly

“I feel so free! There’s just something about knowing that I can hop onto this machine and go anywhere with my own body. And when I’m on a trail in the middle of a forest, it feels so great to exercise and connect to nature!” – Matthew

What are you excited to do as a Trail Ranger this summer?

“I am excited about contributing to positive biking experiences on trails in the area and building relationships with the biking community.” – Tim

“I am excited to meet other cyclists and encourage more people to ride bikes.” -Trey

“I look forward to helping folks who are new to the trails feel inspired and empowered to get on their bikes and ride, and to developing relationships with the communities of regular trail users.“ – Carly

“I am so excited to give back to my community! I want more people in DC to bike and the only way we can do that is if we protect our investment and by getting out on the trail and showing friendly faces!” – Matthew

Want to join the team?

Be outside on your bike with the DC Trail Ranger team this spring and summer on regular shifts! To help make sure all volunteers are on the same page, we are requiring all volunteers with the DC Trail Ranger program join us for a quick orientation.

Sign up for an orientation slot here!

Come to the River: Anacostia River Festival!

The cherry blossoms are in peak bloom which means the Anacostia River Festival, one of the District’s biggest annual festivals, is right around the corner! Rivers, trails, bike rides – all the elements for a great weekend. We have a number of ways you can join us for the fun – at one event, or all of them!

Monday, April 9th

Crafting for Anacostia River Festival Bike Parade
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

We’re teaming up with Project Create DC to host a bike craft night for the annual bike parade. We’ll be making river-themed versions of the DC flag so come with your best ideas for local river wildlife flags! Felt and materials provided.

More details and let us know you’re coming

Saturday, April 14th

Anacostia River Festival Cleanup
9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Help make the big day a success by joining us the day before the Festival for a massive trash removal effort and park cleanup! We’re joining Anacostia Riverkeeper so we should have a decent crowd of folks. We’d all prefer that our watershed not have trash in the first place, but second best is a fun morning with great folks making a tangible impact to prettify our public space.

More details and let us know you’re coming

Sunday, April 15th

Ride Along The River with WABA
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and the Anacostia River is gorgeous. Join us for a ride that celebrates spring! Come explore the beautiful Anacostia River Trail with us, enjoy a great ride, and we’ll end up at the Anacostia River Festival as a group.

More details and let us know you’re coming

Anacostia River Festival
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

The big day! 10,000 people, boat tours, crafts, hammocks, and free bike valet. It’s a great afternoon in the park at the Anacostia River Festival. Bring your family and friends and spend the day with us!

More details

Volunteer at the Festival with WABA
12:30 pm – 5:30 pm

The Anacostia River Fest is a huge outreach day for WABA and our booth is busy all day. To pull off all the fabulous programming and get more people biking on the Anacostia River Trail and beyond, we’re going to need some help!

Volunteers will be supported by WABA staff, including the Trail Ranger team. The main role for volunteers will be cheerfully greeting Festival-goers, promoting WABA and biking, and answering questions.

More details and let us know you’re coming

A Few of My Favorite Things

Every job comes with its inherent specialities and institutional knowledge, and the Trail Ranger program is no different. As the DC Trail Ranger Coordinator, I’ve spent a lot of time on the trails we maintain and serve – specifically the Marvin Gaye, Anacostia River, Suitland Parkway and Metropolitan Branch trails. I know a lot about how the trails have changed over the last five years of the program and collectively, we’ve spent hundreds of hours on each of the trails.

But what is gained is more than knowledge of broken-glass patterns (always an increase after DC United games on the Anacostia River Trail). It is an appreciation of the smaller details of a trail, built up over repeated shifts. Like that one quiet shift when things feel a little boring and you finally stop to actually observe the flowers. There are special attributes to all of the trails but on the Marvin Gaye Trail, I’ve particularly come to appreciate:

Early Mornings in the Spring

Early morning in the spring is an absolutely magical time to be on the trail. The world is quiet except for the chattering of birds. The Marvin Gaye Trail follows the Watts Branch, the largest tributary of the Anacostia River in DC, from the easternmost corner of DC to Minnesota Ave NE. The trail is entirely within the boundaries of a city park.

Marvin Gaye Park and Trail is particularly great for birds because a lot of work has been done to restore native plants and repair the stream corridor – including 10,000 new trees and plants in 2012 alone. A healthier forest and stream ecosystem mean more food, shelter and space for birds. It’s easy to hear which birds have moved in or are visiting during the early mornings when most birds are the most talkative.

Sand and greenery in the foreground, a clear rocky stream is flowing behind it. Everything looks prestine

Herons and Beavers

Well, one heron, one time. Herons are a pretty common sight on the Anacostia River Trail, especially near Kingman Island. But one time – I saw a heron at 42nd St. and Hunt Pl. NE in the stream and it was majestic! Though there is certainly work to be done with trash removal along the stream corridor, the amount of trash surrounding the heron was less inspiring.

A far more common sight are the presence of beavers – especially their tell-tale cut down stumps. They are really good at logging! And the beaver dam is pretty (dam) cool.

Lots of underbrush greenery and dead leaves on the ground. To the right is Watts Branch Stream but the photo is focused on the beaver cut sharp stump in the middle of the photo.

Nannie Helen Burroughs

At one-and-a-half miles long, the trail is in a history-rich environment. A DC boundary stone is just off the eastern end of the trail and the Crystal Room where music legend Marvin Gaye first performed is mid-way through the trail (now Washington Park and People’s Riverside Center). But for historic legacy, it’s hard to beat the campus and gates of the National Training School for Women and Girls on Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave NE.

Founded in 1909 by Nannie Helen Burroughs, the prominent 20th century African-American educator and civil rights activist, the school’s location went against the common thinking of the time that a vocational boarding school was more appropriate in the south. The school proceeded to educate thousands of African-American students with Nannie Helen Burroughs as principal until her death in 1961. Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue is particularly notable since many nearby major roads still honor slave-owning families that used to own much of the land around Deanwood (notable examples include Sheriff and Benning).

Front white gate of a fence with peeling white paint. THere is an gold image of Lincoln on top of the arch and it reads "Progressive National Baptist Convention" in black cursive font.

Playground at Marvin Gaye Recreation Center

Musical-themed splash park and playground at a recreation center named for Marvin Gaye, and the result of hard work by the community for neighborhood amenities. Need I say more?

A playground on a sunny day. there is a giant guitar in front and the slides structure behind has keyboard printed roof. There is a water splash park.


Be A Trail Superstar, Come Join the Trail Ranger Team!

Ever wanted people to enthusiastically shout “Thank you, you’re awesome” to you on the job? Feel like a trail celebrity? (actual quote from a former Trail Ranger) Be part of a dynamic team of outreach trail champions? Get to directly improve your community through events and maintenance? Be paid to be outside on your bike for five months?

If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, consider applying to be DC’s trail superstars as part of our sixth annual cohort of Trail Rangers. We have a whole host of plans lined up for this season and we are looking for our team. More information and the job description can be found here. Applications are due March 5th 2018 though candidates are strongly encouraged to apply earlier.

Want to help us by sharing with your network? Share this post or flyer.

We’re Hiring: Part-Time Trail Rangers

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is looking for five passionate and energetic trail champions with a wide diversity of skills for our 2018 Trail Ranger Team to serve trails and the people who use them throughout the District of Columbia. Now in our sixth season, the program is a beloved presence on our local trails and has a strong reputation as a great working environment with high job satisfaction.

5 people behind a table with lots of outreach material. There is a WABA logo banner behind them, they are under a tent outside on the grass and three of the people are wearing green Trail Ranger shirts. There are 3 men and 2 women.

WABA’s Trail Ranger program encourages trail use through daily trail presence, improved upkeep, trail user assistance and community engagement. Reporting to our DC Trail Ranger Coordinator, Trail Rangers roam nearly 24 miles of trails within the District by bicycle. Trails included in the program are the Metropolitan Branch Trail, Anacostia River Trail, Suitland Parkway Trail, Marvin Gaye Trail, and connecting street routes. Trail Rangers act as trail ambassadors, offering a consistent and friendly presence April through September to make them more approachable, enjoyable, and dependable for transportation and recreation.

Intangible benefits include: working outside on those perfect spring days, getting to know your city better through talking with neighbors, profussive thanks from fellow trail users from removing glass and working closely with a dynamic and diverse team. The Trail Ranger season begins April 11th and ends on September 5th, 2018. Pay starts at $15.50 an hour.

You can learn more about the Trail Ranger program here.

Roles & Responsibilities

You will:

  • Spend the majority of your work hours outside, biking on or between trails.
  • Work in shifts with a partner riding bikes at a relaxed, conversational pace, up to 25 miles in a 8 hour shift.
  • Support and encourage trail use with friendly and helpful trail presence, regular maintenance efforts and consistent outreach events, including:
    • Morning coffee outreach.
    • Trail rides.
    • Activity days with local organizations.
  • Help lower barriers to bicycling, build community and build a more robust trail network.
    • Develop and maintain relationships with regular trail users and community members.
    • Bring new users to the trail through community outreach and engagement.
    • Individual conversations with trail neighbors and community groups.
  • Plan and lead cleanups and community events alongside the program coordinator.
  • Perform inspections of trail conditions and maintenance of trail corridors including pruning branches, gathering trash, removing obstructions and clearing debris.
  • Make regular reports on daily trail conditions, needs, and trends.
  • Work with the program coordinator and city agencies to respond to recurring or major trail maintenance issues.
  • Document events, trail updates and developments to keep trail users informed.
  • Be outside in all weather, with the exemption of thunderstorms and other hazardous conditions.
  • Each team member will be individually responsible for an operational project, including: team bike maintenance, tools maintenance, and reporting.
  • Assist at other WABA events as needed.


Candidates must have:

  • A proven track record for being dependable, timely, and communicative.
  • The willingness to be positive, engaging, and approachable in a public setting.
  • The willingness and enthusiasm to work in a team setting
  • The ability to thrive in a day-to-day self-supervised work environment.
  • The capacity to be available for 16-24 hours per week in 8 hour shifts,
    • Shifts are 6:30 am – 2:30 pm and 11:00 am – 7:00 pm on weekdays, and
    • 10:00 am – 6:00 pm on weekends.
    • Work weekends approximately every other weekend.
  • A commitment to work April 11th to September 5th, 2018.
  • The ability to ride a bike up to 25 miles in mixed city traffic and off street trails pulling an up to 30 lbs trailer.
  • A commitment to being a safe and exemplary bicyclist.
  • A commitment to respect, include, and be kind to all.

Ideal candidates will have:

  • A proven track record for working collaboratively within a team.
  • A firm commitment to WABA’s mission.
  • Excellent communication skills in informal settings and across lines of difference.
  • Confidence interacting with and serving the public.
  • Creative problem-solving skills and capacity to innovate.
  • The ability to organize time wisely and juggle multiple priorities.

Trail Rangers operate as a team and benefit from the unique skills and talents of each team member. Ideally, one or more team member will have:

  • The knowledge of the principles of safe bicycling and traffic laws in DC.
  • The ability to lift up to 30 lbs.
  • Are competent with basic bicycle maintenance including patching a flat tire and adjusting brakes.
  • Spanish, ASL or Amharic proficiency a strong plus.
  • Previous experience with one of our program trails and the neighborhoods they connect
  • Previous experience as a DC Trail Ranger

WABA is committed to:

  • Providing opportunities to learn new skills.
  • Promoting and building an inclusive, collaborative team environment.
  • Orientation and team management that prioritizes your well-being, including training in preventing common cycling injuries.
  • Doing our best to have a consistent schedule that respects your time and outside obligations.
  • Providing all the tools, bikes and materials needed to perform the job.

This position is part-time from April 11th, 2018 through September 5th, 2018 for approximately 16 – 20 hours per week. Compensation starts at $15.50 per hour.

Please apply by filling out an application here. We strongly prefer that resumes be uploaded through the application portal but if you encounter issues,  resumes can be sent to with “Trail Ranger” as the subject line. The Trail Ranger team benefits from a wide range of skills and life experiences, please include what unique skills you would bring to the team. Women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.

Applications will be accepted until March 5th though candidates are strongly encouraged to apply earlier. Phone interviews will begin March 5th, hiring decisions will be made by March 26th and team orientation will be April 11th – April 13th. Phone calls only if you do not have easy internet access please.

WABA is committed to providing equal employment opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, arrest record or criminal convictions, political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, sex, or age.

Very Specific Thoughts on Dustpans, or How to Help Clean a Local Trail

Screen caption of a tweet reading "@WABA's @sobacase "I have very specific thoughts about dustpans." And lots of other advice on how people on bikes can keep trails trash free." There is a photo of a woman in brown workpants overalls talking and leaning up against a wall. Another woman on the left is thinking, a pile of bike gear is on the right with the arm of a person is high visibility jacket on the far right of the frame.

Bothered by the trash on your ride home every day? See something that should not be there? Grabbing a few items on your way home doesn’t take too long, is easy to place in a nearby public trash can and does make an impact. We know there are folks throughout the region doing trash removal on trails already, it is not just you battling it all!

The DC Trail Rangers will certainly be doing more group cleanups in the spring and they have their appeal – more social! free snacks! But you don’t have to wait for us to cleanup your trail.

Two men in Trail Ranger shirts posing looking accomplished with a foot on a large tree branch.

Mission accomplished! (Credit: Thomas Worth, 501pix)

Here are a few tips for cleanup

Start small and easy: Things do add up. You don’t have to tackle what the heck to do with that car bumper that has been there for nine months.

Trash disposal: Solo cleanups are easy because you can dispose of trash in your own home garbage or a public trash can. I’ll often take a random bag from sliced bread or something similar and use that as a trash bag.

Recyclables: Lots of materials on the trails can be recycled. But recycling must be clean so if its covered in weird grease from being outside for 10 months then it is probably best to trash.

Be careful taking gloves off: If you’ve been using work or disposable gloves, they’re probably covered in whatever you didn’t want to touch. So don’t go taking them off by touching them with your bare hands! Handy dandy diagram from the CDC:

1 - With both hands gloves, grasp the outside of one glove at the top of your wrist, being careful not to touch your bare skin. 2 - Peel off this frist glove, peeling away from your body and from wrist to fingertips, turning the glove inside out. 3 - Holding the glove you just removed in your gloved hand. 4 - with your ungloved hand, peel off the second glove by inserting your fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist. 5 - turn the second glove inside out while tilting it away from your body, leaving teh first glove inside the second. 6 - dispose of the gloves safely. Do not reuse the gloves. 7 - clean your hands immediately after removing gloves and before touching any objects or surfaces.

Credit: Center for Disease Control

Disposable gloves: Carrying disposable plastic gloves can be helpful – not only are they handy for changing flat tires if you don’t want to deal with dirty hands but also for handling potentially harmful materials. I’ve used my pair for tucking dead birds off-trail where dogs won’t find them and removing the occasional dead fish from the Anacostia River Trail.

Be a trail trash trendsetter

Ready to take the next step in your trail cleaning adventures? Read on!

Trash grabbers: Foldable trash grabbers are convenient and will do wonders for your back! They are great for grabbing trash buried in vegetation, reducing your effort and strain, and they can more easily fit in a bike bag without looking like this:

Selfie of a woman in a bike helmet, blue Seattle Sounders jacket and messenger bag. There are handles of four trash grabbers in the lower right sticking out of a bike pannier.

(The trash grabber pictured above is a little more expensive and doesn’t fold, but does have a better spring which reduces the amount of forearm effort)

Removing glass: The best solution is a dustpan and a paper bag. Paper doesn’t get torn as easily with cut glass, reducing the chance of a bag breaking and spilling the glass shards back on the trail after you spent so much time carefully removing it. But glass is much more inert in the environment than plastic so if you don’t want to carry a dustpan, simply a handbroom will do the trick. You can often safely sweep the glass off the trail/bike lane into somewhere less likely to cause flat tires. And I know it’s so tempting but picking up broken shards with your bare hands is not a great idea.

Dustpans: For heavier stuff like glass and gravel, you want a dustpan without a steep lip. The Trail Ranger team has tried a bunch of dustpans over the years and the consensus is that:

Glamor shot of two white dustpans and handbrooms on a white background. Both dustpans are used and dirty though the dustpan on the left is clearly more used.

Trail Ranger dustpans.

the Rubbermaid on left is much better than the Laitner set on right (probably a perfectly adequate dustpan for dust bunnies, just not great for heavy glass and gravel).

Trash hauling: You don’t have to be your own one-person trash hauling service for bigger projects. Doing trash cleanup with a few friends? If you call two weeks in advance, DC DPW Helping Hands program will pick up bags from locations in DC. For large individual items like car bumpers that are dumped on trails, they can be removed by calling your local jurisdiction’s 311 reporting system. For the DC 311 system, items can be reported using the “Street Cleaning” or “Illegal Dumping” category. Both categories have the same end result but the “Illegal Dumping” adds a step at the beginning to determine whether anyone can be cited.  

Special circumstances and things to watch out for

Your personal safety is more important than courting risk – if you don’t feel safe dealing with something, don’t! You are not obligated to put your health and safety at risk.

Medical waste (including syringes, needles + human waste): The typical trash cleanup materials of work gloves and a plastic bag doesn’t cut it for safety with medical waste. If you see hypodermic needles: 

many hypodermic needles in a pile on a concrete floor. Clearly from a cleanup.

Hypodermic needles. Credit: CBS 2

don’t pick them up unless you have the materials to properly dispose of sharps!

BB guns: Not found too often on trails but they certainly are around. Advice from the Metropolitan Police Department is that if they do not have ammunition in them and are disassembled, they can be put directly in the trash. Both complete BB guns and actual guns are not safe to go directly in the trash. If it is safe for you, both can be given to the police.

So how do you know what you found? BB gun ID advice for cyclists: they have a CO2 cartridge in the handle (also they are lighter than real guns which may be a useful comparison for some folks but tells me nothing).

Immediate concerns: If you see something that poses an immediate danger, it is appropriate to give an government agency a call and let them handle it. I’ve had great success in calling Department of Energy and the Environment over a bag of asbestos that flew off a truck on Sousa Bridge and calling Department of Public Works over medical waste that was spilled.

Public and private property: The DC region has a lot of different jurisdictions and responsible agencies. Be aware of whose land you are on (DC property line map is here) and if you’re not sure, err on the side of asking permission before you do anything. It can be a tricky balance between honoring our collective responsibility and not doing things you’re not supposed to do. You should be fine so long as you’re simply removing trash, but any permanent change to public property is a no-go (i.e. don’t be this guy and install your own road signs). When in doubt, don’t do anything. Call and ask questions, or email and we can try to navigate with you.

Poison ivy: Poison ivy is native to the DC region and can be found in many greenspaces throughout the region. Oils throughout the plant, including leaves, bark and roots, can cause severe skin reactions in about 33% of people. The best way to stay safe is to not touch it! Poison ivy can be identified by its leaves and hairy vine but it can be tricky to spot sometime since it easily blends into the canopy. The Trail Ranger team wears gloves and long sleeves whenever we come near vegetation to protect ourselves and all of our work gloves are washed in hot water to wash off any potential poison ivy oils before they are used again.

Closeup shot of a skinny vine with lots of small hairs growing on a black metal wire fence.

Poison ivy growing on the Metropolitan Branch Trail just south of the Rhode Island Pedestrian Bridge.

Reporting issues to the jurisdictions

For maintenance problems, persistent issues, and materials that you cannot or don’t want to handle, the best course of action is to report it to the jurisdiction responsible for maintenance. This is a great choice for that large couch off the side of Suitland Parkway Trail that isn’t going anywhere soon and needs a large truck for removal.

DC: Many issues can be reported through the DC 311 system.  Report through DC’s online 311 system or by giving them a call at 311. If you are calling from outside the district, call 202-737-4404. Department of Parks and Recreation facilities are primarily maintained by Department of General Services, who operate a separate hotlineat (202) 576-7676.

Arlington County: Issues can be reported here.

Prince George’s County: Issues can be reported here. Alternatively call 311 or if you are calling from outside the county, 301-883-4748.

Montgomery County: Call 311. If you are calling from outside of Montgomery County, call 240-777-0311.

Alexandria: Issue can be reported here or by calling 703-746-4357.

Fairfax County: Issues can be reported here.

Join a community!

There are a few great resources to coordinate and ask questions about trails. Regionally the Washington Area Bike Forum covers a lot of trails and the WABA Women & Bicycles group also lots of conversations about trails. Many trails also have local listservs (check Yahoo and Google Groups) and Facebook groups.

Anacostia River Trail
Facebook group

Metropolitan Branch Trail
Facebook group
Yahoo listserv

Capital Crescent Trail
Facebook group

Mt. Vernon Trail
Entire trail Facebook group
South section Facebook group

Four Mile Run Trail
Facebook group

Washington and Old Dominion Trail
Facebook group

Hear about Trail Ranger cleanups! Yes!

Have questions? Ask our coordinator!

In the four years of being involved with the Trail Ranger program, our coordinator Ursula Sandstrom, has well-informed thoughts on trail maintenance, tools and such. She can be reached at, (202) 518-0524 x208 or on Twitter at @wabadc.

A Very Busy Trail: MLK Day of Service on the Met Branch

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 180 folks woke up early, layered up, and joined WABA and the Carlos Rosario School for a morning cleanup on the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Photo: Carlos Rosario School

Volunteers scoured the trail corridor for trash and debris. It warmed my heart to see the trail so alive with people, including many first-time visitors. Even better—by lunchtime, this community treasure was cleaner than it’s been in a long while.

Photo: Carlos Rosario School

In addition to trash removal the full length of the trail, we had three specific project sites tackling some long-standing issues.

Revealing the Mural

Photo: Carlos Rosario School

One of the oldest murals on the trail, Change Gears, has been mostly obscured by climbing vines few years now. We’ve done some work to keep the vegetation in check, but this time we had the people-power, materials, and tools to stem the growth.


Photo: Carlos Rosario School


We suppressed the roots with burlap bags as a weed barrier, downcycled from Swings Coffee, and six-inches of mulch also downcycled from a tree cut down in the District a few days prior. The tree was no longer safe to be on our city streets but it has a new role on the trail.

It took many hands to get the mulch from the drop-off site on a nearby street to its final home on the trail – thank you volunteers!

Emptying the Ravine

Farther north on the trail, we did our annual cleanup of the ravine at Rhode Island Ave NE. In addition to a lot of takeout containers, we found:

  • a tire
  • a porcelain toilet (mercifully empty)
  • a scythe (we’re still pretty confused about this one)

Look at all these bags of trash!

Photo: Carlos Rosario School

Clearing the Hill

And our third major site was trash and vine removal from the hillside between Rhode Island Ave and Edgewood Pl NE.

Photo: Carlos Rosario School

Though the hillside had a lot of native planting when the trail was first unveiled, destructive and invasive porcelain-berry had taken over many trees. Fifteen folks and one dog scoured the hillside to find which trees needed help and cutting a buffer between roots and vine canopy. By cutting off their connection to the ground, the vines will no longer be able to grow and smother the trail-side canopy this spring.

A few more photos of the event can be found here.

Thank you!

It takes a neighborhood to succeed at large events like this cleanup. A huge thank you to our event co-host Carlos Rosario School’s Sonia Gutierrez Campus, particularly the Student Services team and Student Government, and to Whole Foods for sponsoring coffee and breakfast for 180 volunteers. Additional thanks to Community Capital Corporation for space and tools, second year sponsor Career Path DC for trash removal, Treeman Inc for 10 cubic yards of fresh mulch, the District Department of Energy and the Environment for consulting and loaning tools, the District Department of Park and Recreation for loaning tools, to Kevin and Sam for lending their wheelbarrows, and the District Department on Transportation for mulch support and making the DC Trail Ranger team possible.

Photo: Carlos Rosario School

Trash On Trails: More Than An Annoyance

Trail Rangers do lots of different trail projects: promote trails, answer questions, clip back vegetation, ride trails (and write the word “trails” a lot). Why do Trail Rangers spend some of their time removing trash?

We want more folks wanting to feel trails are welcoming and use trails. People don’t like walking or biking through trash – it’s not fun to look at or be around. Studies have found that litter on trail decreased trail use by 20%. Trails are appealing for a number of reasons but being outside in the natural world is a common one – does this look appealing to you?

Another study found that how folks perceive safety is influenced by trash – eliminating litter from an image increased the perception of safety 30%. It’s hard to encourage more folks to enjoy trails if they feel unsafe or that it’s not a pleasant place to spend their time.

Trash can cause problems. It’s much easier to pick up a whole glass bottle just off the trail now before it breaks and causes flat tires. And it’s no fun to fall because you hit a carryout container just right and then–whee, sideways!

We want a healthy environment. All of our trails are part of the Anacostia River watershed, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Trash in the river has been so bad in recent years that the Anacostia River was declared “impaired by trash” by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act. Whatever we don’t pick up will eventually likely go into the bay and from there into the ocean (unless it’s picked up by a few trash traps or the DC Water skimmer but they only make a dent). Plastic and manmade materials are not part of the ocean ecology – let’s keep them out!


So how do you help the team and encourage more folks to be on the trails?

Don’t litter. We’d rather be doing something else! Save us a step.

Request a trash can! There are definitely places along the trails and roads that have higher incidence of litter because people expect there to be a trash can (ex: Stanton Rd and Suitland Parkway). There is a whole category in the city 311 reporting system on requesting new trash cans

More info about effective 311 reports here.

Join the team for a cleanup! We do public cleanups a few times a year to make a bigger impact. The next one is January 15th for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. More details and signup here.  

Get updates for all of cleanups by joining our email list. Yes!

Also lots of other organizations are involved in trash reduction efforts so if you’re not near a Trail Ranger trail, there is probably something going on close to you!