Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

A schoolteacher rides all 50 of D.C.'s state avenues (video)

September 21, 2011 - 10:51 AM
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Ride all 50 states. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

When Steve Goehrke first moved to D.C. in 2000 to attend American University, he realized by his sophomore year that what he really needed to get around town was a bike. He started riding then and hasn't looked back since — through his years at AU, GW, his marriage three years ago as of this July, in occasional Capital Bikeshare rides to catch outdoor movies in Rosslyn, and through his years teaching elementary-school students now, the 29-year-old native of White Plains, New York realizes the power of biking in the District. He owns two, in fact.

This summer, Goehrke wanted to create a love letter to biking in the District in his month before school began — the teacher hoped to bike all 50 of D.C.'s state avenues and capture it all on film.

Chocolate strawberries
(Photo: Courtesy of Steve Goehrke)

"I did this over the course of four days," Goehrke told me, adding that he did a little reshooting on a fifth. "It's been in the back of my mind for a long time ... I live in Glover Park, so I planned each day to hit as many avenues as possible. I had to plan it out pretty carefully."

What resulted was the following video, which the teacher assembled from footage shot on a camera rigged onto his handlebars, "a DIY kind of deal," as he put it. He had never filmed a bike ride before but loved the idea of this project as well as the notion of capturing bits of D.C. history and the landmarks of each avenue within the video. The result was finally released onto YouTube the night before last and shows just over five minutes of frantic riding on Goehrke's Trek 2.1 shot on a Flipcam. We see Fort Dupont Park on Minnesota Avenue, the Watergate complex on Virginia Avenue, and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. He refers to Matt Johnson's Greater Greater Washington piece that chronicled the history of these state avenues in 2009. Shot after shot reveals the range of different stage avenues throughout D.C. See the video here:

Goehrke has been excited and talking about the video for days now, to his wife, his friends, and anyone who is curious. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association organizes their own ride of the 50-state avenues and calls it "one of the hardest rides in D.C." WABA cyclists will be attempting the trip again this coming Saturday. Goehrke likes WABA's initiative but always saw riding as "more of a solo thing" for him. His summer side project dominated four to five hours a day in the August heat during those days he ventured out ("If you're comfortable being covered in sweat, it's not a big deal"), often starting around mid-morning to avoid the rush. The man aspired for the most dramatic shots and to be as inclusive as possible.

"I was familiar with 15 to 20 of the state avenues," Goehrke said. "There were some state avenues east of the river I was less familiar with ... [But] I didn't want to come off as a yuppie Northwest kid. I wanted to do all the avenues justice."

His summer ride became a process of discovery. Who knew about the murals on Mississippi Avenue? Not Goehrke, until this project. It gave him a newfound appreciation for the range of the District's streets. He likes biking throughout the District and multiple times refers to what a beautiful place it is to ride. He says that both bicyclists and drivers need to be cautious and that sharing the road is a "two-way street." His sense of caution is echoed in his meticulous attention to detail in the video.

As a teacher of third-grade students, Goehrke imagines showing the children his video. Other teachers at his school also mentioned an interest in doing so.

"I teach the students about having goals, and this was a good example of setting goals and meeting them," he told me. "We study the three branches of government, so having them see landmarks like the Capitol is useful ... And the kids love YouTube, so they'll think I'm actually famous."

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