22 JULY/AUGUST 2015 | BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM
to our readers
FOR A FEW YEARS IN the late 1990s, I commuted
via bike from my home in Chevy Chase to my office in the
Watergate complex in D.C. I rode three or four days a week
when the weather was good. (I was—and continue to be—a
wimp compared to my friend Michael Witt, who has been
bike commuting from Bethesda to D.C. year-round for more
than 20 years in all conditions other than ice and snow.)
I would drive to the office on Monday, bring clothes for
the next four days, and then bike the rest of the week. It
worked well—usually. Several times I forgot key items of
clothing, and twice, my (cheap) bike light gave out while
riding up the Capital Crescent Trail in the dark. The trail is
a lonely place when it’s pitch dark.
Every day I would see other bike commuters, but not
many. Today, that’s changed in a big way. From bike
commuters to weekend warriors to casual riders, there’s
a biking boom going on in the Bethesda area—and in
much of the country.
As we explore in our cover section this issue, the popularity of biking has exploded for a variety of reasons. First,
riding is a great form of exercise that doesn’t entail the wear
and tear on your body that running does. (That assumes, of
course, that you avoid biking accidents.) Biking is also good
for the environment—a major motivator for bike commuters—and good for meeting and getting to know people.
In fact, a 2013 story in The Economist titled “Cycling is the
New Golf” said that riding is increasingly becoming the
networking sport of choice, partly because it can be less
competitive than golf.
Not surprisingly, the explosion of biking has caused
problems, usually involving bikers colliding (literally and
figuratively) with drivers and pedestrians. The Capital
Crescent Trail, one of the most widely used rails-to-trails
in the country, is often the scene of ugly confrontations
between riders and nonriders on weekends.
Our coverage of the biking boom begins on page 94.
BETHESDA WRITER APRIL WITT was working
in her home office one day eight years ago when a large,
old tree across the street fell. The tree crushed her car,
destroyed half her front garden, and downed power and
phone lines, setting one neighbor’s front yard on fire and
knocking out electrical service in the area. Pepco was on
the scene shortly and worked all night to get the power on.
Falling trees and limbs are Pepco’s nemesis every day,
especially during a storm. In 2010 and 2011, Pepco
customers experienced repeated power outages, which led
Maryland’s Public Service Commission to fine the
utility $1 million. When the derecho swept through the
area in 2012, countless trees and limbs toppled, knocking
out power to nearly 500,000 area customers. Pepco was
excoriated by homeowners and business owners, the
media and lawmakers.
Responding to a government mandate, Pepco began
a massive tree-cutting and trimming program that has
improved the reliability of service (and the utility’s reputation). But as Witt reports in our story “Power to the People,”
on page 124, Pepco is now in a battle with a group of
Potomac residents who don’t want the utility to clear-cut
trees on their properties. And the battle has gotten heated,
with frequent confrontations between Pepco and residents.
Conflict is inevitable when decisions that are made for the
“greater good” affect individuals in a way that isn’t so good.
For example, homeowners along the path of the proposed
Purple Line have loudly opposed the project for years.
Despite the protests in Potomac, hundreds of trees have
come down, and Pepco has taken a public relations hit.
“I understand from personal experience the damage that one tree falling on power lines can do,” Witt says.
“Everyone I interviewed for this story—from homeown-
ers to utility executives—understands that there must be
a reasonable balance between individual property rights,
environmental stewardship and reliable electrical services
for the region. The point of conflict in the story I wrote is
that homeowners who’ve had healthy trees taken down say
Pepco has tipped the balance too far toward reliability over
trees; and Pepco argues that they are just following new
I hope you enjoy this issue of Bethesda Magazine. Please
send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher
ON TWO WHEELS