by Marshall Pearson
Up to four times each week, second-grade teacher Drew
Snodgrass can be seen pedaling his vintage red Schwinn road bike along the Metropolitan
Branch Trail, enjoying the early morning solitude before the forthcoming deluge
of classroom activity. Joggers training for a marathon and other commuters
punctuate the landscape, and Snodgrass has even witnessed the talents of muralists
as they covered an adjacent wall with silhouettes of cyclists. He says the
subdued activity on the trail has had a calming effect and makes it easier to
teach throughout the day.
Snodgrass recently moved to Washington, D.C.,
to teach at DC Preparatory Academy, a public charter school. He has been a
bicycle enthusiast since his days living in Chicago
before attending Illinois
In a metropolitan area where traffic is congested and car parking is scarce,
Snodgrass found himself biking from classes to his job on almost a daily basis,
depending on weather conditions. A move to the northwestern corner of Mississippi as a Teach for America corps member position saw his riding transition mostly to trail activity, and
cycling was no longer a viable commuting option. However, Snodgrass moved to Washington sans
automobile and, once again, he turned to his bicycle as a primary mode of
After discovering the eight-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail,
or Met Branch, on Google Maps (which uses trail data from RTC's online
trailfinder, Traillink.com, to formulate bicycling directions) and hearing
about the trail from co-workers planning to start a girl's running club, he
began utilizing the new path and has integrated it into his daily life.
"I don't own a car, but even if I did, I think biking on the
Met Branch Trail is a quicker and easier way to make the commute," he says. "It's
such a nice and convenient route between my house in Capitol Hill and my school
in Edgewood. There's no direct street route
connecting those neighborhoods, but the trail goes straight from M Street Northeast
and drops me [right] at the backdoor of my school-and it's a relatively flat
and easygoing ride."
Snodgrass merges with the trail near M Street, less than a
mile from his home in the Capitol Hill area, and exits near Edgewood Street and the DC Preparatory
Academy. All told, the journey takes approximately 20 minutes.
"Sometimes I catch a ride with a co-worker, and by the time
we fight traffic, find parking and walk from the parking lot to the school, I
could have saved 10 minutes by biking," he says.
Even though Snodgrass tethers his Schwinn to the school's
chain link fence before the start of the school day, he allows his renewed
hobby to follow him into the classroom. In fact, he recently created an
assignment based on The Important Book,
written by children's author Margaret Wise Brown. For the task, his second
graders wrote a short story about an object of their choice. While his students
may have selected an action figure or stuffed animal for their tale, Snodgrass
chose his bicycle (you can listen to his story below).
This teacher's active commuting and lifestyle has significantly increased his passion for cycling as a recreational activity--and everyone at DC Prep has taken notice. After all, his students know him as the teacher who rides his bike to school.
Drew Snodgrass - My Bicycle by railstotrails
Photos by Stephen Miller/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Note: This post has been edited from its original version. Drew Snodgrass moved to Mississippi, not Alabama, as was previously written.