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 ConservancyNote: This post has been edited from its original version. Drew Snodgrass moved to Mississippi, not Alabama, as was previously written.
I think your important book would make a great beat poem.
Looking good Drew!!!
thanks drew--great inspiration--continue your craetivity inthe clasroom!!!
I knew this kid before he could ride a bike...
Frankly, I am surprised to hear/read that this bike is still shiny and red. I once sold him my vintage 1972 Olds Cutlass, which was shiny and nice. After a few years in Drew's hands, it was dull and rusty. I have also seen this kid use his grandpa's golf clubs to hit rocks across the field. I guess he has finally learned to take care of his things.
Do you all want to know the real reason Drew rides his bike to work? He gets lost every time he blinks. Since this trail takes him straight there, he never loses sight of his destination.
I get to make fun of him because he is my cousin...
We love you Drew and I am very proud of you. Keep up the good work - you are truly making a difference.
Go Drew..... Love to ride myself...Elroy/Sparta Trail in Wisc. is one of my favorites.. Keep up the good work!
Drew, you do great work... but the important thing about your work is that you drive it with your heart to make it go : )
Yes, you are great. But for God sake change your name!
Give a child a bike ride, make them smile for a day, Show a Child the Rail To Trail System and They Shall Smile The Rest Of Thier Bicycling Life !
As an avid bike rider in the DC area, I was excited when the politicians broke ground for the Metropolitan Branch Trail in 1999. I looked forward to riding my bike from Silver Spring MD directly south to my government office in DC without serious risk of injury or death on the city streets. My commuting was limited to 1 or 2 frightening attempts yearly, more often swinging wide west through Rock Creek Park. More excitement came when my agency built a new office building in 2001 at 830 First Street NE, DC, on the MBT itself. But, year after year, all that there really was of the trail - besides the fancy signs proclaiming it "An American Heritage Trail" - were the fading white line and biker icons on the dangerous streets. I later took 2 guided rides on the MBT, and once more since then ventured down from home on my own, but, even today, not half of this vaunted urban bike trail is off road. I envy Mr. Snodgrass his short jump from Capitol Hill to Edgewood, but that does not accurately represent the reality of the MBT and the disappoint many people feel as it drags on incomplete. Yes, there is now some blacktop along the railroad tracks near Union Station, and some north of there. But, sadly, after 11 years, the Metropolitan Branch Trail is still the victim of poor funding and jurisdictional fighting. More sadly, I had to retire from my job of 30 years last month due to cancer, and it looks like I will never get to ride that safe MBT of the future.
What a great article. Drew is involved in my two favorite pastimes: teaching (from which I just retired) and riding bike trails (my new profession). I love the D.C. area trails. I recently finished a trip on which I rode the GAP trail, C & O, Mount Vernon, Western Maryland Rail Trail, and the W & OD trails. If I'd have had more time, I would have ridden the Met Branch.
I'm curious what the favorite trails are for Washington D.C. bike riders. The system of trails there is incredible and may very well be the best in the world as far as I'm concerned.
Drew, you are a great model for your students! Please, keep that wonderful enthusiasm. DC bike trails are so very special. Cycling is truly my greatest passion. I just celebrated my 70th birthday cycling the Molesworth on New Zealand's South Island. I've cycled in many other countries but always am blown away when I return home and cycle the Mt. Vernon Trail.
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