Post Quake Commute

Metro Quake Alert

Photo: Russel Warnick

We get lots of earthquakes on the east coast but not  many that are strong enough to notice. I was in a meeting when our  sub-1 minute of earthquake hit. At first it felt something like the shaking from a heavy truck driving by, allowing a moment of sheer denial. Nah, this can’t be an earthquake!  But then it got more pronounced and we all realized, yes indeed it was a real earthquake.

“The building is being evacuated,” co-workers called out. I grabbed my bag and cycling shoes and rounded up colleagues who hadn’t gotten word we should leave.  After maybe 15 minutes of waiting on the sidewalk we learned that our office was closing.  The street started filling with traffic. Cell phones weren’t working, and texts and emails weren’t getting through. It was hard to know what to do. Wait til the traffic dies down? Get going now? Would public transit stay open? Would there be any after shocks? Was it no big deal, or was there worse yet to come?  Some coworkers headed out to walk home, others got in their cars.  Claire went back into the office to get her bike and I got mine from the building’s garage.

My plan was to ride to Union Station in hopes of catching a MARC train home. I’d finally made contact with John and knew he’d also felt the quake  and that his office near Baltimore had evacuated briefly but stayed open. If I couldn’t get a train, I figured I could cycle up to Silver Spring and work out what to do next.

I set off on a car-packed 23rd St NW. As bumper-to-bumper as the traffic was, with all the shouting, honking, and lane blocking, I am sure it was the best choice to make.  Cars were pretty much not moving. Bicyclists, me included, went creative, weaving through traffic, portaging on sidewalks and walking when necessary.

Not surprisingly there was massive crowding and delays at Union Station. With cancelled trains, evacuation of the station, everyone sent home from work at once, it was inevitable that it took a couple of hours to get home from there. Truly had I a route planned out, I’d have been just as well off to bike home. Note to self: plot out a route from DC to Baltimore!

Waiting for Penn Line at Union Station 8/23


Slow as it was, being on a bike was the way to get around post-quake. People who drove reported 3+ hour trips home, most of it spent trapped in the city. Metro and bus riders had similarly long commutes.  Though it was not fast travelling by bike, I could have been out of the city in less than an hour. Lessons learned: keep a change of clothes, a snack and a full water bottle handy. You never know when you might need them!


2 thoughts on “Post Quake Commute

  1. I am super stoked to find that my only vehicle is also the best choice in case of impending apocalypse!! A note on earthquakes though- from what I’ve heard, rushing outside can be dangerous as that’s where all the tumbling masonry is falling! Perhaps a bike helmet would be useful!?!

  2. @URT I know! Since clearly we are on our own in a disaster, it’s great to know we’ve got the best way to get around right at hand. I did look up a DC-B’more route “just in case.” It would take me a while but I could get home on 2 wheels if I had to. In fact I ought to do it one day just to try out the route. Re rushing outside: really what is worse, being in a building that might crumble while you are in it? Or rushing outside to get crushed by falling rubble? Maybe instead of debating if we need to wear helmets while riding, we should plan to wear them all the time. Just in case.

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