12/11/14

Rides 12/11: Helicopter Droppings

Some victories from today's commute brought to you by social media and responsive local government:

First this:
And tonight, this:

Now, granted, I'm not just some average bike commuter. I'm a bike commuter with the 37th most popular local bike blog, so I've got huge pull. Basically, I tweet and the government is like 'whoa, that guy? Well, check the work orders and make sure that bike commute bloggers one through thirty six haven't asked us to do anything and then, like if you have time after lunch, maybe just, you know, indulge him? Clearly he has issues if he's interrupting his bike ride to tweet pictures of leaves." Anyway, once again, much thanks to the DC Department of Public Works. Thank you.

And another good thing from this morning:

What is this even a picture of? I'll tell you if you keep reading
This is a picture of a temporary walkway under construction along M Street just west of 20th Street. For the past few months (since summer at least, but probably even before then), the sidewalk has been closed and pedestrians have been instructed to cross the street rather than walk in the adjacent cycletrack. Pedestrians, being normal people who aren't total morons, rightly reject these instructions and walk in the cycletrack because that's much more expedient and a more obvious solution that crossing the street to only have to walk back half a block later. But, hopefully, with the construction of this covered walkway, the sidewalk will be reopened and the cycletrack will once again be free of pedestrians, allowing it to return to its natural state, blocked by idling delivery vans.

And a weird thing:

Baby on a gator
I'm not sure I'd want to advertise that I let my precious gator get climbed on by some dangerous baby, but I'm not a parent, so I don't know how these things work.

It is illegal to ride on a sidewalk in the downtown DC business district, wherever that is. There are places in the downtown DC business district where the sidewalk is 30 feet wide. Popular mixed-use trails in the DC area, shared by bicyclists and pedestrians by the thousands without (much) incident are not 30 feet wide. I present these statements with no intention of drawing any conclusions.

L Street to 15th and then down to Pennsylvania. I think there was a big event at the White House, but otherwise not that much traffic on 15th or Pennsylvania. There were no marchers today. I don't think I saw anyone protesting outside of any buildings either. Maybe later. Maybe not.

I try not to think too much about how I ride past the Capitol twice everyday and there's maybe only a handful of people inside who think I'm worth treating like nearly all other American citizens and solely because of my zipcode. I don't think the Founding Fathers even imagined a society with postal codes, much less postal-code based discrimination. When they wanted to send letters, they were probably just like 'hey, guy on horse. Take this to Tim. He lives like, I don't know, in some town in Maryland. Just ask along the way. No, there's no five digit numerical code associated with this 18th century market town. Why would there be? And how would that even help? Just go, ok."

As a rule, I won't pass a bicyclist in front of me if he or she is waiting for a red light. I'll just wait behind him or her and then I'll go when they go. It's a pretty simple maxim- 'defer to the judgment of the person in front of you because they got there first.' However, there is more room on the scroll and there's an important codicil that says that this rule can be completed ignored if the person in front of you has a phone out.

It's Friday tomorrow. One more day until weekend. And then weekend stuff, like _______. I just love underlining stuff on weekends.

12/10/14

Rides 12/10: Nowhere to run

Took off for work later than usual this morning and had a meeting before coming in and found myself riding across town on the I Street SE/SW bike lane towards Maine Avenue and the construction project at the wharf that is the construction of The Wharf, which I believe is a wharf of some sort. And by wharf, I think I mean some buildings and maybe also an actual wharf. But I think its wharfiness will be a secondary concern and the buildings will be the primary concern. Anyway, the result of the construction is that the driveway/road/bike route to the fish market is totally blocked and in order to get over that way you need to ride on Maine Avenue, but there's no good place to cross and something of a grassy median in the middle and so I popped my bike up onto the grassy median and crossed the street again. I'm not sure there's a better way to do this and since, generally speaking, I'm not the biggest fan of getting off my bike and lifting it onto grassy medians to cross the street, I think I can pretty much cross off from my list riding anywhere near the The Wharf, the Fish Market, or the interim Anacostia Riverwalk Trail for the next few years. Neat.

The wind was a jerk. I'm pretty used to going pretty slowly, but along Ohio Drive I think I established a new slowness record through a combination of a nasty headwind, the lumbering Ogre, cycling street clothes and (I think) a dragging brake pad. I "fixed" my brakes this morning (the ones that wouldn't stop) and perhaps I over-corrected so instead of failing to grip, the pad rested against the rotor and that's not really an ideal situation. I think I 'fixed' it again at work and the ride home did seem smoother. There's a learning curve when you adopt any new kind of bike technology and my curve with disc brakes has been pretty steep. For the non-experts out there, disc brakes are when you throw your old CDs between the spokes of your tires and your slowed down by shattered reflective plastic and liner notes. The stopping power is pretty good (way better than MP3 brakes), but I'm not as used to adjusting them as with caliper brakes and my minor failures and inability to stop fidgeting with things results in the sometimes hilarity of trying to power through extra drag. Oh well. It was slow going.

The District of Columbia, like other places, has had a rash of protests lately and primarily, these protests manifest themselves with bands of people marching in the middle of the street, normally accompanied by a few police officers. They chant and they walk and sometimes the protesters block intersections. There's probably a lot you can say about this, especially in the 'what do these protests mean in the context of public space? what do these protests say about urbanism? what do these protests say about power and streets and car culture?' variety, but as far as bike commuting is concerned, I would say that in my experience, protests and rolling street closures and blocking lanes and all that, has really affected bike commuting at all. Bike commuters are kinda like cockroaches and they're kinda like a leak in your roof- water's gonna get through one way or another. Maybe it won't be the most direct path and maybe you won't notice it at first, but eventually there'll be a puddle on the floor. Better get a bucket.

THE GEAR PRUDENCE HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE IS HERE and is not very useful.

Rides 12/9: Bury Your Gold

Cold. Rain. (Moose. Indian.) Those these aren't my last words on the matter and I could be more thorough and not so walled in. Not much to do about in the cold rain other than to decide whether or not you want to ride in it and once you decide you do, you just got to get to getting. So, I got to getting. East Capitol and then up Pensylvania Avenue and through downtown on the M Street cycletrack separated bike lane protected bike lane mostly separated and irregularly protected bikeway (technical term) and there were puddles and I rode through them, but not especially mirthfully. Just with the regular amount of mirth. Adequate mirth. Mirth enough.

Rode up Wisco and had to vacate the right lane, which is normally empty since it's a variable parking lane and for the most part drivers remain clear of it regardless, because someone left his or her Maserati idling and with the flashers on. A few thoughts:

1. Is driving a Maserati to work on slow city streets like bike commuting on a high end Pinarello?

2. There is no way that someone who drives a Maserati thinks that he and I have 'equal rights' to the road. THIS IS WHY YOU BUY A MASERATI. TO SHOW THAT YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE.

3. If I were a different, more evil person, I could imagine a scenario in which I popped into the illegally idling Maserati and moved it somewhere. I would probably also need to be the kind of evil person who can drive a stick shift.

4. Bike commuters get a ton of shit for slowing down traffic and taking up road space. That's fine. Most of that is bull plop and such accusations are not much to get worked up about. And yet at the same time, you'd be shocked (or not) by the number of drivers who take up entire lanes of traffic by idling, standing, or illegally parking just for a 'quick trip' to grab a cup of coffee or duck into an ATM or do other some mundane task for which properly parking a car would just be too onerous. And FOR SOME CRAZY REASON, it's vanishingly rare that I ever read screed-laced invective-filled bilious 'old man yells at cloud' letters to the editor detracting a practice that seems far more disruptive to the sacred 'traffic flow' that a bicyclist zipping down the road, taking up 3 feet of space that no one was really using anyway. I guess we see what we want to see.

On the way home, I noticed that my rear brake wasn't working so well. I think I beschmutzed my rotor in the course of some maintenance in the morning and while the brake pads were biting, they didn't actually catch the rotor and stop the bike. No matter. The front brake worked and I wanted to get home faster anyway.

21st, L, 15th. I've more or less given up on taking L all the way down to 11th, though I'm not sure why. Apparently, there is holiday decor to marvel at City Center, so maybe I should head that way in the spirit of gawking at giant luminous reindeer. 'Tis the season. I think I don't go down that way more often because riding 11th can be fraught (comparatively much more fraught, since there's basically a protected bike lane on 15th from L to Pennsylvania, whereas 11th just has the white stripe-y kind of bike lane, so behavior change noted, bike lane engineers) and because the transition from L to 11th is much more clunky that the one at 15th. I mean, in actuality, maybe not 'much more,' but at least a little more. Ok, barely more. But enough more to make me not want to do it and it's my ride anyway and you can't tell me what to do. YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME [runs into room, slams door, tries to crank up stereo, but stereo is set to NPR, so just ends up cranking All Things Considered, loses desired effect of petulance]

Pennsylvania, up then Jenkins Hill, then down East Jenkins Street through the Jenkins Hill neighborhood, all the while muttering to myself about our colonial overlords. I stopped at the grocery store and I didn't mutter there. I just bought some potatoes and sugar and then rode home.

12/8/14

Rides 12/8: Mr. Templeton

It appears that I didn't write up Friday's rides. I was like 83% sure that I had, but now I'm only about 37% sure, which is about 37% too much since I'm now quite sure that it's not there and it's not in draft. Whoops. I'm just going to skip it. Just like Beethoven skipped Symphony 2.5. He went right from 2 to 3, because in the 19th century they didn't even have decimals, probably. They just didn't have any need for them back then. It was a simpler time. 

Over the weekend I bought a new cycling cap (thanks for the assist, Ryan!) and its merino and has snug earflaps. I quite like it. Always important to cover your ears. That way you don't hear random strangers mocking your dorky earflapped cycling cap. But, function over form! And form-wise, it's not even that blad. It's a solid, slimming black, which is great when you have copious hair girth.

Picked up a commute buddy at 4th street on the Mall and rode behind him until Rock Creek. We didn't really talk or anything, but I rode along behind him for a couple of miles, sometimes a few feet behind other times up to a dozen yards and then I lost him at a red light and then caught back up again. About him, I remember little. A green winter hat? An older bike with downtube shifters? It's best not to grow too strached. Commute buddies are like beta fish, except normally you don't flush them when their time comes up. 

Normally I feel pretty springy on a Monday morning, but my legs just didn't seem to want to participate in this morning's ride. At least, not with any vim. They participated, but you could tell that they didn't really want to be there, which complicates a bike commute somewhat. Professional cyclists tell their legs to shit up. The best a bike commuter can do is implore his legs to stop pressing snooze. 

"Hey, bud"
"Hey, Fingers. What's up?"
"Why didn't you put your gloves on before you left work?" 
"Well, you see, I didn't think it was going to be that cold."
"Well, you see, we've been riding now for 10 minutes and you can see now that you're quite wrong."
"Sorry, Fingers."
"So, you can stop and put them on?"
"..."
"Come on!"
"Sorry"

The Trader Joes on 24th has about 8 u-racks in front and they're pretty good and accessible, though they fill up on more popular times but not tonight. Bike racks in underground parking garages are great (especially for store employees!), but the real bread-and-butter of grocery store (where you can buy both bread and butter) bike parking is when the racks are 
1. Plentiful
2. Of proper quality and type. 
3. As close to the entrance as possible. 

You can compromise on any of these three, but if you get all three right, you can really build a loyal cadre of bicyclist shoppers, some of whom will make impulse dessert decisions and pick up a chocolate ganache Danish while waiting in line even though there might have already been cake at home. 

Protestors at Connecticut and L. They marched up Connecticut into the intersection, then held a "die-in" blocking car traffic in both directions. Pedestrians and cyclists found their way through. There was some honking, but not nearly as much as I thought there'd be. A block down L, the bicyclist behind me asked me what the protest was about. I said, struggling for a graspable one-word answer to a surprisingly complicated simple question, "Ferguson" and while I'm not sure I was totally accurate, she seemed to get it, even though I was surprised she asked in the first place. 

I don't know if I saw Michelle Bachman in an evening gown outside of the White House entrance by E Street, but I definitely saw people in evening gowns and I'm fairly certain I heard a guy in a tuxedo say "Michelle Bachman." But really, she wouldn't be invited to something at the White House, right? 
 
Two NPS Park Rangers standing in the middle of the bike lane and one complained to the other that bicyclists who rode past them weren't singing their bells. Sounds about right. 

12/4/14

Rides 12/3: Scads of chads

An in-between weather day and I under-dressed for the morning and over-dressed for the ride home and I wore the same clothes for both trips. IF ONLY THERE WERE SOME KIND OF NEARBY NATIONAL CHAIN RETAILER WHO SOLD A WIDE VARIETY OF OUTDOOR GEAR AND CLOTHING. Well, soon enough.

I took the usual route in. Half-way up Wisco, I felt a bit out of it and ducked into a deli for a quick snack. The best part about biking to work is the actual biking but in a close second place, it stopping biking to eat a snack. If an activity isn't worth interrupting, it's not worth doing. Or something like that.

I took the back way into work, which is what I call Tunlaw and New Mexico. I think it's just as direct as riding up Wisconsin to Massachusetts, but it feels like a back way because it's all quiet and residential and vaguely forest-y. My favorite woodland creature is the deer, but my second favorite woodland creature is the Volvo driver. So majestic. So easily spooked. When I chance upon wood in the woods, I trod lightly, lest it bound away and injure itself. I hope that the Park Service doesn't need to cull them. Think of Sweden's GDP! WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF SWEDEN'S GDP?!?! You start taking out Volvo-ists and you're gonna ask the boffins at Ikea to have to figure out how to flat-park even more umlauts into boxes than they do now and poor Stieg Larsson! To maintain their standards of living, poor Stieg is going to have to crank out another trilogy and you know that won't be without diminishing returns "The Girl with the Dolphin Tramp Stamp"? Who wants to read that? "The Girl Who Plays with a half-empty thing of Tic-Tacs because that's the only thing in her Mom's purse"? Yikes. It could get rough.

There are parts of my ride home that I don't especially enjoy and the bit on Massachusetts Avenue by the entrance to Rock Creek Park is one of them. It's two lanes and the left lane is almost always blocked by a driver intending to turn left and this means that one of the drivers behind him likely is trying to change lanes. This means that I can either 1) hug close to the bumper of the driver in front of me, hopefully dissuading someone from changing lanes because there isn't enough room 2) leave a big gap and hope that I can brake quickly enough if I need to or 3) ride on the sidewalk. Or 4) take a different way home. I feel like an under-appreciated aspect of the current state of bike commuting in DC (and probably a lot of places) is how forced you are into choosing the least bad option in a lot of cases. It's just that the circumstances are dealt to you and at the best, you have some plastic sticks and your wits to keep your upright and to be perfectly honest, most of the plastic sticks have already been run over by errant drivers and aren't there anymore. There should be no surprise why more people don't do this.

21st, L, 15th and the White House plaza was closed, as it sometimes is. H Street is inadequate for bicycling (does it really need so many lanes? I mean, need is a funny word), so I rode on the sidewalk for half a block and I have no regrets. Then 15th to Pennsylvania, where some non-MPD police person (transit police? housing police? museum polce? I don't know) had parked in the cycle track, having been able to find no room in the 8 other lanes on the street. Then after him, it was a pretty quick jaunt up the hill, then down E Cap and Kentucky to the grocery store and then another few minutes after groceries, I was home.

I didn't ride to work today (I'm working from home), so no 12/4 post. But happy birthday, Mom!