11/25/14

Kidical Mass Arlington Thanksgiving Ride

One of the things the Pilgrims would have been mostly thankful was the bicycle, but since that wasn't yet invented in the 17th century, it complicated matters somewhat. Not that things in the 17th century needed complication. They were plenty complicated already. Just ask Carlo Ginzburg. So, here are you choices for Thanksgiving morning: help with turkey preparation (lame), read about witches and agrarian cults (not as lame, but you could pretty much do that whenever), or go on a bike ride with a charitable bent with your kids in Arlington. Pick the latter! 

In celebration of giving thanks and stuffing bellies, Kidical Mass Arlington will be riding Thanksgiving morning, just in time to work up an appetite. Led by guest ride leader, Christy, we'll meet at Westover Park Playground Pavillion at 10am on Thursday, November 27, and ride on the safe and easy Custis, W&OD and Bluemont Trails down to Bluemont Park. Families can head out from there, or play for a bit and ride back to the start together.

Plus, we'll be collecting canned and boxed goods to donate to AFAC!

Details for the Arlington ride below and on kidicalmassarl.blogspot.com .

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Work up an appetite before your big meal! Do you want to get out and enjoy the crisp fresh air on a group ride before the big Thanksgiving feast, have a chance to get out of the house with the kids and let them burn off some energy, or just get out on your bike to enjoy some of our local trails on a beautiful Fall holiday? Join us for a Thanksgiving Day morning ride, the Cranksgiving ride.

When: Thursday, November 27, Thanksgiving Day, 10 am (roll out 10:15am - come early to play!)

Meet: Westover Park Playground Pavillion, 1001 N. Kennebec Street, just off of the Custis Trail

Parking: On surrounding neighborhood streets
End: Bluemont Park Playground, 329 N Manchester Street, just off of the Four Mile Run Trail (*those interested can ride back to Westover together)

Route: https://goo.gl/maps/BbHoi
We start off at Westover Park Playground, one of Arlington's many great neighborhood playgrounds. We'll roll down the Custis Trail under I-66 and over to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail south past Wilson Blvd underpass, heading onto the Four Mile Run Trail shortly after passing the caboose. We'll ride past the fields at Bluemont park and ride into the woods, where there is the Bluemont Park Playground. Ride is 1.2 miles one way. For those interested, we'll let the kids play at the Bluemont Playground for a while and then we can ride back to Westover Park together. All are welcome - with and without kids.

In the spirit of giving thanks, we will also collect canned and boxed food for donation to AFAC. Donations are optional and voluntary.

11/24/14

Rides 11/24: Monday Before Thanksgiving

On Friday, I forgot my light. I vowed not to repeat my mistake. "Don't forget your light!" I repeated to myself countless times throughout the morning. "Is your light packed?" I asked myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. "Remember your front light, jackass," I crocheted onto a decorative throw pillow as I idled away the time this morning before my ride. I made a checklist and it had on it only one unchecked box and that box was next to Pack Your Light. I put my front light in my bike bag (not on my bike because I don't like the leave the easily liftable light on the front of the unattended bike during the day) and I checked the box. With pen. 

I forgot my wallet instead.

I left it in my coat pocket. I didn't wear my coat today because it was something like 85 degrees. Take that, global warming deniers! You were wrong and won't be proved unwrong until it snows in two days. I'd comment on how many bicyclists were out, but that's hardly newsworthy. Forget it Jake, it's a biking town. 

It's not great to ride to work without your wallet and I wouldn't recommend it. It's not cool to not have ID (in case of amnesia or wanting to buy beer) and not cool to lack money and/or access to it through magical plastic card, as money is sometimes useful. I mean, mostly I don't use so-called fiat currency, preferring instead to promulgate most of my transactions in precious metals and rare gemstones (like a regular person), but occasionally a coffee shop won't make change for your ruby and it's like 'ok, here's some green paper, whatever.' The much worse part was not having the ID. How would I have vouchsafed my identity if I the Prize Patrol finally caught up with me? Or if I needed it for other things that don't involve comically large checks (and not comically large sapphires, which would be so much more convenient) 

I rode over the First Street NE to see if they had begun construction on the missing link of bike lane between G and Columbus Circle. They hadn't yet, but maybe soon. It'll be a six month-ish project, so there will be plenty more times to check in. Of all of the planned bike projects in DC, this one excites me the most. DDOT is un-ruining a currently unworking street for bicyclists. It's like one of those reality shows where they do extreme plastic surgery. I mean, except maybe without some of the moral queasiness. 

The before.
E Steet, 11th, Pennsylvania. CM McDuffie was outside of the Wilson Building interviewed by some tv people, presumably about the passing of CM Barry. 

I quite like this picture
15th to M and across town. Up Wisco. I found myself staring intently at the back of a bus. The sign warned that if I couldn't see the bus's mirrors, then the driver couldn't see me. The illogical might think that that means if I could see the bus's mirrors, then the driver could see me, but that's not how that works, both in terms of logic and in terms of interactions with actual bus drivers. I wish the warnings on the backs of buses were more fun. "CAUTION: not BRT" would be a good one. "WARNING: stops at railroad tracks and for hammertime." "Bus driver does not carry cash, but each of the passengers carries a numbered briefcase- this is Deal or No Deal!" and then a picture of Howie Mandel. Remember that show? Good times. (Remember that show?) 

I also rode home. I wore some bike socks. They did not seem to confer any additional performance benefits.

WARNING: not performance enhancing
Usual route home. Nice of the drivers to get some of the crazy out of their system during this commute instead of saving it all up for their holiday road trips. Saw a guy slam on his brakes to stop for a green light. Bold move. It's the #slatepitches of driving maneuvers. I think I would've liked it more had I not been riding behind him. Tip: never don't pay attention.

Roads closed around the Supreme Court for a suspicious package. Suspicious packages are like immobile motorcades. I rode on the sidewalk for a block and then back to the bike lanes. 


11/23/14

Rides 11/21: Lion in Winter

There are quests. Some are great and others are not so great and some involve the search for a savory scone. I believe Harry Potter and the Savory Scone was a popular children's baking book in the UK in the late 90s. Harried plodder and the savory scone was my Friday morning. The seeds of this were planted the previous Friday and then watered by this comment, luring me out of my way to Buzz, but that's no bother. The best thing about bicycling to work is the digressions, the sidetracking, the shirking and then the hurry-up. It's chasing butterflies, or in this case, buttery baked goods. Bikes aren't on train tracks.

I rode west on East Capitol to North Carolina and followed than to 4th SE under the highway and across M Street to then rode around a bunch, passing and re-passing the bakery a few times, before realizing that I had missed its smaller-than-expected sign. I stopped, locked and stood in the line. The line moved slowly and I had regrets. No coffee shop should be allowed to be staffed by only one person. Like a 747. I got a spinach and feta scone (it turned out to be ok at first and then better after a few bites, but I don't think that it lasted long enough for it to ever get to 'transcendent' or anything. I'd say it wrapped up somewhere around 'sufficient' in the Savory Scone Rankings, which might or might not be compiled by Nate Silver.) and a coffee and I rode on, up Half Street to I and over to 7th Street and this is where things started to get a lot off course. I could've headed downtown-ish, but chose instead to ride along Maine Avenue, which parallels the significant construction that has rendered the interim Anacostia Riverwalk Trail blocked. I kept on Maine and rode through a tunnel and then turned onto a kind of frontage road, which thankfully didn't turn into a highway. I don't think I had ever been that way before. It's unclear to me still whether bicyclists are permitted on that stretch. I suspect they are, but it isn't exactly hospitable. Anyway, bike commutes are for exploration and for going out of your way to procure savory scones and for riding on frontage roads and for never having regrets. 

I rode from coffee on the normal route. I think the real estate company who operates George Washington University as a side business would really benefit from adding a protected bike lane of sorts of G Street. Would be good for property values and maybe incidentally, students and other people. Every time I ride on a street that looks like it could so obviously host bike infrastructure and doesn't, it's just so disappointing. I'm sure there are "reasons," but there are always "reasons," some reasonable, some not, I suppose. 

The only thing I remember about the rest of the way into work is riding alongside the teenage driver of a gold Land Rover. FUN FACT: sometimes the teenage drivers of gold Land Rovers are not the most cautious around cyclists.

And now we've reached the part of the blog post when I confess my shame and ineptitude. I left my front bike light and home and rode home in the mostly dark without it. I'm not proud of this and I consider myself lucky for having gotten away with it. It wasn't my intention to ride home in the dark without a front light (I had a rear red light, whatever that's worth), but I did and I felt pretty dumb about doing it, especially in the same week as the "Gear Prudence says use lights, moron!" column. Anyway, it happened and I'm going to try to make sure it doesn't happen again. Here are some observations on riding home without a front light:

1. I could see just fine. There was enough street lighting and lighting from cars that visibility wasn't much of a challenge. 

2. There are a lot of people who ride without lights of any kind and this seems crazy to me, because:

3. I could tell that drivers and pedestrians couldn't see me coming. I noticed it especially with drivers at the 'mixing zones' of the L Street cycletrack. With no white light on their rearview or sideview mirrors, they didn't know I was there and I definitely felt that it would've been pretty easy for them to move across my path having more clue that I was there. Same with a bus pulling out of a stop on 11th.  As for pedestrians, maybe compared to drivers, their not seeing me was objectively less dangerous, but it felt no less perilous. This became pretty obvious on Pennsylvania Avenue, where more than once, someone stepped out into the cycletrack with nary a clue that I was coming. 

4. In conclusion, never forget your front light. It's really useful and definitely makes a difference on how others interact with (or avoid) you. Maybe also pack an extra light or always leave it on your bike. Or maybe don't ride home in the complete dark if you don't have a front bike light. I thought I could make it home before it got too dark, but didn't, so maybe I shouldn't have tried. In hindsight, it was pretty dumb. :

11/20/14

No Rides 11/20: Consistent Wreaths

I didn't ride to work today. I think it was the warmest day of the week, so in that regard, maybe my decision wasn't the most optimal. But in the regard that I had some stuff to do around the house (namely fill nail holes with wood filler, which was both laborious and tedious. Last time I ever let apprentice poodle carpenters near poodle-sized tiny nail guns. So many nail holes), it was a good day to get things done and I was able to accomplish pretty much everything I set out to do. Here's to small victories.

I did take a quick ride to the Harris Teeter at Potomac Avenue. My idea of a recreational ride is to a different grocery store from my normal one. 'Utility ride til I die' is tattooed across my back in black ink and gothic lettering. I took a slightly longer way back, heading over to 11th street and up that way to Lincoln Park and looped back over. I wore my new commuter jeans, even though I wasn't technically commuting. I hope that doesn't void the warrantee. The Official Wife said they look pretty hipster. I'm not sure that assessment was meant to be taken approvingly.

Tomorrow, colder once more. Remember to pack extra hot (or extra-hot) coffee.

11/19/14

Rides 11/19: "the grace? it was all right"- first draft

I watched another bicyclist put his hand on the hood of a woman's car. He didn't so much smack it as pet it, but maybe the way you'd pet a cat that's kind of a dick. (I do not own a cat.) The car was stopped in the crosswalk and remained there after the light changed and it was finally our turn to cross. That this happens, believe it or not, is not a rarity. That bicyclists or pedestrians sometimes take out their frustrations by angrily petting the hoods of cars is rarer, but it also happens. I didn't see the driver's reaction. Sometimes drivers get quite mad when you touch their cars. Sometimes cyclists and pedestrians get even madder and smack, hit, or wallop the hoods of cars, to quite an effect. I don't really know where this story is going- the story of not much happening after a driver blocked a crosswalk and a man on a bike touched her car- but it happened a minute before I was honked at for not hurrying across a crosswalk, so the two incidents, I guess, stick together in my mind.

Getting honked at is annoying. Getting honked at is not the same as getting punched in the face or the same as being run over or having a lawsuit brought against you for trademark infringement (I'll see you in court, Frito Lay! Chester Sharrow, the sassy sunglassed orange cat, is totally legit!), but like I said in the previous sentence, it's annoying. I don't care for it very much, nor does anyone else really, to the point where I'm pretty sure we should all just agree to get rid of car horns. I was honked at because I didn't cross the street fast enough. I was honked at because someone thought that his having to stop for an extra two seconds was worth more than my being able to cross the street at my preferred speed. And because he had an easily accessible horn. Side note: I, pretty much in almost all circumstances, refuse to hurry across a street, especially at unregulated crosswalks. There are some reasons for this, namely 1) hurrying anywhere is dumb, 2) I want drivers to fully stop and wait and not half-stop. This latter concern is not just out of pettiness. Crossing a street is, much of the time, when I'm the most vulnerable. If I'm rushing across the street and the driver is like 'oh cool, he's rushing, so I'll barely slow down' and then, let's say, I fall over or something falls from my bike or for whatever other reason something interrupts my traversing, then I'm not really in great shape. I'd feel much better about the whole interaction if I know that the driver is stopped. Drivers don't like this. I don't care. I genuinely do not give one tiny fuck if someone in a car has to wait an extra few seconds. 'BUT HE MADE ME WAIT TWO SECONDS!' someone might say. To which I might say 'what are you, a two year old?' [I think this is also why I'm hard on #CONFUSION.] It's time to stop lowering expectations, especially for adults who are operating potentially deadly multi-ton vehicles under government permission. Get over it.

When I left work, I saw a man wearing a hi viz jacket driving his red car down Nebraska Avenue. Finally drivers are taking visibility seriously. Next step, driver smart hats. Because here's the thing: in the sharing economy with the ZipCars and the car2gos and all of the 'rent your car at the airport when you're away on vacation' schemes, it's getting harder and harder to say exactly who is driving a car while it commits a traffic infraction. If drivers wore helmets with registration numbers on the back, then we can be sure to issue the tickets to the correct person and not just go by antiquated license plate technology. Venture capital please < pinches fingers together in mooching manner>.

Usual route downtown and then G Street to Macy's (really?) where I bought commuter jeans (really??? Yeah, I guess. I needed some new pants for winter.) and then down 11th to Pennsylvania and then the same route home as always. It was still quite cold. I should've worn thicker gloves.

Oh, hey, look a new Gear Prudence. It's about lights.