4/15/14

Rain in, rain out

Some notes from a very rainy day: 

-Nothing can keep you dry. It's mostly pointless to try. My bag did surprisingly well in keeping my work clothes unwet and the inner pockets of my rain coat mostly succeeded in protecting my wallet and phone. But me? Soaked soaked soaked soaked soaked. Oh well. 

- Ban 18 wheelers from city streets and not just because one splashed me. 

- I heard a rumor that DDOT hired Bob Ballard to find and bring to the surface the M Street Cycletrack. 

- I rode past a car with a license plate holder that read "I'd rather be riding dressage." For real. Fancy horse prancing is the latest trend in multimodalism. 

- There's nothing unintentional about my riding in the middle of the lane, especially in the rain. I really don't mess around on roads with no bike accommodations when the weather's bad and when visibility is poor. If I feel I need the space, I'm gonna take the space. Relatedly- JUST CHANGE LANES! There's nothing quite as mind-boggling (-ly infuriating) as a driver who would prefer to try to "squeeze" past you rather than move over to a wide-open left lane. (In other news, cars don't really "squeeze." If anything's to be squeezed, it's me and I'm not really into that sorta thing.) At it's best, doing this is totally thoughtless and at it's worst it's totally thoughtless. It's really easy and makes a big, big difference. 

- Much of my ride on the morning is uphill and for much of that time I was riding headlong into onrushing streams of fallen rainwater. It was kinda wild. Like something out of the Poseidon Adventure or a Brita commercial. 

- I'm normally really nice, but rain makes me mean. I apologize for the f bombs, which, due to our antiquated sewer system, mix with the rain water and pollute local rivers and streams. I'm fairly certain one made its way to a duck and that duck is deeply offended by my cursing. Once again, sorry to any and all mallards, woodland creatures, river fish, and/or people. 

- It was stupid cold this afternoon and I was totally unprepared for it. I am grateful to have regained feeling in my remaining fingers. I need to start looking at the whole day's forecast and not just the morning's temperature. Or packing for every weather contingency ever, which would be, admittedly, difficult. 

- I counted 14 other people out on bikes this afternoon over the course if the whole trip. That's a very low number of bicyclists. Can't really blame anyone for not being out today. It was gross. 

- Twigs are the enemy. It's even worse for a Bromptoneer. The folding bike did perform admirably today, though maybe it would've also performed admirably folded and on the Metro. 

Anyway, here's to a dry tomorrow. 

4/8/14

On The "Protected" M Street Cycletrack

There's a picture going around that shows the "first protected cycletrack" in DC in reference to the impending M Street Cycletrack. It looks like this:

From WAMU's Martin DiCaro

That looks great! A cycletrack protected by a granite curb would be a really great addition to DC's bicycle infrastructure. But here's the problem: the curb-protected part is just 30 feet long. That's it. See here:



The curb-protected portion of the M Street cycletrack is solely for the section of cycletrack where bicyclists are diverted from westbound M Street to eastbound Rhode Island Avenue. The designers did this to help bicyclists through a tricky intersection at M, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Here's what this section like as a proportion of the entire cycletrack:



So, in conclusion, while there are parts of the M Street cycletrack that will be buffered by car parking and other parts that are buffered by plastic flexposts (and even a part that runs behind a bus stop, which is kinda neat) and other parts that are solely designated by paint, the part that is curb-protected is only a dozen yards out of bike facility that runs 14 city blocks or so.

4/3/14

Unsolicited Advice For People Who Might Want Advice on Bike Commuting

Have you noticed that it's spring? Sort of? Along with buds on trees, spring also brings us new buds in bike lanes- people who have decided that perhaps the time is right to begin or begin again commuting by bicycle. I think that's great. I know that when I first starting riding a bike to work regularly, I spent a fair amount of time (or maybe just once or twice) googling 'bike commuter advice' or 'bike commuter tips' or 'bike commute with toy poodle safe?' in the hope that perhaps the collective wisdom of the people on the internet might provide me some guidance on how to better do the thing that I had just started to set upon doing. Whether this was ultimately a fruitful exercise is not something I'm totally able to answer. In many regards, there is little substitution for lived experience and additionally, not everyone has the same opinions on these things (I know, people disagreeing on the internet? Well, I never!), but I offer below some musings on things that you can choose to acknowledge or ignore as you transition to sometimes or always riding your bicycle to work:

1. Keep your tires inflated. Seems pretty obvious, but surprisingly easy to not do. Floor pumps are better than hand pumps, but best of all would be a mechanism that incorporates Reebok Pump sneakers, but I'm assuming that intellectual property issues have prevented such an amazing technology from coming to market. Lots of bike shops have pumps available and if you happen to ride past one during the hours that the store is open or if there's always one outside, you can get by relying on those. There are a few public pumps in DC, but not a ton.

2. Give approximately zero fucks if someone bicycles faster than you. The speed at which you commute has approximately zero bearing on anything. Faster does not mean "better at bike commuting" and slower does not mean "worse at bike commuting." Bike commuting isn't college football. There is no AP poll of bike commuters and the top 4 bike commuters will not meet in a series of overhyped bowl games to determine which 2 bike commuters will compete for the national championship brought to you by Tostitos. If you like to ride fast, go crazy* . If you don't, don't. There is no right or wrong speed to ride your bike to work. You'll eventually develop your own pace and it'll work for you. If you want to ride faster because riding fast is a thing you want to do, then do it. Just don't feel pressured to do it by anyone. Also, say no to drugs and eat your vegetables. But what if you want to eat vegetables, but you need to take a drug in order to do so because you're allergic or something? What then? WHAT THEN? I have no answer for you.
* go crazy within reason. You can go fast without being inconsiderate.

3. Figure out if you can bike in your work clothes or if you need to change when you get to work. You really don't want to get this wrong. No one wants to work with the gross guy who bikes 8 miles uphill in his suit and arrives covered in sweat and smells really bad. Every office has a different dress code and different facilities (maybe showers, maybe a gym?), so you'll need to determine the correct level of grossness tolerance at yours and how your bicycling to work might impact your own individual grossness. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. Just don't be delusional about it.

4. Some rides will be better than others. That's ok. Some drives are better than others. Some metro trips are better than others. Some walks are better than others. Some sandwiches are better than others. Don't let one frustrating or tiresome or just plain crummy bike commute dissuade you from the whole enterprise. On balance, I find, that if you decide to stick with it (and ultimately, it's a decision. No one is forcing you and if you don't want to commute by bike, don't force yourself to do it) the good rides are more common than the bad ones.

5. At red lights where there is no bike lane, merge with car traffic. So let's say you're one of those lame bicyclists who lamely pays attention to lame traffic laws, and you're riding down a street and you notice that you're coming up to a red light. I find it helpful to move more towards the middle of the lane and get in line with the drivers who might also be waiting at that light. This does a few things, but most importantly, it keeps you visible and lessens the likelihood of your getting hooked by a turning car. It also clearly indicates when it's your turn to go, thereby lessening CONFUSION. Also, I think when bicyclists try to sneak by in the little space between stopped cars and the curb, it's sometimes awkward, at least if you have my level of coordination and depth perception. You don't really want to accidentally bump into anything or fall over trying to fit yourself and your bike through a space not wide enough to fit you. Anyway, this is just something I find to be helpful. I don't know if it's LCI approved or anything.

6. Know if public transportation is available on your route and if you can take your bike on it. Just in case of unforeseen mechanical problems or if you just don't feel like riding anymore or anything in between. It's always good to have a backup plan. If you can't take your bike with you and can't tarry in getting to work, disguise your bike using mud, twigs, and leaves and hide it amongst nearby shrubbery. Or throw your bike into the upper branches of a tree to keep it away from bears. Or lock it up somewhere safe-looking and get it when you can. I don't think I've ever left my bike overnight somewhere other than my workplace because I'm a big baby and worry about it getting stolen and also because I use my rear blinky light as a night light and to make sure that ships don't crash into our house, so I always try to get my bike back as soon after work as I can. Speaking of which...

7. Lights at night. Always. This is non-negotiable.

8. Be obliging, but not submissive. So, this one is kind of tricky and maybe more an attitudinal stance than anything else, but generally speaking, I think that courtesy is paramount. Whether we like it or not and no matter how we're getting to work, we're pretty much all in this together. If you have the chance to be polite, taking that chance wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. For example, if your moving slightly over wouldn't in any way imperil or impact you and would give the driver behind you a little more room to safely pass you, I don't think there's anything wrong with doing that. Should you always ride two inches from the curb and jump to the sidewalk every time a car pulls up behind you? No. That's silly. I just think a commitment to convivencia, especially when there are no real negative stakes, is something worth pursuing. Some other points vaguely related:

a. Don't be hyper-legalistic about your "rights to the road" unless you're going to be hyper-legalistic about everyone else's rights to it too. That typically means that you shouldn't disrespect pedestrians. Think of them as bicyclists without bikes. Or gauchos without horses and a backdrop of the pampas and cattle of any kind.

b. Think "if I saw another person do this thing I'm about to do, would I think that person is being rude?" If the answer is yes, then maybe don't do it. If the answer is no, ask yourself again but pretend that person is someone who don't like. For example, If Jennifer Lawrence or Anne Hathaway just did that, would you be like "ok, that's fine" or would you be like "HOW DARE SHE!" [point of order: I don't have strong dislike towards either Jennifer Lawrence or Anne Hathaway, but I think some people do for some reason]

c. Karma is real and the universe has a way of coming into balance. I don't believe in a lot of things, but I believe unreservedly in this.

d. Very few grievances in the history of the world have been successfully redressed by shouting at someone through an open car window. Maybe I'm a pushover, but I try to just let things go. Sure, I'll flip a bird or make some remark at the moment of transgression, but then it's over. Unless someone hits you or threw something at your or otherwise created some seriously harmful situation, it's probably not worth trying to chase them down. I firmly believe that all people living in a city (not just bicyclists) have a civic responsibility to get over the tiny little annoying (but ultimately harmless) things that their fellow citizens do.Maybe you'll be happier not trying to seek out vengeance  for every tiny slight. Or maybe, because of that one time you yelled at the one lady who thoughtlessly did a jerk thing, you'll fix all of the grievances in the world and no one will ever do a jerk thing to anyone else ever again. I don't know.

9. Have fun. People listen to the radio in cars to make their commutes less boring. Same reason people read on the Metro. These commute modes afford the opportunity to partially accommodate a certain level of amusement. As does bicycling. Maybe you can't read or don't want to listen to music during your bike commute, but you can try to use the time to enjoy yourself. To clear your head. To think about funny dogs you've known. To look at contemporary fashion and wonder why it's not more Jetson-y. There are lots of ways to generally angle your disposition towards fun-having and doing that, I think, isn't a bad idea.

In conclusion, don't take advice from random people on the internet. Commute to work by bicycle if you'd like and pay attention to the world around you and try to be a mostly kind person when doing both of those things and that's pretty much all that I have to say on the matter. Enjoy spring.

3/27/14

The Coveted Tales From The Sharrows Endorsements

*This is not about bicycling, though elements related to bicycling, as local political conditions might influence them, might be mentioned in passing or in some depth.

I was going to write this yesterday, but I'm glad I held off on account of my now having become famous thanks to the good folks at the Washington Post Express, the free metro paper you might know from reading on the Metro or seeing abandoned, strewn on the floor of a bus. If you'd like to read my whole post about how winter needs to go, it's here. I promise to only use my fame for good and not evil, unless of course evil gets me free stuff, such as jet skis. If the good folks at Sea-Doo are reading, I am available for endorsement and/or to star in rocking commercials in which I bad-assedly perform epic jet ski maneuvers then turn to the camera with a toothy grin and say something like "Sea-Doo: it's not just another word for whale poop" or whatever your catch phrase is these days. I also look forward to using my fame to influence the upcoming primary, my endorsements being roughly the equivalent of $668,000 of shadowy illegal cash goodness. I look forward to not being indicted, at least not for this blog post.

Now, the endorsements.

First off, I endorse this sandwich:




It's the reuben from Deli City on Bladensburg Road. Really good sandwich. Secondly, I endorse, Deli City getting some proper bike parking:


I get the feeling that they don't get a lot of customers arriving by bike. But isn't that the best reason to put some up? Bicyclists love bicycling, but they also love sandwiches, so there's a missed opportunity right there. In spite of having to lock up against that sign across the street (there were some chain link fences closer, but I don't think you're supposed to lock up on those- too easy to cut), I still endorse riding your bike to Deli City and eating one of their sandwiches.

Now onto the political endorsements.

Ward 6: Charles Allen

Charles Allen is the Ward 6 candidate who has dedicated the past 10 years to making this place better. He knows the details of the ward inside and out and is intimately acquainted with the interior workings of the Council, the vicissitudes and complications of the Ward's major issues, the challenges faced by all of its residents, the opportunities for positive change, and will be a solid, ethical, progressive voice on a Council that needs more solid, ethical, progressive voices.

His opponent is also a Ward 6 candidate.

It's funny because there's been some scuttlebutt on one of the neighborhood listservs about Charles' role as Tommy Wells' Chief of Staff. When it's mentioned that he's spent all of the time working on behalf of the Ward, the rejoinder was "yeah, but isn't that his job? He's just doing his job." I mean, on one hand, ok, yeah he's doing his job. Why wouldn't you want someone who has successfully worked full-time on behalf of local issues to now take on a bigger and more public role doing the same thing? Seems kinda like a good idea. Secondly, yes, it's his job. He chose it and he stayed in it. He actively chose many years ago to work in DC politics. Working for the residents of Ward 6 isn't some dalliance or stepping stone to a higher office. It's not a step out of line with the trajectory of the rest of his career. He's not running for 'City Council' for any other reason thanto continue the work that he's been engaged with for the past decade and to make this place, the place I happen to live, even better. That's not just experience: it's a statement of values and I think those are values that Ward 6 voters should embrace.

Charles in also endorsed by Washington City Paper, Washington Post, Greater Greater Washington, The Hill is Home and probably would enjoy that reuben, but I don't know for sure his position on that sandwich or any sandwiches really, so I'll have to ask him.

Disclosure: I put together all of these yards signs for Charles last night. This is the only local campaign for which I have volunteered or actually feel very much of a strong preference. It was like 400 signs and took a couple of hours of menial labor. Maybe get one for your yard?

knife goes in, guts come out 
Ward 1: Brianne Nadeau

I don't live in Ward 1, but it seems pretty obvious to me that it's time for a change. As much as I enjoy sometimes talking to Jim Graham from the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack, me on my bike, him in his VW, I'd be equally happy talking to someone else. Happier even. The qualms about Graham are many and the qualms about Nadeau seem to primarily be made-up and flailing and self-implicating. Here are her positions on transportation and they seem fine. I like what she says about pedestrian safety and market-driven parking options. Anyway, this one seems like a no brainer.

At-Large: Anita Bonds

BIKERS SHOULD HAVE LICENSE PLATES AND ROADS THAT ARE TOO NARROW SHOULDN'T HAVE BIKE LANES AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A PLAN TO STOP THOSE HORRIBLE BIKERS FROM TAKING AWAY ALL OF OUR PRECIOUS PARKING AND ALSO THIS ONE TIME THIS BIKER CAME FROM OUT OF NOWHERE AND HE ALMOST MADE ME HIT HIM WITH MY CAR BUT I SLAMMED ON THE BRAKES AND THEN I DIDN'T HIT HIM AND HE WASN'T EVEN GRATEFUL ABOUT THAT AND DIDN'T THANK ME PROFUSELY FOR NOT HITTING HIM AND THAT'S JUST WRONG BECAUSE HE'S SUPPOSED TO SHARE THE ROAD AND HE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE INSURANCE AND MY TAXES GO TO FORT MYER CONSTRUCTION PAVING THE ROAD AND HE DOESN'T EVEN PAY HIS FAIR SHARE AND I'M SO UPSET AND CONFUSED AND ANGRY AND TRY TO PANDER TO AN AUDIENCE THAT THINKS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN DC IS THAT SOMETIMES PEOPLE BICYCLE AND WHEN THEY DO SOMETIMES IT FORCES YOU TO HAVE TO SLOW DOWN YOUR CAR FOR A WHOLE 3 SECONDS AND THAT SOMEHOW ALSO TRANSLATES INTO THEM BEING RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF THE TRAFFIC IN ALL OF DC EVEN THOUGH ALSO BARELY ANYONE BIKES BUT ALSO THEY'RE EVERYWHERE, AT LEAST EVERYWHERE ON THE SIDEWALK WHEN I'M ON THE SIDEWALK BECAUSE THIS ONE TIME THIS ONE BIKER PASSED ME ON THE SIDEWALK AND I GOT STARTLED- STARTLED!!!- AND THAT'S WHY WE SHOULD HAVE A MORATORIUM ON BIKE LANES EVEN THOUGH THAT WOULD CAUSE MORE PEOPLE TO BIKE ON THE SIDEWALK OR BIKE FARTHER OVER ON THE ROAD, IN WHICH CASE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT BIKES SLOWING DOWN THEIR DRIVING OR STARTLING- STARTLING!!!- THEM ON THE SIDEWALK WOULD ACTUALLY BE PROMOTING THE VERY SAME THINGS THAT THEY'RE CURRENTLY COMPLAINING ABOUT.

You know what, come to think of it, you should vote for either John Settles or Nate Bennett-Fleming. Like everyone else, I can't really decide between the two. I think I'm going to vote for John Settles, with whom I've done business. He tends to be more specific in his answers to questions and I think he's pretty smart on the issues. I like his plan for an urban village at the RFK site, which conforms with my general view that we should just "build more city." [UPDATE: I believe that both John and Nate said some pro-bike things at the Loose Lips debate. John is himself a bicyclist and Nate is arranging a pro-Nate bike ride this Sunday- see comments. Just figured I should mention the bike angle, which I forgot to do initially.] Unfortunately, it looks like Nate and John are going to split the vote in this one and I'll be sure to write you from the gulag when all bicyclists are sent there for re-education and hard labor. This is a good time to mention that I also endorse the The Rent is Too Darn High slate for the DC Democratic State Committee, the organization that sent CM Bonds to the Council in the first place. If for no other reason (though there are probably other reasons), the DCDSC needs a shake-up.

Council Chair: The Mendo
Ward 3: Mary Cheh
Ward 5: Kathy Henderson Harry Thomas, Jr. Kenyan McDuffie

All seem pretty obvious.

Delegate to the House of Representatives: Tim Krepp

Again, pretty obvious. You might know him as 'man who takes pictures of people peeing in his alley' or as the 'face of the polar vortex' or the author of books about ghosts on Capitol Hill and Georgetown, but I know him as a guy who lives down the street. I can promise you this: Tim Krepp will treat the position of Delegate with the respect and honor it deserves.

Mayor

I wrote about my ambivalence the other day, so I don't think I'm going to endorse anyone. I think I've firmed up my own decision to vote for Tommy Wells. Maybe it's quixotic, maybe it's not voting strategically, maybe it's ensuring that a candidate who I don't prefer wins. But when you prefer neither of the top two candidates, I don't really want to choose who I don't prefer less, you know? I think the thing that surprises me the most about this election is how Muriel Bowser hasn't won me over the way she's presumably won over so many voters disaffected by Gray. I mean, I've had pretty open mind for the entire primary season and have only just now decided that I'm pulling the lever (touching the screen?) for Wells and I've followed this election pretty closely and in all this time, I really haven't heard anything from Muriel Bowser that made me ever think "you know what, I like this thing that she just said and maybe I should vote for her." But maybe you have or maybe you've decided that she's the most viable non-Gray candidate and her not being Gray (the way Gray wasn't Fenty) is the most crucial factor right now and maybe you've been more persuaded than I am. Or maybe you're more convinced that Gray didn't do anything wrong or has done more things right, on balance, than things wrong and or maybe you're convinced that he's a better mayor than anyone else, allegations be damned, so why not reelect? But when all is said and done, Bowser hasn't convinced me on the positions and Gray hasn't convinced me on character, and the only candidate, even though he will not win, who has won me over on both who he is and what he values is Tommy Wells. I don't think I can endorse him because I feel like you probably shouldn't endorse based on the process of elimination, but he's who I'm going to choose.

The Democratic Primary is April 1.

3/25/14

Coda

Goodbye, winter bike commuting. I bid you farewell, much in the way you might to a guest who overstayed his welcome. I am now prompting you to leave. I've yawned a few times and mentioned how late it's gotten and how tomorrow comes early and how there are many things to do before I can wrap up and retire, but winter, to this point, is slow to take the hint. Winter tarries. We can do it again next year, winter. Not soon, but again. I promise.

Winter has not picked up on the subtle cues. Winter is not well-versed in the social arts. Winter is a laggard and unperceptive. The cold lingers. Malingerer. It sees you bundled and figures you wouldn't mind it waiting around a little longer. Winter has no place else to go. It took you so long to get dressed, to put on the boots and the gloves and the hat, and winter figures it would be rude to ask you to slough them again so soon. It's a sunk cost. Gloves fling off faster than they're pulled on. Begrudging tends to slow things down. Just like the cold. 

It's time to pack it up, winter, snow, and cold. Let's change the locks and change our number. Screen the calls and screen the windows. We could even move away. That would be dramatic. The season is late, winter, and I'm asking you to leave. Don't make me call the cops. I'll evict you. I'll file the papers. You're bigger than me but I have the law and a calendar on my side. Or do I? I thought I did. 

I'll miss your quiet. I'll miss your ponderousness and the way you wouldn't leave us alone. It was almost endearing. But it's over now. It's time to make way for spring showers and summer heat. It's time to shed layers. It's time to move along.