7/3/15

Rides 7/2: United States of America

A Thursday that felt like a Friday and an impromptu Thursday Coffee Club where there's normally a Friday Coffee Club, though sparsely attended. Getting there was complicated by the closure of the area around the White House due to the thankfully false alarm about a shooting at the Navy Yard. When this area shuts down, there's just no good way around it for bike commuters. H Street and I Street are both one way and in this part of town, they both forbid sidewalk bicycling, while also finding themselves inhospitable to non-sidewalk bicycling. This hardly seems fair. If life were different, bus lanes that doubled as bike lanes would appear on these streets, but life is not different.

After coffee, it was G Street though FoBo. To be thematically consistent, let me complain about this street as well. It should have some kind of bike facility, but it doesn't because reasons. Again, a one way street. This past weekend, the weekend before the weekend that it is right now, I happened to be in Boston (Boston meaning Boston and the 37 tiny towns that are adjacent to Boston, but not Boston proper) and I happened to bike around a lot (though this was not the sole purpose of the visit) and I can't stress to you enough how a place is ruined for bicyclists by one-way streets. You don't fully realize it at home because you're used to it, but when you're trying to navigate in a foreign city and you don't know the ins and outs of which way each street goes, you find yourself thoroughly frustrated by the rather simple task of even getting yourself a mile from where you are. We think about bike improvements as 'just for bikes' infrastructure, but the bike network of DC, and anywhere probably, would be vastly improved through widespread bidirectionalization of existing streets. I don't know if this goal is more or less achievable, but it needs to become a priority.

After work, I rode down New Mexico Avenue and through Georgetown eventually. I rode behind a drive who kept his car's right wheels fully within the bike lane for block after block. Which would be worse: he didn't realize he was driving in the bike lane or he realized it and didn't care? Pick your poison. I don't know about you, but when I ride my bike, I'm hyper-aware of exactly where I am on the road and know exactly what I'm doing. Oh, I happen to be in the middle of the lane? Yup. I know. I'm there for reasons. But do drivers? I'm not so sure. I think the bar is somewhere like 'not crashed into anything' and provided that's your status, it's considered A+ super good driving. Oh well.

M Street through Washington Circle (LOL) and down Pennsylvania Avenue on the other side past the White House (now with spikes!) and then down Pennsylvania on the other side. As I stopped to take a picture of the newest block of park-its installed along the cycletrack (we're up to 4th street now) some random guy photobombed me.

Random guy

Then Mike showed up. 2 PM on a Thursday before a three day weekend is apparently the time to run into a bunch of people you know. Mike, a lawyer, was biking a housecall by the Potomac Avenue metro and we rode together up the Hill along Constitution. Somewhere along there a part fell his off bike and he was like 'um, do you know what this part is?' and I was like 'nope!' and his bike seemed to manage the journey the rest of way in spite of, or maybe due to, my assurances that the part that fell off his bike wasn't that big of a deal.

7/1/15

Rides 7/1: Subtitles are hard

Hiatus over.

They say that you never forget how to blog your bike commute- that, in many ways, it's like something else you never forget how to do (I can't recall how the phrase goes. It's something with transportation. Like riding a ____? I don't know. It escapes me at the moment. Maybe something with a moped?) and since this project has been a rather amorphously defined puddle of word vomit and since it's the internet- there are no rules, much less any good judgment, about putting written ephemera on it- it's safe to say that I could just get back into the swing of things, picking up where I left off, and continuing the very same format that has brought me such success in the field of local bike commute blogging. You don't get to be 37th most popular local bike blogger without putting in the time and effort and taking part in a series of montages with cut scenes showing me bicycling, then typing, then looking at things, then raising one finger up as if I had an idea, then typing again all while "Walking on Sunshine" or some other such musical exuberation plays in the background. You also don't get to stay the 37th most popular local bike blogger when you take a hiatus and I think it's safe to assume that I've slipped some spots in the rankings. New local bike commute blogs spring up like mushrooms everyday [like a bike blog by a guy who regales us with stories about things he carries around the city called Porteur Bellows] and the bloggers are younger, smarter and hungrier for the fame and fortune that local bike commute blogging can bring and it'd be foolish of me to think I can just get back to the top 40 without yet another musical montage, maybe one where I'm biking on a beach, and then sitting on a beach towel typing furiously, and then clutching my hair, and then dramatically holding down the delete key, then looking up at a framed picture of Czeslaw Milosz for inspiration, and then resolutely pounding on the keys once more, all under the dulcet tones of the appropriately trite "Eye of the Tiger." Also, for those of you playing along at home, that was a poorly done mushroom pun back there for which I profoundly apologize.

This is an awfully long run-up to say that I'm sorta tired tonight and I'm not sure how much more I plan to write. The morning was fine- there were broken twigs on the ground from either the tremendous storm or some late night urban forestry and I rode over those those twigs, some time with aplomb and other times without it. I forgot once again that the path by the Lincoln in closed and I was through a chain link maze to ride alongside Constitution Gardens, which is one of the sadder places in the whole of the National Mall funplex. Yes, they will revamp it. But until then, it's some ruddy paths next to an algaefied pond. Why do we even need a pond there? To remind us of the primordial swamp from which DC was hewn? For ducks? I don't know.

The ride home took me to and through AdMo and the BicycleSpace outpost newly opened there. For the past few months, BicycleSpace has been operating out of the cramped quarters of an old Burger King while they've waited on the build out for 3 new locations- AdMo, MVT and Ivy City. The two latter are still in progress, but the gigantic Adams Morgan shop is open and well worth the visit. Along with the old staples, L'Espace now stocks Bianchi and Salsas. [I think I once ordered a Bianchi con Salsa as an appetizer at an Italian restaurant.] So, if you're in the mood to buy one of those brands or just in the mood to get lost in the vastness of their new location (bring breadcrumbs), go by and check it out.

After that, I rode home down 18th to Q to 11th to Pennsylvania and then the usual way. Work continues apace (does apace mean super-slowly?) on installing the parking stops to the Pennyslvania Avenue cycletrack. Still a few more blocks to go on the east side. And on the west side. But the middle side, that's all set.

There is a new Gear Prudence. IT'S ABOUT RAGE. Believe it or not, I'm against it. I like my anger like I like my soup: slowly simmering. And with alphabet noodles. Anyway, your soup preference and rage valence may vary so feel free to excoriate me accordingly.

6/9/15

Still Not Back

Did you guys know that I still had a blog? I certainly didn't. Sorry for not keeping to my kind of promise to sometimes writing, but school has been a bit more time consuming than I would've hoped for (but it's good, because I'm learnding). Anyway, not much is new in bike stuff. It's still pretty great to commute by bike. There are still some things that aren't the best about it and some of those things are controllable and some aren't. That's life, I guess.

They've let me keep writing Gear Prudence, so there's a bunch new of those if you haven't been reading. If you have been reading, thank you. If you'd like to write in with questions, you can either do so through gearprudence@washingtoncitypaper.com or through my address (found in the contact tab above). The column really depends on reader questions, so if you find yourselves with a few free moments, I'd really, really appreciate it. They don't have to be anything profound or even that vexing. Even a few words like 'me get belt drive?' is really helpful. There's a lot of topics that are out there that I'm probably not covering, so anything you think would make for an interesting question, send in. As people who ride bikes (at least, I assume that if you're reading this, you're probably that) you probably get a ton of questions from people who don't. So pass those along! "How come bicyclists _____?" is a totally valid format if you don't have any "What should I do when bicycling and _____ happens?" Writing the column has been a complete gas and I need your help to keep up the volume. Thanks in advance- you're all the best.

I've also written some things in Greater Greater Washington. This is about a meeting and why we can't have nice things. This is about a 1928 traffic report and how things haven't really changed that much.

So, that's that. Class ends in a few weeks and then I have a quick respite to Beantown and then it'll be July. Things graphomaniacal should resume by then, at least around here. I'll try to do better.



5/19/15

Not Rides 5/19: Not This Again

Hello.

The vicissitudes of life foiled my plans to try to write some posts last week, but this week's vicissitudes, so far as they've revealed themselves thus far, have presented me with an opportunity to write one tonight. Lucky us.

I'm beginning to come to the realization that everyone else might not enjoy my atonal mumble singing of contemporary pop hits as I do. So long as I've bike commuted, I've mumble sung and I'm not going to give it up just because "people" think it's "awful" and when they turn around and look at me, it's "mortifying." SO WHAT? You like Tay Tay? WHY DON'T YOU LIKE ATONAL MUMBLE SUNG TAY TAY? She's deliberately not on Spotify because she wants her music to be atonally mumle sung to the world by dorky 30 something bike commuters. It's her preferred delivery method! I promise. And if it you don't like the musical styling of Tay Tay, that's on you, dude. I can't be held responsible for your bad taste. I can only be responsible for mine.

There's a lot to like about atonal mumble singing and I would heartily encourage you to adopt the practice if it's not part of your repertoire already. Because:
1) it's fun
2) bicycling is a sort of rhythmic and repetitive activity and it's kind of amazing to see where your brain takes you when you let it. I'm quite confident that some rhythm of the road prompts whatever bad pop song I feel compelled to sing and who am I to reject the rhythm of the road. That would make Walt Whitman cry. DO YOU WANT TO MAKE WALT WHITMAN CRY?
3) drivers get to sing encased in their glass and metal boxes and bicyclists are required by law and custom to do everything that drivers to out of spite and to prove a point
4) how else are you going to get people to not ask you for directions? (I wasn't atonally mumble singing this afternoon and a woman on H Street asked me where K Street was and I was like 'two letters thataway, man')
5) other reasons

In conclusion, if you want to continue to be a totally lame self-serious, unfun bike commuter, by all means, continue to not atonally mumble sing contemporary pop hits, the lyrics of which with you are only vaguely acquainted and the melody of which proves elusive beyond the ten to twelve seconds you can somewhat recall. That's fine. Whatever. But if you'd like the opposite of those things, consider atonally mumble singing. You might even like it.

As for the bike commuting, Bike to Work Day was fun. Good job everyone.

5/8/15

Rides 5/6, 5/7 and 5/8: a summary

Does it ever happen to you, the you of you who have the luxury of owning more than one bicycle, that one when picks up a flat (even after you fix it), you just put that bike aside for a some time, quarantining it to prevent the bad mojo of repeat flats from getting you? I did this with the Ogre and for the past few days I've been riding the Brompton.

My commute is about 8 miles each way and it's not flat. The Brompton has two speeds. It's not exactly speedy, but I don't mind. I really love this bike and I really love commuting on it, even though there are bikes far better suited to that purpose. Two winters ago, that is to say, the winter before this past winter, I commute solely on the Brompton for about two months. I did this because we had moved into an apartment while the house was being fixed up and I didn't want to drag the Cross Check up the flight of stairs and I also didn't want to further begrime the was-whiteish-once carpet that covered the living room floors with a bike exposed to the ravages of winter weather. Prior to those months, I had ridden the Brompton to work a few times, but it very much wasn't my preferred whip. I faintly remembering struggling on the climbs up the hill and thinking 'well, this is silly and this is far more laborious than it needs to be. I'll use this bike for other things, but not this.' But then I used it only for commuting for two months and that's when things changed.

You do something enough and you get used it. I think that time made me a much stronger bicycle rider, literally and figuratively. And I think more importantly, it made me a much better bicycle rider. Not like technically or anything, but temperamentally. Patience and perseverance, I've found, to be of much greater benefit to a bike commuter than power or agility, especially in a place that's a real mixed bag as far as cycling is concerned. It's better than a lot of places, but worse than a lot of places and the set-up puts you in a lot of situations where there's potential conflict and the transportation culture here is, how would you say, not always the most convivial. I think bike commuting teaches you a lot of things about yourself (if you want to learn them) and I think bike commuting on the Brompton taught me more than I would have learned otherwise. Maybe that's a silly thing to say, but I think it's a silly thing that I believe.

Some other things:

-Gear Prudence on training for a century (and Chasing Mailboxes with even more because MG is the best)

-Me in Greater Greater Washington begging college students not to abandon their bikes. As a longtime university employee, I can aver that this does in fact happen (I would estimate that a good 30% of the bikes parked outside at any time are in some phase of being abandoned. Maybe this is why I was so harsh about cutting locks on bikes left unmoved for a week in an earlier GP.)

-Some advice in Washingtonian on how not to be an obnoxious cyclist. I'm unclear why they asked me. “Odds are you’ve done something dickish, too.” is meant to be read in a karmic sense, not as an immediate response to “People aren’t there specifically to antagonize you” in case you were wondering.

Those are pretty much all of the things. Except for this other thing:

I'm probably going to be scaling back the postings over summer. I don't know how many times I'm going to be able to write during the week (I have decided to occupy my time with attempt 4 or 5 at grad school because they don't make gum that I can chew to stave off what is clearly some time of weird chemical dependency), but I'll try. Or at least I'll try to try. Maybe two posts a week? I think I might be able to do that.

And as always, thank you for even wasting a scintilla of your time reading this. That you ever do makes me ever so grateful.