5/2/11

Ride in 5/2

I don't know exactly what I was expected to see on my morning ride in, but it didn't feel any different from normal. Only one guy in a USA baseball hat (with bald eagle), no Top Gun-style high-fiving troops, not even miniature American flags for others. Traffic did seem marginally more sedate than usual, but that might just be because it was Monday. I have nothing interesting to say about current events (I don't have even that much interesting to say about biking and that's the crux of this blog), so that's that.
Cyclists have a way of signalling to each other their relative "seriousness" about their intentions during their commutes. Drivers do this too. The most obvious way to signal that you are a badass superbiker type is to wear badasss superbiker clothes and ride a badass superbike super badassedly. This might require you to pedal past other cyclists and not acknowledge them, like you're overtaking them on a last day time trial. Maybe it'll require you to cut a fellow cyclist off on a trail. You might even signal your bicycle commuting "seriousness" by choosing to ride around me, bolt across to the other side of the street, track stand in front of oncoming traffic and then cut off some cars so you can complete your left turn, instead of just waiting 15 seconds for them to drive past. You could then complete your exercise in proving how awesome of a bike commuter you are by squeezing past an SUV whose driver was planning to make a right hand turn so you can make your right hand turn first. I have little patience for this behavior. I'm not one of those "your bad behavior reflects badly on all of us" types, but I am one of those "your bad behavior annoys me because it is needless and I think you're just trying to 'signal' that you think you're better than me and I'm not sure that's the case and I don't look kindly upon it" types. But then again, I have Surly written in large letters on the side of my bike (it came that way, but it seems increasingly fitting).
Still 100% compliant with the bike light on the Custis. Helped that it was green. I also miswrote that the other light was being installed at Quinn- it's actually going in at Oak. I understand if you'll never trust me again.
Passed my first CaBi heading in the opposite direction on the same side of the Key Bridge. Guy wearing a tie and an orange shirt. I don't know if he was Dutch. He might just like wearing orange.
I might need to find a new way through Georgetown. The road work on 35th isn't bad in and of itself- it's just that I've had it with motorists trying to squeeze past me once the worker turns the sign from Stop to Slow. There's not enough room for both me and the parking enforcement minivan, for example, to get through the cramped space at the same time and there's only one likely outcome that can come of it: the driver of the parking enforcement minivan has to pass within a foot of me so she can continue to enforce parking regulations by stopping in 30 feet at which point I will just pass her again. I guess I could ride over to 33rd street, but that's kind of out of my way.
Speaking of cramped spaces, there's something of an art getting between a line of cars stopped at a traffic light and an equally long line of parked cars. My first piece of advice is to slow down. My second piece of advice is make sure no one is trying to get in or out of the parked cars on the driver's side. Though, I'm hard pressed to imagine that they'd have sufficient room to do so, since I don't think the door can even fully open when there are stopped cars so close. My third piece of advice is to hope that a driver doesn't see you coming and decide to angle his or her car rightward so as to make the narrow space even narrower. It's cute to do shit like this on the highway when you want to enforce some sort of merge alternation or prevent someone from riding in the shoulder, but it's pointlessly confrontational when you use your two ton car to block a bicyclist. You know what I can do? Get off my bike, lift it onto the sidewalk and keep going. Didn't think of that, did you? Luckily I didn't have to do that today, but I've done it before.
Saw two bicyclists riding down New Mexico, one on the sidewalk and one in the street. I think the one riding down the sidewalk was imperiling himself and here's why: drivers tend to pull their cars as forward as possible when they're making turns from cross streets. This means that there will almost invariably be a car directly in your path. You don't want this when you're going downhill. At least, I don't. Here's another reason: landscaping makes it such that it's difficult for someone driving an automobile to have as clear a view of the sidewalk as they do of the street. That's to say nothing of the fact that in all likelihood that drivers will only be looking in the street for oncoming traffic and not anticipating a bicycle traveling down the sidewalk with some speed. I understand the impulse to ride on the sidewalk (especially when the travel lane is narrowed by parked cars and you don't feel comfortable riding mixed in with people speeding downhill.), but it might actually be a safer approach. Another approach, especially if you don't feel comfortable mixing in with cars going down New Mexico, is to take 44th or 45th down to Garfield and then get on New Mexico (or the sidewalk) closer to the base of the hill. There's a lot of stop signs along the way, so it'll require a different kind of negotiation with drivers, but those streets are definitely less busy. There's nothing wrong about having a route that's slightly less direct (this is why I take Fairfax and not Wilson, for example) if it's going to make your overall ride experience better. There's no objectively right or wrong route between two places by bike and a lot of the times, the best route by bicycle is different from the best route by car (or walking). It's important to remember that when you're just starting out.

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