Ride Home 10/19

Now we're talking. That was a bad news autumn rainstorm and I rode it in the mostly, but not totally, dark. It was a sudden, somewhat brutal reminder of what riding this time of year is all about: muddling through.
Speaking of muddled, here's the response I got from DDOT after complaining about the caution tape at Madison Place, NW.

Dear Mr. McEntee:

Thank you for contacting the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) regarding your concerns about bicyclists being hindered by a security checkpoint at Madison Place NW.

Since this is a security checkpoint guarding a federal building, DDOT has no authority in this matter. A member of DDOT's Bike Team learned that bicyclists who move by this area without slowing down actually cause a safety hazard for security guards checking vehicles entering and exiting the adjacent checkpoint. That is the rationale for not giving bicyclists unfettered access at this location.

d. Clearinghouse 

In any case, thanks to DDOT for getting back to me, especially concerning something that (I rightly supposed) they have no control over. But I'm going to go ahead and call BS on the answer giving to the member of their Bike Team.  Here are just a few of the reasons that the rationale of "speeding bicyclists can hurt security guards" is bunk.
1. Guards are mostly in the booth, protected by bicyclists by something called walls.
2. If there was actually a vehicle stopped at the checkpoint, a bicyclist couldn't "speed" through. The bicyclist would be stopped by vehicle.
3. There's maybe about 2 to 3 feet between the security bollars (if you can call 6 inch diameter metal poles bollards) and there's no way a bicyclist is going to "speed" through. And furthermore, if a bicyclist was to actually speed through, there'd be no one there to potentially hazard (because they'd be inside the security checkpoint, surrounded by walls)
4. The access, as a result of the security bollards, is already quite fettered and removing the tape still wouldn't give bicyclists unfettered access to the area. It would just allow them regular access.
5. So let me get this straight: it's crucial that we preserve the safety of security guards by imperiling bicyclists and pedestrians forced to share a too narrow sidewalk. I mean, if that's the actual calculus and someone has deliberately decided that this is a worthwhile tradeoff, that's fine. But let's at least be clear about what's happening here.
In conclusion, this supposed rationale is considerably less than convincing. This is a case of someone taking offense to theoretically being hazarded by bicyclists than an attempt to actual think critically about an issue. As we're all aware, bicyclists are a public safety menace.
I had two goals for getting down Massachusetts that fed into my larger goal of not getting seriously injured.
1. Stay upright
2. Not ram into the back of anything.
And I did both of these things, thankfully. There was only once when I had the genuinely terrible feeling of not being able to stop in time and it was when I was confronted with a driver looking to change lanes when the person in front of him stopped to turn left. Luckily he saw me in time (thanks yellow jacket!?) and stayed put. In the rain, I don't really mess around with going fast or riding anywhere but in the middle of the travel lane. Most drivers, I think, understand and vaguely sympathize (or at least give a wide berth).
Look for breaks between cars in slowed and stopped traffic. That normally portends something, like someone you can't see pulling out of a driveway. That seems like a useful suggestion, right?
Lights. You really need them. In fact, I'm peeved at a good portion of the DC bike set for not having them. Invisibility in the dark is no cycle chic. It's cycle stupid. Yeah, it's fairly early in the gets-dark-early season, but that's not much of an excuse. Would gentle scolding get you to get lights? Maybe continued and cruel mockery? Rigorous police enforcement? How about this?
Don't make baby poodles cry retroactively
If you're going to try to race me as the light changes, remember to shift into a smaller gear ahead of time. Just sort of awkward when you push off and don't go anywhere.
I don't think there's anything better than rain to remind you how crappy some roads are. Downtown on 11th is just a mess. Not so much potholes as cauldronholes (not a technical term) that extend almost across the entire block. Just bad news for bicycling.
I got a sad, empathetic look from the Capitol Hill police/security (I don't know which) person who guards the three cones that block the lane at the base of the hill on Constitution as I was forced to slow to a near stop and then merge (for 5 feet) into the next-over travel lane after two speeding cars prevented me from doing such until they passed. I'd prefer you just not have cones there. Maybe I'll take it up with DDOT and learn that the cones are there to protect the guy standing in the middle of the lane to protect the cones. It's like an MC Escher drawing of traffic control.


  1. HA! Love the visual of the riders launching themselves to nowhere in their big gear. Uh ...

    Typical logic on the Madison Street security. My theory: they just don't want cyclists wrecking into their metal poles and requiring them to come out and deal with such a scenario.

  2. There is a nasty pothole along Mass shortly after the entrance to Rock Creek (near the Italian Embassy?)...it's on the right side of the road, right after a light, so as I'm careening down that particular section of road with millions of impatient cars behind me, it always makes me nervous.

    Last time I tried to avoid it while being polite and not planting myself in the center of the lane, I nearly got slammed into the curb by a passing car, and then one time when I rode over it at the wrong angle (and too fast), I wobbled around a bit too much for my own comfort.

    Then the other day I tried to be safe, took the sidewalk and got sprayed by a giant, unavoidable dirt puddle.

    I've been biking up down that road for 5 years now and I like it less and less with each passing day.

  3. @Rachel- I know exactly what you're talking about! That thing is nasty, a real bone-shaker. I worry every time I go through that my bike is gonna get busted. I try not to ditch to the sidewalk, but traffic pinches at that point and it's hard to make it through without a driver right on top of you. Filling that would make a huge difference.