Ride Home 10/7

Sometimes packages are placed on backorder and only shipped on the very day you move out of your old apartment. Luckily, thanks to web tracking, it was easy enough to determine when the package arrived and I used my ride home to swing through Arlington to grab it (and also some mail that the Post Office declined to forward to our new address for some reason). Since it was a beautiful evening, I hardly minded going out of my way. Furthermore, going "out" to Arlington allowed me to "discover" the new section of bike lanes on 34th street, which was tremendously exciting (perhaps too much so).

Now, I'm not going to dwell on the fact that these bikes lanes were installed after I moved and that I'll hardly ever get to use them. That would be self-pitying. Instead, I'll just suggest that these lanes, and lanes like them, are particularly important facilities. 34th is a narrow, residential one way street that's used as the primary route for cars driving through Georgetown to Key Bridge. It's almost always backed up at rush hour because it ends at the much more trafficked M street and its bridge traffic and there's simply too much volume. Previously, DDOT had installed bikes lanes from about where 34th starts after Wisconsin, but the lanes stopped around Volta and each day when I rode, it was the same pattern. Where there were lanes, drivers, for the most part, dutifully didn't block them, but as soon as the lanes would stop, almost every driver would re-center his car such that there'd be less room for a bicyclist to pass (Maybe I should write an angry editorial about how car traffic slows down bicyclists?) and it was always a little bit too narrow to ride freely. But now that the lane has been extended to Prospect, it should be a much more manageable and considerably less harrowing trip for area bicyclists. For what it's worth, there's still a one block gap in the lane, but I think that's related to the streetcar track removal project and I hope it gets sorted out soon. Bike advocates go round and round about infrastructure improvements, but to my mind, this is an example of where very cheap solution (some white paint on the road) radically alters the traffic dynamic for bicyclist at no real cost to drivers and if that's not optimal for all parties, I don't know what is.
Alls well in Arlington, except that my new evening commute, which heads east, caused me to forget how terrible it is to ride down Wilson with the glaring setting sun hovering in a way that makes it very difficult to see (and be seen).
No trip to Arlington would be complete without a Tim sighting. I wonder how long he was riding around waiting to get spotted. Just kidding.
It was a relatively quick turnaround at the old building. Included in my mail was my October bike commuter benefit, so that was a nice surprise. Since I didn't spend my September check, now I might have enough scratch to buy... something? (I should probably spend this money on necessities like brake pads and spare tubs, but spending free money on necessities, even if that's what it's meant for, seems somehow sad. It'd be like using birthday card money to pay for a visit to the dentist. Yes, I'm complaining about spending free money.
Riding back down Wilson, I was overwhelmed with the brown flip-floppiness of it all. Never change.
I rode down 15th and along Fairfax and then down Fort Meade, past Iwo Jima and then down along the cemetery. I paused briefly to take what turned out to be a truly terrible picture of the Lincoln Memorial which I won't bother sharing you. The paving along Memorial Bridge is really quite crappy. I'm also surprised that there's no barrier between cars and pedestrians, except from something like an 8 inch curb.
And then the fun started. I didn't want to take Independence because who really likes riding on paved roads when you get can instead ride on grass and crowded pedestrian paths full of gawky tourists and zombie joggers? I tried to follow a path, but construction blocked it off and then I rode across some grass (this is as close as I get to cyclocross) near the under-construction and horrible looking Reflecting Pool (it looks like something out of post-war Poland) only to find myself on the wrong side of a 6 foot chain link fence. Turn around? No. I was going over the fence. I removed my pannier from the bike and took out my winch and pulleys. Wait, no, I didn't have those things. Instead, I hoisted my bike as high as I could, lifting it about as high as the stop of the fence. At this point, some guy walking by was like "Do you need some help?" and he kindly assisted with bringing the bike down the other side. He made the requisite "Now, let's steal his bike" to his girlfriend. They didn't steal it. I was grateful for that, and for the help he provided since I'm not exactly sure if I would have been able to do the whole operation myself. Then I pole vaulted the fence. Wait, no, I didn't. I climbed it, having strategically picked a place with a park bench on the other side. I was never in "army" or burglary, so my fence climbing skills aren't great, but I made it over without too much trouble. A small victory for extreme urban cycling. Reflecting (like the Pool) further on this decision, I'm not totally sure why I did it. I guess I just hate the idea that the Mall is basically impassable and sort of unfriendly to its users with parts being closed off for security or construction or just for whatever. So I was striking a blow for open access. Or, conversely, I was just being stupid.
Post climb. 
The rest of the way home along the Mall was boring and I rode along on the grass for the most of it, half-expecting that it was only a matter of time before the Park Police would find me and take me to their gulag in East Potomac Park, but that didn't happen. I rode Jefferson, where a guy on a CaBi worked his darndest to try to pass me, then up through the Capitol grounds and home. Lots of people on bikes last night and rightly so.
Programming note: I'm working on Monday, so there will be posts. For those of you staying at home making your Columbus Day cookies and preparing for your Columbus Day parties, I wish you the best.

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