Ride Home 3/31

I made the mistake of revisiting the GGW post I mentioned yesterday and reading the comments. It reaffirmed my decision not to have comments here. I can subject myself to scorn and ridicule in real life (I'm a bike commuter)- I don't need help from the internet masses.
Why does Burleith have so many manhole covers? Just because you can afford them doesn't mean you need them. At 37th and T, there about 5. At S, there are another 6. What's down there? Escape hatches just in case the Georgetown campus plan is approved?
My grimacing is increasingly less disguised while I bike across the Key Bridge. I never expected that I would have to ring the bell so damn much for people who are walking in the opposite direction and putatively can see me coming. There's a limited amount of space. I ding the bell because I think that we both can't occupy the same space at the same time and I think that maybe you're a little more on my side. I'm pretty sure that there's no "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Effect," whereby my bike can fly and take advantage of the Z axis. To the best of my knowledge, all families don't need to walk three abreast. Just saying. What's the worst Kenny Loggins-themed pun nickname for the Key Bridge? Highway to the Dinger Zone.
Whose Schwinn World Sport is cable locked to the lamp post at Oak and 18th in Rosslyn? It seems to always be out there. I think it might be stolen. I would have stopped to take a picture, but the light was green at Wilson and I sorta wanted to get home.
I rode down Wilson all the way to Quincy instead of taking Fairfax. Most of the time I take Fairfax on account of the bike lane, but sometimes it nice just to take a more direct route. I pedaled hard and moved along at almost the speed of car traffic. It felt salubrious and like a nice coda to a week of riding. But I just remembered it's Thursday, so it wasn't really a coda to anything.

Ride In 3/31

Boring morning. It wasn't raining, but it wasn't nice. Like the aphorism, March came in the like a lion is going out like a wet sheep. The gross, real kind that lives outside on a hill in Ireland. They're pretty disgusting.
My favorite part of my ride is watching all the dogs get taken out for their last walk before their owners leave for the day. There's just a little bit of extra pull in the leash and a little extra spring in the paws. It's the total opposite for the somnambulant walkers. Especially today, where the light outside could best be described as "scarce."
Barely anyone on bikes today. I counted twelve riders coming in the opposite direction. This included a jaunt up Wisconsin, instead of New Mexico.
They're putting a Chipotle in Glover Park. They (and by they, I mean capitalists, maybe? Or whoever makes these decisions. Restaurants concerns?) should really put in Noodles & Company there instead. Do you even know how much money can be made just from the sale of buttered noodles alone? If it could get a liquor license, then it could easily become the new location for the stroller happy hour.
I've come to the conclusion that a pedestrian or cyclist should never rush across a cross walk. I think it's more dangerous than going slowly. Someone call Slate. The one "rule" that drivers (basically) know for sure is that you shouldn't hit a person with your car when he/she is in the cross walk. However, sometimes it takes a little time for a motorist to remember that. So, by going slowly, even though you're exposed longer (not that you also couldn't get hit by a car on the sidewalk, but whatever), you give the motorist sufficient time to remember that he or she should not hit you with their car. It's a theory.


Ride Home 3/30

Before I left work, I read the GGW post mentioning the "Mary Poppins effect" (I also read about it here, here and here) and I thought that it would be a good subject to ruminate on during my ride home. Instead thinking about it only made me wish I had an umbrella.
Bike commuting is great in that some times you get to see cherry blossoms, but one of its major downsides is the exposure to elements. It wasn't even raining that badly (I got home and my cap was barely damp), but it still wasn't excessively fun. It was a cold rain, though not a wintry mix. It was still rainy enough for cyclists to be the second smuggest people on the road, the most smug being those joggers who got home from work and then decided "Hey, why don't I go out for a run right now. In shorts. Because I'm like that." Tangentially, I'm pretty sure that there are some people who run home from work. Is that a real thing? I sorta think it's a real Washington thing, but not a real real thing. Whatevs.
On my way down New Mexico, there was a UPS truck parked/stopped on the right side of the street past the intersection with Macomb. I was moving alongside of car traffic, but not merged between cars or in the middle of the lane because when it's raining, I like to move a little slower than normal. The girth of the UPS truck made it such that my path was obstructed and I had to move over. Some driver was a jerk about it and, rather than give me the space, tried to speed up to get past me before I merged. This peeved me. There was still enough room for me to move over in front of him, but barely, though considering I was only in front of him for the length of time it takes to get past a UPS truck, I don't see what the big deal was. I guess I could have yielded to him, but that would have probably meant that I would have needed to slow down to the point where it would have made it essentially impossible to blend back in with car traffic. So, some advice: in the rain, take the lane earlier than you would otherwise.
I don't really have a name for my bike, but sometimes when I head towards rough patches of road I invoke "CROSS CHECK" (the way Aragorn might Anduril. Ok, I had to look that up, but if you knew what I was talking about, than you're a bigger dork than me. Half dork points if you thought his sword was named Narsil. Zero dork points, but probably a successful social life, if you have no idea what I'm talking about) to give me special ohmygodpleaseletmestayonthebike powers. Thus far it hasn't failed, but I'm not exactly riding on the roughest roads.
Wilson Boulevard after the intersection with Oak Street (near the bus stop in front of the Safeway) is a huge, ruddy mess. Big ugly potholes make riding to the right very inconvenient. Be careful as you move over to the left because that part of Wilson is where three lanes merge into two lanes and a half lane that cars get into when they want to go into basement Safeway. There's also a lot of pedestrian traffic there. It's been a while since I rode up Wilson and I might have been overstimulated today.
Another bike commuting tip: be sure to look completely over your shoulder to try to see what's behind you. It's especially helpful on rainy days. Here's a way to practice at home. Find a loved one and an exercise bike (this can be in your building's exercise room or a public gym or wherever. If you can't find an exercise bike, you can use a saw horse.) Get on the bike/saw horse and have your loved one stand about 15 feet behind you. Distances may vary given your available space. Begin biking/fake biking because you're on a saw horse and every 15 seconds have your loved one hold up a different card from the beloved board game Guess Who. Look over your shoulder and shout out things like "Hat" or "Beard" or "I think that minorities are under-represented in this game." It's a great way to practice your visual acuity and definitely prepares you for real-life bike commuting . If you ever do this, be sure to record it and email it to talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com.
Ditching a bike lane for the middle of the street is sometimes a good thing, especially if you can tell that a motorist turning around in a driveway isn't looking for anyone in the bike lane and only watching for car traffic. Getting out of the bike lane was a good idea because, in my case anyway, the bike lane was closer to where the driver (of a Buick) was about to put the front of his car and because it was where he was looking for cars anyway. I half-yelled "Stop stop stop stop stop"," but I don't think at any point he made eye contact with me. Eye contact is generally a good way tell if someone is looking at you. Tautology alert?

Ride In 3/30

I expected to have to write about riding in the rain this morning, but I was pleased to find that the rain/wintry mix did not yet come and I could instead regale you with the usual mundanities (surprisingly, a real word).
I'm pretty sure that I saw the thus-far elusive hipster on my ride into work this morning. He wasn't riding his fixie, but instead a hybrid with a front-suspension. A hipster without a fixie is like a wild palomino without its characteristic gold coat and light cream mane and tail. Man, he rides through traffic aggressively. He cut accross Fairfax from the bike lane on the right to the left turn only onto Kirkwood lane, paused briefly at the light, jutted his bike into the intersection and took advantage of the green light for the cars coming out of the church/coffee shop parking lot-cum-cut through from Wilson to Fairfax, jumped off the curb while making a left across traffic back onto to Wilson and made it halfway through the street before having to stop due to oncoming traffic from Washington Boulevard. I stuck with him, though only half as artfully. I wanted to see where he was heading because I'm always curious to know what bars serve PBR this early in the morning. Turns out he went into the Arlington County building, where perhaps he "works".
For the rest of the way through Arlington, I decided to observe the varying sartorial approaches to dealing with today's odd weather (though I have no insouciant pictures of the over-stylized and bespoke). The choices ranged from winter coats and wellies, to boots over leggings (which are not pants) with sweatshirt accompaniment, to suit jackets with no top coat, to  standard "army guy" in fatigues. It's tough to dress in this weather because it's difficult to dress for 40 and rain later in general and also because it's not a super common Washington weather type. I think that any permutation of "rain coat" would have worked, but it was coldish this morning and I understand the hesitancy.
One of the perils of the "interwebs" as I like to call them is interacting with people without actually knowing what they look like. For example, I saw someone turning her bike onto the Key Bridge whose bike had pink streamers coming off the bar ends. Was it @girlonabikeDC and Betty? I don't think so, but I have no idea. Someone might be ripping off your style.
I'm not entirely sure that there's enough room between Calvert Street and Davis Place on Tunlaw, per the GP transpo plan. It seems pretty tight going through there, but I don't know. I would recommend instead a "Cyclists May Use Full Lane" sign. You shouldn't stripe bike lanes if there's no reasonable expectation that they'll actually help.


Ride Home 3/29

As of this afternoon, DDOT has yet to change the light sequencing at the intersection of New Mexico and Nebraska. Maybe if Gabe Klein tweeted about it?
Weird day on the roads today. Riding the same route every day, you get a sense of the normal traffic pattern and something about today just didn't jive. Maybe it was just more cars on the road than usual, or just more motorists making left turns or maybe every once in a while someone was trying to parallel park, but there was just something going on today that seemed a little off.
Bicyclist at Stop Sign Paradox: A bicyclist arrives at a stop sign with a car behind him.

  • He follows the traffic law and comes to a complete stop. He looks both ways and slowly proceeds. Motorist is miffed that it's "taking forever". Stupid biker. Get off the road. 
  • He disobeys the traffic law and runs the stop sign. Motorist is miffed because of the bicyclist's disregard for those around him. Stupid biker. Get off the road. 
Long story short: if you have a pessimistic worldview and ascribe negative thoughts to those around you, people suffer from a lack of patience or a lack of empathy. I try not to think about it and just do what feels safest. 
Rode the Custis up to Veitch and then over to Key Boulevard. Some of the traffic circles on Key have shrubbery in them and it's like playing a game of peak-a-boo when you pass through at the same time as another person. I am amused by this because I am two. 
Does anyone else ever use your neck and head to signal to pedestrians that you're planning to stop and let them cross the street? I feel like it gets the point across but does nothing to improve my self-self. It's feels very Igor. 

Oddly Priced Sexy Bikesharing in Miami

Bikesharing, which is sexy (obviously), is now in Miami Beach. It has a weird (to my mind) pricing scheme though:
Users simply insert their credit card and choose a bike, returning it to one of the 100 solar-powered stations dotted around the city, not paying another dollar above their membership fee if they return the bike within 30 minutes.
However, unlike a similar scheme which launched last year in Washington DC, Miami's is heavily skewed towards residents - a monthly pass costs $15, but one-day access (presumably for tourists) costs $14 and three days will set visitors back a whopping $30.
The Washington DC Capital Bikeshare system, by contrast, charges $5 for a 24-hour usage period or $15 for a 5-day subscription, while London's Cycle Hire scheme costs £1 ($1.60) per day or £5 ($8) for a seven-day subscription.

Here's DecoBikes' official pricing page. Here are the bullets for daily membership:


  • Best Value for VISITORS
  • Provides same benefits as the resident's BEACHPASS
  • UNLIMITED Trips/Uses per day
  • First 30 minutes of every trip is always FREE!
  • Purchase your Daily Membership at any station
  • Then your credit card acts as your pass at all stations

So, $14 for a daily membership. Seems kinda high, right? (But they say it's the best value for visitors!) I'm not a math genius, but if you're in Miami for more than 3 days and want to bikeshare, you might want to buy a the monthly BEACHPASS (in caps for some reason) membership (though you have to buy a minimum of 3 months).Though maybe it's their plan to make you come back? "Honey, my DecoBike membership is still active. It seems wasteful not to use it. I'm gonna go back to Miami Beach!"
Is this gouging tourists? Is this a tax on the not-sexy-enough-because-they-don't-live-in-Miami visitors? Wouldn't you rather have tourists biking around than causing much worse externalities (traffic, parking, pollution, winning close games against the Heat) by driving? Anyway, here's more info from someone who actually knows about this kind of stuff.

Ride In & Around the Cherry Blossoms 3/29

Like most bike commuters from Arlington, I am a member of the Tea Party (WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE ZIMMERMAN? There's no way that mustache was born here) and I love freedom and America, which are basically the same thing (right?), and I love horticulture (tea is a leaf) and monuments to slave-owning equally freedom-loving Founding Fathers. Ergo (l'eggo my ergo?), this time of year and its National Cherry Blossom Festival are well worth my time and effort to visit. But not on the weekend, because it gets very crowded down there and I love freedom too much to have to my movement even slightly inhibited by anyone else. Instead I decided that I would take a nice long diversion on my morning bike commute and gawk at visit the cherry blossoms like a real rube patriot.
I took Pershing down to Arlington Boulevard (the intersection is currently a mess. Also, when are they extending/building anew the trail around there? ) and then Fairfax Drive and then over the Meade Street bridge (there were these meetings to make suggestions to make that connection better), over to the now impenetrable Wright gate and then down the hill to the trail that half-loops over to the Memorial Bridge. A motorist stopped her car to allow me to cross the busy Washington Boulevard (I didn't know what the road leading to the bridge is called, but I looked it up and it's called Washington Boulevard. Creative.) and continue my way over the bridge.
It's picturesque and if you like looking at the back of the Lincoln Memorial while traversing a river, I highly recommend it.
At the stop light at 23rd and Independence, I made some small talk with a fellow cyclist.
Him: Morning
Me: Morning
Him: Going to see the Cherry Blossoms.
Me: Yeah, me too.
Him: I forgot my camera. But I guess I already have pictures from last year.
Me: Yeah, I think if you live here long enough, you have pictures from every year.
Him: Yeah.
Me: Have fun.
 I'm quite a conversationalist. Almost as good as I am a photographer. Look:
Are there even cherry blossoms in this picture?

Climbing uphill or just didn't hold the camera right?

I took these while biking along Ohio Drive. No time to stop- I'm on my way to work! Free enterprise! Atlas Shrugged! Government-funded National Parks Service!
Then I decided to actually stop and take some more:
Faintly visible Washington Monument

I think the Jefferson is back there somewhere

If someone steals my bike, I'll totally have a picture of them doing it.
Having completed my ride down by the awesome blossoms (sponsored by Chilis?), I tried to figure out how I would get back. The way I normally figure this out is just by picking a direction and just riding, assuming that I'll eventually come out on a letter or number street and then be able to get somewhere from there. I ended up on Hains Point, but then I came back around and biked along the sidewalk (which is kind of a path) along Maine Avenue and then over the bridge going contra-flow to traffic on Independence. At some point, after being stopped multiple times at crosswalks, I managed to get going on the street again along Independence, then again to Ohio and then on the Rock Creek trail. I pretty much knew where I was then. Sort of.
I don't know of too many drivers who take these kinds of diversions on their way to work.
I saw a mild car crash along the Monodirectional During Rush Hours Four Lane Highway  through a Park (a driver hit the back of someone else's car when they were both pulling away from a stop sign. Whoops) and that inspired me to stay along the Rock Creek Trail rather than go down K and get on the CCT. I like the Rock Creek Trail and I barely ever ride on it because it's a) not especially close and b) wildly inconvenient on the weekends when it's full of joggers. There were a few bike commuters heading in the opposite direction (I swear I'm the only person who bikes uptown for work) and, in general, the pastoral tortuousness was pleasant. That is until I got to the exit from the park at Calvert Street. About half way up a rather unpleasant hill, there's a sign that reads "Move Right- Steep Grade" or something like that. I was like "no shit, why didn't you say something at the bottom?," but it's not as if cursing at the sign would have made any difference- I still had to go up. From the exit of the park, I went Calvert to Cleveland (more hill, riding in the space between parked cars and the right lane dashed lines) and over to Garfield (more hill, bike lane) to Massachusetts (downhill, then uphill a little) to work.
The whole trip took about an extra hour from my normal ride. Is there a point of this story, aside from America Rules and that the government needs to stop curtailing my freedom (but still pay for old peoples' unlimited socialized medical care)? Not really. It's just nice to know that you can leave home a little earlier than usual and get to work a little bit later and in the mean time take advantage of nice weather to see something that a lot of people pay thousands of dollars to only get to see from behind the windows of a tour bus, or maybe during a 15 minute break from riding around in that bus. So, yeah, consider that an endorsement of visiting the Cherry Blossoms by bike.


Ride Home 3/28

Filled the sense of smug self-satisfaction pride that can only come from writing a letter about a minor, parochial important local issue concerning my not dying the safety of vulnerable road users to a public official (representation without taxation? I live in Arlington), I set  off from work in relatively good spirits. For the first time ever (ever!), a fellow cyclist was biking down New Mexico Avenue at the same time I was. She rode her brakes. Hard. I didn't want to pass her- it doesn't seem like a safe thing to do going downhill. I guess it made me consider whether I'm being reckless on my daily escape from work. I didn't consider it very deeply though.
I found a kindred bell-ringing spirit on the Key Bridge today. He dinged about as frequently and with as much pique as I normally do. He was wearing a red pullover and had his jeans tucked into his white  crew socks.
Ding, ding. 
Taking this picture didn't seem like the safest thing to do. In fact, I considered it, and it probably was reckless. Sorry everyone.
I took the Custis with the intention of getting off at Veitch, but while I biked along merrily behind White Socks, we were passed (I'm pretty sure) by the guy whose bike once sprayed dirt in my face. I decided to ride with him awhile. And by ride with him, I mean, glom onto his back wheel and see how long I could stay close behind him. I'm not trying to be competitive- it's more just a game that I play for my own distraction. I stuck with him (and we were going along pretty quickly) all the way to Quincy, where I left the trail, pleased with my own pointless effort.
Car crash, of some sort, at Quincy and Wilson. A minivan protruded into where the bike lane is (theoretically- it's not currently painted or in any sense visible). I guess it didn't need to be moved because it wasn't inconveniencing car traffic.
Do you live (or bike) in Arlington? If so, do this. This concludes the advocacy portion of this blog post.

UPDATE: My Letter to DDOT

UPDATE: My email has been forwarded to the traffic services and traffic engineering team to review and respond.

I once griped about an unsafe intersection near my workplace and I got an email from a reader saying that I should actually do something about it (that is, aside from blogging to audience of four- hi mom!). So today, I finally did. We'll see if anything comes of it, but I want to thank M. for encouraging me to take this small step towards civic betterment. I've included the text of my letter, along with a movie and picture below:

Dear Interim Director Bellamy,

My name is Brian McEntee and I am an employee of American University. I am writing to you to call to your attention the confusing and dangerous traffic configuration at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue, NW and New Mexico Avenue, NW. As currently configured, the light sequencing, signage and road markings create a hazardous situation for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians and I hope that DDOT can redress it expeditiously. I am not a traffic engineer, nor do I proclaim any particular expertise, but these are my observations based on daily use of the intersection and I hope that calling them to your attention might prompt further, more thorough, analysis and eventual correction of the issue.
Prior to the opening of the new School of International Service (SIS) building on the AU campus, the intersection of New Mexico Avenue and Nebraska Avenue was a T-intersection. With the opening of the SIS garage, the new intersection resembles a four-way intersection. However, the traffic signal pattern, both for motorists and pedestrians, does not adequately accommodate this change.
With regard to the car traffic, there is now a traffic light for motorists exiting the SIS garage. However, there is also a stop sign (which was installed prior to the traffic light) in front of the garage exit. There is additionally a sign indicating that motorists cannot make left turns onto Nebraska Avenue or go straight down New Mexico Avenue. I believe that the stop sign is unnecessary given the presence of the traffic light and should be removed. Moreover, motorists consistently disregard the sign indicating the illegality of anything but a right turn from the garage exit onto Nebraska Avenue. This is likely because they have their own dedicated green light during which no other traffic (car or pedestrian) is supposed to be moving.
The crosswalk light sequence for pedestrians attempting to cross Nebraska Avenue (on either side of New Mexico Avenue) has not been adjusted to take into account the new traffic light regulating the SIS garage. While the traffic light is green for motorists exiting the garage (which should only be for right turns onto Nebraska), the pedestrians are not given a walk indication. Nonetheless, pedestrians use this time to cross Nebraska Avenue against the light. It is only when the green light is given to motorists driving up New Mexico Avenue that pedestrians crossing Nebraska Avenue are given the walk indication. Because motorists on New Mexico Avenue see pedestrians crossing during the SIS garage green light, they incorrectly assume that there is no pedestrian cross sequence during their green light. This creates a potential conflict for pedestrians crossing Nebraska Avenue and motorists turning right from New Mexico Avenue onto Nebraska Avenue.
I’ve attached a video (.MOV) of the problems described above. It was recorded on the afternoon of March 28, 2011 from the sidewalk on parallel to Nebraska Avenue, opposite New Mexico Avenue. The green light on the left side of the frame is for cars exiting the SIS garage. The pedestrians are crossing Nebraska Avenue against the light. The motorist that comes into frame from the right made an illegal left turn onto Nebraska Avenue from the SIS garage. I’ve also included a picture of the superfluous stop sign. 

I understand that there are neighborhood sensitivities about the volume of cars and the flow of traffic related to American University. However, the situation as it currently exists is not tenable and is extraordinarily hazardous to pedestrians. This is in spite of the fact that the American University architect lists the traffic reconfiguration as a completed project (http://observer.american.edu/finance/oua/Projects.cfm). The light sequence, while regular, is not intuitive. In my opinion, the crosswalk light sequence should either be adjusted so pedestrians cross at the same time the SIS garage light is green or the sequence should be expanded so that pedestrians are given a walk indication during both the SIS garage green light and the New Mexico Avenue green light. This intersection is very heavily used by pedestrians and I believe that it is simply not safe. I heartily encourage DDOT to further investigate this intersection and make adjustments in the spirit of the District’s “Complete Streets” policy- one that encourages the safety and convenience of all users.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am readily available via phone and email listed below. I thank you for your time and consideration.

Ride In 3/28

I heard a rumor that it was spring and that spring weather typically means warmer temperatures. You shouldn't believe rumors. Today I was stuck trying to negotiate the dual imperatives of keeping my neck warm and not having a metal zipper wedged into my larynx. I guess I could have warn a scarf, but that seems unseasonal. Like the weather.
I'm not convinced that there was a proportional relationship between my rate of pedaling and my velocity this morning. Has only one ride to work in the last week rendered me weak and feeble? I mean, weaker and feebler. We'll see what the ride home is like.
Speaking of being weak and feeble, for the first time ever I felt like I was going to throw up on my ride up Tunlaw. I think that three cups of coffee (one iced, one hot, one luke) and an unfrostred strawberry pop tart is not the breakfast of bike commuting champions. I took it nice and slow the rest of the way- I don't need bike commuters to be conflated with drunken Georgetown students and subsequently coalesce further neighborhood opposition to, well, pretty much everything.
A motorist exiting his car on New Mexico didn't open his door in my path on account of seeing me. Good thing there wasn't a bike lane there, lest he might have been confused and throw open his car door with reckless abandon. Because as we all know, bike lanes cause people to top paying attention to the world around them and act with no regard to consequences. It's a fact. I read it in the New York Post, maybe.
Do you live in Maryland (for some reason)? If so, read this and take whatever action you see fit. This concludes the advocacy portion of this blog post.


Ride Home 3/25

I thought that it was supposed to be 50. It wasn't 50. I didn't wear gloves. My hands were cold. Boo.
There's nothing quite as unlucky as getting stuck at successive stop lights on your big downhill ride away from work. It's just not as fun as getting through the lights.
I guess that four-way intersections are confusing, but they're not that confusing. We all take turns, right? There are two kinds of motorists at four-way stops with a cyclist: the overly deferent, who instead of taking their proper turn, decline and prompt the cyclist through. This confuses the motorist opposite them, who either cuts off the cyclist, who thinks he's being waved ahead, or aborts their initial movement forward in a lurching and probably uncomfortable to them manner. I appreciate the consideration, but sometimes it's just better to play by the rules. The other kind of motorist is the "I've got internal combustion, so I was obviously here first." Just because you have the power of hydrocarbons doesn't mean that I didn't get to the stop sign before you. You gotta yield, dude.
On my ride in Arlington, I decided to take what the lights gave me (like a good quarterback would do an NFL defense, maybe?). Instead of following my usual route, taking Nash to Wilson, when denied a left turn by a green light, I just kept going up the Custis. Some guy was wheeling his bike out from behind the Marriott. Secret path? At Veitch, again my left turn was blocked, so I kept going along Lee Highway. I wish there was a bike lane on the right side of Lee Highway from, let's say, where the bike lane stops before Sprout Run to at least Quincy. I guess the road gets a little narrow by the Cherrydale Safeway (so narrow, I bailed to the sidewalk even), but it'd be nice to have one if it's possible. I'm guessing it was deemed not possible, since there's one on the downhill side of the road. It's not a route that I take a lot, but ceteris paribus, I recommend for bike commuters to always consider taking the path of least resistance. I'd rather be moving forward on a bike than wait at a light.
I rode down Quincy, which was fun because I was moving essentially at the speed of car traffic. It felt pretty badass. They cleaned the street, and by street I mean bike lane, of the horrible little sandy dirt bits in front of Washington & Lee High School.  At Quincy and Fairfax, there were cyclists traveling in each direction: up and down Fairfax and up and down Quincy. Saturation. Arlington is the Portland of the DMV.

Ride to the Beach 3/23

For those of you who don't look closely at the title or don't have calendars, this is a description of my ride from a few days ago when I was I was not in Washington.

On occasion, I’ve seen pictures posted of riders triumphantly straddling their bikes on the sandy beaches of the Pacific, having accomplished riding there from some distance out, sometimes even a whole continent out, like from Rhode Island or wherever. Since I covered most of the continent (like pretty much all of it) by airplane, I thought that I could cover the last few miles to the ocean by bicycle. That's just as impressive, right?. My accomplice in this endeavor (and actual instigator of what I’m calling “Ride to the Pacific From Our Hotel That Wasn’t Especially far Away but Still a Little Far Away 2011”) was the official wife of this blog, my wife.
The hotel had a few bikes for rent cabled-locked out front. We chose two of the more crusiery types out of the all cruiser selection, but not the most crusisery with the super-swept back handlebars.  Big fat tires, chain guard, three speed  grip shifters, a color that can best be described as reddish brown- they were some sweet rides. I like California bike style because it’s so wildly different from the all-hybrid, all-the-time DC commuter bike scene that I encounter pretty much every day.
We set off from the hotel and rode the first about 2 miles solely on the sidewalk. We would have taken the bike lanes but there weren’t any. We would have ridden in the street, but that would have hastened a condition known as getting hit by a car. To say that where we were riding was bike unfriendly would be charitable- to say that it was downright hostile would be accurate. I don’t think that even the sidewalks were especially bike friendly. What a waste for a place that has great weather and is flat. Maybe this will help.
We took something called the Ballona Creek Bike Path, which ran next to a dried out canal which I guess is the creek, but it looked more like what they  raced through in Grease, albeit less monumental, all of the way to the ocean. It was a pleasant ride and the trail was lightly trafficked. I got the impression that we weren’t really near anything (like places of employment),  so there weren’t that many commuters coming through. A few recreational cyclists dressed in cycling get-ups were availing themselves of the beautiful morning. Would that I could go for a nice recreational ride on a Wednesday morning (I’d go through the Navy Yard, since that’s basically the only time I could get in). Anyway, it was probably about 6 or 7 miles to the first beach we went to, which wasn’t exactly the beach we were aiming for. Our intention was Venice Beach, where I guess there’s “stuff.” This was a beach where there wasn’t stuff, unless you count sand and water as “stuff,” which as far as a beach goes should count as “stuff” but that's not the kind of “stuff” that Venice Beach allegedly has to offer. (Did I "overuse" scare quotes there?)
Inferior beach meets inferior photography
We turned our bikes around (take that inferior beach!) and biked along the assigned path, a mix of separated trail and on-road marked routes. On the marked routes, we were told to bike in single file. God forbid cyclists take up more than 3 feet of the two lanes of road. That would be anarchy. In the marina parking lot we saw lots of parked boats. The High Cost of FreeParking indeed. 
Traffic engineers either think people read bottom to top or just love Yoda.
We eventually got to Venice Beach, but our bike trail ran out before then. We biked along a pretty busy thoroughfare that had a one block gap in bike infrastructure right before you got to another separated bike trail that runs along the beach. Seems like poor planning.
At Venice Beach, the “stuff” didn’t seem to be open, where it even existed. Again, let me clarify that it was 9 AM on a Wednesday (PS- we’re not industrious early birds- it’s just the time change had our sleep schedule all screwed up). We biked along a serpentine trail that was often covered in what amounted to more than a patina of sand, but less than a dune. I was glad for our fat tires. I don’t know why the path couldn’t be straight. 
Though it was allegedly reserved for bicyclists exclusively, there were many, many walkers, joggers, and tired joggers walking/jogging/slowly jogging on it. At one point, we were passing a group of people walking on the trail slightly before a cyclist passed them in the opposite direction. My wife said that he said “this is a bike path” with both hauteur and derision to the gadabout tourists. She also said that he (the cyclist) was “my people.” I still don’t know what to make of that.
We wended about Venice Beach, past the skateboarders, homeless, dispensaries, souvenir shops, tattoo parlors, and beach front houses, all the while looking for the Venice Beach that maybe has ice cream carts and Annette Funicello. You know, the one advertised by the Hog Dog on a Stick lemonade stand. Maybe we were there too early.
We took some pictures. Here’s one of me. It’s my “Everything I know about posing for pictures I learned from John McCain” pose. There’s not even water or palm trees in the background. Lame. 
This is what I was thinking as I posed.
We never quite found the elusive “stuff” we were looking for on Venice Beach, but at least we biked cruisers along Venice Beach, which is probably about as bike cliché a thing you could do in LA. We biked back to the hotel along the same way we came, including the last mile plus on the sidewalk. The street only had a sidewalk on one side.
On the cruiser: this is not a practical bicycle for someone who lives anywhere other than near the beach. But it was super fun to ride. It was comfortable and easy to handle and did everything that we asked of it. Cruisers are cool. And they were ubiquitous- aside from the few “roadies” that we saw, almost every single person we saw riding was on one.All in all, I’m glad that we got to bike a little while we were on our trip. This was definitely the longest outing that I’ve ever done with my wife and the longest bike trip she’s ever done. It was definitely a great way to spend the morning and take advantage of the nice weather in a fantastic location and I recommend it to anyone who's ever jet-unlagged in LA.

Ride In 3/25

Mercurial weather (though no Mercurian weather, which would be very hot) meant that once again the hat and gloves were required for the morning ride. I was looking forward to my ride because it's nice to get back on the bike after some time off (though we did bike once in LA, which I'll post about later), but I was laden like a pack mule with two pairs on shoes, a towel, and a laptop that says Dell but was probably made in the neolithic it's so heavy all stuffed in my pannier, along with my change of clothes. I find that sometimes a little weight on the rear rack makes the bike run smoother (this might be all in my imagination), but this wasn't really the case today. I just went slower.
Remember the hipster I saw once? Or at least remember me mentioning him? Saw him this morning riding in down Fairfax. He timed the lights better than I did (or just got lucky) and passed me as I slowly started pedaling after a red changed to green. I caught back up to him, but he successfully darted through traffic in a way that I did not find replicable. He was past Northside Social before I managed to turn onto Kirkwood. So elusive.
I saw a mom riding with her daughter this morning along Key Boulevard with the daughter on the sidewalk and the mom on the left side of the street (in the path of oncoming traffic). I thought, "well, that's good and bad." The girl was young, maybe 6 or 7, but it would still be nice if streets were such that parents and kids could ride in them together and feel safe.
Crew teams in the Potomac, in spite of the cold and the fact that they've been putting motors and sails on boats for a  very long time. Did you hear that DDOT was launching Capital Boatshare? Well, not really. But the launch of Capital Boatshare will feature prominently in my counter-factual alternative fake history of the second Fenty term called Myopic Little Twits.
Slow going through Georgetown and up to work. I saw a bumper sticker that read "No Forced Vaccinations in America." I think that's a nice complement to my tattoo of "Polio 4-ever."
When I got the work, there was a sign hanging from the door knob of the locker room that looked like a Do Not Disturb sign from a hotel. It said "Locks Changed." I can aver that they were because I tried to use my key anyway. I'm highly incredulous of signs. Someone had lost her purse, so they changed all the locks on the first floor. As a result, I got to wander through the building wearing my bike ensemble which is always fun. I eventually got a master key and my new key should be coming today.

A Big Thank You

A super huge (which I pronounce, to the chagrin of many, as yooge) thank you to the guest bloggers Lori and Kate. If a quarter of my posts were half as informative and a third as motivational and I had twice the knowledge of fractions as I currently do, well, then I would consider myself successful. I haven't yet received any email requests to leave town more often, but I fully expect them. Please limit the expletives. Once we square away the details of the whole Chinese food thing, I'll be sure to blog about that as well. Kate and Lori are both on Twitter, Kate has a righteous blog of her own (where she gives away gift cards!) and once Lori gets hers going (which I think the people rightly demand), I'll link to that too.
Regarding my time in LA, I was there to meet with some producers about turning Tales from the Sharrows into a late-night HBO program modeled on Taxi Cab Confessions. It was going to be called Tail in the Sharrows. Unfortunately, the producers read the blog and realized that there's nothing sexy or even tawdry about it and it's hard to translate whining about ANC autocentrism into a tv show anyway. I'm just kidding. I was in LA to film an episode of Jeopardy! which will air on July 21. So, there's that.


Guest Blog: My first "commute"

Hi guys! Girl On Bike DC here! Sorry this post is a little late, but apparently blogger's scheduling function didn't schedule this properly.

I'm so glad to have the honor of doing a guest blog along with Lori. And thank you to Brian for allowing us to graffiti contribute to his blog! I almost don't know what to write about!


I guess I will talk about  my very first time biking in DC:

About 10 years ago, I worked in your typical office building. It was full of your typical office droids, me included. ;-) I took 2 buses, plus one metro train to work. I worked about 6 miles from where I lived. Ridiculous, right? To be honest, it wasn't that awful. This was before Metro had devolved into the mess it is now. In fact, I accepted as a part of life. I kinda enjoyed it. Riding the bus was always an experience unto itself.

In my office we had one guy that commuted into work by bicycle. He wore lycra and was a freak (at least in my eyes)! He commuted 15 miles to work each way! That's 30 miles total! Who would purposely choose to do that?! And I knew he chose to do that because where I worked, a man in his position could totally afford to drive that distance!

So I relegated bike commuters to the back of mind as crazy people and didn't think much of it until years later. I was hired by an agency which would become (I hope) my permanent job.

For my first 3 years, getting to work was super easy because I only lived 4 blocks away. I simply walked there and back. Easy peasy!

But then I was transferred to a different area--an area that was a whopping 1.5 miles away! Wha?! I can't just simply walk that! Soooooo faaaar.... (ok, looking back I realize how silly that sounds)

Luckily, I had just purchased my very first bicycle in DC. Why? I wanted to "get in shape". Of course that meant it was simply leaning against my apartment wall ever since I bought it....

I thought to myself: why not use my bike to get to work? The very idea of cycling in DC traffic absolutely terrified me. But I was determined to do it. So one day, I made a goal of biking 5 blocks to a nearby park.

I told myself that I would bike in the street (not the sidewalk) no matter what!

And you know what? I was terrified the entire time. Terrified and thrilled. When I made it to that park safe & sound, I was the happiest person on earth. It was the biggest accomplishment I had ever made! I felt like I was on top of the world. Seriously. You would have thought that I just completed a marathon (which I had done before this, btw, and it did not feel half as awesome as this accomplishment did!)

Since that moment, you couldn't keep me off my bike! I started riding my bike to and from work every day. Rain or shine, sun or snow. Nowadays I look back on my petrified self, and I laugh! Riding in traffic is so easy now! It's second nature. I get asked by people all the time if it's "safe to ride in DC traffic" Absolutely! It just takes a little getting used to...

 Anyway, it was then that my boss noticed my bike parked outside my workplace everyday, and she nominated me for a special position in my company that involves biking everyday. She told me that she knew I loved biking, so why not make it part of my job?

Now? I ride a bike for 8 hours everyday, and I get paid for it. I credit that 'crazy person' from my old job as being a huge source of inspiration for me. Nowadays I bike 30 miles with no problem whatsoever! I can't imagine going anywhere without my trusty bicycle(s)!

(by the way, my initial bicycle has since grown into a collection of 5)

I have never owned a car in my life. But its only in the last 5 years that I've (re)discovered the joys of cycling. I have never regretted taking a ride on my bike. No matter the weather--whether its raining, snowing or super hot out, I love riding my bike. It is my center, my meditation, my wake-up-in-the-morning activity. I could go on for hours about how riding a bike centers you, calms you, makes you a better person------but, I suspect I would be preaching to the choir.

I have never owned a motor vehicle. And I'm ok with that.


Guest Blogging from the Sharrows: Lori

Hi, I’m Lori.
I am a biker. Bicyclist? Whatever.
I am guest blogging while our fearless leader is out of town, and thought I would make my inaugural blog a message of support to people on the fence about bike commuting. A “go team” kind of thing – boring, safe, unchallenging.
This isn’t my first blog, in fact, I am an experienced failed blog-starter, having presided over a short-lived work blog related to a specific project (most of my time was spent trying to get others to do the work), and having started two of my own – one I called “Dinner At Eight” for reasons I cannot for the life of me recall (and to which I never posted even once), and one called FLAT RAT. That last one was intended to be a blog about my bike commute. If you’ve ever biked in a city, you can quickly infer why I chose that title. I’ve tried to not think about the fact that I regularly ride over oozing smashed mammals and unrecognizable decaying birds, and then bring my bike through the living area of my home, over the hardwood surfaces on which my children sit and play….much.
Flat Rat never saw the light of day, either.
I began bike commuting four years ago at the age of 40. After years of driving the four miles (in my defense, most of that time I was also driving kids to schools, or multiple schools), or taking the God-forsaken Metro (two lines), I was inspired by two friends who successfully biked to work – one to downtown D.C. from Alexandria (south of Old Town) and one between Capitol Hill and Woodley Park. More challenging than what I was facing.
A girlfriend bought me a set of panniers, and there went my last excuse. I will forever be indebted to her.
If you live in DC, or in ring suburbs, you should bike to work, and here are some reasons why:
  • Traffic is horrible, and frustratingly unpredictable. On the rare occasions that I drive to and/or from work, some days it’s 20 minutes, and some days it’s easily double that. It really does make you want to poke your eyes out.
  • METRO sucks. This is a well-documented fact. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this. And I am speaking as someone who lives two blocks from a metro station and works two blocks from a metro station. And saying with authority and experience that the convenience of the metro is not a convincing reason to use it
  • You’re out of shape. So am I! But whenever I say that people say “but you bike to work every day!” Gives me credibility, if not the figure of my dreams.
  • It’s good for the environment. Duh. But those of us living where we can do this, should. Because there are so many millions of people who don’t care, don’t know, or can’t do anything about it.
  • It pisses drivers off! So, even when you obey all the rules (which by the way I do declare that you must) they still get angry. Primarily, because they don’t know the laws. I once had some lady call out to me “get your a** on the sidewalk!” And I had the pleasure of chasing her down the street lecturing her on why I *can’t* be on the sidewalk. Fun!
  • It’s easy! Seriously. My office has one dreary, dank, unventilated shower in the basement. But by having that I can say that My Employer Supports Bike Commuting! That, and I am allowed to bring my bike into the office for protection from thieves and rain (a holdover from the ‘70s when Dupont Circle was not so tony).
  • It really is easy. I bought a Rubbermaid-type box at Target, filled it with necessary stuff (shampoo, soap, deodorant, hair dryer, brush, etc.), and leave it, and a towel, in my office. Yes, I look like a freak coming into the office in the morning, dragging my bike up several steps, wearing three flashing lights of varying colors and a neon yellow windbreaker. When I do this after a commute in below-freezing temperatures, rain, or snow, I think it gives me gravitas. Or maybe when people stand back it’s not from respect. I choose not to know.
  • For me, as a D.C. resident, it shows support for the previous administration which advocated alternative transportation (bikes AND streetcars!), alternative energy (rebates for solar panels), and in general had my priorities. And support for Gabe Klein, the previous D.C. Director of Transportation, who installed the fabulous Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, of which I am such a fan (and which invite derision and resentment from drivers – unfortunate but true).
  • More bikes on the street raise the profile of biking, and make drivers more aware and (hopefully) more careful. That is the most important thing we as bike commuters can do (and why I dress like a goofball in my neon yellow and flashing lights).
What are YOUR reasons? What tips and advice can you offer beginners?
How do we start a revolution?


Ride Home 3/18

First day that it could maybe even be described as hot. I remembered sunscreen this time.
I was going to take the CCT home, but I decided to instead bike down New Mexico to see if my video had any instantaneous impact. It, obviously, did not. But I wouldn't know how to judge impact anyway- maybe residents themselves out with white paint striping lines while singing happy songs about bicycling? I don't know.
New least favorite place where cars make a left turn- oncoming traffic on to Manor Place. From the perspective of coming downhill, it's after where traffic from Tunlaw and 37th merge. The stop sign nexus (technical term) is really fraught- mostly because traffic (bikes and cars!) on Tunlaw takes advantage of the fact that motorists driving up 37th make a leftish turn and that impedes the traffic (bikes and cars!) coming down 37th. This throws the stop sign sequencing completely out of whack! So, all parties are frustrated and then, because of their stop-sign-sequencing-out-of-whack-frustration rage, many drivers feel compelled to speed down 37th. The left turners know this, so they're extra jumpy with their left turns. Hence, why I don't like it.
Wrong way cyclist on the 34th street bike lane. She gave a sort of impish smile, one that said "by biking this way, I only expected to negatively impact the experience of drivers, no fellow bicyclists."
So surreptitious.
I tried to secretly take a picture of these local collegians (I assume) loading up their panniers with 24 packs of cheap, American beer. USA! USA! Here's the problem with surreptitious pictures- I can't actually take them. I was so spotted by the woman on the left and she did the thing where she pretended that she didn't see me. Just to be clear, lady, I was taking a picture of the youths. I'm planning on starting a "beer by bike" tumblr. Side project! (Because this one is so successful)
I have mixed feelings about cyclists riding up Lee Highway instead of on the Custis, which runs parallel to it. I guess it's their right, but prior to Veitch, Lee Highway resembles a limited access highway more than a pleasant, bikeable street. Plus, for a good bit of that stretch, it serves as an extended on ramp to 66.  I mean, there's a perfectly adequate trail right there. Do what you want, but use some common sense, right?
No one (surprise) took me up on the offer to guest blog for the upcoming week. If you'd still like to (even just once), please email talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com. Have a great couple of days everyone.

Here are some puppies playing. We miss you, Cuppy.

VIDEO: Bicyclist Perspective on Tunlaw Road and New Mexico Avenue

So, here's some video of my ride up Tunlaw Road and New Mexico Avenue (both NW) this morning. (My previous "reporting" on these bike lanes is here, here, here, and here) There are currently no bike facilities (a painted white line that helps tell people where bikes should go) on either of these streets,  but there's a possibility that some day there will be. I don't have much to add in the way of commentary. I'm sorry for going so fast up those hills- I had some Spanish steak for breakfast. I also apologize for the video quality. I'll try to get a better quality video up at some point, but this is the best I could do for now. I also chose not to add a soundtrack, because I couldn't decide between Tina Turner's Simply the Best or Tina Turner's What's Love Got to Do with It. Neither of those songs have anything to do with biking, but who doesn't love Tina Turner?
All in all, it was a pretty typical morning ride in terms of cars and pedestrians. The video is just shy of 8 minutes. You can decide after watching if you think that bike lanes would make any difference, positive or negative, for either bicyclists or drivers.

Ride In 3/18

The weather couldn't be nicer for biking. A lot of people on the road, too. Finally, the "seasonals," a totally non-pejorative term I use to describe part-year, nice-weather-only bike commuters are on the roads full-force. How can you identify a "seasonal"? (You know, not because you want to make yourself feel even more self-satisfied about riding through the winter, but just because you're curious and stuff...) There are a few ways:
  • They have clean shoes. Either sneakers or bike shoes. 
  • They have a cable lock or no lock at all. I'm highly skeptical of people on bikes who don't have a lock with them. Maybe it's locked up at work or maybe they bring their bikes into their offices, but more likely, they're just riding in a big loop and heading back home. The head-back-home crowd includes the super-biker, lycra types.
  • They're pedaling too hard. It's not a race, dude.
  • They don't ride with traffic. I don't mean in traffic, but with traffic. One of the things you get used to after bike commuting a lot is how to interact with, and not totally avoid interactions with, drivers. It's the little things you can do, like making eye contact or using hand signals or knowing where to position yourself or whatever, that help more easily integrate you into the flow of traffic and make for an easier and safer commute. Less experienced riders tend to stick the bike lanes or sidewalks, even when moving into the travel lane makes more sense and is actually safer. 
Anyway, it's nice to have more people on the road because greater bicycle volume makes the roads safer for all users. Huzzah for safety! (I have that tattooed across my back in Carolingian miniscule).
Runaway wheeled garbage can came down the hill at Oak and 18th street. First time I've ever seen that.
Quiet ride through Georgetown and Glover Park. Thanks to local bike luminary, Mark Blacknell, I was able to borrow a "helmet cam" and record my ride up Tunlaw and New Mexico. I'll put that up that in a separate post later.
Such a beautiful day and I'm already looking forward to the ride home. Also, I saw this. Sorry, Tom.