Invariably, I'll spend more time writing this post than I did riding with Marc. If, in fact, I limited the length of the time I spent blogging to the amount of time I spent riding, I'd pretty much have to stop now. (Though spending the exact same amount of time blogging as I do riding would be an interesting conceit and maybe I'll roll out it for season 3. The conceit at the end of season 2 will be that it was all a dream. The conceit of season 4 will be that I'm inside of a snowglobe. Season 5, somehow, will be claymation. I've got gimmicks for 8 seasons, after which I'll reveal that bike commuting was a metaphor for purgatory or something and then you'll take the message boards to question why you even bothered reading so long and whether all of the "easter eggs" even made any sense. In conclusion, WE HAVE TO GO BACK!) Marc is a colleague and while we don't work within the same academic unit, we both work at the same place, meaning that this I BLOG YOUR RIDE could be the first I BLOG YOUR RIDE that's a ride home rather than a ride in. Of course, we sort of just rode to a nearby Mexican restaurant and not a ride home, though I think it was close enough to his home to qualify. I haven't read the bylaws in some time.
We set off from bucolic American University (home of the 'fightin' muricans' [I'm being told that's not the official mascot]) around 5:30. I was on the Haul and Marc was on a CaBi. He's a Bikeshare commuter, through and through. By through and through, I mean that he doesn't even own his own bike (he owns 1100 of them). I think that this makes him a rarity in bike commuting circles (bike commuting circles are for people who work from home), but with the growth in popularity of Bikeshare, I think this rarity is becoming only medium-rare, like a delicious steak. He started commuting by bicycle after Bikeshares' inception (it was all a dream within a dream within a solar-powered station) and rides most days. When he doesn't, he takes the Metro for one stop, which actually takes longer than biking. Sometimes he'll Metro to work and bike home and he enjoys Bikeshare for the ability to take one-way trips. I suppose that makes him a flexitarian or maybe just a Sagittarius. For him, a month of one-way Metro is half the price of a month of car parking and half the price of a year of Bikeshare. Think about that.
We made our way across Ward Circle (the most useless circle in Washington) and down Nebraska, sticking on the sidewalk. Not literally sticking. Marc prefers the sidewalk to the road on Nebraska because the evening rush hour traffic is a bit crazy. It seemed a little cramped when there were pedestrians, but it wasn't so bad. We turned right on Van Ness and then it was street-riding the rest of the way.
According to Marc, the brief stretch of Van Ness between Upton and Wisconsin is probably the most dangerous part of his trip. I would tend to agree, not least of all because it's close to a McDonalds and someone might spill hot coffee on you. Just a lot of drivers making blind-ish turns and other drivers speeding to try to catch the lights. Marc, because he's considerate of others, tries to hustle to make the green light when he can, just so doesn't put people out. He's a nice guy like that. The other thing he tends to do is try to ride 'vehicularly," meaning that he stops in line and doesn't weave through traffic and takes turns and all that. I think that given the vicissitudes of his route, he doesn't have much other choice. For the width of the road (one lane in each direction), there's nowhere else for him to go. Van Ness from Wisconsin to Connecticut does have sharrows, so that's nice at least. Amazingly, he's never been honked at (thanks, sharrows!), but he has been passed aggressively and closely before by impatient drivers. Van Ness has two stops signs and a red light, so it's not like an expressway or anything. And it's a residential street with maybe a 25 mph speed limit, so I was sort of surprised at how much car traffic there actually was. I guess there are only so many convenient cross-streets in that part of town.
Without incident, we got to Connecticut, where we decided to turn right rather than left, and head down to Cleveland Park and its myriad eateries/drinkeries. For a block or two, we stayed on the sidewalk on Connecticut, but then went into the road because the sidewalk narrowed and it was just easier to ride in the road anyway. I don't very much enjoying riding on Connecticut Avenue. It's rather thick with the worst kind of car traffic, namely the sort of drivers who think that they're driving on a road that's supposed to allow them to go fast when it actually doesn't. It's really all about managing expectations, ins't it?
Marc docked at the Cleveland Park bikeshare station. His was then the only bike there. Tough luck, anyone looking to take Bikeshare from Cleveland Park at roughly 5:45 on a Thursday.
Here's some more stuff about Marc and Bikeshare and commuting

  • he almost never sees anyone else biking his route in the morning, nor does he see any "regulars" at the bikeshare station. 
  • The hill up Van Ness sucks. I agree. 
  • He's plotted his bike commutes (bike commuters love spreadsheets!) and found about a one minute variability between fastest and slowest trips. Comparing this to the variability in how long a red line trip might take (upwards of infinity hours) and driving (you could be stuck at the light at Wisconsin for hours), this is quite a good reason to take Bikeshare
  • Getting dockblocked and finding no bikes at your station is basically a death sentence for your bike commute when you live on the outskirts of the Bikeshare system(Van Ness, Tenley, AU, Glover Park). It's because the stations are too far away from each other and walking 10 minutes to the next closest station sort of defeats the whole purpose of the whole 'quick trip with no variability thing.' I asked him if stations within the residential neighborhoods might be popular and he thought so, but there's no real way to know until we try. So let's get on that. 
  • There's almost no real infrastructure in upper-ish Northwest. That makes March a vehicular cyclist by default. He said that when he bikes downtown, he's happy to use bike lanes and such and really loves seeing other people on bikes. I know how the feels, since that's more or less how I felt when I used to bike through Georgetown and up New Mexico.  \
  • One of the nice virtues about the diffusion of Bikeshare is the ability to use it to explore different neighborhoods and to essentially play bike tourist all over the city. You can take the Metro somewhere, find the nearest bikeshare station, tool around for a bit and either ride somewhere else or just to the train home. It's real multimodalism. 
It was an absolute great time riding with Marc and the generosity of his money and time is greatly appreciated. I wish him the best of luck with his continued CaBi commutes. As that Irish blessing goes, may bikes always be available when you need them and the road rise to meet your wheels! (I think it goes that way, but I'm not so sure).


  1. I think that's great that a bikeshare-only bike commuters actually exist. Although I got anxious reading the part where he docked the only CaBi bike. HOW WILL HE GET HOME IF IT'S GONE AFTER BEERS?

    Upper Northwest is definitely lacking in bike-friendly infrastructure. Also, because of the Capital Crescent Trail which has existed for years, I think drivers are rather "why aren't you riding on a bike path?"-minded.

  2. We worried the same thing. Luckily, there was a bike there and another guy just rode up and docked another. So, lucky Marc. And yeah, I'd tend to agree about the CCT, but it's not like that actually goes through neighborhoods or to places that intra-upper-NW commuters would actually want to go. The whole area west of CT is pretty sparse with bike lanes and there are very few routes for bikes between the activity nodes around the Metro stations (Woodley, Cleveland Park, Van Ness, Tenley, Friendship Heights)

  3. I was a Cabi-only commuter from October 2010 to May 2011 when I bought my first bike since high school. CaBi is totally my gateway drug.