2/10/12

Ride In 2/10: Underground Railroad

This is the story of a bike ride and the story of a commute, but different from most days, the former wasn't the latter. I biked to #fridaycoffeeclub and then home, worked from home for a while and took the Metro to work. Why not bike to work? Just didn't really feel like it and wanted to see how long the Metro would take. I've been justifying my bicycling to work on three fronts: it's more enjoyable, it's cheaper and it's faster. On two counts, I can say are assuredly true, but I'm not so sure about the faster. I mean, on average. Certainly today's trip to work by bike would have been faster than taking the train since I waited to transfer at Metro Center for nearly 20 minutes. But I think on a normal morning, with a smoother transfer, I'd probably make it to work in maybe 45 minutes, which is maybe 5 minutes faster than I'd get here by bike. But let's talk about that part later and do the whole biking part first, since that's why your here. Or maybe you just thought this was funny cat pictures, like the rest of the internet.
With the Cross Check chainless and locked up here, I decided to take the Haul to coffee. It is my 'city' bike after all and what better purpose could a 'city' bike serve than as vessel by which to arrive at a location in which one purchases and imbibes coffee. As well all know from our many history classes, the first civilizations to build cities, those in the Fertile Crescent, did so because that's where the coffee shops were and they wanted to live relatively close so that they could bike to them. That's why the first bike blogs were written in cuneiform (Ancient civilization wasn't really my specialty).
Rode behind a CaBi commuter fully kitted out in bike ensemble. It is a very small percentage of CaBi commuters who do this. Per all things related to bikes and clothes, there is no right or wrong. You want to wear lycra? Go for it. Flouncy sundress? Be my guest. Bolo and cowboy hat while calling your bike a 'trusty steed'? Um, ok. Pancaked make-up, powdered wig, eyeliner, britches, tricorn hat, and a name tag that says "Zombie George Washington"? Well, that's just sorta weird, but it'd be weird no matter how you're getting around.
A really nice morning ride. It was probably cold enough for gloves, but I didn't wear them. Because I left them at work. Same with my hat. Very light bike traffic, but the car traffic was pretty light too. Remember the predictions of traffic doom when they were going to take away travel lanes from cars to make the bike lanes? I've never seen car traffic backed up on Penn. I ride it every day. How empty of cars did it look before?
I stuck to the sidewalk by the White House on E Street (where Bruce's band is from, I guess?). The safety of America was accordingly preserved.
Coffee happened and then we all went to work. Work for me was back at home, so I don't know if this is technically a "ride in" or "ride home" post at this point. This blog is getting way complicated. Barely any more bicyclists coming back then I saw heading in. I must've missed the 'rush hour' of bike commuting. I think in Rush Hour 4, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan buy a tandem and hilarity/anti-criminal violence ensues.
I did ride behind a guy for a while and we diverged by the Capitol, after the traffic circle on First Street NW. Apparently, the rules of traffic circles (defer to traffic in circle) don't apply when the traffic in the circle is a bicycle. Thanks a lot, jerks.
On the other side of the Capitol, I saw Lane, who was at coffee. We exchanged pleasantries.
Also, and I don't know if you know this, but bike lanes become 'running lanes' after the morning commute. Thanks, zombie joggers! Maybe this makes me run-cist, but all joggers sort of look alike to me.
I came home to find Ellie the Poodle upstairs, but the poodle mayhem was mitigated by our closing the bedroom doors. She was just sitting on the carpet in the hallway.
[If this were a movie, here's where the director would deploy the 'work' montage: shuffling papers, furious typing, deleting emails, rubbing chin in contemplation]
And then I didn't bike to work. I took the Metro instead and I timed my trip, by means of comparison. First, a few things about Metro. I don't take it very often. Also, it sort of has a crummy reputation. But, our decision to purchase the home that we did was in large part due to its proximity to Metro (3 blocks away) and I'm a firm and dedicated believer of good public transportation and transit-oriented development. All of which to say is that I'm not trying to be a Metro basher. But it's just not for me. It's for a lot of people (and it should be:  you can move more people via train than you can by car or bicycle, probably) and it should be better than it is. In part, because that's what people are paying for, but also because good public transportation abets good urban design and good urban design, in my opinion, is one that's on a human scale and places that are on a human scale tend to be more bike-friendly. If Metro sucks and people don't take it, the overwhelming majority of them aren't going to turn to bicycles for transportation. You'd have to be delusional to think that and while I'm definitely in the "bike bubble," I'm not that far out of touch with reality. Bad and unreliable public transportation puts people in cars and redesigning (or keeping amenable) cities to car-centeredness is absolutely the worst thing that can happen for bicyclists. Well, second to getting beaten up by flail-wielding, genetically modified evil chimpanzees. So that's my bike-y argument for good non-bike public transportation.
Here's how my trip broke down (Metro pun not intended). It took me 25 minutes to get to Metro Center. According to Google's bike directions, it would've taken me 19 minutes by bike. So, that's more or less a draw. And then I stood on the platform for 20 minutes, which isn't something I'm accustomed to and not something I deal with when biking. Even when I'm going slow, I'm always going. I got to listen to a podcast and look at CPAC-ers. And then the train came and it was 15 minutes to Tenleytown, a trip that would've taken at least double that by bike. But if I were going by bike, I wouldn't have gone to Tenleytown- I would've just gone directly to work. Instead, I had to take a shuttle bus, which I had to run for, but which left only a minute after I got there and then I was at work 5 minutes later. Had there not been a delay at Metro Center, it would almost certainly have been faster to go by Metro than by bike. This way, on an off-peak trip, it took maybe 10-15 minutes longer and it cost $2.15. Hardly the worst thing in the world.
This was only one trip and there's no real statistical significance to it. Trains go fast, trains have delays. Bikes go slower, but maybe you can keep moving. It's a question of preference and trade-offs and costs and lifestyle. I just want people to have a choice about it.

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