Ride Home 3/14: No, seriously, I'm writing a book about Arnold Palmer's retirement

I don't have any tattoos. Obviously. Well, not obviously, if you've never seen me and my lack of tattoos, but still sort of obviously if you know of my debilitating fear of ink. I only use pencils and have never eaten squid. Anyway, as you also know, if I did have some 'body art,' which I don't, it'd be an image of poodle on a pennyfarthing and maybe a bag of corn chips. Curiously, this tattoo isn't one of the more common ones (philistines) that I see on my yearly Tattoo Review (which is totally different from the yearly T.A.T.U revue, popular in the transvestite bars of Moscow) that takes place on the first really warm day at my workplace, which happens to be a college campus. And here's what's new in tattoos this year: um, not very much. I saw some random squiggles and maybe an animal or some tribal stuff and some words, but never the words "Toy Poodle on Pennyfarthing," which would be included within the overall skene of my 'ink' because I think the image would need a caption, so as to provide some clarity, like a New Yorker cartoon. All of this, other than being a total waste of your time, is a long-winded wind-up to tell you that today was, once again, a warm one with temperatures achieving a certain number of celsius that equals about 80 in fahrenheit. There was sun. There was sweat.
About halfway down Mass, at the intersection with Macomb, another bicyclist pulled to the side of the road and stopped. As I passed, I said "is everything ok?" She didn't say anything. And then I looked back again and was like "everything ok?" from about 20 feet farther down the road and by that time she had her earbuds out and was like "yeah" and that's my story about good samaritanism. It's generally a good rule to ask bicyclists who are not engaged in the actual activity of bicycling if they're ok, because sometimes people get flat tires or have other mechanical issues. I do it, at least.
Can't remember the exact reasons I was mumbling under my breath at drivers today, but I assume they were valid. I suspect they were just the usual ones. Nothing to get too worked up over. Probably just the whole "I'm gonna block most of the lane, even though parked cars make it impossible for me to get by without leaving the lane, but I don't really want to leave the lane because after the parked cars I'll totally be able to continue in this lane and then get to my destination marginally faster than I would have had I had to spend like 2 seconds moving left and then moving back right." Either that or something else. Mutter mutter mutter mutter.
I'd like to declare that I am not an expert. At anything. Once I thought I was an expert at tic tac toe, but then I met this really smart chicken. Comeuppance! And I'm especially not an expert at bike commuting. And I'm especially loath to give advice about bike commuting (even though I kind of do it all the time) and I'm fairly certain that in no certain terms should anyone listen to any advice I have to give about bike commuting, because I'm not an expert and you should only ever listen to experts or gypsy fortune tellers. But I feel like its incumbent on me, the self-appointed scribe of #bikeDC that no one ever asked for, to perhaps offer some suggestions, that one may take or leave, with regard to the operation of a bicycle in urban commuting situations. Again, you might not want to listen to these and instead "go with your gut," just like that last guy did with that whole WMD in Iraq thing. Anyway, just some ideas:
  • Riding past someone on your bicycle or being passed by someone on a bicycle is in no way a referendum on anyone's masculinity and you might want to inform your testosterone accordingly. Once, in my town where I grew up, we actually had a referendum on some dude's masculinity and he lost and from that point forward he was called Jennifer. But bike commuting isn't that. You don't get bonus man points for passing someone too closely and you don't lose man points if someone happens to want to ride faster than you. In fact, there are no such thing as man points, or at least that's what Jennifer said. 
  • A bike lane is too narrow a space in which to pass another bicyclist. You want to pass someone who's in the bike lane? Get out in the travel lane. If you can't do that, then you gotsta wait. You gotsta. 
  • If you pass me when I'm stopped at a stop light but your such close to me that the best picture I can't help but scoff at how close we are, then it's maybe not advisable to do so. I find that, as a rule, the people who say "I'm quick off the line" tend not to be as quick as they think they are. Pass while moving. And only on the left. 
  • Don't stop in crosswalks. I've heard a rumor that if you block a crosswalk with your bike, any crossing pedestrian gets any coins you happen to have on your person. Relatedly: don't bring your precious coin collection on your bike commute!
  • If you run a red light and you impact anyone else's travel in any way whatsoever, you did it wrong. 
  • Street harassment is never cool. Nor is ogling by bike. Nor is yodeling by bike. Nor is ogling yodelers. 
  • Bike commuting, while an opportunity for exercise, isn't really something that you should think of as exercise and you shouldn't, at least in the context of city riding, try to max out your ergs (is that a work out term? I thought I had a gym membership, but it was just a Chipotle punch card) or whatever. You oughn't drive like you're a race car driver and you oughtn't bike commute like you're in a velodrome. That's velodromatic. 
  • Overuse of bullet points is a good indication that your writing otherwise lacks structure. 
11th was crowded with bikes and cars and buses and one guy on a CaBi who kept pulling up alongside me at stop lights. And then maybe the guy with the kid carrier from yesterday shoaled me again today. I don't know. 
All of the tourists are here. All of them. I didn't commute through downtown last spring and I think I might want to investigate other ways to get home. It's not that tourists are bad. I love tourists. I even love the movie The Tourist, even though I've never seen it. But bike commuting anywhere where there's a lot of people walking in the shared space dedicated to bikes and pedestrians isn't really enjoyable. It's not them. It's me. Maybe E Street is better than Penn. I'll try that. 
I think I saw a sometimes blog commenter today. dcdouglas, was that you? Grey Bern helmet? Jamis? I was taking a picture of the big pothole (now with cones!) along East Capitol and you were riding behind a guy on a CaBi and you looked frustrated. I caught up with you along the park, but I didn't say anything because I forgot whether your name was Doug or Scott. I really didn't want to get it wrong, so I didn't say anything. On a related note, if this wasn't dcdouglas and it was a guy named Scott, what's up, Scott? Anyway, I'd just like to use this terrible story as an opportunity to thank all of you who read and comment upon this blog. I could do it without it, but it'd be ever so lonely. You're all the best. 


  1. Fine post. Maybe I liked it so b/c I am a big fan and abuser of bullet points. Also, I'm glad I didn't grow up in your town with those kinds of referendums! Finally, if you find a good route home that avoids tourists, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT!

  2. Instead of my usual CCT to Penn route, I took the hilly Arlington route, jumped on the Custis to the MVT, across 14th St. Bridge, up Ohio/15th, then Jefferson to the Capitol and E. Cap. It was surprisingly free of obstacles. You obviously would cut the first half out, and the rest is kinda outta your way, but it gets you a couple extra miles and is very pleasant.

  3. Disagree with you on the bike commute/exercise point. But maybe that's because I'm military...

  4. @froggie it's not that a bike commute isn't excercide , it's just that I'm tired of people trying to race their bikes on too narrow paths and in too narrow bike lanes when so doing comes at the cost of the safety and well-being if those around them. Empty trail, max out. But when there are other people to consider, consider them and ride accordingly.

  5. great post.

    Definitely agree with the crosswalks and the passing from a stop at an intersection... pet peeves!! Crosswalks, like sidewalks, are for walking. And if you're behind me when you come to a stop, you're behind me when we start going. This is the way traffic works. "Quick off the line" has nothing to do with it, this is basic safety and etiquette. on both counts.

  6. I have the exercise mentality probably 70% of the time. But I don't do it on crowded commutes; that would be more frustrating than just slowing down a bit.
    Tourist season is definitely a challenge. I like H St for eastbound travel downtown (at least til you hit New York Avenue/11th) -- no bike lanes, but lots of room and tourists aren't generally a problem up that far in the alphabet of streets.

  7. what's the big deal about being passed when you're stopped? I do it sometimes if it's clear that I actually do want to ride somewhat faster than the other person. I've never cared when it was done to me--that said, I've never been in a situation where somebody passed me and then rode so slowly I needed to pass him/her. does this happen to people a lot?

  8. I think that once it happens to you (and it's amazing that it doesn't. you're extremely lucky, since it happens to me every single day), you might come around to my viewpoint. I just think it's incredibly difficult to know if you intend to ride faster or slower than someone else when you have no real way of gauging it since no one is moving.

  9. are you saying that every day somebody passes you while you're stopped and then you pass them when you start riding? or just that every day somebody passes you while you're stopped?

    I do feel extremely lucky to not commute during "regular" hours. when I've had the misfortune to ride at those times I've found drivers to be much more irritable and aggressive.

  10. Great post: "velodromatic' is way better than 'scorcher'. Well done sir!

  11. Argh, I hate the passing while I'm stopped thing. Especially when they run the light and I still catch their miserable slow asses and squeaky chains before the next light. Lather rinse repeat. I've been known to pull off on an invented errands just to avoid repeating that for blocks and blocks.

    It's particularly bad this time of year because all the newbs are full of energy and have forgotten their socialization that we year-round grizzled veterans have been honing all through the bitter winter (except of course, we skipped that this year).

    Gentlemen, I may not look that fast on this 40+ lb Raleigh upright and my 3" heels, but I've been pushing this hunk of steel for the last 4 months while you've been relaxing on the T, and I'm pretty sure my quads can kick your quads' glutes. At least until you remember to lube your chain and have a few rides under your belt. Shoal me once, no big deal- Do it again and again and you're a jerk.

    And I love velodramatic- can I borrow it?

  12. @cycler: Velodramatic is free to use for all. Spread the word.