Guest Post: Becky's trek isn't a bicycle

The fundamental conceit (and I mean conceit) of this blog is my daily writing about my bicycle commute. And that's fine. But not everyone commutes by bicycle (for some unexplained reason. That's a joke. I'm not actually that smug). Some people get around through a bipedalism of a different sort, namely walking. So, tonight, while I'm at the batting cage taking a few extra practice swings to prepare for opening day, I present for you, with limited commercial interruption and a Laura Linney-free introduction, a tale from the sidewalks. Many thanks to Becky, guest-poster and all around walking superstar. 

Brian asked for guest posters for this here blog, and I don't bike, but I'm totally a groupie. So like a three year old I begged to be allowed to share my ride, which happens on two feet and doesn't involve wheels at all. And Brian said yes, even without a promise of corn chips!

I don't know how Brian remembers all the details from his rides. I had to take notes on my commute-to-be-written-about, and there's no way I could have done that on a bike. Or a trike, or in a car, or on roller skates. You can't get to heaven on roller skates. Unfortunately I'd forgotten to plug my phone in until late in the day, so I had only half the battery available. Fortunately for you, though, because I had to ration my note-taking.

So. On to my commute.

My commute is basically the middle of Brian's, in the reverse direction, if he were to take Massachusetts the whole way instead of doing the safe and sane thing and riding where there are bike lanes. When I walk, which is less frequently than it should be, I usually do it in the morning, to work, rather than in the evening to home. This is for one critical reason: it's a downhill walk to work, and an uphill walk home.

I checked. The altitude difference over the 2.6 miles is a tremendous 32.2 feet. I'm surprised I don't get altitude sickness.

Nevertheless, the commute I am telling you about was a walk home. I started off by early voting. Working in Judiciary Square has its drawbacks (the main one being that Dunkin Donuts is an entire Metro stop away--when are they going to build a Dunkin Donuts IN MY OFFICE?) but being in the same building as early voting is one of the more convenient things I've ever been gifted with.

A walk north on 4th Street, where I was reminded yet again that I really ought to go to the Building Museum some time. I've lived in DC for eight and a half years and have never been. It would probably help if I weren't so lazy.

At H, I accidentally got in the way of a cyclist. I was engrossed in my phone (reason, not excuse) but he was on the sidewalk and not wearing a helmet, both of which put him in the category of pedestrian-on-wheels. Do other people categorize cyclists as either pedestrians or drivers based on whether they look like they know what they're doing on a bicycle? Anyway, it was totally my fault that I got in the poor guy's way, but I maintain that it was just negligence and not anti-cyclist bias.

And then up Massachusetts. Holy headwind. The wind literally blew my necklace around my neck. Crazy. Something bad requiring four police cars and two ambulances at 6th Street. I hope everyone was okay. The driver in the red pick up truck who ran the red light in front of all those cops was okay.

The problem with living on the western side of the city? My commute to work has the sun in my eyes, and the commute home has the sun in my eyes. My sunglasses live in my car. Not. Helpful. (Sunglasses also weren't helpful two jobs ago when my commute involved driving on U/Florida from 19th NW to 4th NE.)

Mt. Vernon Square. When I'm walking to work, the lights are timed such that it makes more sense to walk around it. Walking home, I walk through. I cross across the grass. I feel guilty doing so; is that normal or a symptom of my excessive guilt complex? I try only to do so where the grass is already dead from people walking across it.

Some cute dogs. Also some not-so-cute dogs. Don't tell their owners I said that.

Lots of leaves. Spring is springing!

Thomas Circle. If I had the time, and the stopwatch, and some combination of unattainable conditions, I would do a study to see whether it makes more sense to walk around Thomas Circle or through it. What it doesn't make sense to do, in my ever-so-humble opinion, is to ride through the circle, taking a lane (that part is fine, taking a lane), not wearing a helmet, as I witnessed as I was walking. Not as un-sensible as doing the same thing in Washington Circle. Another cyclist was on foot crossing the circle with me; he was carrying his helmet and headed toward the bikeshare station. The crosswalk on the east side of the circle allows 30 seconds for pedestrians; the crosswalk on the west allows only 16. I don't pretend to know anything about traffic engineering, but that just doesn't make sense to me.

This was just about where I realized that the lights are timed much better for a person walking at exactly my pace walking west on Massachusetts than they are for a person walking at exactly my pace walking east on Massachusetts.

I almost met with tragedy between 15th and 16th. Well, not me so much as my water bottle. And not so much "almost met with" as I heard something that could have been my water bottle falling out of one of the water bottle pockets of my backpack. But I checked and my water bottle was safe inside the main section of my backpack, which was zipped up for safety. And so that nothing would fall out of it. Which my water bottle hadn't.

Passing the Chilean Embassy I was reminded that I need to make it down to the Natural History museum. There is an exhibit about the rescue of the miners. The crazy thing about this is that I've been to the Natural History museum TWICE while the exhibit has been there, but still haven't seen the exhibit. A public service announcement based on the first of those two trips: Smithsonian gift shops don't sell gift certificates. I probably should have called first.

At 19th, a cyclist without a helmet shoaled a cyclist with, then proceeded to stop, sort of, in the crosswalk. Really he did that v e r y s l o w try-not-to-stop-or-fall-off riding manuever. And in tapping this out on my phone, an appropriate typo: "ahoaled."

Dupont Circle. A bit of a traffic jam on the east side of the circle, a musician playing for tuition money (or so said his sign), idiots crossing the street against the light without looking to see that there were in fact cars coming, and the delicious aroma of hamburgers. I love hamburgers. One of these days I'm going to smell those hamburgers and snap. By snap, I mean I'll abandon my plans for dinner and go to the only kosher restaurant in the city that isn't in a lobby and pay $10 for a mediocre hamburger, and then be disappointed.

The Society of the Cincinnati has new signs proclaiming that it's a museum.

Finally, my last observation: I didn't witness any cabs do anything crazy! (Which is more than I can say for Sunday, when I watched a cab stop at a red light, determine no cars were coming, and then turn left. On red. At a four way intersection.)


  1. I like the pedestrian focus. I walk just as much as I bike and certainly it give you a different perspective on how things can be inconveniently car or rather not pedestrian oriented. Thanks for the post!

    I do, however, also have to take issue with the frequent comments on bicyclists not wearing helmets. We hear it everywhere from media and parents and drivers. Almost every time you do hear it, someone is describing a cyclist who is otherwise navigating safely at a reasonable speed and in complete control. Yes, its true that in certain accident circumstances, a helmet dramatically reduces your chance of head injury, however, its no miracle device. Often its held up to the standards as a seat belt or an airbag which are in a completely different class of life saving equipment.

    I wear a helmet everywhere I bike, but I should be able to bike without one without people telling me I'm squandering away my life. Sorry for the rant.

    1. I think that I feel so strongly about helmet use because 1. I worked for a while representing clients with traumatic brain injuries (my clients all seemed to have been injured by mass transit vehicles while on foot, but I got lots of email about "DON'T EVER RIDE A BICYCLE WITHOUT A HELMET!!!!), 2. I find bike riding in the city a terribly scary thing, and 3. I might be a more confident cyclist had I not stopped riding in sixth grade because "helmets aren't cool." When I finally got over that (at age 30-something) I was glad that riding a bike is just like riding a bike, but was nowhere near as confident as I might have been if I'd been riding consistently. Therefore helmets must be always good.

      That said, I bikeshared a few weeks ago without a helmet.

      And the only people I REALLY judge for cycling without a helmet are the tourists (you can tell, because they are on rented bikes) who have the helmet dangling from the handlebars. What's the point?

      And also, you should know that I'm Judgey McJudgerson about all sorts of things. Don't think that it's limited to helmet use :-)

    2. All valid points. And who doesn't judge the tourists?

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  3. forever, now, I will see bicyclists being jerks at red lights and think of your neologism "ahoaled", and fondly remember this post. Nicely done.