Ride In 6/11: Poznan

I wore sunglasses today. I wore them because the sun was bright and I didn't want the bright sun to strain my eyes. I like my sunglasses, but I feel like they make me look far too serious and sporty. Perhaps I can attach a fake nose and mustache to them to lighten things up a little. I just know that whenever I see a bicyclist in sunglasses, I tend to assume that they're very serious about bicycling, even more so if they're also wearing cycling attire, as I was this morning.Maybe it's something about not being able to see their eyes.

Even though I don't drive to work, I tend to do a lot of driving on weekends. I drive places where it's convenient to do so. I don't apologize for this. And, as my driver self, I'd probably be annoyed if the following came to pass, but I think I've reached the inevitable conclusion that it's time to make illegal all right turns on red lights. It's intimidating for pedestrians. It makes people run across the street. And it's a source of collisions. The desire to turn right on red causes too many drivers to block the crosswalk. And also causes too many drivers to swivel their heads to look for approaching cars and ignore crossing pedestrians. I think it might even make drivers more patient (eventually). Yes, such a prohibition would be unpopular and yes, when driving, I would probably be peeved by it. But I think that if DC were really serious about becoming a livable, walkable community, this is sort of a necessary step.

Down East Capitol and then through the grounds and down Penn, pretty much the same as always. Except it was hot. I guess summer is here for real now. Around 11th, a man on a bicycle pulled alongside me at the stop light. Ok. And then he decided that he would pedal in front of me, before the light changed. That's fine. Someday I'll come up with something to say when someone pulls up alongside me. Maybe I'll say "nice profile" or maybe I'll say "why are you next to me?" but I don't think either of these will elicit any sort of interesting responses. And then between 11th and 13th, I decided that I would pass the man who simply couldn't resist the urge to ride in front of me and then when I realized that the light at 13th was about to turn red and we were about to repeat the cycle, I decided that I would turn right on 13th and ride north. I'd never taken this route before.

13th, much like 11th, is amply wide for bike lanes. This is a reminder that the lack of bike lanes is a political problem and not an engineering one. 13th also has some little hills, This is a reminder that the lack of flatness is a geological problem and not a political one.

Plenty of bicyclists coming in the opposite direction. It's a pretty even divide between normal clothes and athletic clothes. Even with a shorter ride, I'm pretty sure that I still wouldn't make it to work without engrossing (not the correct usage of this word) myself. Also, a lot of cotton t-shirts. Cotton, while the fabric of our lives, doesn't make for the best bicycling attire. But, better than biking a polyester leisure suit. For any number of reasons.

Have you ever biked through Logan Circle? It's sort of, vaguely, safe to do, but the lane markings are very confusing. I didn't want to ride too far to the right, as that would force me on to Rhode Island Avenue, but riding too far to the left would've put me in front of a line of cars and my lack of familiarly with the traffic circle caused me to prize my being away from cars rather than closer to them. So, I rode sort of in the middle and might've just wholly ignored the lane markings, but I made it out the other side, took a left on R Street and then followed my normal route. I guess I would take 13th again, but there are better odd, prime number north-south streets for bicycling.

I don't recall too much being amiss with my ride on R, except for some road construction. I followed another bicyclist up Massachusetts. He was on a mountain bike and his post squeaked with each pedal. After the South African Embassy, I decided that I would pass him. I said "on your left," and rode by and never looked back. Don't look back. Never look back.

My sincere hope is that car horns, in the future, will be automated. For example, as "danger sensor" technology (you know- like how some high end cars come equipped with emergency sensors to avoid collisions or something), becomes cheaper and trickles down into lower end cars, it would make sense to have the car do the honking rather than the driver. Whenever the car senses trouble, it can honk. We've allowed drivers to honk for themselves for too long and all we've ever gotten from it is copious noise pollution and bullying by decibels. Honking horns are one of the worst sounds of the cityscape and it would be a real quality of life improvement to eradicate them.


  1. I've always thought the default should be no right on red, unless otherwise noted. Not the status quo opposite. Exactly how one-way to one-way left turns work in this fine city without it imploding in a cesspool of bikeshare stations and communes.

    Furthermore, I want a horn tax. $1 per use, 3 free uses per month. MAKE THEM COUNT!

  2. Agree on the right on red. Out in the suburbs where no one walks, fine. In a city, no.

    If you wear reflective sunglasses, you can get the cool effect I saw the other day when a cyclist going the opposite direction on PA Ave had the lines of the cycletracks reflected in his glasses.

    I find it kind of amusing how often you take a different route, even one you don't know, rather than deal with awkward interactions with other travelers.

  3. I've probably said this to my fiance 3 times in the last month "you know, I'd be okay with DC just outlawing right on reds altogether." Of course, the existing "no right on red" signs are almost universally ignored and/or are often difficult to spot in the signage mess at some intersections. Maybe all entrances to the city need to have a sign that says "Welcome to Washington DC, Vincent Gray, Mayor (**pending likely future indictment**), right turns on red prohibited", sorta like VA has those "radar detectors illegal" signs.

  4. Urban EngineerJune 11, 2012 1:18 PM

    Would you also propose banning turning right on red for cyclists?

  5. @Anonymous- If you could find an elegant way to collect the horn tax, I would support it.
    @Jon- Yes, avoiding awkwardness is pretty much how I pick my routes.
    @Marc- yes, also add "speed cameras will get you"
    @Urban Engineer- I don't know. On the face of it, it seems similar, but I think that right turning bicyclists have considerably less potential to cause as significant harm and damage. I could be persuaded either way.

  6. Brian -- I suppose your reactions to sunglasses may have something to do with the orientation of your commute. For those of us heading toward the rising sun in the morning and toward the setting sun in the evening, shades are fairly non-negotiable!

  7. @Jacques- I used to be a west-in-the-evening commuter and I know what that's all about. I get why people wear them- sun is bright. They just seem, for lack of a better word, distancing. Like bicyclist windshields.

  8. May I inquire as to the headline? Poznan, the fifth-largest city in Poland? Can you help a reader out?

  9. @Vannevar- It's related to the Euro 2012 soccer championships, which are taking place now in Poland and the Ukraine. Poznan is a host city. I guess it's just on my mind.

  10. Huh. All this time, I've been under the impression that right on red was prohibited in the District and the red-turners were scofflaws. Having not been honked at by impatient drivers behind me reinforced that belief.

  11. Until the early 80's (per wiki 1980) right turn on red being illegal was very common. It was illegal in DC when I was a wee kid, and I remember the PSA's when they finally allowed it. Ironically the thing that changed it was the (then) gas crisis. (still illegal in NYC I see)

  12. I might be wrong but I believe the right-on-red thing is a federal law which is why it's the default in DC. NYC was able to prohibit it city-wide because unlike DC its not dependent on federal funding for its roads.