Ride In 7/23: Womp Womp

Foam hats. I most of the time wear one while riding my bicycle. I try not to obsess over it, one way or another. But I vacillate. And I don't always like to have it on my head. It musses my hair, about which I care very deeply (ok, this isn't true. I give less thought to my hair than my imaginary friend who is so imaginary I haven't even imagined him yet) and it just feels uncomfortable and looks goofy. I just don't feel like it and I just don't want to have to feel like I have to feel like I should like it. Ultimately, my problem is that I can't decide if wearing a helmet is like eating vegetables (laudably salutary, if not always craveable) or whether it's like wearing one of those magnetic bracelets (superstitious, pseudo-scientific, hokey claptrap). What I do think I know is that helmet use isn't the be all and end all of all cycling safety discussions. I just don't know what to feel. Feel free to comment about your feelings about your personal use or lack of use of helmet, but avoid generalizations, preaching and judgment. I will delete those kinds of comments as I don't find them to be useful. I will also delete any comments that mention penguins. Also, if you'd prefer not to comment, that's ok too. If you'd prefer to watch youtube videos of penguins, have at.

Standard route to work. Easygoing on East Capitol and I think the light sequence changed and it was much easier to progress from 11th street to 3rd street and I hope that this is some kind of permanent adjustment as it will shave 20 seconds off my total trip and I'll own so many Strava segment KOMs now.

Down and around the Capitol and down Pennsylvania and over to 11th. A few bicyclists out, but not as many as I would have thought. No taxis making u-turns, so that's something.

An steady ride up 11th with many bicyclists streaming in the opposite direction. 11th should be repaved. It's sort of horrible. I've been on gravel paths that ride smoother. I don't know why we accept crappy roads as if they're divinely ordained.

11th to R and then quintuple-shoaled at R and 15th. That means that five bicyclists rode in front of me as I stopped at the light. At least three or four of them proceeded to ride through the red light. Personally, I don't care very much about cyclists running red lights. I am also not offended by people who elect to jaywalk. Do what you want, live with the consequences. When I drive, I don't believe that I'm being judged when the driver in front of me decides to speed, so why would I think this kind of "logic" applies when I'm on my bike? What I do find annoying, however, is getting passed by people who are unable/unwilling to ride as fast as I would prefer, at which point I have to pass them. I've yet to be shoaled by a person on a Bikeshare bike who was able to maintain an adequate speed that I wasn't able to pass him a block or so later. The guy who shoaled me today then decided that he would make a left turn from the right-side bike lane, cutting me off as I rode in the travel lane. I likewise found this irksome. Some gentle suggestions:
1. Pass only while moving
2. Pass only if you believe yourself capable/desirous of maintaining a speed of travel faster than the person you've just passed.
3. Try not to pass someone if you're just going to end up stuck in front of them at the next red light. This just seems awkward and invites shoaling.
4. Ignore these suggestions if you don't like them and do whatever you want anyway.
5. Watch baby penguin videos.

I feel like this blog post has been very dour and unfun. My apologies. What isn't dour and unfun is riding your bike, so do that maybe. Like as a palette cleanser. Bike commuting can be the pickled ginger of your day.


  1. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet, there'd be Sam brain residue on Maryland Avenue NE, near the intersection with 14th Street. So long as the helmet doesn't interfere with the cyclist's field of vision, it's a mandatory piece of safety equipment in my opinion. It's also not about the cyclist being safe, it's about bad drivers not paying attention, why not protect your head, if even marginally? -@SamuelMoore

  2. Not carzy about helmets myself. Started wearing one when I had little kids. Now it feels odd when I don't wear one, like not wearing a watch, which come to think of it I stopped doing a couple of years ago.

    On the shoaling thing, I think we need a poll to detemine what is the most annoying thing about DC biking. Shoaling. Bollards. U-turning taxis. The mayor (any mayor will do). The Rosslyn Circle of Death. Slippery wooden bridges. Trolley tracks.

  3. 6. Make any intentions clear and audible... Signal, and say "on your left" or something, anything... Sorry to post another comment, don't want to monopolize the comment area. -@SamuelMoore

  4. I have a friend who works with head injury patients, she scared the bejeebies out of me regarding the damage just a minor head on concrete incident can do. I don't leave my house on my bike without one. Even when I plan on taking CaBi I have a helmet with me. However, I don't judge those who choose not to wear one, every adult should make their own decision.

  5. I usually wear a helmet...doesn't bother me and provides some peace of mind even though I know the odds of sustaining a blow to the head are extremely slim.

    Also, my understanding of the current helmet research is that there is no correlation between helmet use and reduced injury rates. What there does seem to be, however, is a negative correlation between mandatory helmet laws and bicycle use (see bikesharing in Melbourne)...a large body of doctors, based on this research, has adopted the view that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the potential risk of a head injury...thus we shouldn't have helmet laws.

    This may be one of the few issues on which I generally agree with Grant Petersen...scary.

  6. I always wear a helmet. And normally a do-rag as I am bald, and don't want weird suntans. I had a friend that mountain biked helmet-less. He argued that it was his choice. I countered that once he was dead, he wouldn't be the problem. It would be his mom or other family member that would sue the un-safe park. Then we'd all suffer, because the park may close in retaliation. He persisted, and I don't ride with him any longer.

  7. Just found your blog through GGW and am loving it. Shoaling. So annoying. I am usually on a CaBi and I wear skirts and dresses. Also, I am short. So I get shoaled at every damn light. Hint: if I passed you going up the 15th St cycletrack between Penn and New York, I'm probably going to pass you again before M. And again after Mass. So really, after being humiliated the first couple times, wouldn't you stop doing it?

    If it is necessary to pass after the light (and I know the timing of all the lights on my commute--you gotta HIT IT after Mass if you want to make it through Rhode Island, and if you keep it up you can make it through P, too) by all means, pass me. But pre-emptively passing me is going to end in getting smoked by the tiny girl in the skirt on the 40 pound 3 gear bike 4 times out of 5.

    Thank you for letting me share this (somewhat unexpected) rant. I feel better.

  8. @slapdash- thanks for reading and thanks for the comment! The psychology of shoalers is just one of life's greatest mysteries. I alternate between being utterly obsessed with their motivations and utterly motivated to ignore their obsession of passing stupidly. It'd probably be better if I just ignored it, but biking is all about the tremendous feeling of unfettered freedom and having someone obstruct you in a kind of passive-aggressive way is very much antithetical to that.