All the fixings

I wrote a thing for the Washington City Paper in its How to Fix Everything issue. You can find it here. And at your local newsstand. And in newsboxes around the DC metro area. And maybe worn as a pirate hat by a bored aspirant origamist/pirate. I would encourage you to read all the fixing ideas because they are all quite good (except maybe the one about the parking lot under the National Mall [#waroncars]) and if adopted, we might truly have a better DC. Or a worse DC, like in that Simpsons episode where Lisa and Mensa take over Springfield [Larry Flynt is right!]. It's also quite an illustrious group of fixers and I'm honored to be included.


Summer Cycling, Some Are Cycling

If you can't stand the heat, you're supposed to get out of the kitchen. But what if the heat is everywhere else and you were just in the kitchen to get some refreshing  ice-cold lemonade because it's just so damn hot outside? What then? WHAT THEN? If that opening somehow made sense to you, it means that you've been outside recently and your brain has melted, along with perhaps the soles of your shoes and any assorted chocolate bars you're carrying in your pockets or purse. It has been very hot in DC and we haven't yet reached August, the month in which the weather transitions from unbearable to un-fucking-bearable. And yet, people (or extraordinarily convincing robots/terminators) continue to bicycle through this heat. In fact, I think I've seen more people bicycling this summer than I've ever seen before and I've been trying to figure out why this is the case. Don't people realize that biking exposes them to the heat and that cars (and putatively buses and metro cars) have air conditioning? Why not trade the relative discomfort for the relative comfort? I have a few theories:

1. Well, I mean, the obvious first one is  the robot/terminator theory I mentioned above. Clearly, the vast majority of Washingtonians have been supplanted by verisimilitudinous cyborgs of an unknown provenance. Maybe these terminators charge their batteries via sunlight, in a kind of weird photovoltaic/Superman sort of way. And they probably don't feel heat and cold (nor love). But since I'm not able to prove any of this (yet), I'll proceed apace.

2. Bicycling remains convenient and more convenient than other kinds of transportation, even when hot. In short, the time and money cost of taking a different mode of transportation outweighs the grossness cost of cycling through the heat. Bicycling is still simply the best option for getting around and little things like "sweating" and "the threat of heat stroke" don't prevent it from being the most viable transportation option for short and medium distances in an urban environment. Best in cold, best in heat, best when perfectly temperate, simply the best, better than all the rest. We could call this the (Tina) Turner thesis if that name wasn't already taken.

3. You're going to get gross anyway, so why not get gross faster? Unless you can walk through conditioned air to a car and then in conditioned air drive to your destination where the air is also conditioned, it's likely that you'll be exposed to some degree of absurd summer heat somewhere along the way. Like, if you're walking to the metro or waiting for the bus. This is what I would style the fatalist theory. If you're going to get hot anyway, why change away from your bikey habit?

4. It's Bikeshare's fault. When all else fails, blame bikeshare. Simplistic? Sure. But wrong? Maybe not!

5. Standards have slipped and now grossness is perfectly acceptable. This is your classic declinist argument. Grossness and sweatiness are no longer things to be upset about it. People have been beaten down by the sun beating down on them and they have a kind of Stockholm syndrome (though I suppose the syndrome should be named after somewhere warmer), identifying with feeling of being oppressed by the heat and humidity.

6. Showers. More workplaces have showers now, or showers nearby, and people take showers at work. In this regard, perhaps the grossness is only temporary and people feel better equipped to muscle through it. Maybe even in muscle shirts. But I would question whether so many of the people I see riding in what I believe to be work clothes are showering at their destinations. And what about their BEGRIMED attire?

7. Population effect. Maybe DC's population has just increased to the point where it's just the absolute number of bicyclists that has increased and it's not an actual percentage increase. Therefore, my observations of the increase aren't reflective of a greater trend at all.

8. They have no choice. Perhaps the all-powerful bicycle lobby is holding their family hostage. Or, perhaps like Cortes, they've burned their ships (in this case, cars or SmartTrip cards or something?) and have no other way to get around other than bicycle. But in the transit-dense part of the city where I tend to ride, I have a hard time believing that it proves impossible for many of the seemingly well-heeled (and sometimes well high-heeled) bicyclists to get around by another means on especially hot days.

9. We have undergone on a bikey paradigm shift. Simply put, the notion of bicycling as transportation has taken such a strong hold that people no longer consider other options, irrespective of weather conditions. I certainly know that sometimes I've left the house for a bike trip without considering the heat/cold/rain/sleet/snow/SharkNado, accepting in advance the idea that I was going by bike because that's just how I go places. Maybe that's just the way that people think now.

Somewhat ironically (?), this summer, as more people have taken to biking,  I've been availing myself of more transportation options than has historically been the case. I've driven to work a few times and I think I've taken the Metro more the past two months than I did for the previous two years. These decisions have been mostly weather-related, but with weather as a kind of ancillary issue. That is to say, it's not the heat itself, but the consequences of riding in the heat. Since I normally ride my bike in bikey clothes and shower and change when I get here, when I'm in a rush and need to be at my desk as soon as I get into the office, I won't bike. There are obvious trade-offs to this (driving in DC is horrible and frustrating, for example), sometimes this just makes more sense.

So what are your theories? Are more people biking this summer? Or am I in the midst of a heat-induced hallucination? Do you find yourself cycling more often, regardless of the heat? Why? Or why not? And what about humidity? Do you pronounce it like I do with extra emphasis on not pronouncing the h? And why is that? So many questions. So many answers?


ANC 3D Supports Bike Lanes, Puppies (probably)

Well, that was something. Full write-up here.

I did not think this would happen. Not by a long-shot. But it did and it did in no small part to the many, many supporters who testified and the commissioners who listened to the testimony and thought deeply about the implications of action and the implications of inaction. I really do believe that there isn't much that separate the supporters of the bike lane from the people who opposed it and that we fundamentally want the same thing: a better New Mexico Avenue. I think one is coming.

It'll be funny someday to think that bike lanes were once controversial.

Regarding puppies, I don't know for sure to what extent ANC 3D supports them, but I don't think it'd be unreasonable to assume that they support puppies very much because puppies are pretty great.

UPDATE: A special thanks to Joe and Rory, troubled youth ANC commissioners both, who were instrumental in getting this passed.


Bike Lanes on New Mexico Avenue Will Benefit Everyone

I've got a  new post over at Greater Greater Washington urging ANC 3D to support the addition of bicycle lanes on Tunlaw Road and New Mexico Avenue.

I don't know how many of you at familiar with the road, but I commuted on it regularly for a number a years and I think it's a great candidate for bike lanes. I mean, if you read the other thing, you already know that. It's amazing the piece of mind a little section of dedicated roadway can give you, especially when riding (very slowly uphill) in the city. It's really not much (it's just a stripe of white paint), but it can make such a big difference. And considering that the lane comes to NO COST WHATSOEVER IN CAR PARKING OR TRAVEL LANES and that PEOPLE ALREADY AND WILL CONTINUE TO BICYCLE ON TUNLAW AND NEW MEXICO, it seems kind of like a no-brainer.

I applaud ANC 3D and DDOT for working through these plans together. I think that they've been much improved through the iterative process of multiple meetings and ample opportunities for citizen feedback. The commissioners really care about their residents' opinions (as they should) and have been very diligent in this issue. I sincerely hope that they rationally weigh the positive impact of adding the bike lane (a safer and more orderly road for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists) against the negative impact (practically none) and vote to support it.


Citizen Volunteers Patrolling Pennsylvania Avenue Cycle Track Reporting Scofflaw Cyclists

I've been commuting regularly on the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track for nearly two years now and this is the first time I've ever encountered something like this. I'm going to write it "straight," rather than in my terrible usual style. 

At 10th and Pennsylvania, I was stopped at a red light. There was a woman in front of me, a guy shoaled me to my left, and there were two cyclists behind me. Before the light turned green, the woman started riding and the two guys behind me started riding. They ran the red light. It was then that the guy who shoaled me, now to my front and left, spoke into his iPhone earbuds "Three cyclists. Green pants. Two guys. All ran red light" or something to that effect. I thought "Wow, the police are running stings on cyclists now. In a kind of elaborate fashion, with ear pieces and stings and coordination." The guy didn't look like a cop. At 9th and Penn, I think he said something to the cyclist who rolled through the light at 10th, but I couldn't hear exactly. I followed along behind him for the next few blocks, because I honestly believed I was about to see some sort of undercover police sting and was waiting for squad car to arrive. But this didn't happen.  So at one more red light, the one at 3rd and Penn, I decided to talk to him and found out that it wasn't the police at all. It was a citizen volunteer.

I asked "Are you a police officer?" He said no. I asked if he was working with anyone. He said he was part of the "Ward 1 Bicycle Group." I asked "Which one? WABA?" and he said "there's like 4 of them." I asked (paraphrasing) "so, like what's the deal?" and he told me that he and a bunch of other people (maybe 6 or 7) ride the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track and report law-breaking by bicyclists. I asked "do you call 311 or 911 or?" and he said that there was a number. I've learned in a subsequent email that this number is 202-727-9099, which I guess is some kind of police line. I asked if he was working with the police directly and he said that sometimes he tries to flag down scofflaws for passing officers. He gave me the impression that there might be a more coordinated effort with the police in the morning hours. He told me that he took video of lawbreakers. I asked if he was working with anyone at DDOT and he said yeah, but didn't have a name or anything. I think he sensed my general question of "why are you doing this?" (which I'm not totally sure if I actually asked) and he told me that he once got a ticket for running a red light and he didn't want bicyclists to run red lights any more. I asked for more info and sent him an email, to which he's now responded. In it he says that there's a new group starting up to enforce bike safety.

So there you have it. Has anyone else encountered anything like this? Anyone out there a member of this bike safety group who would like to talk about it further? You can email me at talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com.