I had the thrill of riding Bike in Bloom, the charming Capital Bikeshare painted pink and flowery in honor of the cherry blossoms. Having taken a joyride once, I was at peace with the world.
Last Friday, I was suffering from cabin fever at the end of a work-from-home day. There were no errands to run, no meetings to attend, no bakery orders of cherry blossom cupcakes to pick up. Despite having ridden Bike in Bloom once, I was still enamored and continued to follow the #bikeinbloom hashtag on Twitter.
At precisely 6:00 pm on Friday, April 11, Brian/@SharrowsDC alerts me that Bike in Bloom is back on Capitol Hill at 15th and East Capitol Street. A precious six minutes elapse before I see the message.
He has tweeted an APB to #bikeinbloom and #bikeDC, complete with capital letters.
GUYS, #bikeinbloom back on the Hill. 15th and E Capitol. THIS IS NOT A DRILL #bikedc pic.twitter.com/MguSo8HUVk
— sharrowsDC (@sharrowsDC) April 11, 2014
I spent the next hour and 45 minutes on a mad dash around the Hill, transfixed by an extreme case of Bike in Bloomitis, a season-specific springtime disorder characterized by an irrational, obsessive and maniacal urge to find, ride and photograph a heavy, pink, floral bicycle native to the Washington metropolitan area. Many ostensibly rational, functional Washingtonians have fallen under the hypnotic spell of Bike in Bloomitis this spring.
Roughly 20 minutes after learning Bike in Bloom is docked in my neighborhood, I roll up just as another CaBi member is unlocking it. He says he’ll be back to this station in a half hour. He’s locking his personal bike right here and taking Bike in Bloom on a short joyride for some @coreyholman and @maizeypumpkin family photographs. He’s a friendly chap and obviously a hashtagger who saw Brian’s APB. I bid him farewell and depart for my home station. I got another sighting and picture, meaning another contest entry. I was ready to call it a night. Bon soir, Bike in Bloom. Je t’aime.
Impaired by Bike in Bloomitis, I fail to check the app before rolling away. I’m dockblocked at my home station and the next closest one, too. Now I’ve killed some time riding between stations and it feels like the next one is halfway back to 15th and East Cap. It’s not, but I’m delusional from Bike in Bloomitis.
I remember my Twitter exchanges with @12amintrigue, a.k.a. Anna. She was among the chirpiest of the #bikeinbloom hashtaggers and she had a burning case of Bike in Bloomitis. She once pled for the bike to come to Union Station/Stronghold, so I assumed that was her turf. I tweeted her that I was in hot pursuit of the bike. If she was near Union Station right now, I could bring it to her. “OMG, yes, I am.” True to the irrational behavior of Bike in Bloomitis sufferers, she dropped everything and stood sentry at the Columbus Circle station just in case, taking up position there when the story was only DEVELOPING.
I roll back to 15th and East Cap, where I’m relieved to see @coreyholman’s personal bike still there. It’s 7:04 and I think all is well. I breathe and begin a stakeout. Had I checked Twitter, I would have learned the station was dockblocked a few minutes earlier, so @coreyholman returned the bike to the next closest station. He appears in person and tells me what happened.
In my irrational state, I’m not understanding what he’s saying. The station in question is at the intersection of three streets. He’s saying 15th and Independence. I’m confused. In my mind, I consider it the 15th and Massachusetts station. He probably thinks I’m some kind of stupid. He points south and says it’s two blocks that way. I pivot and start to dash away on foot. He suggests I take a bike. Oh. Yeah. Duh.
“There it goes,” he says as I watch a woman pedal Bike in Bloom past us northbound on 15th. “Where ya goin’?” I shout to her. “H Street,” she says. I shout back that 13th and 11th are dockblocked. No comment.
She’s continuing up 15th and I’m giving chase about a block behind, stalking my prey with life-or-death intensity. I’m normally an extremely cautious cyclist, constantly eyeing sideways for opening car doors. Right now, all I can see is the pink bike in front of me. I feel like the @DCSnowyOwl: killer at capturing what’s straight ahead, deficient in peripheral vision. I’m trying awfully hard to stay aware that I am a vulnerable cyclist on a road with cars, but every ounce of my being is fixated on Bike in Bloom.
Wait, is she …
She hangs a sharp right and I can’t believe my eyes. She. Is. Docking. Bike. In. Bloom. We’re at 15th and F Streets NE, a low-traffic station with no one else around. As she docks it in, I catch up and tell her to take a picture to win prizes. Not interested. She docks, she walks. Anonymous has left the game.
Mine! Mine! Bike in Bloom is mine! It’s 7:12 and I tweet Anna the good news.
Ring. About 10 minutes later, I’m trumpeting my arrival at Union Station/Columbus Circle. She hears my bell and looks up. There are no words to express her joy. Her fiancé, Dane, is there with a car. Two bewildered tourists are there trying to begin a rental with a credit card. There’s only one bike other than Bike in Bloom, so the tourists have a problem. Anna, Dane and I are crazed animals taking pictures and figuring out the logistics of who now travels where by what mode. Me, dock in Bike in Bloom to end my rental. Anna, grab that last bike for me. Hands keys to Dane, who has no idea what to do. OK, now Bike in Bloom is yours, Anna. Wait, you can’t have two bikes out with one key. We are all entranced by Bike in Bloom, so irrationality prevails. We’re undoubtedly scaring the tourists.
“Where’s the next nearest station?” the tourists ask. I’m distracted, but try to explain. They look at the machine and the station map.
Anna just wants to ride.
She’s going to bike home and Dane will drive. I ran out of the house without my wallet, so I don’t have money, SmarTrip or my car2go card. I can only bike or walk. As we’re having an impromptu multimodal caucus, another bike is returned. So, now there are two bikes for the two tourists. I declare that everyone should go on their way and I’ll wait for the next bike. Feels like it might rain. No biggie, I can shelter in Union Station.
Dane offers me a ride home. OK, I accept. We get to my house and talk in the car for a few minutes. She tells me Anna was practically in tears when I tweeted I might get the bike for her.
I don’t doubt it, given this triumphant picture labeled #dreamscometrue. And here’s a slideshow of all her pitstops.
I get back to my house at 7:45, after almost two hours of a Bike in Bloom-induced frenzy.
I hope CaBi acts on the proven popularity of Bike in Bloom and perhaps follows Tony Goodman’s suggestion to paint a patriotic bike for the 4th of July. I can’t help but wax philosophical about the larger lesson: always ask for what you want. Anna was just another person using the #bikeinbloom hashtag. I was reading the entire thread studiously, noting the most vocal tweeters. She often asked where the bike was. She made it clear she wanted it. She projected an enthusiastic, likeable attitude. (Personal branding!) I noticed she was geographically nearby. I noticed she was a woman and I’m predisposed to support other women. (Sisterhood is powerful, you know). The moment arose where I could help her because I knew what she wanted.
On a sidenote, Anna’s ride ended near her home East of the River. To the best of my knowledge, hers is the first and possibly only documented Bike in Bloom trip EOTR. Later that night, she tipped off another member who rode EOTR, too. If Bike in Bloom spent the night EOTR, that’s where CaBi had to go fetch it before its appearance in the Cherry Blossom Parade Saturday.
What a glorious celebrity to worship, this Bike in Bloom, a multi-jurisdictional traveler who won the hearts and minds of the CaBi community this spring.