Ride In 6/18: Barn Burner

I rode along the Mall today and I really should more often. It's a nice change from riding through downtown and in the morning it's mostly quiet. Just the stray tourist, runners, and the occasional worker emptying a trash can or erecting a tent for the Folklife festival. Rather than ride on the road, I took to the dirt/tiny rock path, following that from 3rd Street to 14th and then it was paths again past the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial and to and beyond the Lincoln Memorial, which shone brightly in the hot morning sun. The Lincoln Memorial is fine, but I find the area around it to be somewhat moribund. It's very car trafficky, swarms of drivers looping around the curving bends emanating from and around the Memorial Bridge. There's a kind of dead zone between the Lincoln Memorial, Constitution Avenue and the Rock Creek Parkway that always feels so alienating to me. Maybe I'm supposed to feel grandeur and majesty but I mostly just feel like it's difficult to cross the street.

I rode along the water and then illegally through Washington Harbour (the u is for 'u r not British') and also refused to dismount my bike in the Georgtown Waterfront park even though a sign told me to dismount it. I like to live on the edge. Rather than create a pleasant off-street path for bicycles from the end of the Capitol Crescent Trail to the Rock Creek Trail, we've banned them and instead relegated bikes to the subpar Water Street and its lack of bike facilities and many conflict points. No one would ever guess that bicyclists might desire to travel from one heavily used commuter route to another heavy used commuter route. I'm sure it'll get less bad for everyone once they throw a streetcar into the mix.

So many bicyclists riding towards downtown as I traveled away from it. I counted 118, but I'm probably off by at least one or two. Not a bad showing for such a hot day. Have I mentioned it was hot? It was hot. #hot.

Macomb to Glenbrook to Loughboro, which turns into Nebraska. It so slow going, but I didn't mind. It's a bit circuitous and I've toyed with the idea of trying to bike up Arizona Avenue, but that seems like a busy (if not exactly fast moving) street and I'm not even totally sure how I would get to it from the trail anyway. I don't think it's any less steep either. I like riding up Macomb, except for its speed bumps, which seem somewhat gratuitous. Speed bumps are really interesting to me. They're like the ultimate sign of defeat and recognition that putting numbers on signs really doesn't have any power to compel anyone to actually abide by those numbers. The problem with lawbreaking cyclists is that signs that say stop don't actually stop them so we take to the comments section of every story about bicycling to berate them because they are morally wrong lawbreakers who clearly have some kind of socially harmful deficiency  and expecti this kind of righteous suasion to finally convince them to behave, but the problem with drivers is that signs that say 25 mph don't really slow them down so we build giant asphalt mounds to ensure that if they wildly transgress their cars will fly through the air and bottom out, smashing the underside of the vehicle into the pavement and maybe causing significant damage to their function, knowing full well that anything short of totally changing the calculus of their self-interest via an explicit threat to their property will achieve nothing. And the problem with pogoists is that neither signs nor speed bumps will stop them. One of the many problems with pogoists, actually.

I think it's time to start bringing iced coffee in the thermos. That was a very unpleasant sip.


  1. I had never thought about speed bumps in that way before, but I really like that take on them. It got me thinking about all the other things we do to physically alter behavior, like spike strips (because why would anyone obey DO NOT ENTER signs??) or ignition interlocks (because for some mysterious reason people keep driving drunk?????). In fact, thinking of it...

    "35.6 million Americans age seven and older were estimated to have ridden a bicycle six times or more in 2013"
    "In an average year 30 million Americans drive drunk"

    So, the number of Americans who drive drunk on occasion is similar to the number of Americans who ride their bike regularly. And yet, many people think that railing on cyclists' behavior on the internet is going to make some difference? Dude, we threaten huge fines and jail time and we still can't get people to stop driving drunk, which is approximately 10,000x more dangerous than rolling through a stop sign.

    Let's not even get into speeding.

  2. Sorry, but one other thought:

    1) You are driving on a 4-lane divided interstate with a speed limit of 55 mph. Traffic flow is approximately 65 mph. How fast do you go?
    2) You are bicycling and come to a traffic light just as it has turned red. You can clearly see for a block in each direction and there is no cross traffic. The light will turn green in 45 seconds. What do you do?
    3) You drive to a downtown restaurant and park across the street from its entrance. The restaurant is directly across from you in the middle of the block and there are traffic lights with crosswalks 500 feet to your right and your left. There is no cross traffic. What do you do?

    There are definitely people in the world who would, respectively to the questions, drive 55, wait for a green light, and walk an extra two minutes to cross at a crosswalk. I think about 5 of them. The reality is that most people will happily break laws when it conveniences them to do so. They have always done this and they will always do this. It's human nature. Pretending otherwise is naive. The question is, how much of an overall negative effect is caused by this behavior? In the case of bicyclists and pedestrians, the answer, according to actual real-life data, is a rather small non-zero amount. In the case of cars, the answer is thousands of deaths a year.

  3. Too hot to ride yesterday.Way too hard. Was prepared to tough it out just for the honor of it. Then wimped out.

    But to answer Ampersands questions:
    1. 60 in the far right. I drive so seldom fast speeds take me a while to adjust to.
    2. Wait for the light. I don't like being "that guy". Plus, I try to remind myself to slow down and stopping at reds forces thsi.
    3. Jaywalk.

  4. "The Lincoln Memorial is fine, but I find the area around it to be somewhat moribund." Yes! I ride AND run by here almost every day, and always think as I'm approaching the Lincoln from the WWII Memorial that it's quite nice. However, as I loop around the back side of the memorial, I'm taken aback by what a mess becomes for pedestrians. If you don't know your way around it IS difficult to figure out how to cross the streets/paths to reach the Memorial Bridge, and even when you do know where you're going it requires intersecting with a lot of fast-moving car traffic.