I rode west on East Capitol to North Carolina and followed than to 4th SE under the highway and across M Street to then rode around a bunch, passing and re-passing the bakery a few times, before realizing that I had missed its smaller-than-expected sign. I stopped, locked and stood in the line. The line moved slowly and I had regrets. No coffee shop should be allowed to be staffed by only one person. Like a 747. I got a spinach and feta scone (it turned out to be ok at first and then better after a few bites, but I don't think that it lasted long enough for it to ever get to 'transcendent' or anything. I'd say it wrapped up somewhere around 'sufficient' in the Savory Scone Rankings, which might or might not be compiled by Nate Silver.) and a coffee and I rode on, up Half Street to I and over to 7th Street and this is where things started to get a lot off course. I could've headed downtown-ish, but chose instead to ride along Maine Avenue, which parallels the significant construction that has rendered the interim Anacostia Riverwalk Trail blocked. I kept on Maine and rode through a tunnel and then turned onto a kind of frontage road, which thankfully didn't turn into a highway. I don't think I had ever been that way before. It's unclear to me still whether bicyclists are permitted on that stretch. I suspect they are, but it isn't exactly hospitable. Anyway, bike commutes are for exploration and for going out of your way to procure savory scones and for riding on frontage roads and for never having regrets.
I rode from coffee on the normal route. I think the real estate company who operates George Washington University as a side business would really benefit from adding a protected bike lane of sorts of G Street. Would be good for property values and maybe incidentally, students and other people. Every time I ride on a street that looks like it could so obviously host bike infrastructure and doesn't, it's just so disappointing. I'm sure there are "reasons," but there are always "reasons," some reasonable, some not, I suppose.
The only thing I remember about the rest of the way into work is riding alongside the teenage driver of a gold Land Rover. FUN FACT: sometimes the teenage drivers of gold Land Rovers are not the most cautious around cyclists.
And now we've reached the part of the blog post when I confess my shame and ineptitude. I left my front bike light and home and rode home in the mostly dark without it. I'm not proud of this and I consider myself lucky for having gotten away with it. It wasn't my intention to ride home in the dark without a front light (I had a rear red light, whatever that's worth), but I did and I felt pretty dumb about doing it, especially in the same week as the "Gear Prudence says use lights, moron!" column. Anyway, it happened and I'm going to try to make sure it doesn't happen again. Here are some observations on riding home without a front light:
1. I could see just fine. There was enough street lighting and lighting from cars that visibility wasn't much of a challenge.
2. There are a lot of people who ride without lights of any kind and this seems crazy to me, because:
3. I could tell that drivers and pedestrians couldn't see me coming. I noticed it especially with drivers at the 'mixing zones' of the L Street cycletrack. With no white light on their rearview or sideview mirrors, they didn't know I was there and I definitely felt that it would've been pretty easy for them to move across my path having more clue that I was there. Same with a bus pulling out of a stop on 11th. As for pedestrians, maybe compared to drivers, their not seeing me was objectively less dangerous, but it felt no less perilous. This became pretty obvious on Pennsylvania Avenue, where more than once, someone stepped out into the cycletrack with nary a clue that I was coming.
4. In conclusion, never forget your front light. It's really useful and definitely makes a difference on how others interact with (or avoid) you. Maybe also pack an extra light or always leave it on your bike. Or maybe don't ride home in the complete dark if you don't have a front bike light. I thought I could make it home before it got too dark, but didn't, so maybe I shouldn't have tried. In hindsight, it was pretty dumb. :