2/27/15

Rides 2/27: inches and feet

Goodbye, February. You're like the Columbus of months and I am the Roth of local bike bloggers, except not in any way whatsoever. Next commute is March and March is, after April (though before, April, really), one of the cruelest months for bike commuting, so looking back on February, including this morning's ride, I think we can say at least it was consistent. Consistently awful. But at least the month was short. Short like a Roth short story.

Let us record today: Short ride to coffee and from coffee down through FoBo and up through Georgetown and whatever alleged neighborhoods are north of Georgetown. In the most basic typology of DC, everything west of the park (the park being Rock Creek, as if you didn't know) is Georgetown, either Georgetown proper or some variant of Georgetown with a cardinal direction and if it's not Georgetown, it's either Arlington or Maryland as you've found yourself no longer in the District. Factually, this is not a true assertion, but it's much easier to explain DC this way. I think also that Georgetonians would like this, as it's aggrandizing. This morning, riding up Wisco, a street in Georgetown Georgetown (which is what we call the core part of Georgetown) I noticed that opposite the block with the CVS and maybe the half a block before and the half a block after, there are a lot of stores that sell men's suits and I couldn't help but wonder how they fare, given how men don't wear suits as much anymore. It amazes me that so many distinct suit shoppes can remain in business, but perhaps I misunderstand the market for suits and really, it's quite thriving and there's nothing dandies and fops and Beau Brummell-types enjoy more than traipsing up Wisco during business hours frequenting the various suiteries there along. But again, I could be mistaken and it might be just a soon-to-be barren retail strip that valiantly rages against the dying of the light. Beats me. I'm just a bike commuter.

We're nearly in the post-snow phase of winter and it really couldn't come sooner.

Sometimes on 21st Street on the way home, and for reasons I can't explain, a driver will just stop in the middle of the block. It's not at a stop sign or a red light or anything. It's driver catatonia and it's strange. And as a bicyclist, I just ride around him and then I count one Mississippi and two Mississippi but before I get to three Mississippi or maybe just right afterwards is the first honk of the driver stuck behind him, he of the catatonia. It's happened more than once, so I suspect there's some kind of anti-driver nefariousness going on or maybe the people along the block just like calling for Ubers and so the Ubers arrive and so the Ubers wait, blocking as much of the lane as a car can block, but not blocking so much that a bicyclist can't pass.

L to 15th to Penn and there are faster ways home and I should take them, but I don't. I think I like riding past the outskirts of the White House complex and then past the JAWB and tonight, at least, past a wide variety of passive police presence (I suspect some protest was planned for this evening?) and along the few blocks in putative cycletrack instead of along 11th and it's not-so-fun bike lane. The roads were salty.

I didn't go home right away, but to the Argonaut, a restaurant, which is where Benning Road meets H and Maryland Avenue meets 14th Street and I rode up Maryland Avenue, which is a lovely fin-de-siecle century grand boulevard that has been bastardized to meet mid- and late- 20th century LOS, or at least that's how drivers see it and so I saw drivers, more than one, pass me within a foot because WE MUST DRIVE OUR CARS HOME AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE and with little regard to the people on the road not attempting to do the same. At least only one of the few drivers that passed me within a foot was on the phone. Progress, I guess.

Then, after Argo, it was 14th home and then I was home. Bon weekend, everybody. See you in March.

2/26/15

Rides 2/26: hot rain falls up

Snowed this morning and they delayed the start of the work day, but by the time I left, after the first two blocks of my road, the roads were a little wet, but not in any way snowy. There was snow on the paths by the Washington Monument, but the NPS cleared the path by the World Ward II Memorial and I thought 'great! The Park Service is finally getting the hang of clearing snow. They were able to successfully dispatch one inch of fluffy stuff!" And then Rock Creek.



Again, just barely an inch. The inch, however, obscured the patch of ice that wasn't cleared last week. That made for fun. I only slipped once, having spun the back wheel on a patch of ice and then I tumbled towards the railing in the picture, losing balance as the front wheel turned, but I righted myself by holding the rail and didn't fall into the icy river. How very boring of me.

Up Wisco and subjected the various driver impatience. Let's talk, impatient drivers. If it were as easy for me to ride uphill at 35 miles per hour as it is for you to rotate the steering wheel directly in front of you a few degrees allowing you to move over into the otherwise empty left lane, I'd do it. But it's not. So maybe you should try the changing lane thing. I promise it's not that bad. You can even move back once you get around me. I won't even be mad.

The morning snow had the curious effect of melting some of the ice from last week (it must've been hot snow. Weather is truly mysterious) so the bike lanes I encountered on the way home were clearer than they had been all week. Before I could get to these bike lanes, the ones on L and 15th and Pennsylvania in particular, I had to ride down Massachusetts Avenue, where I found myself stuck behind one of the infrequent N buses and in front of another infrequent N bus. Apparently, they decided to be simultaneously infrequent today. Massachusetts Avenue would probably be called an arterial if you're the kind of person who believes in calling roads such silly things and even though there was a left lane into which I could theoretically try to pass the bus, passing the bus was also the priority of many drivers in their many cars being driven at much speed. Here's my generalization about bicycling in a city: the roads shouldn't allow speeds that scare a bicyclist from changing lanes to get around a stopped bus. I think if we followed that general maxim, we'd have much better cities. Also, I wouldn't have gotten stuck behind that bus.

U-turns or plowing has led the first casualties of the parking stops installed on some blocks of the Pennsylvania Avenue.


They tried. 
I guess I think a lot about the destructive power of cars mostly because I spend a lot of time around them and it's a bit of a preoccupation. Also, because #waroncars, I guess. But maybe you don't think a lot about them as much as I do (or maybe you think about them more), so consider this: think about how much destruction you see on a daily basis that is caused by cars. How many knocked over signs. How many knocked over posts. How many busted curbs. Like, I don't mean the mundane wear and tear, but stuff that's been crushed, trampled, bashed, or otherwise damaged from sheer power and momentum of a misguided metal object. Pay attention next time you go out. Marvel if you dare not quake.

An aside: when we visited Mostar in Bosnia, we got stuck there because the bus from Sarajevo got there after the bus to Dubrovnik already left and we ended up staying the night, though that wasn't the plan. No one in the bus station spoke English and we didn't have any kind of Slavic except for a few stray words, but one woman who worked there spoke French and so does the Official Wife and she called her parents (I think?) or maybe just some friends and we ended up staying in a private room in a house in the hills above the city and I remember sitting on the porch and looking up at one of the wall on the outside of the house and it was pocked with bullet holes, as were many of the other outer walls on many of the other houses nearby. I was shocked, but I doubt the people who lived in any of those houses thought the bullet holes were especially remarkable as it'd been some years since the war had been over. It's easy to become habituated to the mundanities of mild destruction.

2/25/15

Rides 2/25: this is going to autotweet

Strange parabolic commutes that swung wildly from carefree and mundane to oddly tense and fraught and back again. One second it's a dawdle in a wide open lane and nothing but daylight and the next it's a taxi from two lanes over and the next it's a gloved middle finger, extended, and the next it's nothing but room and relaxed pedaling and insouciance. If the relaxing moments weren't so relaxing, the stressful moments would have been too stressful. It was just a weird one, both on the way in and on the way home. All bike commutes have the potential to be really good or really bad and some bike commutes have the potential to be alternatively both.

I rode down the House side of the Capitol. The House is the worst. Their driveway is ok, I guess.

I had hopes that the marginally warmer temperatures would succeed in melting more ice than they did. It snowed on Saturday. I think the efforts to clear the snow ceased on Sunday. The snow remains on Wednesday and will continue to remain for the next couple of days. It's bad in some bike lanes, but where it's worst of all are at the curb ramps. I watched from across a the way a woman with a stroller and two young children walking beside the baby she was trying to push all struggle to get over an ice patch and I thought 'yup, we definitely can't do any better than this.'

It's a really bad thing when you accidentally bump into a driver's sideview mirror. I should've just waited instead of trying to squeeze past to make a right turn. I should've just followed my own advice. I gave a friendly little 'sorry!' wave, but I didn't turn around to make eye contact with the driver. Maybe I should have. It was just the tiniest glance but people really, really, really hate it when you touch their cars. So try not to do that. And be better at not doing it than I am.

******************************************

For the past 48 hours (which is not at all a substantial amount of time, but definitely seemed like it), I haven't been on Twitter. I lack the willpower, wherewithal, and desire to continue my fast. I've learned a few things:

1. I am surprisingly dependent on twitter for learning things about the outside world. Facebook doesn't do as good of a job at that, especially given the singularity of my interests. I pretty much felt totally in the dark and since I really prefer not to be totally in the dark (even when I think that maybe I should be). It's kinda funny because somewhat incidentally, though maybe not really, I took a Strengths Finder career thing (you get desperate for things to do when you don't tweet) and it turns out that my 'strength' is something called "Input," which means something like 'perpetually needs to soak up information or will explode.' And yeah, I think that's about right.

2. I might've kicked twitter, but that didn't stop me from constantly looking at some screen. Admittedly this is a problem, but this is a different problem from constantly being on twitter. And not being on twitter does nothing to fix that.

3. Willpower: I don't really have it. I mean, maybe I have it about other stuff, but I think I don't have it about this. Make of that what you will.

4. I could still interact with people through Facebook. I did that. I appreciated having conversations with the same people I interact with on twitter on a different platform. But it didn't feel the same. I don't know why. I think when you're a constant tweeter and a rare FB-er, posting on FB seems so... consequential. Yes, that sounds trite. SO trite that it should be a tweet and not a sentence in a blog post. Also, my Mom told me that my constantly updating Facebook was annoying her. So there's that too.

5. Twitter is great. I like the way I use it and I like what I use it for. It is an abundantly useful tool and there's really no reason not to use it. I think my twitter follower/followee Eric Budd gets it right: Twitter is the city. And I prefer the city.

So, yeah. That's that.

2/24/15

Rides 2/24: melt already

They give bicyclists a smidgen of road and it happens that stretches of that smidgen are still occupied by ice and the pace of ice removal is (what else?) glacial and you could and should feel bad about that. I got the Ogre with the understanding that the only thing that would prevent me from bike commuting would be my decision not to bike commute and not outside factors, such as ice-covered smidgens, and so I set out this morning in my winter get-up and with my rubber winter boots (I stepped in a puddle yesterday and my foot has yet to thaw) and rode through the cold and over and around the ice and for that was that, for the most part.

I took my own advice and stuck to the roads today. My reward for this was impatient drivers. I really do try to be charitable and understanding towards drivers (it's not always easy to understand what your actions look like from the perspective of outside the metal box), but I find that snow and cold makes me less charitable. "Give me a break!" I want to say, but I don't say because I'm more or less just trying to get out of the way. There's less way, to either get out of or get in, thanks to the snow and ice and I tend to feel myself more exposed than I normally do as a result of riding maybe 18 inches farther from the curb than I normally would. Little distances can make for big differences.

What else is there to say? I don't know. Some ice might melt tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that.

Routes:

East Capitol --> Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House --> Pennsylvania Avenue ---> M Street --> Wisconsin --> stopped for an everything bagel with cream cheese at the Open City by the National Cathedral --> Massachusetts

Massachusetts --> 21st --> L --> 15th --> Pennsylvania --> wrong way up the Senate side of the Capitol grounds --> East Capitol

2/23/15

Rides 2/23: vacation over

I suppose I neglected to mention that I would be away for a week and when I was away I failed to mention that I wouldn't be blogging as I'd have no bike commutes to blog, but now I'm back and have bike commutes to blog, or at least today's. It snowed a few days ago and since the snow hasn't all melted, it means that there's still plenty of it in bike lanes and in the other marginal places where one tends to have to ride a bike when there are no bike lanes. Ice itself isn't so bad- I really like it in drinks!- but ice on city streets where one tries to bike isn't really the best and so the rides in and home weren't the best.

I took the Mall route and then made the mistake of riding up the Rock Creek path, when I could've instead ridden on the two empty lanes of the Rock Creek Parkway which are left fallow during the morning commute. From what I know of medieval agricultural practices (surprisingly little given how many stupid empty fields I've had to walk through on the way to monastic ruins or some castle in the middle of a sea of nowhere in the middle of a nothing country), you're supposed to leave lanes fallow that the road has time to regain the nutrients needed to let the traffic grow again. Anyway, Rock Creek Parkway is four lanes from the Mall to the Kennedy Center and the two northbound ones are blocked off to all traffic, but instead of riding on that empty stretch of pavement, I went for this:




One of the times I stopped to take one of these pictures, an oncoming runner stopped to assure me that the ice wasn't as bad once I got to the next intersection. Thanks, helpful runner! Anyway, taking the trail was a foolish idea and I should've known it was a foolish idea because it's always a foolish idea. I wrote a peom about it:

after the snow, ride where cars go
where only bikes, nothing but 'yikes!'

Like all poetry, it's true.

I did stick to the streets on the ride home and on the parts of those streets that weren't set aside for bikes, there was plenty of black top. In the bike lanes, there was plenty of ice. I would've had a hard time blaming any downtown cyclist for riding on the sidewalk, where there was also no ice. Though I don't think I saw anyone riding on the sidewalk.

Less than ideal

In other news, I'm taking a twitter sabbatical. I love twitter. It's pretty much the way I interact with the most people- bikey people, DC people, #bikeDC-y people and otherwise- and it's the way I consume most of my news and information from the outside world. So, in all likelihood, I'll probably miss it and I'll probably miss things. But that's ok. I'm just feeling a bit of fatigue and a whole lot of dependency, so in the spirit of ceasing the exacerbate those feelings, I've deleted the app from my phone and made it so that it doesn't pop up on my browser when I first log in. What I'll do with all my newly found free time (over the next few days?), I don't know. Probably play some Sudoku.

2/14/15

Update: Kidical Mass George Washington Parade on 2/16

UPDATE: Parade cancelled.

Listen, George Washington was the father of our country. As such, he'd probably be all about kidically massing, had the bicycle been around when he was. But it wasn't and he probably had to settle for Kidical Ass, wherein families ride donkeys together. Anyway, don't be a donkey and show up with your kids, your bikes, and your kids on bikes this Monday and ride in the Old Town Alexandria George Washington Birthday Parade in honor of George Washington's birthday and because biking is fun. And they're gathering for tacos at the end and you would have to be crazy not to want to eat tacos, which were probably George Washington's favorite food. 


It's time for Kidical Mass to strut our stuff, and throw out some sweets along the way! In honor of George Washington's Birthday, Kidical Mass Arlington is teaming up with Kidical Mass Alexandria to roll in the George Washington Parade in Old Town. As a bonus, we've been invited to grab a bite after the parade with the wonderful cyclists of Alexandria (the BPAC, Spokeswomen and KM ALX).

When: Monday, February 16, 2015 PARADE starts at 1 pm

Meet: You get two options:

- meet KM Arlington folks at the intersection of the Four Mile Run and Mount Vernon Trails at NOON

- meet the whole group in Old Town on Gibbon St middle of the block East of Pitt Street at 12:30pm; we are the last float in Division 2

Parking: I would recommend parking in Arlington (because I don't know anything about parking in Old Town). You can park for free in Crystal City, then ride down the Mt Vernon Trail or park on Eads Street and ride down the Four Mile Run Trail. Either will bring you to the Arlington meetup point.

End: District Taco in Old Town

Route:http://ridewithgps.com/routes/6976867

The organizers would like help getting a head count. If you can, please sign-up on their meet-up page.

Note: The route will be very flat (once we leave Arlington), but longer than normal, if you're riding from Arlington and back. Please check the weather -- it looks like it will be clear but VERY cold, and we'll be outside for a LONG time.

Rides 2/12 and 2/13: what went down

On Thursday morning, I set out to ride up Chain Bridge Road, NW, mostly to make up for the fact that I had ridden down it the day before and also because that's what I said I would do, and I'm not a welcher. While I do like riding uphill (I've resigned myself to this proclivity a long time ago, so as to make my commute somewhat more bearable),I had thoroughly convinced myself that the hill was much steeper than it actually turned out to be and would prove much more grueling than my legs and bike could handle. Throughout much of the ride, I thought about how I should've eaten something other than brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts for breakfast (which is just good advice generally, even when you're not planning to ride up a hill you've never ridden up before) and how I also should've inflated my bike's tires and how I should've lubed my bike's chain and how I maybe should've changed tires to a different pair of tires that would be more amenable to riding up a hill, maybe tires that are lighter and are slick instead of  knobby and then I debated for some time where I should postpone this redemptive hill ride for a time when it wasn't cold and I wasn't wearing a messenger bag slung across my back and when I was wearing a more aerodynamic hat for some reason. Dread of a totally voluntary and completely uncompelled leisure activity is a curious and unnecessary thing and part of my wonders if I was tying to make the whole misguided enterprise seem worse so that by the time I completed it (which I would soon do) I would feel like I'd have achieved some kind of major personal accomplishment and reap the psychic rewards and mental boost. Though, looking back, I really don't think that's what was going on and, moreover, that's not really my style anyway. But that was my mood that morning and it crept along with me along the Mall and the Capital Crescent Trail and through the side streets of the Palisades to the base of the hill and then I got on with it and up I went, slowly if not smoothly, realizing that after the first little dart of climbing there was a long stretch of mostly flat which I managed to forget about. And after that stretch there was a park and I saw an old man with two black standard poodles and the poodles leaped as poodles do and I took this as a good sign, the poodle being my spirit animal. There was a curving slope where things got trickier and I pushed myself out of the saddle, but remained in the big ring and huffed my way to the top of that last hill and then the street ended at the intersection and I was just a few blocks from work and the whole thing was over, my having made good (or at least whole) my promise to myself that I would ride up a hill that I rode down the day before.

Friday was International Winter Bike to Work Day, in spite of the fact that internationally, it's not winter in a lot of places. You would think that this would give the southern hemisphere a distinct advantage, but I think they, collectively, declined to participate, or perhaps were excluded. I'm not sure. The "winners" of International Bike to Work Day, which is only in its third year, in its previous iteration were those cyclists from Oulu, Finland, a place whose latitude is a good 25+ degrees higher than our's here in DC, thought on the day, our temperature was a good 25 degrees colder than theirs. The goal was to beat Oulu. We didn't.

It's possible, likely, really that the Finns rigged the contest. Though they didn't rig it as well as the Zagrebians, who took the day, with the most International Winter Bike to Work Day registrants. I've spent a little time in Zagreb and its a lovely city and I can only hope they prominently display the International Bike to Work Day trophy, which I assume is massive and festooned in glittery snowflakes, prominently in the trg next to the Ban Jelacic statue that all my proudly gaze upon it and its presumed glittery snowflake glory.

As for the cyclists here in the District of Columbia, we might lack a glittery snowflake trophy, but I think we can be proud of our showing in this rigged contest anyway. Unlike many other days in our so-called winter, it was frightfully and face-stingingly cold yesterday, cold enough to keep all but the foolhardiest of cyclists of their bikes. But many rode on anyway and some of those who rode on were counted by Erik and Kevin on Bicycle Space, who from 8 to 9 stood outside at the corner of 15th and Massachusetts counting cyclists and handing out coupons for a free tube to those hardy souls who pedaled by. Admittedly, counting cyclists at one intersection for one hour, isn't the most scientific way to ascertain how many people chose to ride to work on International Winter Bike to Work Day, but International Bike to Work Day isn't about scientific methodology. It's about trying to stick it to Oulu, Finland and not those smug chumps down a peg, which, thanks to our friends in Zagreb, the international community was able to do and for that we should all be grateful. Don't get comfortable in second Oulu. We're coming for you next year.

2/11/15

Rides 2/11: excursion

It so happens that sometimes you find yourself in Arlington. This is in spite of not having any business there, nor it being in any way upon your route. But if you're there, and you haven't yet made it to where you're going, then it's on your route and so there I was this morning, having found myself on the wrong side of the Memorial Bridge and no good way to cross the car spigot that the bridge is in the morning. Instead of crossing the traffic, I crossed the bridge and then it was the Mount Vernon Trail to Rosslyn and over another bridge to get back to the District of Columbia, where both was the start and would be the finish of my ride.

 35th street from M to Prospect is a one block stretch of uphill. There's a sidewalk, but I rode on the street, which is composed of sharp (but not really) cobbles. When I lived in Arlington and commuted to work, I would ride up 35th street everyday, but on the smooth sidewalk, and not on the cobbles. In hindsight, it's hard to imagine that I managed to do this, at the hill is a sharp nettle of a hill and your legs feel nettle-stung by the time you get to the top, even though it's just a block.

The rest of the way through Georgetown, Burleith, and Glover Park were slow-going.

I know most of the ways home from work, as I've worked at my work as long nearly as long as I've lived in DC this go-round and since I've nearly bike commuted the whole time I've worked at my work, I've approached and left the office from a plenitude of angles, though never from above, as I ride a bicycle and not in a zeppelin. For now, at least. The back way, as I call it, is the way to the Capital Crescent Trail and it's a way that takes me in the opposite direction from the most direct direction home, and normally that means a trip down Loughboro Road past Arizona and over to either Macomb Street or another street and then across MacArthur and eventually down to the trail. This is the way I normally go when I go this way. But today, I took a different route, down Chain Bridge Road NW. Chain Bridge Road is neither a chain, nor a bridge, but it's a road. It's also a remarkable hill and there are some remarkable homes built along the street and I look forward to paying more attention to them tomorrow, when I attempt to ride up the hill. For the purposes of balance (or dualism?), you should never experience a hill only going down. That doesn't seem very sporting. So tomorrow, I'll negate the descent with a mad scrambling ascent that will be strenuous and pointless and fantastic.

The Capital Crescent Trail to the sidewalk on Canal Road and back into Arlington and past the bike-counter and the big map for cyclists to use to navigate the Arlington Loop, which is also the name of a the tool used by all Northern Virginian gemologists.

how much better would this be if it were shaped like a Dalek?
This is a good idea
From thereabouts, it was over another bridge and that looked like this:


Then it was a ride along the Mall and a bunch of us on bikes bunched at stop lights and rode alone together along the Mall, first on paths and then on the road, which was mostly empty. They rode faster than I did as I was distracted by trying to get the lining back in my glove. It's a disconcerting thing to ride without gloves in the cold and it was equally disconcerting to ride with one glove on and one glove half on. Maybe I should invest in mittens.

2/10/15

Rides 2/10: what's that buzzing sound

I'm always struck by how leisurely bike commuting can be when you let it. Sometimes circumstances intrude, circumstances well beyond your control, and those have a way of ramping you up with unwanted adrenaline or bringing you down with a sad realization about your lack of proper space on the road or others' unwillingness to share what little there is of it with you. But most of the time, the hum drum times, the only thing getting in the way of an enjoyable leisurely bike commute is yourself. Today I managed to get out of my own way.

I think what helped is that I dressed like a mostly normal person. I wore a winter hat instead of a helmet. I skipped bike shoes. I went slower than normal, both in and on the way home, though I think I made it home faster than I normally do since I went a more direct way. I sang to myself that Roony song. I'm waitin', waitin' for nothin'. 

There are so many ways that bicyclists can find their best and happiest bicycling selves. For some, it's dressing up special and going fast. For others, it's going a long ways, too long a ways, and feeling in their legs and lungs how far they are from home. Maybe it's a bike party, a rolling fete, for you.

I like dressing up like a normal person. I like singing to myself. I like my 45 minutes of nothing in particular. Not every three quarters of an hour needs to be something in particular. Sometimes it can just be wending through the city, outside but inside.

Rides 2/9: blah Monday

A particularly blah Monday. The blah followed me from the bike and into the office and then from the office and back onto the bike. Sometimes you can't quite shake the blah. The cold drizzle on the way home didn't wash the blah off either. It wasn't the worst cold drizzle, but it was a nice reminder after Sunday's weather wonderfulness that it's still February and we shouldn't count spring chickens before they hatch.

In the morning, I rode to a place to buy some breakfast tacos and they were just ok. Maybe I made the mistake of eating them at work instead of as soon as they were made, but I don't think that would've changed their overall lack of zest and zing. I took 15th past the park and up the hill, which might have been the first time I've ridden the Ogre up that way and to Fuller and Columbia and over the bridge and up the hill to Cleveland Street, which could have a bike lane, but doesn't. I doubt, without a doubt, that the LOS (or whatever the technical terminology for 'traffic flow' is) justifies the need for the sometimes variable two lanes each way on what should be a pretty quiet residential street. But I am not an engineer. I've never been to the front of a train, much less driven one. Anyway, I think I've written about this street's lack of bike lane before, or at least I should have. It's a pretty glaring omission in a network that could otherwise connect from Massachusetts Avenue to Connecticut Avenue.

On the way home it was Mass to 21st to L to 15th and the drizzle started somewhere around Pennsylvania Avenue and continued the rest of the way home. I can't remember any funny license plates from this trip, but the other day, I saw one that was KIWI GRL and it's always nice when New Zealanders advertise their nationality without resorting to driving on the wrong size of the road and/or performing a haka if you call them out for parking in the bike lane.

2/7/15

Rides 2/5 and 2/6: Saturday moning

I guess there's not too much to say about these. Otherwise, I probably would've already got to them. On one of the rides, I found myself being pushed into a pothole, having been giving no real room to maneuver on account of an onrushing driver and a parked car. It was a deep pothole. More of a trench really. Maybe it was a mine. I think there were dwarves in it. It's always a curious thing to go into (and hopefully) out of a deep gape in the road because, depending on the speed at which you're traveling, you might not realize if you're going to make it out ok until after you either do or don't. Heinenberg's Pothole- when you're in the pothole, infinite potential scenarios could potentially play out and only when you first go 'oh shit' is one actually chosen and even then. Or something like that.

I did make it out ok because the Ogre eats potholes, but I could've equally imagined a scenario in which the hole ate me, especially if I were on a different bike with less gargantuan tires. That we keep our roads this way is sad. We're not even really at the end of winter, so there will be even more time for the combination of precipitation, cold, and the repeated drubbing of tens of thousands of pounds of motor vehicle traffic to further eat away at the roads and, thanks to the food chain, have those roads eat bicyclists.

Every bike blog, at those those set in urban contexts, is, to a large extent, about cars and driving. They're less characters in the story than the setting itself. So, living among them, like Jane Goodall or whoever, I tend to think about drivers at their foibles quite a lot and one of the things I've been thinking about lately is whether or not drivers recognize that their cars actually take up any space. I'm not entirely sure. I saw a guy stopped in a lane right by the entrance of the Georgetown Safeway with her blinkers on and watched the line of other drivers form behind him. First two, then soon six and then me. And no one did anything at first. And then the honking started. And continued. The guy wasn't in a parking space and parking doesn't technically become legal until 9:30 (though this is frequently ignored). He was just kind of there. And I'm not totally sure it occurred to him that his being there reduced the amount of space for everyone else on the road by half. Maybe he did and didn't care, but I think in a lot of situations, there's just an utter lack of cognizance that cars take up space and that it's more space than a driver, were he just standing there by himself, would take up. I think this is particularly striking to me, a mostly bicyclist, because I've become hyper-aware of how much space I need/take up on the road. It's not much, but back when I was less comfortable with the idea of bike commuting, I distinctly remember feeling paranoid that I was taking up too much of it and as a result 'blocking a lane' and 'slowing down traffic.' (To turn a phrase on its head, when you're on a bike, you're not blocking traffic, you are traffic.) That paranoia leads to bad choices and results in cyclists tying to take as little of the road as possible, sometimes because they can (simply not needing as much) and sometimes because they feel like they have to. Forget that.

It's rare, I think, that a bicyclist who has done it for a little while doesn't know exactly where he is on the road and how much of the roadway he's attempting to use. "Doesn't that darn biker know he's in the middle of the lane?" Yes. Very much so. That's the whole point.

It's supposed to be warm this weekend. Have fun if you go out on fun rides. Stop for milkshakes if that's you thing.

2/4/15

Rides 2/4: you didn't tell me not to tell you

Once, long ago, I thought, and maybe even wrote in this blog, that maybe it'd be a good idea to make a horn for your bike that instead of blasting the standard horn noise let loose one of the more memorable distilled tirades of tennis great John McEnroe, namely a "You canNOT be serious!" at drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others (looking at you pogoists) who did thinks that we so unthinking and/or goofy that one (me) would have to question whether or not their transgression was some sort of absurd act of performance art rather than some mundane act of transportation dumbness. I did not make this horn. I still might. Ok, I won't. But what I will coin and gift to the bike commuting world is the McEnroe Quotient, which is based on the number of times during your bike commute that you observe completely ridiculous things and questions their, um, seriousness. This morning was a morning with a high McEnroe Quotient. Lots of pulling out from parking spots without looking and weirdly stepping off curbs and u-turns and turning from the center lane and just general unpredictable and unorthodox maneuvers that evoked more than one injection from me that was reminiscent of Johnny Mac.

In spite of this, it was actually quite an ok morning. Penn to 11th to R, which has a bike lane on one side of parked cars, but what if we decided to put it on the other side of the parked cars. I'd totally go for that. Massachusetts Avenue, which I rode after I finished riding R Street, has no bike lane to put on any side of parked cars, nor any parked cars once you get past the Islamic Center. Massachusetts Avenue there, however, becomes a long slow climb that slackens your pace to where you can easily look into all of the cars of all of the drivers stuck in traffic and see so many of them looking down at their phones. Phones are vastly more entertaining than driving. Or not driving.

This afternoon was warm and warm enough for me to decide to take the long way home. This involved the canal towpath,but first it involved me stumbling down a rocky path from the Capital Crescent Trail towards Clara Barton Parkway NW. Carrying my bike down the rocky path was the lesser of my troubles and that's saying a lot as I'm fairly weak in upper body strength and not super great at balancing. It was crossing the street to get to the bridge to get the towpath that proved more difficult than I initially anticipated. And here's why: at that time of day, the plan, as executed by the traffic lights and road signs, is to get as many drivers out of the District of Columbia as possible and this involves one-way streets and all green lights and no break for any morons who foolishly traipsed down a rocky path with the intention of crossing a street. I waited for a few minutes and I waited for a break in the traffic, which wasn't forthcoming. I waited some more and I thought 'ok, seriously, how many cars could possibly be driven out of DC at this time of day?' and then a taxi driver decided to turn from the wrong lane (I think) to go over the bridge and there was a momentary break and so I ran. I ran across the street a quick 8 steps with my bike on my right side and then I hoisted my bike over the guardrail and jumped myself over it and then I was on the other side and that's the story of how I crossed a street. Had I remembered that this was something I was supposed to do to get down to the canal towpath at the Chain Bridge instead of at the Arizona Avenue bridge maybe a quarter mile away, I would've just walked down the stairs at Arizona and not bothered with either the rocky path or the street crossing of DOOM. But I'll remember it next time. Or won't, depending on how long next time is from now.

So much mud along the canal. I guess that's why I wanted to ride on it. I kept telling myself that the mud wasn't a big deal and for the most part it wasn't. I stayed upright and only skidded a little and I alternated between puddles I would ride through and puddles I would avoid. There was little strategy in this. Anyway, I quite like riding through mud every so offer, just to remind myself how good I have it on the area's mostly terrible paved runs. Maybe I should ride in quicksand to remind myself how good I have it riding in mud and then to remind myself how good I have it riding in quicksand, I could ride in lava and then that'd be it for me. Surlys are sturdy, but lava trumps.

Everyone heretofore who has contented themselves running of a treadmill was out today running on the Rock Creek Path. There were no more runners by Ohio Drive and then I don't think I saw any more runners down in East Potomac Park, but I didn't do a full lap, so I'm sure I missed some. I mean, I don't know if I'd say I missed them. (zing). I took the Case bridge over the channel and then down eventually to G Street SW, which is just the most delightful out-of-place and out-of-time street. It feels very un-Washington. I try never to be nostalgist about built places (that's the Hungarian medievalist in me. Everything in medieval Hungary was destroyed about 4 times over (Mongols, Turks, Austrians, WWII) and you know what? It sucks. But you know what else? It happens. I mean, I don't expect Mongols to level any DC neighborhoods any time soon, but we could have a Bill & Ted situation and who knows, right?), but even though there are parts of SW that are just really deficient and bad mistakes of outmoded design thinking, I hope we can at least keep some of it. I got lost in there, but eventually found my way out via I Steet and up New Jersey and back to the Hill, the hill that is home.

2/3/15

Rides 2/3: I really have to get this done

Below are some notes I jotted down before so let's just elaborate on those.

cold- as in, it was very. I wore two coats. This turned out to be 1/2 coat too many. Should've worn a coat and a vest. Or maybe a coat and just the sleeves from another coat. I ruin more coats that way. Tomorrow should be warm. I will bask in it.

mall- not the shopping kind, but the national kind. Here's some bike racks by the reflecting pool.


Shortly after taking this picture, my phone turned off from the cold. Later in the day, when my phone was working again, I emailed the Associated Press about their bike rack story. My email was this:
Dear AP,

In the story "Man arrested outside White House grounds" from February 1 (as seen here: http://wtop.com/dc/2015/02/man-arrested-climbing-white-house-bike-rack/), the AP reported that "The Secret Service has arrested a man who climbed a bicycle rack outside the White House grounds Sunday, and he’s been charged with unlawful entry." 

There are no bike racks outside the White House. Those are fences. While they do bear a resemblance to antiquated comb racks (an inferior form of bicycle parking), they are not meant for the parking of bicycles. I confirmed this with the Secret Service. May you please update your story to reflect this and/or issue a correction?

For more, please see my own reporting on this matter here:http://talesfromthesharrows.blogspot.com/2015/02/rides-22-gusts.html

Thank you,

Bxxxx Mxxxxx
A bicyclist

crosswalk problems- not my crosswalk problem per se, but the problems I cause for drivers when they dare stop for me. They get honked at. They get honked at for assholes who can't seem to understand that maybe they're stopping for someone in a crosswalk even though there are literally thousands of crosswalks in DC and literally dozens of times each day when a driver might yield to someone at one.

one bike rack in front of the apple store- They put one in. I'm not sure when, but it's been desperately needed. Bike parking in Georgetown isn't great (though getting better, but slowly) and the addition of a an upsidedown u-rack in front of a popular retail destination is very welcome.

YOU'VE RUINED IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE- is what I want to shout at the driver who passes me too closely, thereby prompting me to move over into the middle of the lane, thereby preventing any other driver from attempting to do the same. Listen, I don't want to slow down drivers 'just because.' That's needlessly spiteful and doesn't really do me any good. So if there's enough room to get by safely, I give approximately zero fucks if a driver passes me safely. But when someone driving a car can't find the decency- a bare minimum decency- to pass me with at least three feet of space, then all bets are off and I'm not going to let anyone else repeat their mistake. It's been said before by a million other bicyclists on the internet- and in real life too, as if that matters- but I'm not going to risk my safety for someone else's marginal convenience. And I don't feel bad about that at all.

sandwiches- were for dinner. I stopped at the Taylor on 19th Street. Having forgot my u-lock this morning, I left my bike on the rack outside unlocked. It was stolen approximately zero times. I watched it the whole time and felt like it was pretty ok and I kind of wonder how long you could leave an unlocked bike outside the Taylor on 19th Street before someone rides away with it.

runners- in bike lanes. running at me. Like they're mocking me. Like it's on purpose. But at least that means they're reading GP! Nah, they're probably just jerks.

follow my own advice?- as in, how often do I ignore the suggestions I weekly give to other people? I plan to go back at some point at do a full assessment, but I'd say I routinely follow my own advice about 80% of the time, which isn't so bad. Consistency, hobgoblins, etc.

passed uphill- on Capitol Hill. Guy was on a road bike, I was going pretty slowly, I didn't really care, but I guess I cared enough about it to remember it.

random u-turns- I've noticed more of them lately. Apparently the thing about car driving is that sometimes you're driving one way and then all of the sudden you're like 'omg, I forgot to unplug the iron' and for fear of your clothes getting over-ironed (fun fact: I don't know a lot about ironing. Maybe that's why my work nickname is Rumples McNeverpressed) you've just gotta whip a huey (how they muster votes in Depression Louisiana?) and get home as quickly as possible and maybe driving legally and making just a couple of legal turns would just cause too much of a delay. This isn't even on Pennsylvania Avenue, America's Main U-Turn Street, but just other streets, sometimes ones that aren't even that wide where a u-turn becomes a multi-part affair with going and stopping and reserving and wheel-turning and honking and going and all that. Anyway, I guess u-turns aren't just a thing that people feel any compunction to avoid doing.

2/2/15

Rides 2/2: gusts

From WTOP and the Associated Press, a story about a potential White House intruder. It's blissfully short, though that only atones for so much. To wit, a selection:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Secret Service has arrested a man who climbed a bicycle rack outside the White House grounds Sunday, and he’s been charged with unlawful entry.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said the incident happened at a temporary bike rack on Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday afternoon. The rack is set back from the White House fence, making it unlikely that anyone could use it to get over.

Bicycle racks outside of the White House? THIS ISN'T COPENHAGEN, BARRY. WE REAL AMERICANS CAN'T PARK OUR SUVS OUT FRONT THE WHITE HOUSE BECAUSE OF SOCIALISM OR WHATEVER, BUT YOU'RE GONNA DO OBUMMER CARE FOR THOSE HIPPY ECO-WARRIOR BIKE WEIRDOS WHO DON'T EVEN PAY ROAD TAX AND WHO THIS ONE TIME CAME OUT OF NOWHERE AND ALSO ROLLED THROUGH A STOP SIGN. I mean, that wasn't exactly my reaction, but my outrage was still somewhat present, though not at the President's installation of bike parking which wouldn't rankle me at all. I'd actually be quite ok with it. It's the utter wrongness that bothers me because there are no bike racks outside of the White House and to suggest as much is thoroughly dumb. Here is what's outside of the White House:

That's a fence
Now, maybe you could confuse this fence with a comb rack. They do seem to have some design similarities:

a comb rack, the worst kind of bike parking

Both are horizontal-y. And they've got vertical elements. And they're metal. So, that's something. But they're very much different things.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe the White House, the home of the president and the epicenter of the governance of the American state, meant to supplement their security measures through the installation of outmoded, though utilitarian, bicycle parking and maybe DC bike commuters were being total morons by not locking their bikes up in such a prime location during the work day. Total morons! But I didn't know for sure and rather saunter up to what was clearly a fence outside the perimeter of another fence outside a highly securitized compound and lock my bike to it, I decided that I would do the prudent (yes) thing and ask one of the heavily armed Secret Service agents out front. So I did.

Me: "Excuse me sir, are these bike racks? Does anyone ever lock their bike to them?"
Him: "No. These are fences."
Me: "So they're not for bikes, right?"
Him: "No."
Me: "Ok, thanks"

World blown. I definitely thought they were bike racks. But I guess they're not bike racks. But does Brian Leary, Secret Service spokesman, think that they're bike racks? Do I need to push this issue past the rank-and-file to the higher-ups, who actually know that these are not just fences, but they're actually bike racks? Have the insidious forces of the Bicycle Lobby infiltrated the Secret Service? And do they know that the one thing that will definitely deter people from coming any closer is a sea of parked bicycles? Repulsive!

lasciate ogni speranza voi che entrate

Or maybe they're just fences. And maybe, while it's fully possible to lock a bike to a fence, it's still not a bike rack and maybe we shouldn't call a fence a bike rack because it's not. And if anyone at the Secret Service thinks that a fence makes for good bike parking, it doesn't.

***************************************************************

Very windy on the way home. What's your favorite thing to scream into the wind? Mine is "GAAAAAH! WIND!" like it doesn't know its own name and needs to be reminded. Whatever you yell into the wind, it ends up behind you and if the wind changes then it might chase you, so be careful.

I inadvertently rode over the plastic base that once upon a time held up a long-missing flexpost. It's a two-inch nub and I didn't see it at all, mostly because I was looking over my shoulder as I moved from the L Street cycletrack before 12th street. On a different bike, it likely would've been disaster. On the Ogre, it was manageable. It's nice to have a bike that compensates for your ineptitude.