Ride Home 6/29

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, except instead of water, substitute "get back on the bike" and instead of safe substitute "likely to not get another flat tire" and then adjust the syntax and the prepositional phrases, well, you get the point. Another flat tire. This time it was on my way to the Dean's house (the Dean being an actual dean, as in of a school, and not someone named Dean who I give the honorific of "the" for some reason) riding up the MacArthur Boulevard bikeway. I was with colleague, who is something of a superbiker (and marathoner and hill runner and ultramarathoner and that general kind of guy) and he was patient with me as I patched the tire. It was a pretty clean puncture and there was no glass or nail or other identifiable debris. We examined the tire and didn't notice anything, so I chalked it up to bad luck, but vowed that I would get my bike to the shop as soon as possible.
Then the event at the dean's house happened and then I left. It was a pretty easy ride back, down Seven Locks Road and then MacArthur. I've never ridden in this part of town and I was relatively impressed with the facility, which is basically the width of a travel lane with sometimes bollars or other barriers, sometimes just a double-white stripe. There were a lot of bike types riding in the roadway, which I didn't full understand since there's a good path right there, so I'm just going to defer to their judgment and assume there's a good reason for it. Hopefully it's not just to irk drivers.
What's the deal with Glen Echo Park? I'm just going to say that it's DC's Coney Island until someone corrects me. I appreciated the historic streetcar out front, though it's a shame they imported it from Philadelphia. It reminds me of the sadder, non-roller coaster parts of Lake Compounce.
Have you ever biked MacArthur Boulevard? Have you sent much time in the Palisades? I just doesn't seem like it's even in the same city. Weird.
I got stuck on the median at the end of MacArthur at Foxhall, before riding down the horrible sidewalk along Canal. That could be a really nice bike route, but I'm not holding my breath. Right now, it's dotted with fire hydrants and telephone poles directly in the middle of the path. Of course, the other problem is that any improvement to bike facilities along Canal would lead to the inevitable question of "now what?" since Foxhall is not bike-friendly, nor exactly is MacArthur. I guess you could make the point of improving Canal up to the underpass that connects to the C&O, but that makes way too much sense.
You know that Salon has offices on M street? Who's in there? Sirota? Pareene? Some programmers or ad sales guys?
I should have rung the buzzer. 
I took my bike into Revolution and consulted the lead mechanic, the Jedi Master to which I was the figurative padawan during my Tool Academy days. My question was simple: has it been bad luck or is it something that I've been doing wrong? He appreciated my positive attitude when I said that all the flats had provided me excellent practice opportunities. Or maybe that chuckle was from pity. Anyway, he removed the tire, examined it and found a hitherto-unfound gash in the tire. I guess that this exposes to the tube to road detritus, thus making it more vulnerable to puncture. So that's that. There's nothing wrong with the rim strip, there (though this was unsaid) was nothing wrong with my tube replacement- it's just that there was a hole in the tire and these things happen. All in all, I'm rather ambivalent about the whole affair of the past week (heretofore known as "the week of ill fortune"), but I'm glad that the issue has been properly diagnosed and I'm glad to have a few days off riding to give time for my new tire to get here.
I rode home and, luckily, experienced no bad fortune. I rode the Custis for a while behind some guys out on recreational rides. It was a nice day for it, though I never understand the work schedule that allows guys to go out for rides on an early Friday Wednesday afternoon. More power to them, I guess.
When I got home, I received this rather wonderful email from a friend currently studying in order to join the law cartel:

So, here's the takeway: don't ride on the sidewalk. Also, do your best to avoid lawn ornaments, especially if they are plastic and of waterfowl. Don't necessarily avoid them because of your legal liability, but instead do so because they are extremely tacky and it's best not to associate your super-suave, modern biking lifestyle with throwback, antediluvian yard decoration. Or, make sure that you're biking in such way that benefits the public as a whole? Can we test case on this, maybe related to climate change?
I'm off the next couple of days, so I bid you adieu until Tuesday. If you're looking for something else to read, check out the blog roll on the right side of this page. There's some great bike stuff out there (way better than this) and I heartily encourage you to check it out.

Ride In 6/29

I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to sing to myself a bastardized version of the Michael Jackson hit while I beaded my tire back into my wheel. No one wants to be defeated (especially not by flat tires). I ordered a new tire in a fit of pique/retail therapy session the other day while I was walking my bike back home and I'm trying to decide if it's truly necessary. I examined both my tire and my rim strip this morning and they look ok, though the tire had some nicks. I'm going to lay out my understanding of my series of mishaps and defer to the crowd (and by crowd, I mean the few of who read this) for any insight:
  1. Flat tire, June 20.
  2. 3 tubes purchased on June 21. Original tube replaced with new tube on June 21. One replacement tube put in my saddle bag, other tube put in my work bag.
  3. Pinch flat on Rough n Tumble ride, June 26. Saddle bag tube valve broken in trying to replace tube. Pinch flat tube patched. 
  4. Patched tube replaced by new tube from Bob's Bikes in Poolesville. 
  5. Puncture flat on rough n tumble. Bob's Bikes tube replaced with patched tube. 
  6. Patched tube dies June 27 on ride home. 
  7. Patched tube replaced by work bag tube this morning. 
So, here's what I'm thinking. When I replaced my first flat tire with the new tube, I didn't do the best of jobs making sure that the tube was securely ensconced inside of the tire and this contributed to my pinch flat on the Rough n Tumble. The puncture was just bad luck, so that doesn't mean anything. And the fact that the patched tube died after about 60 miles of riding doesn't mean much either. So, my hope is that if I did a better job replacing my tube this morning (and I made sure to massage the tire to make sure that the tube didn't stick out under the beading- something I didn't do before), I won't need the new tire because there's nothing actually wrong with my tire. But, we'll see.
It must be very difficult to drive a firetruck through traffic. I don't think it's a stressful as, let's say, actually running into a burning building, but it would still make me extremely anxious. Two fire trucks rushed by going the wrong direction on Glebe to avoid the traffic stopped at the light and I couldn't help but think how much more convenient it would be for them if they just biked to the fires. I'm joking.
Mazda 3, Jay Z, DC United window decal.I couldn't see if he was wearing brown flip flops.
Do you belong to a motorcycle club and also really like Greek mythology? If so, you probably know the guy I saw on the Harley whose license plate was HFSTUS. I thought that was pretty great.
Another reason I think I'm secretly left-handed (note: I am not actually left-handed) is that when I unclip from my pedals to stop, it's always my left foot that I put down.
Normally the flagsmen responsible for traffic moderation around construction sites are humorless and appear depressive. You can't blame them- their job is to hold a flag, an activity best performed by a long metal pole. But the guy I saw this morning at 35th and N approached his duty with a rare verve and a puckish joie de vivre that led him to wave his flag when I passed by as if I were finishing an auto race. He even said "checkered flag!" to which I replied "Yeah!" in the same ebullient tone. It was around this point in my ride when I stopped worrying about my rear tire.
I encountered a number (2) of exceedingly polite and deferential drivers this morning. A man who looked like Telly Savalas (may he rest in peace) wearing a khaki shirt emblazoned with a double chevron on its upper sleeve gestured me through the intersection at 37th and Tunlaw. He was driving a gold minivan with diplomatic plates. Who loves ya baby? Me, a little. And then another guy driving a white SUV waved me through the stop sign at the base of the New Mexico hill, gave me ample time to get through the intersection and passed me a little ways up with at least 6 feet of clearance. Politesse on the roadways is variable and when encountered, it should be broadcast. Bouyed by niceness, my final climb wasn't bad at all and I couldn't be much happier to be back on the bike today.


DDOT on Cycletracks

The long dormant DDOT blog D.ish has been fired up to update us on the status of the L & M cycletracks, most likely in response to web-based questioning/backlash. Read the whole thing.
After referring to a lot of the recently establish bike infrastrucuture as "pilot" programs (which makes me think of PPW!!!!!), the post gets into the here and now. The key grafs:
Current Status: Since the completion of these facilities, we have revised plans for L and M Streets to a 50% design, and have commenced studying the existing innovative facilities (including the contraflow lanes on New Hampshire). Throughout the process, DDOT has been in contact with adjacent communities, business improvement districts, major property owners/managers, federal regulatory bodies (CFA, NCPC), regional bodies (WMATA, MWCOG), as well as interested citywide parties (WABA, ANCs, development community).
Transportation Planner Jim Sebastian, who oversees DDOT’s Bicycle Program, says “We are waiting on the completion of our studies of the existing cycletracks on Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street, and the analysis of the L & M Street corridors, before making a determination on proceeding with the concepts for cycletracks.” DDOT recognizes the need for an east-west bicycle connection through downtown, but we are obligated to consider the impacts on all users (transit riders, pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, the disabled, businesses, residents, etc.) before making a commitment to proceed.
DDOT must take into account many conflicting interests within our transportation network. It is DDOT’s responsibility to consider the likely effects of any new street configuration, and to come up with a recommendation that balances these competing needs. We encourage the community and their political representatives to analyze the same data and draw their own conclusions. DDOT will commit to making any information relevant to these corridors accessible to all, and to discuss at that time the options on the table.
At the same time, it’s also worth noting that DDOT continues to expand the infrastructure for cycling in the District and plans to install 10 miles of bike lanes across the city this year. “The District is committed to providing a world class bicycling infrastructure,” says Acting Director Terry Bellamy, “And we will continue to work on a balanced and safe implementation plan for our community with our citizens help.”
Did you read this and think "sure sounds like these cycletracks are going to happen"? Yeah, me neither. I'm not hopeful, but maybe they'll surprise me. If they're proceeding with an honest, sober and somewhat scientific analysis of the recently installed bike infrastructure to help guide their implementation process, I can understand that and it's totally their prerogative. If they're instead engaged in a deliberate attempt to stall, obfuscate and use "studies" to reconsider the installation of promised bike infrastructure, that's a different story and it flies completely in the face of the stated goals and ambitions of the 2005 Bicycle Master Plan.What do you think?

Ride Home 6/27

It's probably good I didn't write this yesterday since it would have been a string  of expletives after my fourth flat tire in a week. I've since ordered a new tire and I'm going to bring the wheel into a shop to make sure that there's nothing wrong with the rim or rim strip or anything else that would keep causing these flats. To be honest, I can't complain that much since I was riding on the patched tube from Sunday- the tube I had to put back after I (1) broke the valve to the replacement tube I brought and (2) punctured the tube I bought from Bob's Bikes in Poolesville. All considered, I rode about 60 miles on the patch and I knew it was only a matter of time. It just gave out on me as I was stopped at the traffic light by the Clarendon Metro. Hard times, indeed. What was once a novelty (the pop and the fizz) has now become frighteningly familiar and while I'm pretty sure I had another tube in my bag, I didn't want to change it only to have it burst again tomorrow. I walked it home. More on that later.
Prior to my flat, the ride was going fine. I prepped for rain because of the perpetual afternoon thunderstorm warning that blots the daily forecast by mounting my light to my handlebars and by moving my jacket to the top of the contents of my bag. It remained rainless, but this still seems like a 'best practice.' (I apologize for the jargon- writing this before a staff meeting)
I didn't hurt as much as I did in the morning and found myself going much faster than I expected, even rushing to beat the countdown clock on changing light at Calvert and Tunlaw. From there it's all downhill, so it's especially nice if you can beat it. Half the days I'm far too slow or otherwise unlucky and have to wait the 15 seconds for the light to change. Which isn't a big deal, but you wouldn't know it by the number of drivers who creep up into the intersection before the green.
I turned onto S without exactly stopping at the stop sign on 37th and a few seconds later I heard a car horn, that I think came from a blue sedan stopped on S, that soon thereafter started traveling in my direction. I don't think it was because of me, but I rode the next few blocks paranoically checking back over my shoulder, planning out what I would say if confronted. I think I settled on "sorry" which is to the point and, I suppose, slightly disarming. Of course, while I was thinking about this hypothetical confrontation, I was doing my best to pedal away from it and hopefully avoid it. Nothing came of it.
Bumpy on 34th. I was worried about a pinch flat. Good thing that didn't happen.
At certain intersections, I like to move over into the crosswalk once the light changes in order to give the cars behind me a chance to pass. I normally do this at Nash and Lee Highway because Nash narrows on account of the on-street parking and I'd rather just let the cars go by where I can give them plenty of room rather than have them squeeze by where there isn't as much. This was complicated yesterday by the guy on the bike behind me, who didn't adopt the same strategy. We need a better way to coordinate these things. I guess that would be called "norms," but I don't think David Alpert has time to work out all the minutiae. Maybe some sort of convention? Or beer summit?
I saw the hipster coming up Rosslyn hill. He was wearing a Toms jersey and a mesh cycling cap, perhaps ironically, perhaps because it's comfortable. I wanted to catch him, but he got through some lights that I didn't and as usual, he was gone. I thought that I had caught him at one point, but it was another guy on a single speed, who wasn't quite as hipstery. That was a disappointment. That guy was looking down at his tires as if there was something wrong and I asked him if he needed any help. He declined, but then told me to go past him. I think he just didn't want to ride in front of someone with a derailer. A lot of pressure there.
Then my tire blew and I walked it home. I made the mistake of stopping in a local bike shop to see if they had a replacement in stock. I dragged my bike into the shop and that's the surest way to make a bike shop seem to small. There's no good way to push your bike around a bike shop. After being ignored for five minutes, I finally flagged down some help. I asked if they had any tires of my size and he went behind the counter and pulled out two. He said that these were the only ones they had but that they were good. I said no thanks. And then he said "You know you have a flat tire, right?" WHY DO YOU THINK I'M IN THE STORE YOU MORON! I didn't say that though. I just said "Yeah" and left and called the Official Wife and told her to make sure that I never go into that shop again.
The walk wasn't bad but it put me in a bad mood and, while that's not the reason I didn't bike in today, I'm pretty freaking exhausted with mechanical issues and happy to not have to deal with them for at least a day.


Another Way to Support the L & M Cycletracks

You can email city leaders thanks to this template from WABA. It only takes 10 seconds. It also doesn't involve going Barbacoas, so it's got that going for it too.
This issue is wildly important for all DC cyclists, even for those who don't frequently ride across town along these routes. It's about keeping bike issues a top priority and keeping the pressure on those who matter to make sure they follow through on what has been promised.

Ride In 6/27

This is going to be a light week of blogging for me. I'm not riding in tomorrow and I'm out of town Thursday and Friday. Just wanted to let you know ahead of time because of conscientiousness... maybe? I might try to do a few extra posts about non-my-commute bike topics, but they'll be contingent on my finding worthwhile things to say about what I come across in the velosphere (my highly pretentious name for the bike blogs I follow).
I didn't even really to expect to ride in today, either. As you might suppose, riding a century is really exhausting and lots of me hurts in unique and interesting ways. It was a really good ride, two flat tires excepted. It's the longest I've ever gone on a bike and the amount I rode yesterday is about the equivalent of two weeks of commuting. Much thanks to Bicycle Space for organizing and route planning.
Accordingly, I took the ride in today a bit slower than usual.
Remember Hoosbastank? I apparently do. Thanks for being stuck in my head. I don't know why this happens, but sometimes songs just follow you around and there's no way to escape them. You can ride, but you can't hide. (This is also the movie poster catchphrase for my planned cycling-themed remake of Logan's Run, called Logan's Ride. I wasn't planning on recasting Michael York, so I hope he's not doing anything.)
I bluster about pedestrians and drivers being jerks, but jerkshare is equally distributed across modes and there are a fair share of cyclists who behave poorly on the roadways. Obviously. I feel that this is just a truism to all non-bike types, but it's worth pointing out to those of us who live in the bike bubble and are generally more concerned about non-bicyclists and more than willing to excuse or rationalize our own behavior. That's all just a preface to say to the dimwits riding down the Custis across the Nash Street entrance to the Marriott that they need to look out for cars and bikes that might cross their path. You want to cross against the signal, that's fine. Just don't do it when someone's coming. When I ride down Nash, I like to cut across the trail into the parking lot rather than make the hard right onto the trail/sidewalk, so try not to ride into me or cut me off. I will call you a dipshit, maybe to your face, maybe under my breath.
Are a lot of people out of town already for the Fourth of July? Roads seem quieter than usual. Well, not quieter- I don't have a sound meter or anything- but not as crowded. But my commute is in a weird part of town, dominated by colleges and schools (and their angry neighbors!), so it might not be an actual reflection of traffic conditions overall.
Anyone willing to go Barbacoas for cycle tracks on L and M? Anyone?
Smart Car, dumb driver. You still need to give three feet to pass, even if you drive a particularly small car. You still outweigh me by a factor of 8.
Some days it's a tough decision about whether to drop the small ring and have an easier, but longer ride uphill or stay on the big ring and have a harder, but shorter ride. Today it was not even a decision and I took my time and I'm perfectly content with that choice, given that the alternative was me crumpled in a heap on the side of the road.
Why are there so many chicken bones on our streets and sidewalks? Will future archaeologists mistake our roadways for elaborate and expensive chicken paths built in honor of the great god Gallus Domesticus? I know that it's awkward when you're walking (or driving?) and you finish your piece of chicken and then you're stuck with the bone, but throwing it on the ground hardly seems like a good idea. And I'm sure that the much more reasonable explanation is that squirrels or some other kind of rodent take them from our trash bins, but I don't think we can rule out people entirely. Maybe it's time for a PSA?


Ride Home 6/24

I've been on the phone with the cable company for the last half hour trying to restore my internet. Screaming to the customer service representative that I have an important bike commuter blog and tens of people are relying on me to provide their Friday evening entertainment didn't make the headway that I expected. In any case, everything is restored now and I will proceed to regale you with my tales of woe.
I mean, it wasn't really woeful riding home at all today. It was relatively beautiful weather, not too hot or humid. I was in a pretty good mood, probably on account of catching the first few lights on the way away from work and the bike felt good and my legs felt good and, overall, both of these things combined to make my trip home seem joyous rather than onerous. I've been doing this for a while and looking back, I think that "state of mind" when you start your ride makes a pretty big difference in how you approach your commute. Basically, it's like that cave on Dagobah. Except I've never looked at a jerk driver only to see that it's me. That'd be freaky.
I, like a lot of bike types, treat the stop sign at the intersection of Tunlaw and 37th and 37th (it's diagonal) like a yield sign. This is because I'm biking downhill and if there's a car coming uphill it has to turn left and that means it's going to block any traffic coming downhill from the other 37th. But yield signs mean stop sometimes and I do and that generally works out. This morning I saw a young woman and a little kid ride their bikes past the stopped cars on Tunlaw and turn rightish onto 37th with total disregard to any approaching traffic. Yikes! If you're going to play fast and loose with stop signs (as I often do), at least try to be sort of good at it. And maybe don't play as fast and loose if you're being followed by a 7 year old? Just a suggestion.
Remember that time you wanted to bike down S Street in Burleith? You don't? Because there's nothing there aside from rowhouses? Yeah, the people who live there are pretty happy about that. I think I'm going to go back to biking down R, high school be damned. Otherwise, you have to make a left turn from 35th and there's nothing so painful as having to make a left turn at a four way stop while on a bicycle. That means that there's three motorists who want to run you over, instead of just one. I cut my left short today and took it at the same time as the two cars opposite eachother on R were going. The guy across from me didn't look happy about it, but frankly, it worked out better for him anyway.
Anybody ask Terry Bellamy if they're re-thinking finishing the 34th street bike lane? Like three more blocks of a little white stripe? If I ask really, really nicely? Seems like every other parochial concern was addressed.
Saw stand up on a bike guy for the first time in a long time. That beard is really coming in. Maybe once it comes in, you'll have the self-confidence to actually use your bike's seat. Just suggesting.
Took a new approach to riding Fort Myer. I jumped the light to cross the entrance to the GW Parkway and rode from basically the end of the Key Bridge rather than trying to merge over after crossing Lee Highway. I guess it made a little difference, but it's still pretty tight if cars want to pass you. Actually, it pretty much makes no difference, but it sort of a little mitigates the likelihood of at least one right hook. However, it exposes you to impatient drivers for a greater amount of time, so ride with some confidence and expect to be passed too closely. Same with going up Nash.
I rode behind a man, briefly, who tucked his over-wide khakis into his black shocks and it looked like he had a giant tumor on his right ankle. This is a consequence of both rolling (the pant leg) and tucking. One or the other, dude.
Stopped at the liquor store on the way home. Love transporting litres of liquor by bike, except for the idea that someday I might crash and the cop or EMT will see my gin and my pills (ibuprofen, in this case) and write me off as some dissolute. Thankfully, nothing happened, except for seeing this bizarre ad:

I found this to be disconcerting, not because I'm afraid of some sort of dystopic robot lady future, but because an alcohol company is using some knock-off intellectual property from A.I.  or I, Robot to try to sell vodka. What did those movies even gross?* Did they even leave any indelible mark on popular culture? Seriously? We're not talking iconic movies here and it's not even timely. At least use an avatar or whatever.
Some tips on transporting glass bottles of whatever by bicycle: don't cavalierly toss your u-lock in your bag. You might break those bottles and your bike bag might reek of gin and you'd probably get fired from your job as a result. Unless you're a writer or something. Luckily, it didn't cause any damage, but I should have been more careful.

* Together they grossed $222 million (domestic). That's barely half a Spider-man.

Ride In 6/24

I'm late to writing this post. Apparently, I "worked" through "lunch" (when I normally write) and now I'm eating my cold pizza slice (lunch of champions) as I punch out another one of these beauties. Maybe you can read this over your afternoon coffee. Because if you're reading this, you are probably either a sophisticate who takes an afternoon espresso or a caffeine-addled maniac swilling the cheap stuff from an oversize novelty mug. All about the big tent here. Also, I'm late to writing this because I've been following the Terry Bellamy confirmation hearing. Turns out I have to move to Chicago now.
Here's what would be my contribution (were it a better picture) to MyBikeLane:
Words in yellow are "This Guy." I'm as bad at drawing labels as I am at taking pictures
Once again, you've got an open parking space right there. You're doing no one any favors by idling in the bike lane. Just pull into the spot! You know how I deal with cars that are blocking the bike lane? I bike around them. What were you expecting, baseball bat? Geez. Get a hold of yourself. This blog isn't about elaborate revenge fantasies. (It's about melding self-pity and self-righteousness)
Who likes cool fixies? Anyone? Ok, here's a picture:
So, yeah, fixies are still a thing, even in Arlington. There was a guy standing nearby, whose unkempt beard-y appearance and weird shoes gave my the impression that this bike was his. He looked hipstery enough for it to be completely cliche. He didn't say anything when I took the picture, so maybe not. I probably would say something if someone took a picture of my bike and I was standing right there. Maybe he was just too buy rifling through his vintage-looking suitcase.
Sometimes you can tell when a driver is going to cut you off. Maybe it's because he's driving a little slower than traffic might mandate. Maybe it's because you can see his head swivel like he's looking for something. Maybe it's because you can see talking into his phone. It's just important to pay attention because when people are lost or confused, they're likely to drive there cars into the bike lane in order to stop and figure out where they are. You know where you are? You're in the bike lane. Next to an open parking spot! For all that people love their on-street parking, they sure would prefer not to occupy it when given the chance to remain in a bike lane. This problem would be completely eradicated if we put the lanes on the inside of parked cars.
I'm sure I had other things to complain about, but I've long since forgotten them.
How many cars have both a John Paul II "Defend Life" bumper sticker and an "Obama 2008"? Maybe it's just Doug Kmiec and he lives on R Street? Though I'm pretty sure he would have scraped off the Obama one by now. Must be someone else.
Passed another bike commuter going up 37th. I did not say "Let's do this! Let's do this!" I really hope that I run into that kid again- that was the highlight of my week. Other than my birthday.


Ride Home 6/23

There are some overhanging branches about halfway down New Mexico that fall approximately where my head is when I'm riding my bicycle downhill. Either you take the lane or you duck or you're thankful that you're wearing a helmet.
I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: a lot of drivers, at least the ones behind you, don't want you to come to a complete stop at stop signs. They want you to do what they do, namely slow down, look both ways and roll through (provided there's no one there). I was passed by one of these drivers today, on the left at least (thank god). I had actually come to a complete stop because I thought that he was following me too closely and I figured that this action would somehow abate that. Not so much. I think that it's important for bicyclists to always rely on their own judgment and discretion and not to go out of their way to accommodate other road users. Just try to develop good judgment.
Be careful when biking across the crosswalk on Lee Highway that parallels Fort Myer Drive. Drivers come off the bridge and, assuming they don't get on the GW parkway, a lot of them turn right onto Lee Highway, often without slowing down to look to see if there are pedestrians or cyclists. This is the problem with having roads that all look like mini-highways. In any case, my crossing coincided with the right turn of that of an older women driving a gold SUV (Does anyone under the age of 60 think "you know what, gold is a classy color for a car"?) who had the kindness of spirit to stop prior to hitting me. I had the signal and I took my time getting across the intersection. I think that taking a long time to get across intersections is really useful and not (just) spiteful. There's a big psychological difference between slowing your car to let someone across and stopping to let someone cross and I think it's important to get drivers to stop rather than slow. Of course, this might be imperiling, but I wouldn't do it if I thought it was really unsafe. I think it's considerably less safe to rush because that reinforces the supremacy of motorists and anything that does that leads to higher speeds and greater danger to non-motorists. It's like a temporary, moving road-diet.
I think that Arlington hired some green Subaru Forresters to replace old ART buses, maybe on account of the strike. I mean, what else would explain the one parked in the bus stop in front of the Court House post office? Bicyclists are the only road users who disobey traffic laws for their own convenience, right? Relatedly, isn't there a better place to put a mailbox? Every day somebody is stopped there.
I think that the stretch of Fairfax between Washington and 10th would be a great place for a painted bike lane, right next to the sidewalk. I don't think that Arlington County has any painted lanes and this would be a nice, relatively out-of-the-way place to put one. Plus, it would serve as a visual connector and path-marker between the lanes on Wilson/Claredon and Fairfax.
Headwinds suck. That's all.

Ride In 6/23

I can't recommend highly enough keeping your tire pressure where it should be. Nothing makes you feel like more of a lumbering oaf than uninflated tires. I mean, aside from being a lumbering oaf. I used to rely on the pumps outside of bicycle shops to inflate my tires, which was good, because it was free and it precluded my having to buy my own pump. This, however, led to me not inflating my tires frequently enough because I never wanted to stop on my way home to do so and I didn't really want to stop on my way in to do so either. Once I tried to use the free pump outside of a Georgetown bike shop and I managed to completely disinflate my front tire (because the pump was broken. This is my excuse and I'm sticking to it) and I had to walk down to another stop to reinflate it. So, if you have the space or the inclination, I think a floor pump is worth the investment.You can use a hand pump, but that's not as easy.
Soon there will be two Super Pollos within a mile from my home, one of which I will pass each day on my ride home. I have only recently discovered the wonders of charcoal chicken and while I'm sure that there are other eateries of this ilk that are superior (I'm not yet a connoisseur), I like Super Pollo just fine. Will this lead to a blog post about the best way to transport chicken parts and fried plantains by bike? Probably. The soon-to-be-open Super Pollo is in the new building with Jimmy Johns and the Sandy Spring bank. Would you put your money in a bank whose name sounds like a down-and-out Cape Cod timeshare motel? (My preferred down-and-out Cape Cod timeshare motel is Cap'n Gladcliff for what it's worth) Just saying.
Lots of traffic in some unexpected places today. For example, coming down Washington Boulevard past the Red Top lot (my preferred Arlington taxi company) and a lot of cars coming up Highland heading towards Wilson. Normally I can make my "Except Bicycles" left turn from 13th with no delay. Where was everyone going today?
Little kid in a power wheels riding up the sidewalk on Key. I think his was a truck, but I'm glad to discover that Power Wheels also come in SmartCar variations, which I believe are almost the exact size of an actual SmartCar. In case anyone is wondering if I'm going to do something like bemoan the fact that we're indoctrinating our children into a car culture from an early age and not stressing to our little kids the negative externalities associated with driving and instead equalizing the act of driving with the idea of the play of carefree youth, I wasn't planning to.
Rode behind a girl on an 80s Panasonic. Yeah, it's the same Panasonic that made your family's VCR. The more you know...
I did my best to stop at both bike lights on the Custis. And I sort of really did stop. Maybe not like 100%, but more stopped than not stopped. Compliance accomplished.
Decided to ride up Wisconsin from Whitehaven to Massachusetts. Is it much of a crime to ride through a red light if you're doing it at the exact same speed as someone jaywalking? Especially if you're riding in such a way that she's your human shield from approaching traffic leaving the British School? Is it just morally questionable, even if it's pragmatic?
Sometimes it's a good idea to wait behind the UPS instead of trying to race around it before the driver pulls forward. This might be because the UPS van is only going to move 50 feet.
On occasion, I ride in the door zone. This is especially the case when I'm riding on a major road, like Wisconsin or Massachusetts, where the speeds are fairly high and there's no bike facilities. I use the door zone, probably unsafely, as a de facto bike lane, happy to have the four feet between the parked cars and the travel lane to myself. When riding in the door zone, I spend a lot of time looking in the side mirrors to check for any occupants in the vehicles. I figure that if there's no one inside the car, the door probably won't swing open. Though, I'm sure that the technology-enabled laziness will soon make it such that remote controls will fling open doors every which way and bicyclists will have virtually no hope of ever anticipating their demise. But for now, looking in the mirror works fairly well for me and I guess it's a tip that I'm passing on to you.


Ride Home 6/22

My place of work happens to be across from a church and this church happens to raising money for charity, namely the Heifer Project. This seems admirable and they've apparently enlisted (preumably) children in their cause. Here's a picture of the, I don't know, decoupage that they've put together to advertise their progress:

Now, I don't mean to do a whole exigesis and I don't want to mock charitable Christian children (too much), but I have a few concerns. First, three bunnies. How's that gonna work? Second, giant bumble bee? Does he get one of the bunnies? What's that gonna make? One pig and one sheep? Problem! Is that a hippopotamus?  And a disembodied horse head? Is this the Godfather? Anyway. Now, due to my very real, latent catholic guilt, I'll be writing a check to the Methodist children's group trying to buy livestock for the world's poor.
Bumper stickers are for lighthearted fun and should have things on them like a picture of a crosshairs and the statement "This is My Peace Symbol" or a picture of a bomber and "Peace Through Air Superiority."  Or maybe bumper stickers shouldn't be used to endorse casual militarism. I don't know.
I like my sexism like I like my booze: straight and body dysmorphing. And now I can buy it on sale!

Turns out that the alien hive didn't yield a hive of brain-eating alien supermonsters, but instead an alien beacon.
Better than a pile of mashed potatoes. 
It's actually part of a display put together by (I think) the Rosslyn BID to promote and differentiate this neighborhood/business district of Arlington County. There's even a map of notable locations:
Pictorial representation of geography. 
I like the idea of putting a map over here. Lots of tourists in the general vicinity and I wouldn't want them not to find the Ruby Tuesday or any other important locale. My concern, however, is with the sloglan, which you can't really see here. It's this:
Rediscover a new horizon
Now, this is both geospatially and epistemologically confusing, if not downright impossible. Horizons are tricky things, in that they are liminal spaces and also in that discovery of a horizon is a relatively meaningless thing, given that there is no one distinct horizon, as there is, let's say, one distinct Moon. Given our relative perceptions, aren't we constantly discovering distinct horizons of completely variable mutability?  This doesn't even address the idea of the difficulty of re- (as in again) discovering something new. For example, did Columbus re-discover America for a post-Ericsonian Europe? And can we even talk about the same landmass in the context of rediscovery, since both were "discovering" lands that exist in a totally different discourse and intellectual and historical context? As you might have guessed, this sort of consumed me for much of the ride home.

UPDATE: I looked at the picture more closely and I was wrong. It's just Discover a New Horizon. Still lame, but not as bad as I incorrectly implied. My sincerest apologies to the Rosslyn BID. 

When you jog in the bike lane, bicyclists will pass you. This is just what happens. Don't get snippy about it.
Think the air in my front tire is low. I will address this before riding again tomorrow.

Ride In 6/22

I spent much of the early part of my ride anxiously fretting that either my back wheel would fall out or my back tire would explode. This is the level of confidence I have in my own repairs. There are only so many ways to brace yourself for the idea that your bike will break and after maybe a mile or two, I gave up on it. I guess I didn't do too terribly negligent of a job. Small victory.
At the intersection of Veitch and Lee Highway, a man lined up next to me and when the light turned green, I proceeded to bike across the intersection to get into the sidewalk that leads to the trail, whereas he opted to salmon down the roadway and pick up the sidewalk at the next intersection. This wouldn't have bothered me so much except for that fact that he wearing wearing a tank top and I'm radically pro-sleeve. Did he think that my sleeved attire would necessitate slow travel whereas his bare upper arms mandated his much more rapid movement down the trail? We were never stopped again, so I didn't have an opportunity to ask.
Ever start walking to work and just have to rip your shirt off because it's too hot? Or something? Cause I think you might be that guy I passed by Nash Street. He was two slipped-off sneakers away from not being able to enter a convenience store.
Is there some sort of law of physics/sociology that explains why some groups of people have the tendencies of gases in that they spread out the fill the maximum amount of space possible? Do other animals do this or is this specifically a human trait? Is there a scientific discipline called experimental comparative zoology whereby I can rent some pack animals from a local zoo or game farm and see what happens when I unleash them on the Key Bridge sidewalk? Would a sheep look back with the same level of confused resentment as the outermost teen girl did this morning when I rang my bell to pass? (Yes, I know I complain about this a lot.)
Sometimes on my commute, actual fun stuff happens. Today, for example, I was challenged to a race and it was kind of awesome. Not like a fake Cat 6 where me and some other guy are just going along and seeing how fast we can go, but a straight-up actually verbalized challenge. On 36th between S and T, a guy who must have been no older than 20 rode his bike out from the alleyway. He wag long and lanky, with a mop of dreadlocks, sagging baggy jeans and a loose white undershirt. And headphones. I passed him and turned left down T heading to 37th and he must have followed. On 37th around Whitehaven, I notice that he's following me pretty closely and then he pulls up alongside of me and says "Let's do this! Let's do this!" You gotta love a guy who's his own hype man. Now, some bike commuters are just whiny prigs and to prove that wasn't me, I looked over and was like "You wanna do this?" and then he nods and goes for it. We ride side-by-side for the first 10 yards or so until I decided to make use of the considerable mechanical advantage of my bike, drop the bar end shifter two clicks, push down a little harder on the pedals and put myself in front by about ten lengths. I'm beating him to the stop sign and I decide to slow down and look back to see if I was going to need to put in another kick to get up Tunlaw or if our race was over. I guess it was over because he went off in another direction, saying something garbled to me, to which I responded "All right, man" in a manner I hope was both jocular and respectful. Did I utterly exhaust myself in trying to beat a kid riding a crappy box store bike up a gentle slope? Yeah, I did. Could I have stayed in front of him if the race was any longer? Not entirely sure. Are there youth on bikes challenging strangers to races through the tonier and slopier parts of DC? Well, at least one.
Since the rest of my ride couldn't possibly match the excitement of my impromptu battle, I sort of tuned out. I did notice, however, that the driver of Mercedes SUV who cut me off and ran two stop signs also illegally parked in front of the Strabucks. Gotta admire the consistency.


Ride Home 6/21

Let's keep this short.
Love seeing old guys walking multiple dogs. Especially when it's like 7 dogs. I don't know if he's in the professional dog walking business or an amateur looking to turn pro or a horder in desperate need of psychological evaluation, but in any case, it's great to see. Dogs looked like they were having fun. But dogs tend to look like that.
Ever had a car tailgate you so you decide to turn and then the car also turns and then you go to wave the guy around you and then it turns out where you're slowing down is in front of the guy's driveway? Yeah. This is what happens when you try to be nice.
Mercedes, meet lamppost. Oh, you already did. That's unlucky. Would it be ok if you moved your car out of the bike lane? Still sort of pissed about the lamppost thing? Yeah, figured.
I really worry that I'm going to get too close to a car when I go to pass by and my metal basket is going to scrape its paint and then it's going to be a big ordeal. Lawsuits and whatever. This worry isn't really actionable- I'm just sharing my deepest, darkest basket-related fears.
If you buy three tubes at Revolution Cycles, you get a slight discount . Now that I have tubes, I hope to never get another flat. Universal rule. Murphy's Law or karma or the kind or the kind of irony Alanis Morisette sang about works this way, right?
Twins in matching clothing: fair or foul? Like if they're under 5? Probably fair. Is this in any way helpful though? For parental purposes? Like if you're at the playground and you happen to be really good at Go Fish, then maybe it makes sense.
When I walk, I habitually look directly in front of me to see what's/who's coming. Not askance or behind me or above my head. Just straight ahead. It's amazing what you'll see and how much it reduces the stress of being startled by a slowly approaching bicyclist.
Uphill is uphill, even when it's hot.
Pet peeve: blocking the bike lane to unload passengers when there's an open parking spot directly parallel to the place you're idling. Just pull into the spot! What you're doing makes it worse for drivers looking to park and for bicyclists just trying to get by. And if quickly as you think you're dumping granny or kiddo curbside, it's never actually that fast. Your flashers do not somehow mitigate this inconvenience. This is annoying.
Biked over the same bit of road debris that caused my flat yesterday. In retrospect, quite dumb.

Ride In 6/21

It happens to be my birthday today and to celebrate yet another year of ripening, the Official Wife took out me for a lovely breakfast of coffee and pastries. This, luckily, pushed back my commute past the point at which it was raining and I was doubly thankful for her thoughtfulness.
I didn't replace my tube last night or make any attempt to mend my tire and instead relied on the fact that I have a second bicycle. Is this the height of laziness? Perhaps. Or maybe I'm just making sure that all of the air has had ample time to escape through the puncture. One mustn't rush these things. Or I'm just dreading doing this most routine bit of bike repair out of the feat that I will a) further ruin my bicycle, b) frustrate myself to an unfathomable extent or c) somehow manage to knock over my birthday cake during the tire removal process. As unlikely as (c) sounds, I wouldn't rule it out. I'm quite terrible at bike repair.
There are a few things in life that are true that I just wish weren't true. Among these is my belief that I can ride to work in my work clothes and avoid arriving looking grody and fairly unrepresentable. It's just not happening, and yet I persist in trying. I don't know if it's a question of distance, exertion, or the fact that the summer air in DC has the same amount of moisture as the inside of a fishbowl, but given my current commute, it's simply necessary to bring a change of clothes. Forget Mary Poppins, I suffer the Chris Farley effect.
The primary advantage of having grips that are not broken is that they prevent your hand from digging into the metal of your handlebars, which is neither ergonomic nor comfortable.If anyone tells you otherwise, pity them.
On the Transport of Coffee
I like to drink coffee in the morning. I also like to commute by bicycle. To that end, I have one of these, though not this exact model. It attaches to my handlebars, leaving my java (I don't really call coffee this) accessible. I have attempted to use my coffee holder twice, once successfully and once not so much. What I've learned is that there's no sense in attempting to transport joe (also don't call coffee this)  via bicycle unless you have a sealable travel mug with a tight lid. Don't use to issued paper or plastic cup. Don't rely on a plastic lid. Don't expect leaving room will somehow be sufficient to keep the tar (another slang term for coffee that I don't use)  from spilling. Those little green stoppers? They don't work either. The roads are horribly bumpy and you will spill your coffee everywhere and maybe even crash your bike. Plus, if you have a reusable travel mug, this will make you greener and even more insufferable to those around you. One last thing: don't drink while riding. If you're anything like me, you'll end up with a coffee stained shirt and probably crash your bike. Though this might be considered Seattle Cycle Chic.
The above advice can also be used for these other beverages:
  • Milkshakes
  • Kombucha
  • Slurpees
  • Anything else
Got into something of an unorganized "race" with some guy in spandex on a Gary Fisher mountain bike, who first passed me when I was slowly making my way across Lee Highway to get onto the bridge. (Side note: anyone notice more cyclists in the travel lanes of the Key Bridge lately? I have and, while not questioning your rights, I question your judgment). Just because I'm in my work clothes, riding a foppish bike with two affixed folding metal baskets doesn't mean that I'm some slow dolt and I felt like this was important to prove at the time for a reason I can't in any way justify now. I thought I really stuck it to him when I made it up the steep but short 35th street hill faster than he did. Take that, some guy I don't know and don't have anything against! He stopped right behind me at 35th and Reservoir and then somehow got around me by taking a different route to 37th. I rode behind him up 37th, but whereas I turned to go up Tunlaw, he salmoned up the rest of 37th. I totally could have passed him on the next climb. What end this would advance, I don't have any idea. Just wanted to stand up for people riding bicycles that have the unique ability to become an extension of people's lifestyles and personal tastes rather than simply a piece of sporting equipment. And I guess I was also a little bored.


Ride Home 6/20

I have an indeterminate amount of time to write this post for reasons I don't care to explain, so here goes.
WHAT. A. BEAUTIFUL. RIDE. HOME. WHAT. A. STUPID. USE. OF CAPITALIZATION. AND. PERIODS. It was really gorgeous weather, the kind of spring day that I wish we actually had in spring. Days like this don't come around often and I'm glad that I was able to ride my bicycle today. It made up for the rain this morning. Easily.
Saw of lot of random nonsense on the way home through the District. People carry some weird stuff in the back seats of their cars. For example, in my back seat currently, we have an inflatable drink cooler in the shape of kiddie pool with a protruding palm tree. I saw some guy with a rather large assemblage of neckties (more than 20). I don't think he was a necktie salesman. Perhaps he was some yet-to-be-caught Strangler. But a classy one. People also transport their dogs in the back of their automobiles and sometimes the dogs get very excited when they pass by bicyclists. Woof to you as well.
I saw a dog wearing a boot (back left paw), but the boot looked like it was a cut-up trash bag tightened around the leg with a rubber band.
Almost crashed into a guy who was transporting surf boards across the street from his parked jeep into his home. Surf boards! That's definitely a first. Mahalo and pay better attention when you're carrying your surf board across city streets. Aloha, Brian.
A pack of five cyclists with various level of super-biker-itude rode past me at the intersection of Fort Myer and the Custis Trail and I figured I just had to follow them and see what that was all about. (At a certain point, everyone is someone else's superbiker). They weren't riding in a group, but they could have been based on their vaguely matching outfits in the bluish color family. While they diverged and some stayed on the road while the others (and me) remained on the trail, I found myself behind two guys, the latter of which was wearing a cycling jersey that said QUISPO (I think) and had an animated alien character drawn on it. He also had on rather large cycling shoes that had an outer layer of yellow plastic. The shoes looked like the cycling equivalent of duck shoes. Strange.
I hung with them for a while and then went along. All about the Custis were cyclists, spread out the way that professional cyclists might get spread out up a long climb.
I liked the the driver of the SUV I followed up Key Boulevard today drove in the middle of the street directly at the traffic circles. I felt like there was something extra efficient about this, or maybe just symmetrical.
Pop. Fizzzzzzzzzzz. That's the sound of a flat tire. And that's what befell me less than a mile from home. In terms of where to get a flat tired, I couldn't have been better situated. I was literally across the street from a bike shop. Did I go in and get a tube? No, I didn't. Why? Because I'm an idiot. I just walked my bike home and not even especially mopey. These things happen I've been told. I didn't attempt a side of the road patch because seriously? I'm like less than a mile from home. It's not that bad of a walk. At least it wasn't on my birthday.

Ride In 6/20

My biggest dilemma on rainy days isn't whether to ride (I'm smug like that):  it's whether or not to wear a hat. I really don't like it when my head gets wet. In fact, I'm almost pathological about it. On the other hand, I really don't like it when I needlessly sweat because I'm wearing a superfluous head covering. It's not like it was cold and I needed the hat to keep both dry and warm, which would warrant the wearing of the wool cap I wore. I just wanted to keep my head dry or at least dryer than the kind of dry a helmet keeps your head, which isn't very dry at all. Maybe I should stop wearing my cap under my helmet and get a helmet cover. This seems excessive given the length of time I'm actually exposed to the elements, but so are my pathologies. I just wish that helmet covers were more whimsical, but it appears that the fun ones only come in kid sizes.
If you don't have fenders, you're really missing out. Though even if you do have fenders, you can't ride through puddles with total impunity. This is why I bring a change of socks. If only they sold more whimsical shoe covers...
I don't like to holler (ever) at other bicyclists to make sure that they're paying attention, but sometimes it's a necessity. I'd like to assume that all bicyclists out there are conscientious and safety-orientated and hyper-aware of their surroundings and while this is self-aggrandizing, it's also an unfair burden to put on people. Even the most diligent road user is bound to slip up every once in a while and it's better to shout out a warning than to assume that you're seen. I like to use my bell to this end because it seems less personal and judgmental. When shouting from your bike, "hey" or "stop" (which I yelled this morning) are effective because they're short and declarative phrases with clearly intended imperatives. They get the job done, but with little nuance and they seem kind of hostile. No one likes to be yelled at by a stranger, especially if the stranger is also telling you how to comport yourself in public. One of my biggest issues with motorists (and sort of with everyone else) is their willingness to tell others what they should and shouldn't do. It's highly annoying.
As I approached the intersection of Clarendon and Fillmore, riding in the bikelane, I saw another cyclist coming down Fillmore and he definitely wasn't looking for oncoming traffic and he definitely wasn't stopped. I wasn't sure if he was planning to stop at the light or if he was planning on merging into the lane, a maneuver which I'm fairly certain would have resulted in our crashing. So, I yelled "stop" and I biked by. And this is the part where I would normally write "Sorry, dude" but I don't have to write that because the guy later stopped behind me and I turned around and said "Sorry for yelling. I didn't know if you saw me," to which he said "Yeah, I saw you. Thanks" in a way that made it unclear if the thanks was for the helpful yelling or the needless apology.
I rode behind a guy who looked like he's been bike commuting since 1989 but because he was dressed as if it were still 1989. Bedecked in broad-striped polo shirt in maroon and sky blue, canvas/cotton light blue pants, with tube socks pulled up and New Balance sneakers, all topped with a Styrofoam helmet over what was probably a thinning hairline. Either we had a Blast From the Past situation (In how many movies must Brendan Fraser travel through time?) or this was a very, very committed hipster working on his throwback authenticity. 
Me and the guy I yelled out ended up riding uphill behind another guy on 35th and I think this is the most bicyclists that have ever ridden up 35th at the same time. Not even joking.
There were more people on bikes out today than I assumed there would be. I think I saw more people riding today than I do on a sunny day. I don't know what, if anything, this says about Washington's (incipient?) bike culture, but I can't help but think that it's a good thing. Unless of course it means that there's a certain cohort of bicycling masochists who only cycle in the rain and take the bus all other times. This would be weird, but since Washington is full of every other kind of masochist, it wouldn't be entirely surprising.
Do you think parents drive safer when they've got their kids in the car? I don't. Just a suspicion, but one born from riding past a bunch of schools each day. 
I made the mistake of reading internet comments about bicyclists (never do this) and I don't think that there's a subject that causes otherwise rational and fair-minded people to because hysterical reactionaries. Maybe dog parks. I was thinking on my way up New Mexico about how to address this and I didn't really come up with much. If only New Mexico were longer...
The best I could come up with is this:

1) People act in their own self-interest and are almost always hypocrites.
2) That means you have to make the interests of bicyclists akin to self-interest.
3) That means getting more people to ride bikes.
4) That means making it more convenient to ride and to increase the perception (and reality) of safety
5) That means building dedicated bike facilities, which carve out a space for bikes and reduce
6) That means inducing a violent reaction from non-bicyclists acting for their own perceived self-interest. 
7) That means status quo remains and the status quo is anti-bike.

So, yeah, like I said, I didn't get very far. I guess the goal would be to build a large enough constituency of people who bike (note: important to disambiguate 'people who bike' from 'bicyclists') to make it such that the violent opposition is met and matched, but that's hard to do. I'm beginning to remember why I don't try to tackle any of the hard bike issues on the blog and focus mostly on helmet covers and Brendan Fraser.


My non-European Vacation

Initally, I didn't want to write this post. This internet is littered with stories of bicyclist-motorist confrontation (as well as pictures of kittens with funny captions) and adding one more hardly seems worth it. It's not cathartic and I don't think that writing it out will help me or you understand anything "big picture" about bikes and cars and people any better we you have previously. But, you take the good, you take the bad (and there you have...?) and sometimes bizarre confrontations happen and I feel obligated to share this one with you. I wax an awful lot on this blog about how great and wonderful bike commuting is and frankly it wouldn't be an accurate representation if I withheld the fact form you that sometimes you get confronted and it can make you feel like shit. For a little while at least. And then you get over it and you forget it and you move on with your life and get back on the bike and do it all again.
I was riding on Fairfax Drive between Washington and 10th, in front of the Catholic church and school and on a street that doubles as a parking lot. There is no bike lane, but it's a short street between two major streets with bike lanes. I was riding on the right-ish but I wasn't hugging the curb. There was a red light ahead and I wasn't go especially fast.
I was honked at and I moved over to the right. At the stop light (because red lights mean that there's nowhere to go), I looked over to the driver and he rolled down his window. I can't recall with any degree of accuracy, but here's a general sense of the conversation.
What I wanted/ hoped to convey:
  • Why are you honking?
  • There's a red light. We've both got nowhere to go. 
  • There's no bike lane here.
  • Even if you pass me, there's a red light there and you're going to stop anyway. 
  • Where were you going to go, even if I wasn't there?
What I think he conveyed:
  • You need to move as far over to the right as possible. 
  • You should ride in the bike lane or where there should be a bike lane, which is next to the curb. 
  • "This isn't Europe." (verbatim) 
What I didn't say:
  • The law says that I can take the lane. (If someone is a coot enough to honk at you, appeals to the law aren't going to make him go "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that your behavior is perfectly legal. Now that I know that, I recognize that my grievance is wrong and I wholeheartedly apologize for the misunderstanding.)
  • Any curse words and personal invective or insults. I also didn't raise my voice. (This is a big win for me and I'm kind of impressed with myself) 
Then he rolled up his window. And then we waited next to each other for another 30 seconds. Because we were stopped at a red light and there was nowhere to go. Have I mentioned that? I didn't pull my bike in front of his car. I didn't take a picture of him or his license plate. I didn't threaten to call the cops. I didn't actually call the cops. I didn't try to race him once the light turned green. I just kind of looked at him, trying to process the whole thing. When the light turned green, he drove away and that was that. 
I wasn't so much angry as I was extremely confused. I've done a lot of dickish things on a bike and my share of scofflawism and sketchy moves that have definitely inconvenienced drivers and I've done other things that can definitely be perceived as inconveniencing drivers, but never did I expect that dawdly rolling down the right-ish side of a relatively quiet street towards a red light would result in confrontation. I just don't get it and I still don't get it and I don't think I'm ever going to get it. I think that the core of this man's grievance was that I was riding my bicycle and that this, in its very nature, was the wrong thing to do. To my mind, this kind of grievance is dismissible on its face because it's ridiculous. 
So, that's my story about weird confrontation. It wasn't scary. I didn't feel threatened. Of all the miles I've ridden and all the commutes I've completed, I've been confronted by randos not even a handful of times, so I still think I'm coming out ahead. But these things happen and while they can be upsetting, I encourage you not to get angry. For Arlington-specific information for dealing with drivers far more hostile than this one, read here
There's a difference between an agressive driver and someone who just doesn't know how to get along with bicyclists. There's no sense in escalating a conflict with the latter. So, you yell and you scream and you "assert your rights" and then what? You leave angrier? You ruin your day thinking about what a jerk someone was? You blog about it like some passive-aggressive egomaniac? Sometimes people (drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, beekeepers) are just jerks and I'm just happy that there aren't more of them. Unless they were soda jerks because that would make the world much more old-timey and fun. 

No Ride In 6/17

Working from home today. Probably ride somewhere later and if any eventful (or what qualifies as eventful for the purposes of this blog) happens, I'll write something up. In the mean time, I've just been watching the traffic cluster that currently surrounds the Pentagon and I can't feel anything but for people trapped in the cars. Aside from cost and distance, I think one of the main reasons that people drive is "freedom"- you leave when you want, you go the way that you want, you don't need to sit next to someone, you don't need to worry about transfers, you can (maybe) park as close to your final destination as possible, etc. All of these things make transit seem unappealing and make driving seem pretty great. In short, you don't have to rely on someone or something else to get you from your exact starting location to your exact final location. And that's true to an extent. But on the other hand, there's no "freedom" at all in a mode of travel where you can be so affected by the uncoordinated actions of others. You hardly set your own schedule when you're stuck in traffic.
This isn't meant to suggest that everyone should forego driving. For some people, due to choice or circumstance, driving is the only convenient way to get to work. But for the people who do have a choice, it's worth remembering that your 'freedom' is circumscribed no matter how you go.


Ride Home 6/16

"Mommy, why is that bike man crying?" asks an innocent child walking hand-in-hand with an adult woman as she sees me bike by on New Mexico Avenue.
"First off, I'm your nanny. Mommy is that blonde lady you see on the weekend," she replies coolly. "He's crying not because he has allergies and when he bikes downhill into the wind tears inadvertently stream down his face. No, he's crying because he has to ride a bicycle and can't afford even to take the bus. He's also crying because he thinks he's better than everyone else."
The tot replies "But when I bike it makes me happy. He should be happy."
"Bike commuters are never happy."
"Just like Mommy! Let's get in the car and drive to that playground over there" she exclaims as she points excitedly to the schoolyard half a block away.
"I'll get the SUV."
It was one of those days when everything seemed to pass by slower than usual. Slower downhill, slower uphill. Slower when I pedal, slower when I don't. Hope I wasn't incepted. Unrelatedly, I have this strange compunction want to break up my inherited energy conglomerate.
I hate, hate, hate making a left turn at a four way stop. Hate it. Taking turns shouldn't be as hard as it is. If I'm in a car, people know what to do. On a bike, all common sense goes out the window and no one knows what to do. Spoiler alert: it's still taking turns based on who got there first.
Taxi ran into the back of a bus on M street. Big delays coming into the District from Virginia. Sucks. Good thing it was Dump the Pump Day and everyone was taking transit. Though I guess sucked for the people on the bus that got rear-ended.
I noticed a lot of people hanging out on the Aqueduct bridgehead. They sure looked hungry and thirsty.
Especially for fried potato dough covered in sour cream and cheese and for cheap draft beer. I'd also serve kurtoskalacs. My little Hungarian popup stand would be awesome. Kickstarter anyone?
Crazy alien hive surrounded by orange fence? Yeah, probably. Dont say you weren't warned.
Call the Starship Troopers. 
Don't honk at someone going slowly because he's driving behind a bicyclist that you can't see. I'm constantly amazed by the level of "I know better than you" exhibited by drivers towards their fellow motorists. Really? You really think the guy in front of you is going slow because of some crazy whim and not for a reason? Really? I think that there should be the equivalent of Mail Goggles for car horns.
New bike lane on Quinn. Don't know how far it goes.
I think that they've slimmed down the painted bicycles from previous iterations. I guess Arlington County is looking for a sleeker ride, maybe a Linus.
The bike lane by the Clarendon Metro is not a kiss-and-ride. If you stop there, you will certainly not guess a kiss from me. I will instead look at you askance and make a sour face. I will probably even turn my head around and glare at you after I've biked by. If this glare offends you, DON'T BLOCK THE BIKE LANE. This is the surest way to avoid said glare.
I finally noticed the ominous clouds when I was only a few minutes from home. I dislike ominous clouds. I prefer my clouds fluffy and benign. I prefer my scrambled eggs overcooked and sort of hard, with most of the yellow cooked toward brown. I dislike runny eggs more than I dislike ominous clouds. Beat the rain home, but still had to walk the poodle in it. The poodle likes the rain less than I like runny eggs.

Ride In 6/16

While walking the dog this morning, I finished up the Slate Culture Gabfest weekly podcast, which covered "urban cyclists" as its third topic of conversation. I encourage everyone to listen, not because I agree with much they said, but just as a reminder of how far we have to go to explain to reasonable people who say they are "pro-bicyclist" about the kinds of concerns bicyclists actually have. I encourage you not to listen to Slate's Hang Up and Listen sports-themed podcast because they chastise writers for being navel-gazing and self-indulgent and that's sort of my schtick and I'd prefer that you not catch on.
I expected it to be cooler on account of the recently fallen rain and I wore my bright jacket on account of the grey haziness, but I probably shouldn't have on account of the muggy heat. As Benjamin Franklin once never said, "Those who would trade visibility for comfort deserve neither." He also never said "A pennyfarthing saved is a pennyfarthing earned" and "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a bike commuter a boring, self-righteous prick."
If you're in a bike lane and turning right into another bike lane, to what degree must should you stop at a red light? According to the law, vehicles are allowed to turn on red after coming to a full stop and making sure the intersection is clear of traffic and pedestrians, but if you're only going from one bike lane to another, are you even really entering the intersection? Pedestrians don't have to come to a complete stop at the corner in order to turn right to walk down the sidewalk. Should bike lanes be treated more like the sidewalk (a place restricted to non-motorized traffic, where users, due to their relatively low speeds, can negotiate amongst themselves the sequencing of their own movements)? This is hardly the most pressing legal concern for cyclists.
Clarendon was a sea of khaki. Nothing unusual in that. It might be the most khaki place in the metro region.
If a big truck is blocking the bike lane in the course of making a delivery, it's blocking the bike lane. Them's the breaks and there's no use getting upset about it. Though I have much more understanding for big 18 wheelers blocking the lane due to girth than for delivery vans double parking.
Godspeed, double hiking pole user on the Key Bridge. The slopes of Georgetown are indeed treacherous.
There should be an outdoor cafe on the bridgehead of the defunct Aqueduct Bridge. Here's a picture:

View Larger Map
It's towpath accessible and would get a good amount of foot traffic in the summer. But it's almost certainly NPS-owned and thus inaccessible for enterprising entrepreneurs. If I owned the concession, I'd sell langos and draft beer.
Have you ever stopped at intersection that doesn't even have a stop sign because there's a cop car sitting right there and you have a guilty conscience and are paranoid about getting a ticket because you read too many bicycle crackdown stories on the interwebs? I'm just glad no one was tailgating me. 
The intersection of 37th and Whitehaven would be a great place for a 'take turns' sign. There should really be more innovation is urban traffic management. It's far too conservative.
I like ending my trip on a longish climb. It makes the commute feel way more like an stage win than just getting to work. I heard that one of the hidden features of the Commuter Relief Act is the mandatory installation of podiums next to all bike racks. But then we'd get all the commuter doping scandals and two year bans and whatnot.


Ride Home 6/15

For whatever reason, I decided that I would ride down Wisconsin today rather than my usual New Mexico/Tunlaw route. This decision happened to coincide with a coworker's decision to bike the same way and we biked along Nebraska together for a bit. It was an odd sort of ride, where we weren't exactly riding together, but also tried to carry on a half-shouted conversation about nothing in particular. I learned that she was planning to drop her bike off somewhere near the intersection of Connecticut and Nebraska because she was going to the baseball game and also that she doesn't like biking on Nebraska because it's too narrow, which is true in so far as there's no space dedicated exclusively for bicycles. The road itself is plenty wide, just much of it is dedicated to moving cars. It was the kind of awkward conversation that you can only have with a coworker that you see everyday, but with whom you have nothing more than the most superficial of relationships. Having it on bicycles made no real difference, though that's hardly the bicycle's fault. Social ineptitude is the same regardless of your means of travel. I imagine it would be worse on a Segway.
I took Van Ness to Wisconsin and then the fun began. Wisconsin is a street that have a seemingly endless supply of manhole covers, all of which are approximately three to four inches below the surface of the roadway. It wasn't so much bumpy as it was craggy and the ride was rough to the point of uncomfortable because you can't exactly weave when you're boxed in by cars, buses and delivery vans in various states of pulling in or out. I'm glad I didn't break my bike or my wrist or both.
The National Cathedral is quite picturesque. The 31 bus less so. Though the driver (of the bus, not the cathedral) waved me around on the left side when I wedged myself between the bus and some stopped cars. I thought it was nice that he noticed the predicament I put myself in and graciously let me in front.
Sometimes assholes drive BMWs and sometimes those assholes need to drive really fast and aggressively and pass bicyclists as if we were on a racetrack and not on a street with (maybe) 35 mph speed limit. Then we stopped at the light on Wisconsin and 34th and I rode up behind him and stopped really really close to his rear bumper and stood there. This proved nothing. When the light changed he cut off the driver next to him and I turned down 34th. Good times.
34th was a mess. When cars get backed up, bikes have to slow down, too. That's because half-completed turns (I know that you're just trying to alternate and assert your place, but if there's no room, there's no room) manage to block where I would normally ride, so I rode on the lefthand side of the cars. If you ever want to know why a bicyclist is doing something, the answer is probably because he's reacting to something a driver has done. Bicycling is very reactive. Turns out a utility truck was blocking the left lane on 34th at M.
How many cameras and phones have been dropped from the Key Bridge as a result of attempts to photograph kayakers and crew teams?
I took the Custis, initially riding behind an older guy in lycra and then behind a woman wearing what I think was a free shirt given to Deloitte employees who assisted taxpayers at a VITA site. Free t-shirts make for really good bikewear. Free tax preparation makes for useful community service. Using your tax refund to buy a bicycle? That'd be a good idea and would close the loop to some otherwise totally random observations about shirts and taxes.
I rode the Custis to Lee Highway (turning off the trail the way I would to get to Veitch), skirted around another bus and at the bottom of the hill, got lucky that there was no oncoming traffic and made a left on Kirkwood back to Washington and then up Fairfax, in the exact reverse of how I rode in. I think this is the first time I've taken Kirkwood in the morning and evening. I can confirm that Kirkwood does in fact slope since I rode the uphill slope on the way home. Joggers in the bike lane. Gotta jog somewhere, I guess, and there isn't a sidewalk on both sides of the street. Joggers should be fierce advocates for better pedestrian infrastructure. Is that a polite way for me to say that they should get the hell out of the bike lane? Sure.

Ride In 6/15

This was the third day in a row where the morning's temperature was brisk and cool and I'm beginning to forget what oppressive, unbearable heat and humidity feel like. If this trend continues, I'll have no choice but to start microwaving my bike clothes pre-ride in an attempt to approximate normal summer conditions so when the pendulum of grossness swings back around I'll be prepared. For the record, you can microwave bike-specific attire as well as regular work clothes, assuming you don't wear clothes with metal adornment.
Even when there are relatively "a lot" of bikes on the road, as there were this morning, it still never feels like a lot. I guess it's a matter of perception and I should be content with "more than usual," but sometimes you want "a lot" to be a real "a lot" and not a relative "a lot." The preceding sentences illuminate my liberal arts education, one that eschewed math courses or anything resembling quantitative analysis.
I rode down Kirkwood Road, which is residential and quiet and has bike lanes between Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway. It also slopes gently. I opted for Kirkwood because I hadn't taken it in a while and I remember it being quite pleasant and I was in the mood for pleasant. And for as nice as the road is, it has a pretty crappy connection to the bike facilities that wait near, but not on, Lee Highway. The intersection is not exactly bike-friendly, even though one can pick up the Custis Trail about 300 yards away. Maybe just a couple of sharrows (or a bike lane?) between Kirkwood and the 66 overpass would go a pretty long way, to say nothing about making the trail entrance something better than a curb cut in front of a steep, four foot slope of asphalt. The area could probably do with a bit of traffic calming, as well. It's 6 lanes across from a parking lot dominated shopping center near the entrance to a limited access highway. A large shopping plaza with a good burger place, a food specialty shop, a grocery store (and even a bike shop!) abutting a well-used bike trail and yet, it's a total pain for bicyclists. So it goes.
A welcome respite on the Custis until the Marriott exit, where an inconsiderate driver blocked the trail while waiting for the light to change. Not cool. I gave him my usual (ineffective) disparaging look and I hoped that the guy riding behind me did likewise. I almost turned and asked him if he glared too, but then I realized that not all people engage in such outwardly antisocial behavior and I'd be better off not exposing myself as the mean-spirited and callow jerk I am. How hard is it to keep your car off what looks like a sidewalk? Impossible? Because that's what I would guess based on what I see every day. I get it- you want to turn on the red and in order to do this, you want to see if any cars are coming and in order to see, you need to move your car forward. Solution: no turns on red over the trail. I think this would really help, though I suppose it doesn't really stop the creeping. Solution #2: some sort of spikes that emerge from the roadway? (Note: if your answer to any problem is "some sort of spikes," you're most likely wrong)
Be careful at the Georgetown side of the Key Bridge for cyclists turning from M. What frequently happens is that a cyclist rides in the left turn-only travel lane, but then bails to the sidewalk by making a wider turn. If you're not looking for it (and instead focusing on beating the countdown clock and getting across M yourself), you might get run biked into by a guy on a CaBi. If a CaBi rider and a non-CaBi rider collide, I'm pretty sure the non-CaBi rider is coming out of it worse. CaBis are like the medieval cavalry of bikes. Good thing there's no mandatory lance law.
The denizens of Glover Park, America's neighborhood, appear to have found their bicycles again. Quite a few bikers coming through there today. From the looks of it, it seems like everyone bikes down through Georgetown and then across town (I assume, that unlike me, most everyone worst in the core of DC and not on its periphery) and it's probably how I would go, but you could also come across Calvert and Observatory Circle to Massachusetts to Q and then downtown, maybe on 15th Street. Might be a little faster east that way, but I guess it depends on your exact final destination. This is the problem with giving unsolicited route planning advice to no one in particular. But I will not be deterred.
I stopped for a guy to let him cross the street with his dog (not in crosswalk), but I didn't take the lane and a black SUV just drove past us both. He then crossed and said thanks and I said "well, I tried" and he said "Ummm" because he didn't hear what I said, but knew that I said something and wanted to say something back. Next time I'll just talk to the dog.


Ride Home 6/14

I have a summer routine for leaving work that involves sunscreen and sunglasses and little questioning as to whether both or either of those will be necessary (I also have a winter routine that involves cutting open a tauntaun, but that's a different story). I didn't know that rain might be (literally) on the horizon and upon riding out of the garage, I found my sunglasses to be abundantly unnecessary and needlessly gloom-inducing. I can see gloom just fine and hardly need optical enhancements, so I pulled them off and threw them in my back pocket. I like the back pocket of a standard bicycle jersey for precisely this kind of thing (which has happened exactly once), but more to use to carry my phone and keys rather than having to stow them in my bag. Much can be said about the merits and demerits of bicycle specific clothing, but I figure if I'm going to change for work, I might as well wear a shirt that has a pocket in which I can keep the things I prefer to have on my person. Somewhere (Denmark?) a Dane is reading this and crying.
I realized that bicyclists and drivers pretty much approach stop signs same the same way. We both pump on the brakes before the sign to slow down to a crawl, crawl up to the sign (and past it), look both ways and then start towards full speed again. I think that I previously wrote that I'd never write about stop signs again, so I'm sorry.
Tips for beating the rain: hope it doesn't rain before you get where you're going. You can go fast, but if Zeus wants it to rain, it's gonna rain. No use stressing over it. Its just rain.
I was the fourth cyclist in a line of cyclist crossing the Key Bridge. That was sort of cool. No one in front of me had a bell though (or opted to find) and I elected to follow suit and not to ding either (since we were sort of spread out, there was no obvious ding envelope), so that's the deleterious effect of peer pressure for you.
Coincidentally timed my trip home to coincide with my wife's stepping out of her office on Wilson to wait for the bus home. That was nice. I heartily encourage all of you to arrange your routes home/place of spouse's employment so that you can see a loved one about halfway through your ride home. Ideally this won't involve you having to take a many mile detour or forcing your spouse to work at a place that involves a considerable skills mismatch. Also, you should rearrange your route home so that you pass a delicious burger joint and the associated wafting smells of grilled meat.
Behind another biker from roughly the Whole Foods through the intersection of Fairfax and 10th. At a stop light, he turned around and asked me if I wanted to go in front because I looked "like I wanted to go faster." I said that I didn't want to, until I changed my mind and then wanted to, but I waited until there was an appropriate amount of space for a non-aggressive-seeming pass. I think this kind of nicety is worthwhile.
Sometimes bicyclists are viewed as Zabka-esque jerks, immoral alpha-male fitness yahoos, and sometimes I contribute to this view by doing things that I later regret, such as sitting up on my saddle, holding my left hand out to the side in a frustrated WTF semi-shrug and saying "come on" as I cycled past some inconveniently jaywalking pedestrians, one of whom was wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt that was far too tight around his midsection. Was I in the right? Sure. Did they completely misunderestimate my speed and make a poor, lawbreaking decision to cross the path of oncoming traffic when there really wasn't ample room or time to do so? Yes. But am I doing anyone a favor by being a selfish jerk? Probably not. Is this inconsistent with anyone else's selfish jerky behavior? Not really. But it conforms to the pre-existing belief that people on bikes are assholes and it's stupid of me not to exhibit a bit more self-control and patience. I don't think that cyclists need to be better or more moral or more law-abiding than everyone else- I just think that, as a personal maxim, I should try not to be a jerk to people, even when I'm "in the right" because ultimately that doesn't do anything except lead me to write long, semi-apologetic, preening blog posts that serve neither to inform or entertain. And what fun is that?
I beat the rain, so, all things considered, I'm pretty happy.