Ride Home 11/30

Goodbye November. You came in like an ocelot and went out like a pterodactyl, or so the saying doesn't go. It was sufficiently cold, like October in New England cold and was forced to wear earflap cap and all sorts of cold-repressing doodads like gloves and socks and whatnot. And it was darkroom dark but without the safelights and with streelights and headlights and blinky lights instead. It was an odd ride home, soundtracked by Smokey Robinson at least in my head. People say I'm the life of the party because I tell a joke or two. I'm not actually the life of the party, but you could still trace the tracks of my tears. Please, I hope that I'm not the only serial cryer.
In bike commuting, you don't always get to do what you want to do. Or to rephrase, sometimes it's more prudent to do things, like go a certain speed or stay particularly close to the car in front of you, to forestall DANGER (Will, not Smokey, Robinson!) that you wouldn't do otherwise if left to your own devices. I consider it a part of the wholly imaginary compact embodied within the "share the road" concept, or perhaps more properly, the "I'd really like to make it home in one piece, so if I have to ride a little faster to avoid a potential disaster, I'm more than willing to do it" compact. I take a lot of pains to avoid a lot of pain and I've found so far that what I tend to do tends to make a lot of sense. Of course, it could just be complete happenstance. The place where I'm willing to make these compromises most frequently is along Massachusetts, especially at the Waterside Street interscetion. When that light turns green, I hustle like nobody's business to get myself as quickly as possible to the next light where the road opens up a bit. Do I have to do this? No. Am I legall bound to do it? Not at all. But does it, in my mind at least, put me in the best position to safely interact with those around me? Yeah, I guess.
Trench coats and sweat pants are the newest trend in bike attire. You read it here first. Unfortunately, trench coats and sweat pants are a well-established trend in other exercises, namely those related to sketchier activities.
I rode Q to 11th and then down 11th through downtown. I was the only bicyclist, except for the girl on the Peugot that had been recently overhauled. I think she had a hub generator as well, but I couldn't really tell. Along 11th I thought a lot about how some bicyclists "tuck" themselves in between moving traffic in the curb in a way that suggests/belies their feeling of vulnerability. Ironically, this makes them even more vulnerable.
And now, Christmas markets. After the Vietnam War, I moved to Hungary (what? 2005 was after the Vietnam War. I didn't say immediately after) and each year in Budapest, there was a Christmas Market in Vorosmarty ter and the Christmas Market was wonderful. It had mulled wine (gluwein/forralt bor) and sausages and knickknack vendors and brooms made of sticks and it was/is pretty much the best thing in the world. It's not unique to Bp. in any sense, but it's the Christmas Market that I know best and I think it's highly emulable. And every day when I ride past a number of vacant squares in the District of Columbia, I can't help but think how nice they'd look if populated by Christmas Markets. We could even call them Holiday Markets or whatever. My latest favorite place for the establishment of said market is the massively empty space by the courthouses where Penn meets Constitution. Here's an image:

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This isn't fucking Pyongyang. It's America. Let's put some commercial shit and alcohol in our empty public spaces and let people enjoy themselves. "Let's put some commercial shit and alcohol in our empty public spaces" is going to be my slogan when I run for ANC. I'll get votes, too. But not enough.
I rode behind a woman on Segway on the bike lanes along East Capitol. Segway commuting! She was wearing a pencil skit and kitten heels and a weird, textured coat that she was clasping on the collar to cover her chin and mouth. At least she wasn't texting.

Ride Home 11/29 and Ride In 11/30

I'm bundling these posts like an LLC bundles its campaign contributions to District CMs. Which is to say, somewhat haphazardly and with barely any attempt to disguise it. Ethics!
Let's start with last night, in keeping with the chronological tendencies of this blog. It was late, nigh nine at night and it was cold, so I bundled up tighter than money orders from taxi drivers. I want to say that I was more overdressed than a Cheesecake Factory salad, but that would be an inaccurate "laugh line" and not a true reflection of actual attire, which seemed quite appropriate for the temperature. I don't know why I was pedaling so hard, but I found myself really pushing hard on Massachusetts, exceeding 35 miles per hour according to the sign that tells drivers how far over the speed limit they're traveling. So, bully for me. I decided that I would ride Mass through Dupont Circle rather than take Q and this worked out relatively well, but only because of the diminished traffic. Before I got to Dupont, I was passed far to closely by the driver of a large, American-branded black SUV and I shouted "way too close, dude" in a way that might have been self-parodizing were it not so genuine. When I say too close, I mean within a foot, the same foot with which I would like to kick the driver in the shin of his gas pedal-depressing leg. It was a depressing leg indeed, but less than it could have been had disaster stuck with my being struck. I was struck, however, with the relatively long distance that seemed to remain between Dupont Circle and 15th street, which seems closer when I travel along Q due east rather than on a southeasterly diagonal. 15th was empty and I felt like that guy in the Twilight Zone episode with all the books and the broken glasses. Turns out that's Burgess Meredith, the Penguin. The bike lane, free of people and of broken glass, seemed to also be free of leaves, so I took leave to ride in it freely and without much preoccupation. There were a couple of bicyclists by the White House, themselves preoccupied with how the cycletrack reconnects to 15th street after its brief dalliance along Vermont. Just follow the bollards.
Along Pennsylvania, I watched a Toyota from Maryland be driven across the double white lanes and bike lanes in a u-turnly manner and I decided that the mature response would be to, literally, boo at the driver. Boo, I went and audibly. I think that booing is an important part of our public discourse and ought to be adopted in more situations. If you disapprove of something, boo it.
Many Capitals fans emptying from the arena, perhaps sullen, perhaps drunk. But none who found themselves blocking the bike lane in aborted street crossing attempts, so I was much pleased.
Capitol was quiet, but there were zombie joggers about. There is no time when at least one zombie jogger will not be about. The compulsion to run around knows no temporal bounds. If we could harness the power of zombie joggers to meet our energy needs, we wouldn't need tar sands, except maybe to turn into their quickly depleted sneakers.
I felt a bit sluggish on the bike last night, perhaps from the continual buffeting of the winds. My sluggishness extended to this morning and I set off sloggingly (not a word?), boosted in spirit only by the sight of an Xtracycle, which I soon passed anyway. I think I need to clean the bike because the chain continues to make odd scratchy noises, which I don't find to be sonically appealing. Nor do I think that the wear is especially good for the bicycle.
I stopped a lit bit into the ride to put my hat on and noticed a coffee stain on the brim. I thought that the coffee stains were limited to my coat, which was in my bike bag the day before Thanksgiving with my not-closed travel mug. I suppose I should wash both items, but maybe I'll just wait for the impending rain to make a 'cold brew' on the street below me.
Many, many, many bicyclists about. I'd prefer it if they stuck to their side of the cycle track rather than cause me to have to ride within inches of the bollards. I'm amused/terrified of those who ride in the middle, focused so much on what's directly in front of them that they can't/don't see anything that's slightly (10 to 15 degrees) askance.
Some twerp did the whole shoal-from-the-right thing and I wanted to ask him what made him think that doing that was ok. Like, why is it a free for all every time there's a red light? Instead, I just decided that I would ride around him when the light turned green and I thought I'd be done with him, but he showed up again on Massachusetts and rode in front of me for a spot as we passed a few other bicyclists on the path. He stopped to cross the street at 34th and I'd like to believe it's because he was intimidated by my bikerliness (not a word or an actual concept) and embarrassed that he partook is such an anti-social behavior, but I'm certain that this wasn't the case. For whatever reason, it really cheesed me off, but that speaks more to my level of pettiness than anything else. I could have passed him again on Mass, but what's the point? It's not a race.
Where they used to sell pumpkins, they now sell Christmas trees. Either St. Sophia's is doing very well for itself or very poorly. Or they happen to own some property in MoCo overrun by pumpkins and Douglas firs.
Light was flashing at Nebraska and New Mexico. I rolled up and saw a student standing there, patiently waiting for a driver to defer to her and allow her to cross. That wasn't going to happen. I said "you ready to do this?" and, as soon as there was an opening, pushed my bike off the curb into the crosswalk and then glacially (in the slow sense, not the icy debris sense) started to walk across the street. We made it. (Horse)Power concedes nothing without a demand. Or a walk signal. And even then.


Ride Home 11/29 will happen, but I won't be writing about it tonight

Professional obligations will keep me at work until around nine this evening and I plan to ride home and immediately go to sleep, leaving me no time to blog the ride. Unless, of course, I sleep-blog, which hasn't yet happened, but someday might, thereby increasing the quality of the posts immensely. But I plan on writing up the ride tomorrow (ambitious!), so no worries. Not that you're worrying.

Ride In 11/29

Shorts and short sleeves on November 29th. That's crazy. I think, though, that as I watch the rain outside my window presage the arrival of a cold front, this pretty much marks the end of these unseasonably warm temperatures and we'll be topping off in the mid 50s (at the maximum, which is still not terrible) for the remainder of the week. That probably means it'll be in the 30s during the morning ride, which isn't so bad, provided it doesn't rain. So, if you're looking to me to give you an insight into whether its still reasonable to bike (and really, you oughtn't because I'm a terrible thermometer barometer for these sort of things since I'm gonna bike pretty much no matter what), I offer the following twangy couplet:
if it's dry, give it a try.
if it's wet, begin to fret.
*(bonus third line: if it snows, who knows? Snow carries with it a certain degree of ambiguity, not only because it blankets the earth with an ivory patina (Ivory Patina is also the name of an Cambridge drag queen- probably), but because route conditions vary so much from place to place and its hard to say whether your route will be plowed/cleared or, if you're biking on a local trail, at near Donner Party conditions.
Now, as to whether you're fretting should inhibit you from riding, that's an entirely individual choice. I don't mind riding in the rain so much any more because I have a nice waterproof bag and I'm willing to bring with me at least three (slight exaggeration) changes of clothes to ensure that I don't have to ride home in a wet gear. But maybe you like to travel lighter than I do or maybe you don't have a place to change or maybe you're a Wicked Witch of a Cardinal Direction and water has negative consequences to your overall well-being/existence. Anyway, I bought all of the changes of clothes not because I was rained upon this morning, but rather because I expect it to be much cooler in the evening and I am, for lack of a better term, a delicate flower and I like to be as little exposed to the elements as possible.
Surly spotting: guy on East Capitol on a light brown Cross Check, Brooks B17, khakis tucked into his argyle socks. He kept looking back over his shoulder at me. I was more than content just to ride behind. If I wanted to ride around, I would have. (Commuters: don't delude yourselves into thinking you're the fastest person on the road. Just ride at a comfortable pace and if someone wants to ride faster than that, he or she will.)
I'm all about riding through security bollards, but not when there's a group of people, including security guards and I think a maintenance crew, on the other side. If it's going to be a tight fit, it seems needlessly antagonizing.
Yeah, they're still occupying McPherson.
Way more Bikeshare bikes out today than normal. I think that fair weather really brings out fair weather cyclists. And that's a good thing. I wonder what impact a nice day has on reducing crowding on local roads and on bus and metro ridership. I think I'd be deluding myself if I thought it was substantial. Simply not that many people ride bikes. Sadly.
R Street bores me. I want a new crosstown route. I guess I could start riding up past Meridian Park. That could be a thing.
I desperately wanted to catch up with a superbiker riding up Massachusetts, but I just couldn't. Dude was way out in front and not to make excuses or anything, here are some excuses:
- red lights
- drivers blocked my path
- slowed down for pedestrians and other bicyclists
- my bag was really heavy
- my breakfast was a frosted, generic Pop Tart and a piece of bacon.
- my trick knee was acting up (note: don't actually have a trick knee. Except when asked to do dishes.)
- my bike needs a tune up and the chain was skipping around on the rear cogs.
- I wasn't even trying that hard, so shut up or whatever

One last thing, unrelated to my commute, but in the way of a biking endorsement: Road Holland. They make really nice things. Some of them are quite expensive, some are only marginally expensive. (This is all relative given your definition of expensive. I use Cuban cigars to light hundred dollar bills aflame for some reason [that's how you do it, right?]) In any case, if you like stuff made in AMERICA, but named after FOREIGN COUNTRIES (like French fries, for example) and you like bicycling stuff that looks CLASSY (like a revue headlined by Ivory Patina), you couldn't do much better than this. This is an unsolicited endorsement and I will only retract it if forced to by their attorneys.


Ride Home 11/28

In tonight's episode of Mission: Possible, I faced the daunting challenge of liberating one of the "secret" Capital Bikeshare bikes from inside the White House security perimeter. This was mande quite possible since I was already inside the perimeter, having attended an event at the Old Executive Office Building. My challenge consisted of exiting the OEOB through the same way we came in (we were buried in some basement auditorium), which consisted in my having to wander around the building and maybe go up a flight of stairs. Once I made it outside, it was a quick trip down the stairs and across the SUV-filled parking lot and over to the station. I inserted the key, freed the bike and headed across the driveway toward the exit. And the gate didn't open. And I stood there. Gate only opens for cars. And then I looked at the security guard in the booth again, having previously looked at him while I sort of shrugged at the bikes during my non-secret-agent-style approach. I said, "Do I go out the...?" and he was like "No, you walk the bike through the other side," so I wheeled the bike over to the sidewalk, lifted it onto the curb and waited at the other side of the access point while a woman was talking to one of the attendants about some meeting that she had. The guard saw me standing there and suggested that she step out so I could wheel the bike past. I did. And then I was on the outside of the perimeter, just another schlub on a CaBi. So, that was that. I may not have my black key any more, but I've got this. Easily the highlight of my trip and another hole punched in the Bikeshare stations used punchcard that I keep in my wallet (I don't actually have one of these, but I think that they should exist and DDOT/BikeArlington should give out CaBi schwag when you use 25, 50, and 100 stations. Maybe put your name on a plaque if you dock at all of them. In this case, a CaBi "century" would actually be achievable.
The rest of the ride home was plumb. The weather was pleasant. The CaBi rode fine and it was somewhat before rush hour, so the car traffic wasn't too bad. What about other bicyclists? Yes, there were some. What about pedestrians using the bike lanes as an extended walkway and refuge? Them too. Zombie joggers? Sure, but only a few.
I took the path alongside the Capitol and I think I've decided that the path is the way to go. And since a sign says that pedestrians should watch out for bicyclists, that means I guess I'm allowed to ride there. It's a rather wide path and perfectly amenable to bikes. I don't know why I've forsaken it until now.
Photobombed a bunch of tourists. This is getting to be my favorite thing to do on the ride home. How many dome pictures have been ruined by my biking through them?
I docked at 14th and D and stopped in the Safeway for some stuff for dinner and walked the rest of the way home. Back on the regular bike tomorrow.

Ride In 11/28

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and gave thanks for, amongst other things, FREEDOM and AMERICA and other capitalized words one might see in a forwarded AOL email from a "real American" relative. In case you don't recall, like most DC bike commuters, I am a proud member of the Tea Party, which is the say the patriotic political group dedicated to a smaller government with lower taxes presided over in the executive by Mr. T. I'm off to the White House today (for work, not related to the permanent removal of caution tape), so I decided to take Bikeshare to the office, since I'd rather not have the Cross Check exploded by Secret Service after locking it to a fence. It was my first Bikeshare excursion from Armory West to work and it was a relatively nice day for it.
My primary concern when riding a CaBi is staying under 30 minutes, so as to avoid the $1.50 luxury tax (not an actual luxury tax) associated with keeping the bike out for more than half an hour. This can be short-circuited by temporarily redocking the bike, counting to 10 and then taking the bike out again, which I felt I would need to do since there's no way that I was going to make the eight plus mile trip in under a half hour. I planned to dock at 15 and P, which seemed about half-way and sort of reasonable. So I set off the from the Armory station (19th and East Capitol- the one closer to my abode [I don't live in a house; I live in an abode. If I were a Pueblo, I'd livee in an adobe abode] is not yet installed), salmoning in the wrong side of the street bike lane waiting for traffic to clear up so I could move over, which it did half a block later. Technically, I wouldn't say that I'm reckless when riding a CaBi, but I probably engage in behaviors that I wouldn't countenance if I were on my own bike. In any case, the ride along the Hill was fine with a bunch of other bicyclists out, including a guy on an Xtracycle who I've seen before. He might or might not have yelled at a girl turning her bike right on red without stopping from 2nd NE. I see this move quite a lot and I have some advice for bicyclists who do this: don't. Rights-of-way (unlike rites-of-whey, popular in body-building circles) are important to bicyclists and just because you're also on a bike doesn't mean that you get some sort of free pass and get to ride all libertine and whatnot (Libertine and Whatnot is the title of my forthcoming book on flapper culture) and can cut off other bicyclists.
I rode down the path through the Capitol, rather than on the street and it was quite pleasant. I think I might start doing this from now on, avoiding the slim likelihood of a motorist reversing his or her car into me as I exceed the posted 10 mile per hour speed limit downhill.
Pennsylvania was fine and I rode behind two woman bicyclists, one in casual street clothes, the other in athletic (but not bike-specific) attire. I don't have much to offer in the way of social commentary, except maybe perhaps the observation the gender doesn't determine the likelihood to dress one particular way or another and that it's circumstances at your final destination and personal comfort that dictate how one dresses on a bike. Maybe?
There was a man outside of the McPherson Square CVS holding up a cardboard sign. I don't know if he was protesting or advertising. But these days, it's hard to tell. (Trenchant social analysis or banal observation? These days it's hard to tell)
The dock and undock at 15 and P went according to plan, in spite of the construction taking place at the corner blocking the station somewhat. The ride on R was fine, except for the almost always blocked bike lane. I understand the practicality (from the driver's standpoint) of wanting to try to pull around a stopped taxi by driving in the bike lane, but it really is massively inconvenient, if not plainly illegal, when the light turns red and they've managed to block the whole thing. But I'm hard-pressed to imagine that we live in a world where the sanctity of the bike lane is respected and a driver wouldn't be expected to pull into the "empty" space to get around an idling taxi or truck. Share the road, I guess.
Anyway, all of the stopping on R caused me to start freaking out about the time and assume that there was no way that I would make my half hour goal of getting the whole way to campus. So, I needed a back-up plan and decided that I would aim to dock/undock in Glover Park (since there are no stations [or churrerias] along Mass) and take Wisconsin up for the next part of the trip.
While riding along R, I was passed way to closely by an impatient cyclist behind me and I waited somewhat too impatiently to try to pass the bicyclist in front of me. She, so I found out, had developed some sort of relationship with a crossing guard and stopped at an intersection so he could give her one of his "flyers," for what I don't know. I don't have any longstanding relationships with crossing guards or anyone along my route really. I consider it a bit of a personal failing, given my apparent willingness to talk to strangers and/or nod at them.
At the Glover Park station, there were two bike security officers and they looked relatively happy to be patrolling on bicycles. This is unlike the motorists stuck on Observatory Circle, backed-up and waiting to turn onto Massachusetts. I imagine this car traffic will only get worse as bus service from Glover Park continues to be rolled back. I have great sympathy for anyone who drives to work downtown. It must suck.
Wisconsin was a good climb, but the CaBi can handle it. Same with the down and up the rest of the way to work. At Ward Circle, I was stopped behind a car with a bumper sticker for Cityhood for DC. One of the things I did to pass the time as I sat in traffic in Maryland driving home on Saturday was think about retrocession. I just don't know how revenues and expenditures would work in this kind of plan. The site doesn't seem to address budgetary issues. Yeah, I'm gonna end on "budgetary issues."


Ride In 11/23

This might be the last post until Monday, but only if we leave this afternoon. If we decide to leave tomorrow morning, you'll get one more. Feel free to read that, this, or any other post aloud at the dinner table in place of grace. Have fun explaining to your relatives what sharrows are.
Today was not a pleasant morning. It was a Washington morning, when somehow the humidity hovered between 75 and 85% and I couldn't quite tell whether it had just rained, was about to rain or was actually raining right then. It was also warmer than I expected and my outfit of jeans and a long-sleeve shirt seemed overmuch for the occasion.
There were other bicyclists out, but not too many. A dad and his kid riding along East Capitol, a superbiker getting turned around and lost in the Capitol grounds, a guy on a CaBi that I had previously ridden in front of and then behind after he shoaled me along 15th, which he did again today, in spite of my best efforts to avoid this. While I'm given up (ha!) complaining too much about this epiphenomenon in the rise of urban cycling, I guess I still just don't understand it. He seemed miffed when I passed him again on 15th, but them's the breaks, buck-o.
My feet kept slipping off my pedals today. I wasn't wearing my biking shoes and the wet pedals proved rather difficult to keep under me. Hijinks. I must've looked like an ass, especially toward the beginning of the ride when every third downstroke resulted in one of my legs jerking in an awkward and unexpected way. Comedy gold.
Sometimes a Cross Fire (the car, not that awesome marble shooting game or the less awesome erstwhile CNN program) crosses the path of a Cross Check (in spite of my cross glaring at the totally unaware driver) and  I narrowly avoided a collision as he completed his left turn across the 15th street cycletrack. I braked pretty hard and my back wheel wobbled as I came to a skidding near stop. Fun times. I don't think that there's a level of signage or number of bollards that can these kinds of events less likely. I think this is just what happens when you tack bike infrastructure onto already existing roads.
That sweaty helmet feeling is the worst.Worst.
So, in conclusion, Happy Turkey (Türkiye?) Day! I give thanks for (and to) everyone who regularly or irregularly reads this blogular content. Have a great weekend.


Ride Home 11/22

If there's a Murphy's Law corollary for bike commuting, it's this: it will rain the hardest when it's the most inconvenient, which in my case is during the prolonged descent down Massachusetts, mixed with speeding car traffic. It sort of sucks, but I've developed some strategies: primarily, take the lane and go as slow or as fast as I need. It's difficult to strike a balance between following too closely (need room to brake) and following too far behind (giving drivers changing lanes or turning the appearance that they can do so with little impact when, in fact, it might result in great impact, namely my impact into their automobiles). And then there's the slippery manhole covers, which I might do slightly too much to try to avoid.
 I'm almost never honked at (excuse my prepositional ending). I don't know why this is, but I'm grateful. I'd like to attribute it to skill, but there's really no skill in this, but just dumb luck. Maybe traveling on streets with bike lanes makes a difference in that I have a proper "place" on the roadscape. For what it's worth, I'm willing to go a block or two out of my way to ride in a bike lane, something that I'm not sure others so willingly embrace. I often see people riding on roads that I would never take, mostly because I'd rather choose the slight inconvenience of traveling one block extra to my final destination than deal with the major inconvenience of squeezing between impatient drivers and a crummy door zone. But maybe that's just me. In my experience, it's not only more pleasant to ride in bike lanes (dedicated space is dedicated space, even if it's less than ideal), but it's also a socially useful act that shows motorists and city agencies that bike lanes are appreciated and not unused (double negatory!).
Nobody else on Q. Nobody else on 14th. In both case, I mean nobody on bikes. And I guess that's not completely true, since I saw a woman on a CaBi crossing 14th by Thomas Circle, maybe just having come fom the newly installed bikeshare station.
14th is the street of potential right hooks. Four intersections, four turning drivers. Not sure I'm going to keep it up. I'll take the scrum of lower 11th, which is at least kind of wide, to the likelihood of getting nailed by a turning taxi.
Today was a voluble ride and I couldn't help myself. The most common word I say while riding is "no" followed by "please" followed by "stop" followed by "rutabaga" (one of those isn't true). My talking, to be clear, isn't meant to be actual communication, but more a shamanistic mumbling, like casting a spell to ward off potentially negligent drivers. I can't say to what extent it works.
Rode through the bollards on Madison Place (For those of you who don't happen to live here or don't frequently consult maps, the bollards by Madison Place, Lafayette Park, and the White House are all the same security bollards). In either case, they were tapeless and I rode through, looking over to the security guard, but not really showing any sign of recognition. He looked up, mouth agape, but I don't think there was anything much that he wanted to say. He was pale in the unforgiving, antiseptic fluorescent light.
It wasn't an anomaly or maybe it was just a different bike cop, but he (or someone else) was still (or for the first time) lightless. I know that you're the "secret service," but your secrecy doesn't need to be amplified through lack of luminescence.
If the stoplights on Pennsylvania were timed for bicyclists, it would make my life.
I rode behind another bike commuter on East Capitol. Well-lighted, double-panniered, fancy-ish bike jacket, some kind of head wrapping underneath the helmet, going just fast enough. There's really no #bikeDC type, but this is kind of it.

Ride In 11/22

Recently, the Lincoln Park Bikeshare station was expanded. Now, when I ride by in the morning, instead of an empty station, I typically see about 4 or 5 waiting bikes. This seems like a good thing. I think that even more pressure will be taken off the station once the 15th and Independence, SE station comes online, which I hope will be soon, as it will be my "home" station, insofar as it will be the one closest to my actual home.
Another day, another wet commute. Chilly, too, but nothing too dissuading. For the hardcores at least. Nearly everyone I saw was bundled to some degree. If not a helmet, at least a hat, which is just good sense.
Does anyone out there like charity? Not just the Christian virtue, but the thing where you give your money to people or organizations that previously didn't have your money out of the kindness of your heart. Well, in the month of December, I've got some half-baked idea that maybe I should be engaged in helping you help me help you (you follow?) transfer your monies to charity. So, here's what I'm willing to do: use this blog towards a charitable end. This will probably take two forms, the first of which is my buying a bunch of TFTS-themed "merch" and selling it you and giving all the profits to charity (I'm thinking WABA, but if you've got some better bike-themed organization in mind, please suggest). So if you want "merch" (and really, why wouldn't you? Everyone loves buying stuff festooned with the logos of their favorite lunchtime/bathroom blogging diversion), get ready. Think of how cool/awkward it will be when you roll up on another awesome Tales from the Sharrows reader (or me) and have the same button displayed on your pannier or backpack.
The second thing I'm willing to do, and for a much higher dollar value because this is clearly a much more valuable service, is blog your commute. If you give, I don't know, let's say $50, to WABA, I will meet you at your domicile or your office and ride with you and then I'll blog your (and my) irreverent observations. What a deal! Have you always wanted to reach an audience of dozens of some of the most influential individuals who read local bike commuter blogs and share your views about BMWs (boo), socks (meh) and other minutia concerning your carefully "curated" route to work? (Please note: offer limited to DC area readers only) For $100, I'll, um, blog your commute and we can split a sandwich. Or we can each get our own sandwich if we can't decide on a mutually agreeable sandwich or maybe we didn't eat breakfast and half a sandwich won't be enough. For $500, you'll get a printed and bound edition of this very blog, encapsulating nearly a year's worth of rides, including some of your favorites like Ride Home 4/8, Ride In 6/23 and Ride Home 10/11! All of the joys of reading a blog with none of the convenience or hypertextuality! Also, maybe not color pictures depending where I print it.
So that's my charity plan. If I can figure out how, I'll set up some sort of PayPal dealy and we can try to make this thing go. 'Tis the season for responsible and thoughtful charitable giving and, in spite of that, there's this also.
I spent a good portion of my ride today thinking about bike commuting and gender difference, perhaps spurred on by a series I tweets I saw yesterday and recurring conversations with the Official Wife. I think I can say unironically that I'm a feminist, categorizing feminism as the understanding that men and women are equal and that societal, cultural and institutional relationships do not, but should, recognize this fact. (I spent most of my climb up Massachusetts thinking about this definition and that's the best I could do. If you ever want to distract yourself during a ride, that's one way.) I saw a number of woman bike commuters out today, pretty much the same proportion as any other day, in spite of the somewhat gross weather. I don't know to what effect weather considerations factor in the decision to bike commute, but, based on my anecdotal observations, I don't think that they impact the decision to ride for one gender over the other- that is to say, for those who have cleared cleared the initial hurdle in deciding to commute by bicycle, adverse conditions will cull riders in a non-gender-specific way. But, perhaps interestingly, perhaps not, most of the woman bike commuters I saw today were wearing jeans, which definitely makes me think that dress codes and "work-appropriate"appearance play a large and important role in circumscribing the number of woman bike commuters. (This isn't an original idea). I wonder what expectations there are for female professional appearance in heavy bike-riding countries.
Looks like it's raining now, so it should be a good trip home. Just treat the rain with equanimity and it'll be fine. And have lights and fenders and such.


Ride Home 11/21

I hate when I underestimate the cold. I stopped on the side of the road in order to look through my bag for my gloves. Tip: remove your front light and use it as emergency flashlight. Note: steady beam works better than blink, unless of course you spend much time in a dance club and search better under a strobe. Second note: this might make you Enrique Iglesias.
When I initially stopped, I did so in the road, thinking that I could get in and out of my bag before the light changed. When I realized that I couldn't, I hoisted the bike to the sidewalk. In the mean time, hipster on a fixie rode by and stopped in the place at the light that I had just abandoned. It seems I only see him when it's raining. Does this have some analog to something fantastical? Field of Dreams? Frankenstein? Wuthering Heights? Anyway, I rode behind him, slowly, until he left the road for the sidewalk, at which point I could ride a bit more freely. While I could have passed, it just doesn't seem right, especially in the dark and rain.
Lots of slow going at the bottom of the hill. Since I've forsworn riding in the right turn only lane, I took my place amongst the car traffic and waited my turn. I really wanted to tilt my head back and scream at the top of my lungs "HONK," you know, to fit in, but I'm afraid that would make me appear insane. Funny that doing the same with mechanical assistance in the confines of a metal box just makes you a "commuter."
Ok, here's a tip. When you're riding in the right side bike lane and a car drives past you and you can see that the driver has activated the right turn signal, here's what you do: put out your left arm and merge into the travel lane. Then ride past the slowing car on the left and merge back into the bike lane at the other side of the intersection. I watch people screw this up every day.
I remember a time when I could get from 20th past 18th on Q without getting stuck at the light at New Hampshire. It only requires an open bike lane, which I haven't been treated to in a while. Instead, I stop at New Hampshire and wait and count the lightless bicyclists.
14th street. For two blocks, it's like DC's SoHo. Caution: I have no clue what I'm taking about.
I decided to ride out of Thomas Circle via Vermont. That put me at Farragut Square and I rode along the access way back to the cycle track at 15th. I think that this was much, much faster than riding through the leaf depository lanes. Almost related, TFTS reader and commenter Rachel witnessed something I actually wrote about! That means it's verifiable and that I'm not lying to you! (In case you were ever wondering if I made this shit up, two thoughts: 1) no and 2) if I were making this up, would it really be this banal? There'd be like polar bears and Nazi hunters every post. Probably hunting Nazi polar bears (global warming melts the ice caves where they keep their pilfered gold. Anyway, I'm working on a screenplay)
Sure is something when you see a Secret Service bicycle officer riding without lights. Don't exactly know what that something is.
Some Capitol Police officers carry rather large guns. I find it disconcerting. Though I suppose that their weapons are less destructive than the Super Committee. #rimshot #topical.
I stopped for a pedestrians along East Capitol and two cars passed before the third driver stopped. Nissan from Maryland (who saw that one coming?). The pedestrian waved thank you to him, but didn't even acknowledge me. I think that windshields actually help some social interactions. If she were to thank me, it'd be like talking to a real person and that would just be weird.

Ride In 11/21

It's nigh impossible to figure out how to dress for cycling in November. I'm not going to complain about today's unseasonably warm weather because every day this time of year when it isn't freezing/snowing makes for a better commute, but I am going to note that it's difficult to pick the right amount of layers for what was maybe 50 degrees with a gentle post-rain haze. I overdressed. Not in the sense that I wore a tuxedo (at the dry cleaners), but in the sense that I wore more covering than necessary and was uncomfortably hot by the end of the ride. Oh well. Live and learn.
There are two poles to which bike commuters aspire. The first is the stripped-down, bare bones hyper-minimalist bike. Thin tubes, quill stem, single speed, you know, that kind. Maybe you don't even have a lock with you or seem to be carrying anything anything of bulk or consequence. The other pole, and the one I vastly prefer, is the fully-loaded, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-but-maybe-even-the-kitchen-sink-too cargo bike, with panniers, baskets, trailers, kid trailers, Xtracycle attachments, mirrors, bells, horns, streamers, multi-level racks, just pretty much everything. I love seeing people riding on bikes like these and I spotted a few of them this morning, schlepping children amongst what I presume is the remainder of their riders' entire worldly possessions. Cargo bikes bring me much joy. And, accordingly, so does this blog.
I think it's poor form for another cyclist to run a red and in so doing impede the path of another cyclist waiting at the perpendicular intersection. It's also poor form to run a red in order to make a turn which impedes the path of a waiting cyclist. Both happened today, as they pretty much happen every day. I'd say, over all, that bicyclists have pretty much the same judgment and sense of politesse as drivers. And that's unfortunate.
I rode behind a guy in the bike lane today who was not only determined to not roll through red lights, but determined to not come to a complete stop at one either, so he began his braking about 75 feet back and inched closer and closer. I don't enjoy being a hypocrite, so I didn't want to ride around him, but at the same time, I don't enjoy being beholden to someone else's clearly idiosyncratic behavior. I have no problem whatsoever putting my foot down at stop lights. In fact, I quite enjoy it. And rather than pass him, knowing that in so doing, I wouldn't be able to make it through the next light, I just rode behind him until it became too ridiculous and I just had to ride around. Only to have him ride up right next to me at the next red.
Trends: front baskets, front lights on top of helmets.
Fake trends: SPD Doc Martens, Leisure Suit Rides, SRAM Red Mongooses
A woman almost walked into me in an attempt to cross the cycletrack. She apologized and said she "always forgets that it's there." I find that a good way of remembering the presence of the cycletrack is through looking at where you're going. The choice was either to ding my bell or brake. I chose the latter.
#OccupyEverIncreasingPoliceResources seems to still be in effect. Maybe 8 cop cars around McPherson. Suggestion for Occupiers: relocate to where expanded police presence might have more ameliorative effects. How about Congress Heights?
I've written previously about the scourge of bike blindness, but I'd like to call your attention to another disease that affects our streets: second car syndrome. Second car syndrome afflicts drivers who are second in queue at an intersection and even though they can't see what's going on in front of them, like perhaps a crossing pedestrian or a blocked box or an oncoming bicyclist, they can't help but honk their horns, demanding action from the driver in front of them. Second car syndrome is a serious condition with the following side effects:
  • pointless honking
Second Car Syndrome (now capitalized for some reason) might afflict your friends or loved ones, especially this holiday season. Perhaps gently reminding them that typically, other drivers also like to move forward and that it's extremely unlikely that they would be stopped for no apparent reason and that perhaps your inability to see the reason why other people aren't taking a particular course of action shouldn't be met by your insisting, though honking, through their taking a particular course of action, which might in fact be ill-advised, given the conditions facing them. Unfortunately, I don't believe that current brain science is able to address the root issues of SCS and the only viable treatment is a horn-ectomy. However, perhaps greater advocacy and pre-treatment, though the general enforcement of anti-honking laws, can help us make progress against this terrible malady.
Some new dol hareunbung outside the Korean Embassy.
There was a Secret Service type guarding the entrance to the Normanstone Trail. I don't know why. I've never seen anyone using it. I think it's just a steep dirt path through the woods.
Warmer days keep more bicyclists on the road. That's just a fact. I'm pretty happy that it's almost December and still nearly 50 degrees in the morning. Makes it somewhat difficult to dress (I overdressed, not in a tuxedo way, but in a too many clothes way), but I'd rather it be warmer than cold and icy.


Ride Home 11/18

I have a bit of blogger's block, so this might not go very far. Or maybe I'll drift off on some ridiculous tangent and end up writing at length about something entirely diffuse and with a degree of volubility (if this characteristic can be applied to writing) unseen since the last time I blogged with the same characteristic, which might or might not have been recently.
I cry when I ride my bike. Every time I ride downhill. I hope I don't look sad. On the other hand, I hope I don't look to happy, like I'm crying joyously because that might be weird. Tears on the cheek are special nuisance in the cold. I've tried wearing sunglasses, but that hardly stops it. The gift of tears. 
Bare legs! Not me, but I saw a few other people out riding in shorts. Seriously, it's cold out there. Put some pants on. 
Temporarily blocking the bike lane is one thing, but driving down it is another and it's wrong and sort of unforgivable. Here's a tip for drivers: don't drive in the bike lane, even if it's the only place to drive because you've made your left turn inadvisedly and would have blocked Connecticut Avenue had you waited in line behind the other drivers on Q. Add this to the 10,000 other reasons why bike lanes should be on the sidewalk side of parked cars. 
Tried 17th for the first time today. Super easy to Massachusetts (but it's only like 3 blocks) and it's wide enough on the other side of Mass, but it gets a little bit tight around K and totally ridiculous/impassable at Farragut Square. That's because there's no bike lane and the right travel lane turns into bus loading and the intersection at I is a complete and total cluster because drivers cannot get through the intersection (either driving straight or making the right turn) during the appropriate green light. Rather than stand in traffic, I popped my bike onto the sidewalk (scofflaw!) and rode to the intersection to wait at the light until I had the pleasure and honor to skeddadle my way through the heaps of metal piloted by inconsiderate or badly miscalculating drivers. 
There's no caution tape on the security barriers at the other side of Lafayette Park. I rode through. 
Some people ride really, really quickly on Pennsylvania in front of the White House. Yeah, it's open and stuff, but there's still a lot of other cyclists and pedestrians around, so a bit more caution might be heeded. But then again, speed and imprudence aren't equal.
Not look forward to a head- (helmet-) on collision with a ninja bicyclist. I simply don't understand the allure of riding completely lightless. Are you protecting yourself from a Luftwaffe raid or something? Geez. 
I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and I felt like I was in there for hours. Riding in the dark, combined with shoddy fluorescent lighting, really does a number of my sense of elapsed time. But I bought some cake and yams (39 cents/pound!) and made it back home without incident and it was only 6:15, so I guess I wasn't in the store for hours. Each time I park at the store I debate whether I should remove my lights from the bike or chance a chance theft. I normally leave them on. On the other hand, I lock up my helmet, but realistically, who wants to steal a helmet? And if a thief is willing to take a helmet, maybe that's a good thing? Unless of course, he or she will be using the helmet not for bicycling, but in the commission of some other crime, where mayhaps they must protect themselves, cranially speaking, from falling coconuts or whatnot. I don't know. It's been a long week. 

Ride Home 11/17 & Ride In 11/18

A tripartite ride home with stops at the WABA event and along Barrack's Row. It was cold, but not bracing. On Massachusetts, I saw a deer. Antlers and everything. Only a couple of the feet off the road, too. As everyone knows, deer should be confined solely to off street trails because they don't pay "road taxes".
Either they changed the light pattern along Mass or I was riding super-fast or super-slow because I managed to get through the lights (Idaho, fake Wisconsin, real Wisconsin, and Garfield) without stopping, which I don't think has ever happened before. Let's pretend it was because I was going really fast. I actually felt really great on the bike last night, like I had some extra verve. Here's some more extra verve.
I think I need to stop merging from the right-turn lane at the base of the hill. It's beginning to sink in that's it's needlessly compromising and risky. It's like the derivatives bundling of bike commuting. One of these days someone isn't going to see me and I'm not gonna hit the gap between cars in a good way and a twice daily blog about hospital food would be far less compelling.
As I'm trying to recall what else happened last night, I'm having a hard time separating out my memories from every other night I ride home. Did some guy on a CaBi shoal me? Was there a girl riding her bike in a long flowing skirt? Did I almost get hit by a school bus? Or, did nothing of particular consequence happen? Maybe I should start taking notes. Or maybe I should just live tweet every ride home. It would take longer, on accounting of stopping to tweet and stuff and most of the tweets would be 'stopping now, so maybe I'll just try to think a little bit harder.
I remember that I rode down 11th because that's where the WABA event was. It was quite crowded and I had the opportunity to meet and talk to some charming people and missed the opportunity
(from my own lack of gregariousness and sociability) to meet and talk to other charming people. And there was beer and raffles (I didn't win one) and suited types who had no affiliation with WABA whatsoever who were probably wondering what the hell happened to their favorite pretentious bottled-watering hole. I had been to the restaurant one other time and it was to meet the fiance of one of the Official Wife's college besties. They've since divorced. So, I'm glad WABA could, in some small way, counter that association through libatory (real word) fundraisen (not a real word, but if I were in charge of branding gold-flecked dried grapes, that's the name I'd use).
After WABA, I rode down Penn, up the Capitol on the vastly inferior House side (you can decide whether the vastly inferior references the House of Representative or the side path) and down Penn again towards 8th. There isn't much bike parking along 8th, so I locked my bike to a sign. I proceeded to continue my evening enjoying the dulcet tones of karaoke singers, not partaking of the singing myself, but instead enjoying, temporarily, an overabundance of nachos.
I had to be at work earlier than usual this morning and I left the house a little after 7:30. I encourage all bicycle commuters to sometimes leave the house a half hour earlier than you normally do. It's a totally different world out there, and typically, the earlier you go, the less frantic the drivers are and maybe even there are fewer of them on the road, though years of watching MyFox traffic reports before work had led me to the belief that there is no time that the area highways are free from some terrible congestion. But I guess this is why we chose to live in the city and why I choose to bike to work. I'll take a blocked bike lane over a blocked highway every day of the week. I meant this phrase to be figurative.
Just as many bicyclists out as there are later. If I had to guess, I'd say that modeshare percentages stays about the same across work start times (with reason, of course). There might even be statistics out there somewhere, but I like my assumptions like I like my unicorns: with no basis in reality whatsoever. 
It happened to be much colder this morning than I was expecting. I have covers for my cycling shoes, but they did me no good in the bottom of my bike stuff box in my closet. It might have even been cold enough to wear my heavy gloves, which also remained in the box in the closet, (In the Box, In the Closet is the working title of my short film about a gay mime), so I made due with the stuff I had readily accessible, which proved suitable enough. Though my toes were quite cold when I got here and this does not bring my great joy.
I don't know for sure, but my front fender might be scraping against my front tire. I mean to look into that. I'm going to accuse this phantom mechanical issue of being the reason I rode so listlessly.
Recurring feature: caution tape down at the White House.
New feature: I saw one of the new CaBis at the intersection of 15th and K. It must have made it's way across the river, since I don't think any new DC stations have gone in. Unless new bikes are being used to stock the expanded stations. In either case, I don't know what to think about the front basket. Was it designed that way to perhaps host advertising? That would make sense if these are going to be the bikes rolled out in New York.
The leaf situation has made it such that every ride is a game of chicken where each bicyclist is trying to hew to the narrow path and only ride onto the leafy mess when absolutely necessary. This is why I ordered a jousting pole from my local jousting supply warehouse. I'll also use it like a toll to prevent people from riding in front of me at stop lights. Today was especially egregious. Is there something about sipping coffee from a mug while waiting for the light to change that signals "please, ride in front of me"? Maybe, I guess.


Ride Home 11/17 postponed

kőrösfői részeg alatt... That's a joke, whatever it's worth. Blogging tomorrow. 

Ride In 11/17

Another gloomy morning. Cloudy and lightly raining, but not dark enough for lights. Colder, but still not wintry. The roads were wet as were the leaves that sat atop them. I'd say that it's hard to stay motivated to ride my bike into work, but I've long ago "forgotten" that there any other viable means of getting here, though that's patently untrue. It's just how I get here and it's how a lot of people get around, even when it's colder and lightly raining. Like the guy in front of me on East Capitol who had an I WABA pant strap and MKS Lambda pedals. I think he was also wearing breakaway pants, which must add some dramatic flare flair to changing for work. I was wearing my new ear flap cap (flaps up, both to reduce (increase?) drag and because my ears didn't need the extra warmth) and my usual ensemble of yellow jacket, socks, pulled over tights, and evasive scowl. I try to go entire rides without ever making eye contact with anyone or anything. Fun times. 
I think that it is good practice to pull into the opposite direction bike lane when passing someone Pennsylvania Avenue. For a while, I rode behind a woman riding some kind of road bike with clipless pedals, but she was wearing sneakers and having a hard time keeping her rubber soles from slipping off them at each start and stop.Riding clipless pedals in regular shoes, while the act of a bike renegade, doesn't always make for the most pleasant ride.
Lately, I've really come to enjoy how balanced I feel on my bike. I attribute this to the trigonometry geometry of the bicycle and not to my own vestibular system. It's an especially nice feeling, that of not worrying about falling down, when the powers that be and their formerly leafy allies have conspired to make every bike lane a terrifying mess of brown, mushy, rotting hazard. I think I'm going to stop taking 15th. Someone tell me when they clean it up and I'll come back.
Maybe I should start a tumblr called "I can haz fenders" and post pictures of people with stripes of dirty wetness running up the backs of their shirts and jackets. I derive no joy from seeing this.
Precipitation seems to have a dramatic impact on the number of bicyclists riding east to west, or at least on R street around the same time that I ride it. There wasn't a single other bicyclist. Same diehards on Massachusetts though. Curious.
Boy Scouts should really be out helping old ladies cross the street because in my view, old ladies are really in need of this service. The extent to which the safe movement of the elderly is inhibited by society built around the rapid movement of automobiles will only be revealed further in the coming decades. It's troubling, to say the least. Yet another group of under-served, vulnerable road users.
But let's end on a happier note, a note involving beer and WABA. To summarize, beer and WABA is happening to tonight. The end. PS: what's the bike parking situation there?


Ride Home 11/16

So if I were being maudlin, I'd tell you that every day at the bike rack after I unlock my bike, I think to myself "please, let's not have this be the day when I have a collision" and then I think "here's hoping" and then I start my ride. It'd just a thing that I do (I think these are called superstitions) and I don't mean to do it to make myself nervous, but just to put myself in the mindset that maybe things can (but aren't necessarily) be dangerous out there and that I should ride in a way that reflects that. For what it's worth, I do the same thing, more or less, every time I get in the car.
Tonight was the first night of triple light (my new blinky on my rear rack, my old blinky clipped to my saddle bag and my helmet blinky on my helmet) and I felt reasonably confident about my level of red blinking lights. I was lit up like the world's most banal, communist Christmas tree. Strangely enough, the phrase "lit up like the world's most banal, communist Christmas tree" features frequently in my personal and professional correspondence. Just kidding! (...?)
All sorts of excitement on Massachusetts, mostly because some drivers feel the need for speed and I merely feel the need for not getting him by them. A frequent occurrence that causes angst is cars parking just on the other side of the Mass/Garfield intersection and other cars stopped to turn left immediately thereafter. The angst part comes when drivers try to squeeze between the left-turners and the parked cars with little regard as to whether there is bike traffic (that's me!) occupying the same space. But so it goes. Being aware of potential hazards and dealing with them every day is much better than ignoring them. But it's not better than caramel corn, which, on the hierarchy of candied snacks, is somewhere in the middle.
What if the Q street bike lane was better? I mean, it's not bad, but it could definitely be better.
14th street for the first time, thanks to a reader suggestion. (If you suggest it, I'll probably do it. That's not a guarantee, that's a threat!) It was much better lighted than 15th and the stop lights were much more amenable. Thomas Circle (not Dave Thomas Circle) isn't great, but that has more to do with pickup truck drivers and less to do with bicycle infrastructure, which is ample/adequate. On the other side of the circle, the road remains wide (and wide open) until about New York Ave, but then it was traffic. Car traffic it was that stopped me and I didn't have much choice other than to wait in it. At 14th and E, I tried to outstmart everyone by crossing the street, but that only led me to wait on the sidewalk for the light to change again and then navigate my way through the crossing pedestrians, not just at E, but also to get to Penn. You can't really outsmart congestion. If only I could have honked at it...
Relatively few bicyclists on Pennsylvania. The "safety" bollards might be coming down soon. Might as well. I really wish there was more overhead light on America's Main Street.
I don't normally find parked cars to be aesthetically pleasing and I certainly don't find 15-20 parked black SUVS in front of the Capitol to be aesthetically pleasing either. I sort of think it degrades the building and with regard to the halls of Congress, that's saying something! But this is the way of the world and it's a reminder that the way of the world involves lots of black SUVs parked in front of white marble buildings for some reason. Security probably. At least the Capitol will be replaced become a Walmart soon, I think.

Ride In 11/16

Thanks for prying yourself away from the Hunger Games trailer for a few minutes to read part one of my two-part daily bicycle bloggery. I remember when I used to care a lot more about movies (I think that peaked around my sophomore year in college), but I've moved beyond such frivolity and now, more maturely, only concern myself with weighty and serious subjects, like celebrity gossip and mixed martial arts (only one of those things is true and if you've read this blog before, you know which one). And, of course, the bicycle commuting lifestyle, which is the kind of lifestyle that puts me out in the rain for forty minutes, but that's not so bad, especially on a day like today, one that had a gentle rain barely sufficient to suggest a hat, though I wore one under my helmet anyway.
This dropped this morning: Capitol Hill Bikes Groupon $50 for $25. In case you're math deficient (I think that's called arith-nemia), that's a good deal and if you need help spending the $50, I'm available for consultations. And, furthermore, did you know that today is "buy your favorite a local bike commuter/blogger some stuff from Capitol Hill Bikes day"? So random.
The only thing more perilous than wet leaves is, well, ok, there are a lot of things more perilous than wet leaves, but it doesn't mean that wet leaves are a laughing matter, especially when they are piled in the bike leaf depository lanes that run throughout our fair, deciduous unrepresented federal colony city. I suppose this is a problem with tree-lined bicycle routes. Be careful.
There's a man at Occupy DC (yeah, we've still got one of those) who yells "Good Morning" every morning as I ride by and I'm beginning to think it's not a coincidence, although there is really no reason to change my opinion. Perhaps he yells good morning every half minute.
When drivers "block the box" every morning at one particular intersection (15th and Massachusetts), is this the sign of a behavioral fail or an engineering fail? My inclination is the latter. I know that traffic engineering is complicated (much more complicated than bike blogging), but one would think that this daily occurrence, whereby pedestrians are asked to pick their way through backed-up vehicles that are blocking the crosswalk, ought to be remedied. Unless, of course, and this is likely, the inconvenience of pedestrians is entirely secondary to the smooth flow of traffic (and by that I mean real traffic, cars) and doesn't enter into the equation at all.
Father and son biking together along R street. I've seen them before, but this is the first day I've spent any real amount of time riding behind them. I can tell that the dad is a good dad because both his bike and his kid's bike have fenders, which is sensible. The child was also helmeted. I passed them somewhere before Dupont Circle.
I've never ridden a bike with disc brakes, but I bet those make for a better braking experience in weather like this. My brakes are making an awful noise and their stopping power is significantly reduced in the wet weather. So, I continue to pine for the Surly Disc Trucker, but I'd be willing to pine for another kind of bicycle if you have any suggestions.
Followed a superbiker up Massachusetts from Wisconsin to Ward Circle. I could tell he was a superbiker because he was riding a thin-tired road bike and was wearing a lycra kit with the words "RACING UNION" on the back. (Not this racing union.) He seemed to be having a tough go of the hill, probably because he was on mile 50 of his commute or maybe just because it's really crappy to ride up wet, leaf-covered pavement on a super-thin-tired road bike. I stuck behind him, that he could benefit from the visibility of my bright yellow jacket and blinking blinky light. I wonder if he noticed or cared. In any case, I thought I was doing a good deed and since all rainy bicycle commutes are powered by self-satisfaction, I felt especially refreshed when I arrived at the office.


Ride Home 11/15

November 15 and I'm wearing shorts! Shorts! That's great. Great! Exclamatory repetition. Exclamatory!
Marijuana. (how's that for a segue?) Sometimes you smell it and sometimes that smell seems to be emanating from an automobile, one being driven only a few feet from you. I understand that some people like to smoke marijuana as a leisure activity (or for medicine?), but I'd generally prefer that it not be done in any proximity to the act of driving, which, when done poorly, is imperiling to me enough already. Also, don't drink and drive. Or text and drive. So, that's that.
It's best to remain in the bike lane at a stop light, rather than drift to the right side of the road by the sidewalk. This might even prevent impatient drivers from honking at you (since you're blocking their right turn on red). I mean, do what you want, but it's just a suggestion of a way to not get honked at.
Do taxis not come equipped with turn signals?
15th street, while possessing a cycletrack, is slow and unpleasant for the evening commute. I was stopped at red lights at:
- P
- Rhode Island
- Massachusetts
- L (briefly)
- K
- I
For those of you playing at home, that's all of them from Q to the White House, except H. And that's not an irregularity. You can't avoid them. Sucks. This is why I don't ride this way in the evening.
Security tape down, so I rode through. So did the woman who was riding behind me and she pulled through the bollards faster than I did. I slowed in the bike lane to avoid some jackass jogger.
Lots of CMs parked in front of the JAWB. Didn't notice if the silver bullet was there.
Nothing much of interest for the rest of the trip. Frankly, I like it better that way. I whistled a little, sometimes it was Sheena Easton. Caution tape was down by the Capitol, so our long national nightmare is over.
I got my new lights in the mail, so I'll install them later or maybe tomorrow. So much more blinking.
One other thing: WABA wants us to drink beer on their behalf. I don't casually bandy about the word "hero," but if you were to do this, you would be one. Better than GI Joe, Batman and Sully Sullenberger combined. I'm going to try to go.

Ride In 11/15

Variety is the spice of life and variety in bike commuting routes is the spice of the life of bike commuters. Other spices in the life of bike commuters vary depending on their preferences and the time of year, but if, let's say, you were doing some holiday shopping at Penzey's for the bike commuter in your life, you couldn't go wrong with a seasonally appropriate baking variety pack that includes cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Perhaps then the bike commuter in your life will take some time to make you seasonally appropriate pumpkin scones. But I digress.
As Confucius never said "Sometimes to go west, you have to ride east." I rode east today in an attempt to find my way along the much touted Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Along the way, I didn't encounter this jaunty fellow:

I looked briefly at a map and figured that it wouldn't be especially difficult to follow a trail that runs roughly along the river. In this, I was completely incorrect. I rode through the parking lot of the current stadium of the soon-to-be Baltimore United to a barrier that said Trail closed that had an arrow on it that pointed me into another parking lot and another trail segment that was only a few feet of grass away. The trail was quite pleasant and quite empty, excepting one man jogging (we nodded) and one man walking, without leashes, his two small dogs. At some point not too far down the trail, I came upon an unfinished bridge, which I think will obviate the need to cross to cross Pennsylvania Avenue by the Sousa bridge. The bridge, being unfinished, proved useless to me, so I detoured and ended up in Barney Circle. This is where I made the mistake of trying to follow signs instead of following my instincts and I rode away from the river, parallel to the highway along K Street SE, not sure of how I was supposed to cross the highway to once again access the trail and river. If you're not especially familiar with this part of Washington (which I'm not either), here's an annotated map:
Red means trail. Real trail map here
My plan was to reconnect to the trail somewhere around 11th street, where I've previously noticed signs. The signs pointed me east again and I realized after a block that wasn't going to work, so I turned around. What I should have down is keep riding down 11th towards the Navy Yard, where maybe I could have picked up the trail again. Of course, I don't think they allow bicycle riding on that part of the Riverwalk (lame) and I'm also not exactly sure if they open the gates on any kind of regular schedule. So, I didn't do that and instead rode along M Street, past the USDOT HQ and past the baseball stadium before making a right onto N Street, which wasn't the greatest move since N Street abruptly turned south at the same time turning into a different street entirely. I turned right on P and was once again on somewhat familiar ground. I rode past the Titanic Memorial (for real) and started to ignore the once again rattling on my rear fender. (It wasn't from a loose screw, but rather from one of the stays banging again my rear rack. I tried to fix it later (by bending it), so that might have stopped it.) Then it was along Water Street, past the Bikeshare dock on 7th and through the construction zone on Maine Avenue. It's getting better, but it's still not done. The plan, I think, is to widen the sidewalks to make them more "pathy."
I rode down Ohio Drive, which was empty of all car, bus, bike and jogger traffic except for me. If I were capable of riding fast for any sustained amount of time, this would have been a good opportunity. Then it was along the not-so-great trail along the Potomac to K street to the CCT.
I think I would have enjoyed the trip more had I been able to remain on trails for the entirety, not so much because trail ride is superior to on street riding, but mostly because that was what I had set out to do and my cartographic deficiencies and poor signage and a hypothetical rejection by the US Navy precluded that. K Street under the Whitehurst remains one of the least pleasant bicycle spaces in DC. It's made worse when some bicycles do their damnedest to ride directly into right hooks, but there's not much I can do about that.
At least 60 bicyclists coming in the opposite direction along the Capital Crescent. Some of them saw me try to take a picture of the foliage as I rode along. I failed because my sweaty fingers couldn't virtually depress the virtual photo button, so I don't have any orange blurriness to share with you. Most, the overwhelming majority, of the people I passed were white men. So it goes.
My legs must have felt at least somewhat ok riding up through Macomb Street and along Loughboro Road because I was out of the saddle. Perhaps I was "dancing on the pedals." Perhaps I was [insert your favorite Paul Sherwen-ism here]. The whole trip took longer than I expected, but it was a nice ride along a sedate trail and a route that I will come nowhere near later in the season as it gets colder and as the trail becomes even more obscured with leaves and snow and ice. I'll keep trying along the ART and anyone who has experience with riding from roughly RFK to the Titanic Memorial could/should fill me in on how to do it. 


Ride Home 11/14

I have a helmet blinky and I affixed it to my helmet yesterday and now I'm twice as blinky. I also ordered some new lights that even are blinkier than my current lights and soon I will be sufficiently blinky to the point that I won't need to mention how blinky I am ever again, much to all of our relief. Am I that Japanese cartoon show that gives kids seizures? I still down really have enough forward facing light to actually illuminate my way on a dark path, which leads me over a number of bumpy patches of road that I probably ought to have avoided. But it's fine for the city riding of my normal commute.
Sometimes in my desire to keep going forward I make the mistake of bailing to the sidewalk, which is ultimately much slower than just stopping and merging into the travel lane traffic. I did this after riding for a stretch behind an Old Town Trolley. Don't worry, I know what you're thinking, but it's ok: the company is American-owned and operated. I think that's part of the Jones Act or something.
Is it depressing to be the fourth cyclist in a line of four who's the only one with lights? Maybe, but I'll just take the glass-half-full approach and say that I was doing community service and alerting passing drivers of our presence. Seriously, #bikeDC, get your shit together and get some lights. It shouldn't be surprising anymore that it's dark. One of the bicyclists in front of me was playing some sort of radio or stereo, speakers 'a-blazing, foisting her musical taste (I didn't recognize it) on the rest of us. I don't appreciate this kind of cultural imperialism. I met her by whistling sad, sort of droning Hungarian music. Sure.
I think that drivers 'get it' when a bicyclist has to leave the bike lane because it's blocked. I find the key is just to signal and do it early, well before you get to the obstacle (car). Don't be coy about it, either.
I seriously need to stop taking 11th below Mass. It's just not good. And the buses!
Nice going on Penn and through the Capitol. Someone decided to ride too closely to my back wheel and I found that annoying. I met this annoyance by gunning it up the hill, perhaps too proudly. I'm sure it was an old lady, but in any case, I dropped her. Take that old lady.
Caution tape by the Capitol entrance on First. Great. I said "Are you kidding me?" and I hope the guards heard. Do my tax dollars really need to go to making it that much harder to ride my bicycle? (Not that they don't already given how much of them go to subsidizing highways and oil or whatever) Along East Capitol, I rode behind a family for a while, but the older girl got stuck behind a car blocking the bike lane and came to a stop instead of taking the lane. I don't blame her. The mom and younger daughter waited for her at the next intersection. So, there you go. Blocking the bike lane separates families. Happy now, pizza guy?
My rear fender was rattling the whole way home and I didn't know why until I took my bike inside and saw that I lost a nut on one of the fender stays. I was able to remedy this by taking a nut off a pair of broken fenders that I've kept for the last six months. Huzzah for redundancy.

Ride In 11/14

My bike is filthy and I took no steps over the weekend to remedy that. As such, it remained filthy this morning. I took some remedial steps to lube the chain and I noticed that the rear fender was scraping against the tire and that the brake pads were gross and far more worn down than I expected them to be, but there was hardly any time to address these issues, much less dwell on them, because it was Monday and a leisurely weekend had already given way to a workaday workday. It was almost enough to put me on the other bike, the regular people bike on which I ride when I wear regular people clothes, but I had already changed into my irregular people clothes, namely those made of space-age materials cut into the patterns of athletic wear, which is different from sportswear or so Project Runway suggests. My desire to ride in regular people clothes must have been brought about by others desire to participate in the anachronistic escapist Tweed ride of yesterday, pictures of which can be found all over the interwebs. Perhaps on my morning dog walk (on which I walk a dog, not scamper like one) I inhaled some tweed particulars still wafting in the air, comingled with ironic cigar smoke and the the fumes of whatever hair product is needed to achieve the Depression-era dos (or don'ts) of the fashionable set. Early estimates estimate (writerly!) that upwards of 900 participants participated (double writerly!) in the ride and all accounts I've read so far indicate that it was a good time. You all looked splendid.
I remain an unwitting participant in the slow bike movement.
A man driving a car registered in Tennessee asked me today how to get to Pennsylvania Avenue. He was already on Pennsylvania Avenue and I told him as much. He asked if it was a one way street. I assured him it wasn't. And that's how I met Bob Corker. (Just kidding).
I encountered very few bicyclists before 15th street. Curious. Great day for cycling to work. You could even wear tweed if you wanted. And a newsboy cap. And deliver newspapers. I heard that artisanal, small-batch, ironic newspaper delivery is totally a thing now.
Briefly rode behind a guy on a Salsa Casseroll. He was wearing a backpack and his backpack was wearing a safety vest.Safest backpack ever.
I'm not going to talk about that thing I promised not to talk about any more (I won't even link back) but I will say that it's still among one of the most annoying things that someone can do on a bicycle in public that doesn't involve a kazoo and Ride of the Valkyries. When I'm appointed 'bicycle czar' in Mayor Alpert's third term, I'm going to try to get it banned. Not the kazoo thing, the other thing.
Ruder: to ride on the grass around pedestrians or to ring your bell and ask them to make way? I feel like off-path riding is ruder for some reason. It seems drastic and anti-social.
I don't know if you (whoever you are) know this, but the Secret Service has some not-so-secret police cruisers, one of which was parked on the sidepath along Massachusetts, presumably defending the Vice President from the man using a leaf blower.
For the last bit of my ride, I was thinking about the career arc of Kelly Clarkson. Not much to say about that.


Ride Home 11/10

Cold, rainy and dark is the triumvirate of bad bike commuting conditions. I suppose cold, snowy and dark would be worse. Today is one of those days where I convince myself that riding in it somehow better prepares me for riding in an even worse day, but it's hard to imagine that there are too many days worse than this, though I suppose it could have been much colder and the rain could have been more driving and the dark could have been more foreboding, perhaps with Scooby Doo-style monsters. At the bike rack, a guy who just arrived told me that it was nasty out there and told me to be careful. Nothing like bike rack chatter.
The roads were slick and I added wet white paint to the things that I should try to avoid. When the roads are wet, I'm reticent to ride on anything other than nice, even pavement, which seems to be less and less the more that I look for it. From work to halfway down Massachusetts I rode behind a guy on a fixie who seemed to be struggling somewhat with the conditions. Somewhere along Massachusetts, he dumped off to the sidewalk and I was able to increase my speed to 5 miles per hour or so. Actually, I was riding faster than that, but not by much because I saw bus's taillights on the horizon and I found prudent to some distance between us. At one point on Mass, I unintendedly ran a red and luckily didn't suffer any negative consequences. I got lucky.
There's no trick to riding in Sheriden Circle. Just get in and get out and avoid the drivers turning onto 23rd.
The Q Street Boogaloo could totally be something, but it's not and so I'm appropriating it to describe the usual car dodge a bike commuter embarks upon as he heads east across town. If it's not the turning cars, it's the cars parking and if it's not both of those it's the trucks in the bike lane and if it's not that it's the bicyclists and the jaywalkers and maybe instead of all of those things, it's just me. At Q and New Jersey, I watched two drivers turn right on red without stopping, only narrowly avoiding me and the driver next to me and then jockey to turn left another block down the road. I said, aloud, "stop fucking around so I don't die" without really thinking about how terrible it is that just trying to get home makes me say something like that.
Fewer lightless bicyclists tonight because there were fewer bicyclists overall. Guess everyone took the bus home.
At the circle in front of the Capitol, a motorist declined to yield to me. His license plate indidcated the car was registered in Quebec. No sir, Je me souviens.
Near the Capitol, I rode up the driveway I always ride up (though this time had to yield, for the first time ever, to two drivers heading in the opposite direction) and noticed that parking spaces at the Capitol reserved for compact cars can (and do) easily accommodate Lexus SUVs. Fail.
Along East Capitol, a bus driver waived me in front of him before he pulled into a spot and it turned out another bicyclist was riding behind me. He had a grey mustache and said that bus drivers always treat him well. Really. Must be the mustache. Then I misheard him say something that I thought was "Bradley Whitford."
I stopped at the Safeway and bought, amongst other things, watercress and beer. The guy in front of me in line purchased, not amongst other things, elbow macaroni and relish and beer. When I got back out to my bike, I realized that my rear light 's battery was considerably depleted and my visibility was (and had been to that point) severely compromised. This is a problem, especially in light (haha!) of my recent light evangelism. Perhaps it's time to get new, brighter lights. I likewise worry about my front lights. I can barely see pedestrians and on Penn, given its poor design, this will be an increasingly terrible problem and I genuinely worry about riding into one. So, shopping woo.

Ride In 11/10

Strange morning. I was weirdly distracted for the first 10 minutes of my ride (maybe it was the fog?) and ended up heading down Massachusetts to 2nd NE, where I decided to turn and head north with the intention of picking up the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Only one other bicyclist on Massachusetts (dude on a single-speed that shone in an odd hue of metallic blue), but all sorts of bike types riding down 2nd. Most them with bright yellow jackets. It'd be better if there were a bike lane on this street, but there isn't. It would also be better if the street didn't abruptly end at M, but that's where the train tracks go and there's not very much I can do about that. Is this part of town Swampoodle?
I don't know what possessed me to take the MBT, but I'm happy I made the choice. Apparently, someone decided to put a stage across the 15th street cycletrack. I'm sure there was no way to avoid that. Shakespeare once wrote that the whole world is a stage, but I think he really meant that only the integral bicycle facilities than thousands of bicycle commuters use each day is a stage. Ran out of iambs, I suppose.
Civilly disobediently salmoned on R, but someday they'll built a contraflow bike lane there and all my crimes will be expunged. One block of bike lane, though, won't make R street that much more useable anywhere east of Florida. At the Florida intersection, a FedEx driver might have been honking at me with the intended goal of my doing I'm not sure what exactly. Ride into traffic? Explode?
Some other regional bike news: new Bikeshare station open in Arlington. Now you take bikeshare up the hill from Rosslyn (have fun with that). More stations should be forthcoming in the next weeks. Here's the Arlington expansion map. I have some thoughts on station placement, but rather than share them,  I'll let you guess them Kreskin-style. And also, but where did the lighter fluid come from?
I don't think it's advisable to make a left turn from a far-right bike lane. It's a considerably better idea to merge into the travel lane. Just a suggestion.
Still a good amount of bicycle traffic. We'll see what happens after the first frost. I can't remember if the Farmer's Almanack (old-timey spelling) has a chapter on bike commuters.
On the multi-use path alongside Massachusetts (I've renamed the sidewalk a multi-use path to make myself feel better), I was riding towards a woman who was looking down at her phone and I didn't think that she saw me so I dinged once. She looked up, made eye contact with me and then proceeded to turn around and look behind her as if to look for the target of my bell ringing. Um, it was you.
Did you know (or do you care to know) that the Finnish Embassy is hosting an award-winning photo exhibition of Miina Savoleinan's called "The Loveliest Girl in the World"? There's a banner out front, so that's how I know. Miina Savolainen will guide visitors in person November 11-12, so if you've been waiting for a reason to go, now you have one. Prospective cultural tourism is yet another advantage of bicycling to work. I cannot attest to the veracity of the actual comparative loveliness of the girl.


Ride Home 11/9

I promised sunshine and rainbows and there will be sunshine and rainbows and I will not dwell on the near 40 morons I encountered today riding without lights on their bicycles, including one tall bike rider (rolling up to Freedom Plaza) and the pedicab. Instead, I'll dwell on the fact that it was nearly 60 degrees and it wasn't precipitating and I didn't have to suffer the what seemed like heavier than usual automobile traffic.
I left work only 15 minutes later than usual and by then it was already full dark. It's almost better this way. I noticed the moon.
I rode Mass to Q to 15th and had a bumpy ride down the cycletrack from light to light to light counting lightless cyclists as I went and maybe missing some because they were lightless and I couldn't see them. The cycletrack remains too bumpy, but since this is a special sunshine and rainbows post, let's just say the bumps make it fun, like a roller coaster or mountain biking or a massage chair at the Sharper Image. I rode behind a guy in a suit wearing a SuitSak on his back. Did he have a second suit in his SuitSak or was he ironically ferrying a lycra team kit in there? I don't wear suits at work (unless you count a gorilla suit. I find gorilla suits to be endlessly hilarious) so I don't think I need a SuitSak, but it seems like a worthwhile purchase in you need a bike garment bag.
Mr. Suitsak and I diverged after H Street when he rode to the other side at Madison Place and I stuck to the near side, instead of riding between the untaped security bollards. I think that they're just messing with me now.
Pretty breezy the rest of the way home. Only one taxi driver making an illegal u-turn across Penn. Yesterday, I saw one coming in the other direction slow to make one, so I slowed to a near stop to make it that he couldn't, or at least couldn't until he managed to drive past me at which point presumably he was able. Can't win them all. That thing happened where some bicyclists in front of me ran some reds along Penn but I caught up with them again on East Capitol. It all evens out in the end, unless of course you have super legs and/or get lucky with other lights and/or are willing to keep running reds no matter what.
In conclusion, riding home from work today was fun and I really liked it. Hooray.

Ride In 11/9

In case you didn't notice, I like commuting by bicycle. I guess I'd have to in order to do it every day and blog about it. It's easily the best way for me to get to work, save some money and get some exercise. But while overall the experience is quite positive, some days just aren't as fun as others. Today was one of them and I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed or maybe I was just more easily miffed or maybe conditions were actually worse today than normal (though highly unlikely since it was fairly gorgeous), but for whatever reason, I didn't have a great trip and I got to work feeling vaguely stressed and unhappy. These things happen and I wouldn't want to let one bad ride spoil all of the good ones.
I think the cause of my bad mood, to a large extent, is the observed behavior of other bicyclists. This is a problem with misanthropy. I guess I just don't like to see other bicyclists do stupid things and risk grievous injury in the process. I've found that riding a bicycle in the city is a non-stop series of judgment calls and, while judgment calls are entirely subjective, I'd like to think of myself as having fairly good judgment. And pretty much what I've come to figure is that being risk-averse on a bicycle isn't a bad thing. Though I suppose in order to know if a behavior is risk-averse you need to both recognize what you're doing and what constitutes risk and I'm just not entirely sure how many people (bicyclists, motorists, pedestrians, zookeepers, etc.) are even making these kinds of calculations. That doesn't mean riding scared and it doesn't mean deferring to drivers or anything like that. I just hate the idea of people putting themselves (or someone else) in bodily harm because they're not thinking about what's going on around them. That's all. (Excuse me if my thoughts, like a mojito, are muddled.)
Give money to WABA today.
I think I saw a woman riding her bicycle wearing what might have been hot pants and go-go boots. For real.
I'm ending my passive-aggressive "war" on shoaling bicyclists. I don't have the ability to keep it up. Just too many of them and I don't even think they know what they're doing. One's willingness to pass a stopped bicyclist isn't necessarily the same as one's ability to maintain a pace such that the previously passed bicyclist won't just pass you again. I think this is Newton's 6th law of velodynamics, or something. I'm done complaining.
Something new today in that I rode down V street. It was fine. I then rode on Florida briefly and turned onto 19th, where I waited at the end of a row of cars while a bus driver attempted a three point turn on Columbia Road. It took a while and seemed imprudent. After a bit, I decided that I would just ride up the sidewalk. So much for that.
At the intersection of Calvert and Cleveland, I watched the crossing guard deny a pedestrian the ability to safely cross the street even though, as the pedestrian indignantly noted that she "has 8 seconds left." I don't know why the crossing guard did this, but it was quite the standoff. The woman really wanted to cross the street and had ample time, but the crossing guard kept shooing her back. I rode away before I saw what would happen at the next crossing sequence. I wonder what happened. I guess the question I would ask is why the crossing guard is in the business of ensuring that drivers can turn left and not in the business of ensuring that people can safely cross the street. Oh well.
I don't like how the bike lane on Garfield just disappears. It'd be better if it went the entire way to Mass, but it has to stop somewhere, right? I think stuff like this is the saddest reminder that bike facilities in this town as just one-off add-ons and don't seem in any way to be part of a larger, more comprehensive system. I'm all for bike lanes, but I'm more all for a coherent bicycle infrastructure network.
Nothing puts me on edge more than the sound of car horns. I almost rode into the back of an SUV as I swiveled my head to try to figure out what the hell was going on. I always swivel when I hear a honk because if it's something serious I'd rather know what's happening so I can take steps to avoid it. Apparently what was going on was the driver in from of him stopped to allow pedestrians to cross in the crosswalk. Awesome.
This post seems unusually dour. I promise all rainbows and sunshine (figurative) on the way home.