Buttons Sales, Calendar Year Ending Soon

This is a reminder that the sale of DC Sharrows buttons, pictured below, will be ending on the last day of 2011, a mere hundred something hours away.
Buttons = awesome

Also ending on that day will be the opportunity to purchase an "I blog your ride," an "I blog your ride + sandwich" or "I deliver your button by bicycle while wearing a tuxedo." All profits from button sales and anything else you might want to buy from me will be donated to WABA, possibly by means of a comically large check (if my bank offers those). I've been reticent so far to set any goals, mostly from fear of not meeting them, but now that we're getting closer to the end, I'm going to go all pie-in-the-sky (the name of my not yet started baked good-by-dirigible concern) and put a number out there. That number is 1000, as in dollars. American dollars. I want you (via me) to raise $1000 for WABA. In order to get there, we're going to need a few more sandwich purchases. Get too much money from grandma and not enough buttons from the remainder of your loved ones? I can totally fix that. Or maybe someone wants to buy the printed collection of the blog (don't do this). Or we can negotiate. Have some onerous yard work you'd like a semi-known local bike blogger to do (half-assedly)? Name your price. Want someone to watch your kids? I'll do that for money which I'll subsequently give that to WABA. I will also ask you and your kids to sign waivers. Out of prison and getting the gang back together for one last score and need a getaway driver? Well, I'm not going to commit to do that in writing, but email me your phone number at talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com and maybe we can set something up. Maybe.
So please visit manfredmacx.com and place your orders soon. Not to be dramatic or anything, but TIME IS RUNNING OUT!!!!!!! All buttons will be shipped/delivered in early January. To everyone that has purchased so far, I offer you tremendous and completely non-cynical gratitude. Happy New Year!


Ride Home 12/22

This will be my last commute in 2011. It might not be my final post, as I'll have some time off and will invariably fritter it away in the manner that I always do, namely reading bike stuff on the interwebs. Accordingly, I might have some opinions on some of that bike stuff and I might foist those on you. No promises. I won't foist on you some sort of 2011 Year In Review with a top ten countdown of my favorite commutes. There are so many things I won't foist.
Ironically, tonight's ride was to pick up the car, which I then drove home. But before then was a fairly wonderful bicycle ride thanks to the Bikeshare.
I have an opinion conspiracy theory about the Gray administration and DC bike lanes and I've been known to foist it, but I haven't bloggingly foisted it, so here goes (If you've had a beer with me ever, this is something I'm sure you've heard because when I start drinking I get all crazy with my bike theories and local politics. Crazy. I live a wild life): they're not anti-bike, or even anti-bike lane, but early on, I suspect, it was decided that a choice was to be made: more bike lanes or more Bikeshare and more Bikeshare won. So, we got 25 (ish) stations this fall and we'll get another 50 next year, but we're not getting 10 miles of lanes each year. And, frankly, while no trade-off is good, I'm not too torn up about this one. If we were to put a positive spin on it, I'd say it's a somewhat savvy move- a sop to the twits by adding more stations while not upsetting drivers with confusing white paint where there previously wasn't any. And Bikeshare still remains "novel" and "innovative" whereas "bike lanes" became a stand-in for gentrification and Fenty and too rapid change and divisiveness and we cannot have that in ONE CITY. I'd also take the trade (which is just something I've conjectured and isn't or hasn't been explicitly acknowledged anywhere by anyone) because, ultimately, a more robust and more diffuse bikesharing system is much better than the haphazard expansion of a bike network by a block or two at a time with little focus on connectivity or the Bicycle Master Plan. In any case, more people on bikes is better. The debatable thing is whether more Bikeshare or more bike lanes is the better path to it (An aside: only one of them captures a lot of revenue from tourists). I don't know. Musing over.
This was the bike I rode to work this morning. Still at the station when I left. I'm guessing today was a pretty low volume day in upper NW.

Pretty easy to Rosslyn. There was a disabled car on the bridge. Land Rover. Maybe she should have driven a Bridge Rover. It was only 3 and a half minutes shorter a trip than the reverse, uphill one that I took this morning. It's hard to make a CaBi go fast downhill. It sort of just maxes out and then you coast. Maybe it's better that way.
It was a fairly quiet ride on the Mount Vernon Trail as well. Except that the trail is probably Cat 6 heaven. And maybe Cat 5 heaven, since it didn't look like most of those guys were coming from work and were pretty much just racing. Which is fine, I guess. No one did anything especially wreckless or assholish by me, so I was pretty happy.
You can see how low the city is from the banks on the other side of the Potomac. It's like the Washington Monument is a fountain pen and the outlying buildings are its spilt ink. Except the ink is off-white.
It was around Gravelly Point when I realized that a guy was riding behind me. And I kept my pace and didn't really worry about it, but when he passed and I saw that he was wearing the compression leg warmers of a superbiker, I decided that I would give chase. Because why not? I don't normally endorse racing (because I am slow) and I really don't endorse wheelsucking, but it sure is fun to hang on the back wheel of some superbiker when you're riding a Bikeshare bike. Maybe he wasn't trying to drop me and maybe he didn't even know I was there, but I was pretty proud of myself for keeping up. I had the legs to pass him, too, on the uphill ramp by the airport, but that would have been really anti-social (read: dickish).
I lost track of my time and docked as soon as I could in Crystal City, not knowing if I'd make it to my intended station before the thirty minutes. I guess I would have, but I don't know. Crystal Drive is one way south of 23rd and I didn't know that. This is greatly inconvenient for bicyclists and I demand immediate action. Because I have that kind of pull. I rode on the sidewalk and really hated it, mostly because of the number of parking garages that empty out onto the sidewalks.
And that was pretty much it for the ride. I picked up the car, ran some errands and was stuck in traffic for a good part of the drive home. Awesome. Driving is fine, I guess, but car commuting isn't very fun, especially when we're not talking about unbikeable distances. Highways, also, in case you haven't noticed, are rather ugly, so there's an aesthetic argument for commuting by bike as well.
Once again, a million thanks to all of you. Each day I try to think of new ways to keep you entertained, but then I give up on that and just write the posts. And you read them anyway. Because you're generous in spirit and interested in bicycling and bored at work and/or home. Have a great end of year.

Ride In 12/22

It's rare that I find myself driving on the highway during my morning commute, mostly because I bike to work and biking is discouraged/illegal on limited access highways, such as 395 where I found myself this morning. This has been the Week of the Car, with yesterday's emissions inspection and today's oil change and tomorrow's trip to the DMV and then a day or two of driving on Friday and Saturday. So, yeah.
I dropped the car off at the dealership and found my way to the nearest Bikeshare station, the one at the southernmost tip of Crystal City. It's actually the southernmost station in the whole system (for now). I did not commemorate my arrival by planting a flag or anything. That would be weird. I've gotten so used to the idea of bikeshare and one-way bike trips, that I barely reflected on the immense utility of this service. I'm sure I could have waited for the dealership to drive me to the Metro, which isn't far, but then I would have had to take the Metro to work. Boo.
It was a beautiful morning and it felt more like September than late December.
Crystal City I just don't get. It's sort of like an outdoor mall. I could help but wonder what kind of tax revenue Arlington generates from it. It's probably a lot. This revenue can fun transportation priorities and infrastructure, like bike lanes, and more vital things like mustache trimmers for certain County Board members.
The sign to get from Crystal Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail isn't obvious and if I didn't know generally where it was, I probably would have missed the turn entirely. I don't know if there's going to be better signage installed some time soon (as there will be/is in other parts of A-Town), but the lack of clear instructions on how to get to the trail and where that trail might go is a real problem. If Crystal City is to become a "bike hub," especially for tourists, you need better signs. And they should be bigger. Font choice are totally up to whoever wants to pay for the signs. I think Comic Sans would be puckish.
The NPS is the bane of the local cycling community, as far as banes and communities go. WABA is trying to help. And that's great and useful and connectivity and attitudes towards cyclists really need to change. But I think that I, at least, take for granted how absolutely wonderful the Mount Vernon Trail is, especially in the morning and especially when it's empty. It's better than it's NPS land better than not there at all. Because then I'd probably be biking on some mud or maybe an expanded highway- I don't really know. Nevertheless, it could be better still and I hope that the reality of that starts dawning on the Parks Service soon enough.
Sometimes I count bicyclists and other times I try to keep a running tally of how much money those passing cyclists spent at REI. It was a lot.
I'm proud to say that no one rode past me as I took my CaBi up the trail to Rosslyn. This might be because I have blazingly fast super-speed, but it's more likely that no one else was riding north. Or it could be because I was riding one of the newer CaBis and it has a Fabian Cancellara-style secret motor along with it's enclosed front basket. Probably not.
I jaywheeled across the Lee Highway intersection of doom. Jaywheeling Across the Intersection of Doom is going to be the subtitle of my eventual memoir. The main title is going to be "A Biography of Kareem Abdul Jabbar." Sure it's false advertising, but I think I'd sell way more books that way.
Hello Key Bridge bike-ped counter. I think I missed you more than you missed me.
I can't believe that I rode up 35th every day. There's something about repetition that has an abstracting effect. The hills on your daily seem to "flatten" as you take them day after day. But after some time off, they grow and maybe even get steeper than they were initially. In any case, I struggled. And it's only a block long.
Very quiet in Georgetown and almost sleepy in Glover Park. Except for the revving engines of, what else, the black BMWs. All BMWs should be painted a more soothing color to assuage the rage of the drivers inside. Calm down, dudes. It's ok.
I haven't figured out how I'm getting back to the dealership later, but it'll probably be by bike. Maybe the exact opposite route, maybe something different. Suggestions welcome.


Ride Home 12/21

Big government liberals are of the opinion that certain motor vehicles need to be "inspected" so an unjust levy can be subjected upon their so-called "emissions." (I used both so-called and scare quotes so as to heighten my claims of their spuriousness). And so, WE THE PEOPLE, need to sometimes drive our motor vehicles to the "inspection" station, so that OBAMACARE can wrench his "carbon tax" against my tertiary mode of transportation. As a former member of the Arlington Bike Commuter Caucus of the freedom wing of the liberty section of the TEA PARTY, I find this sort of government intrusion in my lifestyle and/or job creation to be anti-American. In fact, I even moved to DC so as to experience real life taxation without representation, just like our founding fathers and/or Jeebus faced many moons and many, many, many moons ago respectively. Accordingly, I had to leave work early to face up to this socialist islamofascism (probably) so I could drive the Road to Serfdom to the "inspection station" and such. But first I took one of my twice daily bicycling jaunts, only a few hours after having completed the earlier one and only moments after completing the blog post commemorating that ride.
What about lunch? Good point. I didn't eat lunch. I did have a rather large bear claw and chocolate milk around 10:30, but that's more of a late breakfast/brunch, assuming that brunch for an adult can include chocolate milk, which I suspect it can't.
When I left it was raining and, accordingly, I got wet. This is why I normally have a change of clothes, but I suppose it didn't matter since I was on my way home anyway. Nonetheless, I don't especially like the feeling of wet denim and I was also wholly unprepared with my lack of gloves and hat. The temperature seemed oddly cold for a day advertised as 60 degrees, which itself it quite odd for later December.
Every time I ride past St. Albans, I think of Rushmore. I think that's pretty apt.
I don't like commuting at non-commute times. I don't really trust non-commute drivers. I don't like all of the delivery vans and plumbing trucks and flower delivery trucks (for real- I saw something named something like Ultraviolet Flowers. I don't think they know what ultraviolet means. Spoiler alert: an ultra violet isn't just a really cool kind of flower) and there are likewise very few bicyclists on the road and I think the a (excuse the term) critical mass of bicyclists on the road at any given time provides a sort of awareness buffer that is synergistic. Tales From The Sharrows, LLC can help your organization improve its market-share in Synergistic Awareness Buffers in a paradigm-shifting way. Jargon!
This ride wasn't very much different from any other. I hit the lights at the same time as I normally do and the flow of traffic wasn't much less than that during a normal ride home. I took the same route as usual, which is to say Mass to Q to 11th. On 11th, I rode behind some "hipsters" for a while. Each with a mini u-lock in the back pocket (or looped under a belt), bearded and on single-speed (but not fixed geared bikes). The fixie is over, even in DC, apparently. I didn't know if they were riding anywhere ironically, but they were riding slowly, perhaps on account of the rain. At the intersection of 11th and Mass, they rolled alongside of me, after I hazarded to pass them, and stopped at the light. One gave me the ol' up-n-down and I said "hello," which prompted some sort of salutation in response. I guess I made the cut. Booyah.
Christmas songs are still dominating my internal playlist. Silent Night. Weird. And Silver Bells. Silver bells, silver bells. It's Christmas time in the SIDIs.
Not much doing from Penn to home. It stopped raining by then, so it was only a little soggy and barely miserable at all. What fun is the bike commuting without the preening masochism? Oh wait, it's plenty fun. I've taken to trying to make it more fun by practicing my no-hands riding. I'm, how do you say, not very good at it, but I've gotten better. Some day I'll be able to keep both my hands off the handlebars for at least 10 seconds, which might be long enough to sling bike buttons at unaware passers-by. Booyah.
I'm pretty sure I'll get in two more posts before Winter Break, since I'll be riding in and home tomorrow. Tomorrow's commute will be slightly different and involve either Bikeshare or a magical manticore. Just one of those, though.

Ride Home 12/20 and Ride In 12/21

Double post again? This blog is going downhill. But this one, at least, isn't really my fault since it was internet travails that waylaid me last night and not my own procrastination. Though I can't promise an excessively detailed post, since more than 12 hours have passed since writing and my memory is exactly 12 hours long. This is why I have all of those those Memento-style tattoos. To help me remember. Of course, if I just wrote the posts in a timely fashion instead of spending the time getting inked up, I could avoid having mundane things like "BMW driver jerk" and "blocked bike lane" written on me with a mechanical needle. Oh well. 
Last night I rode from work to the Black Rooster for the first-ever (and maybe only?) Tales From The Sharrows Happy Hour/Button sales. The bar was packed and I didn't have time to talk to everyone there. Admittedly, most of the people weren't there to talk to me, so I guess that was ok. I do want to thank those who did find time in their busy schedules and days of massive productivity to attend. I had a great time. To get to the Rooster,  I took Mass to 21st, which is a perfectly adequate street except for the stop signs at each intersection and the too much car traffic. I'm of the opinion that you could fit a bike lane on it, at least to New Hampshire, since it's only one way, but to the best of my knowledge, decisions about where to place bike lanes aren't based on my opinions. At least not yet. Once the readership hits double digits, then I'll have some real weight to throw around. 
I'm going to interrupt this "narrative" to highlight a comment that was just made on yesterday's post:


George Wells George Wells said...
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Post a Comment

George Wells George Wells makes a really great point and I'm glad that he (?) took the time to write. It's piquant and topical, which is more than I can say for any comment I've ever left on a blog. Or any post I've ever written. Anyway.
Post meet-up, I decided to ride home without my jacket and the weather was warm enough to be bracingly cold and no warmer. I took L across to 15th (riding on the right side, as makes the most sense) and then 15th down to the White House to 15th to Penn to East Capitol. There was a police car, empty, parked in the middle of the Penn bike lanes. Keeping us safe, maybe? Very few other cyclists out, even though it was only 7:30ish.
Riding up the path next to the Capitol, I chanced upon a group of dawling tweens, pursued by a disgruntled dad, who somehow got roped into taking dawdly tweens to the Capitol for some reason. Perhaps it was tourism, perhaps it was part of his court-ordered community service. I don't know. In any case, I'm slowly making my way uphill, quite aware that a tween is about 15 feet in front of me, when disgruntled dad, in a tone of voice that's probably far too familiar to the parents of 11 year olds, booms "Watch out for the bike, Courtney." He wasn't being sarcastic, though the exasperation with which he said her name, it sounded like it . And he's the thing, disgruntled dad: it's not the bike that she should be watching out for. It's the bicyclist. You see, I'm a person and I can hear you. And it's very awkward. Because you're like 4 feet from me. And seriously, I'm not going to ride my bike into your dawdly tween. Because I'm an adult and fully capable of operating this vehicle. I really don't need your child to flee in order to successfully pass. 
Warm enough to draw out zombie joggers. Where do all the zombie joggers do when it's cold? Treadmills? Or are the zombies all fair-weather zombies? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR CULTURE. 
One more thing about buttons. If you want a button before Christmas, and really, you should because they're awesome, you should order them (through manfredmacx.com) today. Here's the Chasing Mailboxes post my button delivery. It links back to my post about the button delivery. We're on some kind of  #bikeDC Mobius strip.  
I'm working a half-day today, so I decided not to bother with the bike clothes this morning, since half-days, as well as know, means jeans for some reason. I got off to a late start, but the roads were mostly empty and the ride in was exorbitantly easy. It was one of those ride that reminds me how stress-free my commute actually is, in spite of all the little things that can seem annoying. I think my favorite part of it is that the marginal cost of biking to work is $0 and I never feel ripped off, the way I might had a paid for a metro ride where the trains wheels fell off or whatever, or for gas to burn while idling in car traffic. Exercise and "greenness" are great, but it's the value that I think I most enjoy. 
Since I left later than usual, there were fewer bicyclists out. And way more pedestrians. And way more oblivious pedestrians standing in the middle of bike lanes. I think the earlier crew, perhaps because the lanes are much more occupied by bicyclists, knows to be more aware. But such is life. 
Knowing exactly how quickly you have to pedal in order to make a light and pedaling absolutely no faster than that is one of my favorite morning commute rituals. And afternoon commute rituals. You have to make your own fun. Or redefine fun as it suits your needs. 
I'm thinking about writing a letter to DCPS about Ross Elementary School and its terrible parking/drop-off situation. The double parking creates a hazard for bicyclists and it's not like that part of town is dripping with other bicycle lanes that I could take. Sternly worded letters, as we all know, are the most effective thing any citizen can ever do about anything. Aside from blog posts. 
It didn't rain on the way in and I'm hoping I can make it home without facing any rain. I'm going to do that now, which might be the first ever time I'm going directly from blog post to ride. Epic. 


Internet Hates Bicyclists, Apparently

My home interwebs machine (which I believe is powered by a hamster wheel) doesn't seem to be working and no amount of unplugging/voodoo hexes seems to be able to restore it. So even though I wanted to write up the post tonight, it doesn't look like its gonna happen, at least for now. Maybe later.

Ride Home 12/19 and Ride In 12/20

You can buy an expensive car. You can upgrade to leather seats and get fuzzy dice. Maybe you can even upgrade the dice to 12 sided ones (maybe you can afford the expensive car thanks to winnings from Dungeons and Dragons tournaments?) and you can pay for premium gas and for deluxe car washes. You can have satelite radio and GPS and maybe radar detectors and you could probably even install an after-market periscope. But you can't buy your way out of traffic and, frankly, I think that's un-American. If you're willing to pay for fancy seats and periscopes, the odds are that you'd also be willing to pay for less clogged roads. But how can we achieve this? It's a collective action problem- while you could pay your neighbor's bus fare to keep him from driving, it's unlikely that enough people would do that to have a dramatic impact. It might also be weird to accost your neighbor like that. So, I guess the answer is some sort of congestion pricing scheme with the funds being spent on better public transportation options for former-would-have-been drivers. But where does that leave bicyclists? With more open roads, you've raised the potential average speed for drivers and unless some of that congestion money (totally theoretical at this point) is being spent on cycling facilities, bicyclists would be in no better shape than before and maybe even worse off. Are drivers going to want to pay congestion pricing to drive through a downtown that's been retrofitted to become better for bicyclists and pedestrians?  I've got nowhere else to go with this, so I'm just going to trail off now...
Anyone else ride on the sidewalk temporarily to get to the other side of a red light and then get back on the road? It's sort of a sniveling way to get around a red, but it makes me feel less guilty. I'm not sure about the legality.
The warm weather drew out the lightless again. Disappointing. Bike lights make great stocking stuffers. Also, isn't one of the reindeer named Blinky?
I saw a woman with sparkly, silver-sequinned boots and I told her that I liked her boots. She said thank you. I don't know how many compliments she gets on her bootwear (not a word?) selection, but I felt that one was necessary. I don't know how many sequin trees needed to be cut down to make those boots, but let's hope the look doesn't take off because I don't think it's sustainable. Yes, I'm aware that sequins don't actually grow on trees.
I'm a proud DINK (two nights ago, we had baked brie and sparkling wine for dinner. Can't give that to a kid. DINKhood rules) and as such, I hate suggesting to any parent that he or she do or not do anything in particular with regard to a child. Frankly, it's none of my business. But it doesn't stop me from noticing stuff that concerns me and I noticed last night a woman riding with her kid on one of those kid trailer bikes and the bike had no rear light. I think this is inadvisable. If I were riding with 'precious cargo' behind me (let's say a trailer full of brie, puff pastry and sparkling wine), I'd probably want to make sure that was adequately lighted to better ensure its visibility.
And then the night happened (but not before more biking. The Official Wife [who will be there towards the beginning of the first-ever Tales From The Sharrows Tweetup/Button Purchasing Happy Hour. Tonight from 5:30 at the Black Rooster] rode down to Barracks Row for dinner at Cava Mezze) and I woke up this morning and biked again, as is my wont. Towards Lincoln Park, I saw a woman riding an Xtracycle with two kids straddling the back. Badass. I told her that I liked her setup and she said something like "Pretty loaded down today. Just trying to get to work." Presumably her work, since she didn't look the type to run afoul of child labor laws. It's hard enough for me to drag the weight of an extra pair of shoes the office. She's dragging two extra pairs of shoes and these shoes are attached to small children!
Due to another shipping failure/postal larceny (Postal Larceny is the name of my ska band), yet more buttons failed to reach their mark. These buttons were purchased by none other than the Randonneuse Prime herself, MG from the very popular bicycle blog, Chasing Mailboxes. Seeking to rectify the situation, we arranged to meet for a button hand-off rather than chance postal larceny once more. I arrived to Swing's Coffee and I could tell from the bevy of bicycles outside that there was a randonneur thing inside.

And what would a button hand-off be without a button panda?

If there are more charming people than Mary and Ed involved in bicycling in DC, I haven't met them. Also, a pleasure to meet Eric and Lane.
But sadly, there wasn't time for tarrying or at least not very much and off to work I went, as presumably did everyone else. Presumably.
To paraphrase Robert F. Kennedy, some people see recycle bins in the middle of the 15th street cycle track and ask why? I see recycle bins in the middle of the 15th street cycle track and think, why not (just move this back onto the sidewalk)? To paraphrase Stephen Colbert: good Samaritan or greatest Samaritan? In any case, it's really not that hard to get off your bike and move a recycling bin. Most people just seemed content to ride around it, like it was some sort of interesting new obstacle. Because biking is already so unobstructed.
One last bit of drama on the way into work. This happened:

I guess some guy smashed his car into a tree and then tried to flee. And then some other people caught him and pinned him down in the middle of the road. He was struggling mightily to escape. Looked like it was causing some traffic tie-ups along Nebraska. It's not every day that something like this happens in this part of town, so I felt obligated to take a picture. I don't know what that says about post-modernity. Hopefully nothing, since we'd have to deconstruct it anyway.


Social Obligation Delays Blogging, Sources Say

This is what happens when I don't use Ride Out (or In) MM/DD as a title. In any case, I'm otherwise engaged this evening and will be writing up the ride tomorrow, possibly with exclamation points, possibly without. To tide you over, because I'm ever-so-certain that you need tiding (and tidings?), I suggest you check out as many of the blogs on the blogroll as possible. Because they wouldn't be there if they weren't great and/or if I updated the blogroll more frequently. Just joshing you about the latter part- they're all actually great and I read each one every day or however frequently there are new posts. I've "curated" them in one place, just for the nine of you. This is what makes this the 37th most popular DC area bike commuter blog. Actually, it's the writing that makes it 37th; were it just the blogroll, it'd be top 10.

Ride In 12/19

The 19th of December and the first real day of "cold face." The flushed cheeks and the runny nose and the sting of the wind in your tearing eyes. Good times. And it didn't even last since by the time I was almost at work both both the external and my internal temperature rose and the wind was gone...gone with itself. But I can't complain.
There's two kinds of crushed stone pavement used on the Capitol grounds and I can already tell that one of them will be quite bad once (or if) it gets icy. It's the kind that's less flat and the crushed stones are more spaced apart.  First snow day and I'm riding on the driveway again.
BUTTON REMINDER: This sale/fundraising effort ends at a minute 11:59:59 PM EST on 12/31/11. Or thereabouts. I can't say that, honestly, I'm going to stop what I'm doing (sleeping and/or wringing in the New Year) and press the big DISABLE SALES button that I've built, but I might. I think that I am trying to say, honestly, is that you should no longer tarry vis-a-vis button purchasing. One of the ways you can avoid tarrying would be by showing up tomorrow at the Black Rooster (5:30-7:30) with cash in hand and getting your buttons in person. And this might be a good idea, since this and this. No one can prove that I did this on purpose.
Way more people riding than usual on Pennsylvania. Normally maybe only 2 or 3 in the same direction and 2 or 3 riding in the opposite, but there was at least 5 or 6 in each direction today, many of whom were riding CaBis. The daily fluctuations in ridership, especially on days that seem to be about the same in terms of weather, amazes me. I take it to mean that modeshare, for some at least, is a pretty elastic, which isn't really what I would've expected. I bike every day, the Official Wife takes the Metro. And that's pretty much how we get to work. There must be a somewhat sizable "some days I'll bike, some days I'll Metro" crowd out there. I doubt that this is a very keen observation.
Some advice apropos of winter, but not much else: don't ever confuse a balaclava with baklava. They're totally different.
I can never seem to make the right decision when it comes to dinging at a pedestrian standing back-turned in the cycle track. If I ding, it seems too loud and way unnecessary. If I just try to ride by, it seems fraught and inconsiderate. Whatever I do, it's wrong. That might go on the next button. I have a self-persecution complex.
No better way to look like a moron than to fail to clip in correctly. Sometimes I wonder if these pedals aren't more trouble than they're worth. I hope the bicyclist behind me enjoyed my missing the pedal and waiting ever-so-long for me to try again. This is what happens when I unclip my right foot instead of my left. I'm a worse bike commuter than I am a backgammon player and I'm barely middling at bike commuting. Actually, I'm better at bike commuting than I am at playing backgammon, but I like both a lot. I have never played baccarat and I'm only vaguely familiar with Bacharach and I've only eaten bacalao maybe once. You know, just to sum up the "bac-" things.
I like when roadwork messes up the pavement in bike lanes and I get to ride on crappy roads because re-applying the asphalt evenly would have just been too difficult. It's bad when driving, worse when bicycling. Expect bicycles.
Other than on-street parking, what are some examples of public space being user for private storage? I can't think of any, but that's because I'm a dolt.
"I'll Be Home for Christmas" is a pretty song, but I had in stuck in my head for a long time today and I think it made me pedal slower. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm awaiting the publication of some study in a fancy psychology journal to verify that bicycle cadence is directly impacted by whatever song is stuck in your head at the time. I might be waiting for a while.
Breaking stuff off your bike? Check. Today, I broke the plastic piece that keeps/kept my frame pump attached to my bicycle frame. I did this by snapping it with my leg, which I had hastily move to regain my balance as I started falling over when stopped at the corner of Mass and Wisconsin. I unclipped just in time, but at what cost? I've already replaced this piece before. I think the pump is going to live in my bag. My second clip-related problem in one day. Amateur hour.
The drivers are getting better about yielding in crosswalks by Ward Circle. Probably just coincidence, but appreciated nonetheless. Not getting any better about blocking the box or speeding, but I'll take what I can get.


Empty Envelopes

Dear all,

It has come to my attention that some envelopes have been arriving damaged and empty of their button or buttons. This was not my intention. Obviously. I don't know if it's due to the relative terribleness of my packing strategy or do to some weirdness of the post office or the work of a sharrows button bandit, but I'm deeply sorry and I'm working to remediate this issue as soon as possible. Please email me at talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com if an ordered button failed to arrive. Also, due to complaints, I promise not to change the name of the blog to Tales From the Qwikster.




Ride Home 12/16

I might break this into two parts because it was a longer ride home and I'm not sure if I'll get through it before I run out of steam (My computer is actually powered by steam. The average post takes the half a cord of wood) (UPDATE: I made it in one post, for what it's worth). Unlike most nights, I didn't ride home, but instead into Arlington County, Virginia, USA, my forming stomping grounds. I had an engagement, one that didn't require any stomping, so that was good.
Jolly ride through Glover and Georgetown and not much going on. The 34th street lane was bad, mostly because of police activity on M, and by bad, I mean completely blocked by diverted cars. I rode the sidewalk and bounced and jarred my way through and it was mostly fine, except for the jarring and the bouncing and the unevenness of it all. M Street was basically empty due to the police activity and it was an easy ride to Wisconsin, down the hill and across K to pick up Rock Creek.
My light isn't really powerful enough for nighttime trail riding. Not on blink, not on beam. That's pretty much why I stick to streets. But I wanted to take the 14th Street Bridge and figured that some combination of Rock Creek and Ohio Drive made the most sense. Very little bicycle traffic, though it's fairly crummy to ride in the opposite direction of the high beams of hundreds of passing motorists. Not fun at all.
I'm pretty sure I was the only non-motorist on the bridge. I would have thought that they'd be more bike commuters at this time of day. My plan was to head north and explore the area around the Humpback Bridge to see if I could find some sort of path over towards Pentagon City. Yes, non-DC readers (there's like 2 of you, there's a place called Pentagon City. It makes me think of Autobot City from the Transformers Movie (the real one) , but to the best of my knowledge, the luxury apartments and Sur la Table don't turn into a battle station to ward off Decepticons, but who knows. And according to Google Maps, it's totally possible to go under the Humpback Bridge and somehow get "over there," with "over there" being the other side of some body of water. I started by taking the south path (there are two pedestrian/bike paths that go under the bridge. And things were going fine for a few hundred feet. And then this:
Within the scary purple fog was just some construction equipment and the end of the trail. So, some advice: don't take door #1. I turned around and head back up to the main path, rode over to the other side of the bridge and opted for door #2. This put me in the parking lot of a marina and the parking lot was fine except that it was a parking lot. I kept heading north, because I was pretty sure that there was some sort of bridge that way, and eventually the parking lot ran out and there was a path. If you like dark, wooded paths, it's a good one. The surface changed from asphalt to something like slate slabs and I just kept riding along, operating under the assumption that I'd eventually get to the bridge or I'd run into some more path-blocking construction equipment or I'd be abducted by dryads, but there'd be resolution and that'd be something.
There is a bridge and it's wooden and perfectly adequate for bike traffic. It took me "over there" (I'm not referring to WWI France) and I ended up on the outskirts of the Pentagon parking lot. So, I decided to ride around the Pentagon, which seemed rather far away, so I felt relatively secure in my belief that I wouldn't end up crossing some sort of security perimeter, but I was less sure that I wouldn't end up on some highway. There were lots of signs for highways and the roads were quite open, so I'm not really sure if I was in the Pentagon parking lot or on some sort of Grand Prix track.
It was very dark.
Eventually, I got to the other side of the parking lot (by the way, how wasteful is all this parking?), managed to get past some buses at a rather large bus depot, cross under some highways and arrive to somewhere that looked familiar enough for me to feel certain that I was pretty much in the right place. And so I was.
[Hour passed]
I was torn when deciding how to head home. Not literally. I didn't know whether I should once again chance the Pentagon, and the mystery bridge and the dark paths and arrive closer to the bridge back to Taxationwithoutrepresentation-stan or whether it'd make sure sense to head into Crystal City and take the Mount Vernon Trail back to the bridge. I was under the impression that the Trail route would be longer and it might be and I was also thought it might take me past the airport and I wasn't much in the mood for that for reasons that I can't quite explain. I went back the way I came and it was fine. In fact, it's pretty good. If you have to go to Pentagon City and you don't like riding past airports for some reason, you can always take this path. It's probably even pretty nice during the day.
I'd gonna just glide over the rest of the trip. 14th street bridge, past the Washington Monument, down the Mall past all them thar fancy museums. I'm always amazed how much aeronautica you can see from the street in the Air and Space Museum. I'm also always amazed how crappy and gauche the National Archives look from the Mall side. Much, much better from the Pennsylvania Avenue side. There are also lots of limousines out at night in Washington and I find that bizarre. Taking a limo tour of the monuments at night is lame.
I've thought of a new awareness campaign slogan and it's this: expect bicycles. Don't resent them, don't ignore them, don't be surprised by them when "I didn't see you there," just expect them. Next button campaign I suppose.

Ride In 12/16

Fried, eh? Something like that. I just got back from Indian buffet co-worker birthday/end of year holiday party lunch, so excuse me if I mistake my panniers for paneers. I'm also going to have to keep this one short.
I don't think that many bicyclists in DC put milk crates on their rear racks. Some, but not a lot. Perhaps from a paucity of milk crates. not any stylistic preference.
"Superbiker trackstand extravaganza" on Penn. My spell check didn't recognize two of those three words. Spell check is pro-car. This guy had quite good balance and I envied his ability to stay upright. I didn't envy his looking like a trained seal.
I rode through the first set of security bollards on Madison Place and asked the guard, who was standing outside, if it was ok to ride through the second set. He said that it was. In many cases, it's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission, but in my experience, interactions with the armed state security apparatus aren't such cases. I can also think of very few cases where being more polite is worse than being less polite. Perhaps this is why people take advantage of me. (just kidding! They do it because of my profligacy and vast button fortune)
Someone forgot to turn off the wind machine. Made for slow going.
No fewer than 4 bicyclists shoaled at a stop light along R. It was like a motorcycle gang surrounding a helpless shopkeeper. "What are you shoaling against?" "What do you got." 2 on CaBis, too. Oh well. I rode around them somewhere on the next block, only to have to brake to avoid, not as narrowly as he though,a pedestrian who dundered his way into the bike lane in a jaywalking fashion. Rather than ride past him, I came to a complete stop as he said "Whoa!" He was in no danger of being hit and I was in no danger of being a horse, so I didn't really get that. I mustered my wry (as I would a pastrami sandwich) indignation and deadpanned "excuse me," let him hop back on the curb and set off again on my way, having already been passed by that girl I see sometimes who plays music from a speaker dangling from the back of her messenger back. Jaywalking pedestrians: please look for bicyclists. Thank you.
Sort of "chased" another bicyclist on the ride up Mass, but he crossed the street about half way up, leaving me alone to finish the rest of the way up. I decided that I would see if I could make it up the hill faster than he could and I did, but only because he must have turned off somewhere. A win is still a win, even when the contest is fictitious and your opponent doesn't know he's participating.
I wore normal people clothes today and I enjoyed it. I'll probably even wear normal people clothes home, since I have no other clothes with me. Though, the bookstore is having a sale, so I could buy an over-sized sweatshirt and some shorts with the school's name plastered on the rear. I think I won't though.
I don't know about tonight's ride yet, nor its posting. Perhaps Arlington even.
One more reminder, in case you read this blog every other day and not every day or maybe skipped yesterday because you had better things to do (unlikely) or are afraid of the number 14 (more likely). This upcoming Tuesday, I will be selling buttons (and allowing you to pick up already purchased buttons) from the friendly confines of the Black Rooster Pub, which is on L Street, NW between 19th and 20th. I will be there from 5:30 to 7:30 and I might also be eating a half-price hamburger or have recently eaten one or be waiting for the one I ordered to get to the table. Come by, meet (or meet again) me, meet other people who might show up, drink something, save a couple bucks on a hamburger, and give $5 to WABA in exchange for a button. Do remember, button sales will end on 12/31/11. Because the Mayas said so, maybe.


Ride Home 12/15

This is the story of my ride, but it's also the story of three different women that I rode behind on the way home, but only insofar as they're in my story. The first was right near school, heading down Massachusetts. I call her Dama Bianchi and she was wearing cycle pants and riding a racing bike with skinny tires and a barely visible rear light and refused to pedal. Not just on the downhill parts, but the uphill parts too. It was curious.
The second woman I encountered was on the sidewalk on Massachusetts, near the British Embassy. After idling behind an idling bus, winning the Pyrrhic victory of taking the lane when the traffic wasn't moving a all, I decided to abandon the road for the sidewalk. This woman was on a lightless hybrid, with some sort of canvas tote bag dangling over the left handlebar. She seemed quite comfortable on the bike, much more than Dama Bianchi. She took the sidewalk along Mass until Florida and cut across at the light and was off to, I don't know, Columbia Heights, maybe?
The third woman was the fashionista of the bunch. A powder blue "city" bike with a detachable yellow rear basket. She was wearing what appeared to be a vintagey house dress under a grey wool coat that was too long and blocked for the most part her rear blinky. Occasionally, flashes of red shone through, sort of like the way ET's glowed. She also had on a beret, maybe, and hipstery glases. I can't remember where she went. Maybe up New Hampshire somewhere.
There's no real point to this story, other than to say that maybe the statistics about women and bikes in DC aren't right, but perhaps my observations aren't reflective of reality. I don't think there's any one particular "path" or strategy that's especially useful to get more women biking, or at least not a path or strategy to get exclusively more women biking. The way I see it, a rising tide lifts all boats, which is great for boats, but might rust your bike.
I wish Q Street were named Avenue Q and that there were obscene puppets instead of blocked bike lanes.
Maybe I was honked at when I rode (in the bike lane) between the stopped bus and the stopped cars, but I don't know why that would have happened. Maybe it was some other reason, but I normally assume these things are because of me, which might make me a narcissist or a paranoid or a paranoicissist, which is the worst/greatest affliction/attribute of all.
Love, love, love getting passed way to closely by someone driving a big expensive Jeep. Just love it. Did you know what I love? That thing I just described. Because of love and such. I luv it. Me + that = 4ever. I have notebooks full of whimsical doodles of hearts surrounding my name and poorly drawn pictures of Jeeps within inches.
Oh yeah, the morons who ride without lights are back. Out in the warm weather, I suppose. I had to special order this, but I made sure that my buttons (available at manfredmacx.com) don't work if you're riding a bike without lights. They develop button leprosy and fall right off. Button leprosy.
I saw a woman riding by the Capitol with a trailer, that seemed full. It might have been full of kid. I don't know. Good for her. Or maybe she was just bringing home work and she had a lot of it and needed the trailer. Hopefully she doesn't work at a smeltery. (S'meltery is the name of fast casual s'mores concept. Choose your graham, choose your mallow (I go with marsh every time), choose your chocolate and our team of progressional "s'melters" put that in the microwave and we charge you like 8 dollars)
East Capitol isn't boring, but there's not much doing either. It's a nice way to end. I ride on another street around there, as well, and that was mildly more exciting thanks to the speeding West Virginian and the two kids riding bikes and smoking pot. Ill-advised.

Ride Home 12/14 and Ride In 12/15

First, my extended thoughts on the Chris Paul trade. Just kidding!
It doesn't take much to throw me off and yesterday I saw that my rear light was dangling from the rack where it normally doesn't dangle as a result of the holder losing a screw somewhere between my home and office during the morning commute. I didn't like this as I very much prefer have lights to not having them and so, befuddled, even though the solution was quite obvious, I pouted a bit and slowly worked my way through solving the problem by unscrewing the other screw, removing the light from the holder and clipped into onto my saddle bag. Mission accomplished, but I still felt a bit out of sorts. I like things to be a particular way and even the most minor deviation unsettles me to the point of near catatonia. (Catatonia, OH has a polpulation of 7,556) Just ask the Official Wife about how slowly I move when faced with an unpredicted situation. Don't ask her about Catatonia, Ohio as that is a made-up place. I'm the Sherwood Anderson of bike bloggers. (Except for the toothpick part, I hope)
I don't remember last night's ride as especially fun. I failed to get my gloves on before leaving, which was an oversight my fingers regretted. More on gloves later. Or, on the other hand (glove joke!), why wait? I lost a glove last night at the WABA party (I need to stop challenging people to duels), but luckily it was found and I picked it up from Big Bear this morning, so crisis averted.
Really trafficky on Mass and a little fraught. I ended up riding in the left lane for reasons that I don't fully recall. It remained trafficky on Q.
At the intersection of Q and 19th, a driver found himself stuck in the intersection, having badly misjudged the timing of the red light. He couldn't reverse because pedestrians were using the crosswalk and didn't think just to keep going forward because red means stop, even when you've initially failed at the heeding the color-coded illuminated traffic management system. And then the bicycle poilice officer rolled up. Which I thought was awesome. I was too far away to hear what he said, but it looked like he said to the driver, "So, what happened?" He (the officer) was pretty well-humored about the whole thing, having totally nailed the driver in a minor and all-to-common traffic infraction and, quite correctly in my opinion, let the guy go without a ticket or anything. Perhaps he have him a stern talking-to and the arched eyebrows and shit eating grin simply masked that, but I don't think. I like the idea of bicycle officers meting out traffic justice.
I rode behind the same guy from 15th to First (1st) NW. I wonder if he went to the WABA party. At one intersection, I was shoaled by a couple of other bicyclists, all of whom decided it would be much more fun, I guess, to wait at the next red light where I caught up to them roughly 13 seconds later.
I think that the removal of some stops signs on Q from 7 to First (1st) would be useful for us biking types. In case anyone was wondering what I think about the best way to stop at intersections, it's the following: come to a complete-ish stop about 5 feet before the intersection, then slowly inch forward. That's what I do at least. I like to stop before intersections (and especially before crosswalks) because it makes is less likely that I'll hit a crossing pedestrian and it seems more courteous to a pre-crossing pedestrian, who was yet to enter the street. I also like to stop in advance of the intersection, so it's abundantly clear to drivers on the perpendicular street that I am, in fact, coming to a stop. As always, please take this "advice" with a grain of salt.
And then the WABA Holiday Party happened and I met and met once more many people I had yet to meet or had met previously. I was also able to pass off some buttons. I will be mailing out the rest today and tomorrow, but I'd also like to announce (announce? sure) that next Tuesday, December 20th, I'll be at the Black Rooster from roughly 5:30 to 7:30. That's half-price hamburger night. If you'd like to swing by (on a vine like Tarzan, or in a more euphemistic sense) and pick up your previously ordered button or would like to purchase a button in person, I'd be happy to see you. Likewise, if you hate buttons, but just want to hang out and eat a half-price hamburger, that's cool too. I'll be the guy wearing the button. Look forward to maybe seeing some of you.
The ride home from Big Bear (the cafe, not the constellation) was shorter than I had anticipated, though not without it's rough patches. The roughest patch was the unexpected, by me at least, gravel parking lot for a block.

View Larger Map

Seriously? I mean, no one expects a gravel parking lot (or the Spanish Inquisition, but that's different). And secondly, THIS IS PRIME REAL ESTATE! It shouldn't be a parking lot. Someone really needs to use this land for something useful. If you have any idea why this is still parking and not developed, please let me know. Riding across the lot, I was grateful for my cyclocross bike, which seemed appropriate. Extreme commuting.
It was a quick ride down Mass, past Union Station, which, given the state of the roadway might have been worse than the gravel parking lot, and then past the some parks and home. I don't think I saw another bicyclist on the way home. It was after 10, but still.
Today was a captivating morning with beautiful weather and mild for winter temperatures and a kind of sunshine that made everything seem bronze. Especially things that were already bronze. Like the bronze medals of the 2004 men's Olympic basketball team, a team on which Chris Paul did not play (He was still in college).
Since I wanted to head back to Big Bear on the you-already-know-it-was--successful quest for my missing glove, I took Mass Ave from Lincoln Park in the direction of Union Station and then rode up 2nd NE before picking up the MBT at M street. Many other bicyclists out this morning and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. But perhaps, I'm just projecting.
I really love the Metropolitan Branch Trail and you should too. I'll love it even more when it's done and I'd love it the most if there was more stuff (non-industrial buildings) alongside it. I only rode it from M to R, which is roughly the approximate length of  N-O-P-Q, or Nopq, a unit of measurement unique to the District of Columbia.
I was in and out of Big Bear pretty quickly, but I was there long enough to see that Eckington (UPDATE: Please see comments about my geographical wrongness and neighborhood controversies and whatever)  is the place to be. All the cool kids might live here. And by cool kids, I mean the cool kids who wear fedoras to work. Maybe wingtips. It was trench coat, also. I'm always surprised when I see a black trench coat because I sort of though Jack Abramoff killed that look, except for clergymen.
Watched a guy on a Surly LHT consistently run stop signs against his best interest. I don't care if you don't stop (who fully stops?), but you should at least respect first-come, first-served or its right-of-way equivalent. Take turns.
I passed, as I pass everyday, the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. You might have missed that one when you came here in eighth grade. I've never been either.
Not much scarier than a taxi stopped at an intersection that you suspect is in reverse. I didn't stick around to find out.
I think I was smiling when I got to work. It was really a nice day. I hope the ride home is equally pleasant. Not more, just equally. Let's not get greedy.


Ride Home Tonight Will Be Written Tomorrow

As for tonight itself, it was like the Allegory of the Cave, except not boring. Turns out all the shadows (the shades of the twitterverse) are actual real people, all of whom are lovely, some of whom now have buttons. Thank you! Thank you least of all for cutting down of my shipping costs! Thank you most of all for being real people and not just well-programmed bike-obsessed twitter bots. We shall keep Turing at bay together.

Ride In 12/14

After two days swaddled in the superbikerly synthetics, I decided to ride today in normal people's clothes, the only concessions being a velcro strap around my right ankle, a helmet, and the green bike button on my coat's lapel. It felt pretty good. I slung a messenger bag around my shoulders, having first filled it to the brim with precious, precious buttons (do bags have brims?), and set off on another chilly winter morning commute through the woolly wilds of the settled district roughly parallel to the United States Capitol.
The wilds prove neither woolly nor wild and the ride itself was quite mundane. I barely even had to fend off any animals, the exception being a lone squirrel that I didn't so much have to fend off but simply ride around. I'm writing a letter to the editor of my local paper about these scofflaw squirrels who think that they're being "sooo green" with their lifestyle choices but never seem to stop at stop signs. Share the road, jerks.
There's a kind of Bikeshare commuter who dons the reflective yellow jacket and biking clothes and there's another kind that doesn't. I'd say this is "observational humor" but there's nothing humorous about this observation and it's barely even an observation. I just hope that the people who wear the bikey stuff are doing it out of comfort and not because they feel like specialized (Specialized?) clothes are needed to ride a bicycle.
There's a thing that I've started doing along Pennsylvania Avenue that I need to stop doing because it's sort of jerkish and needlessly imperiling and that thing is slowing down to almost a snail's pace in order to block a driver from making a u-turn across the center bike lane. I do this while simultaneously trying to lock eyes with the driver. I've not once made that Robert DeNiro from "Meet the Parents" move with the eyes and the fingers. Like I said, I need to stop doing this. So long as there aren't bollards that run parallel to the lane for its entire length, u-turns will continue to happen and no amount of passive-aggressive eye-locking and slowing with make a difference. Having more cyclists in the lanes might help.
Someone mentioned this the other night to me, but Timbuk2 bags are everywhere. Almost as ubiquitous as the yellow jackets.
Some kind of sercurity hubbub at the White House, maybe related to a motorcade, shut down Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park and forced bicyclists to ride along 15th to McPherson "Won't Someone Think of the Grass Seed?!" Park. It's a reminder of a cycle track route that could have been, but wasn't. I guess Vermont is ultimately a better route, but I still would prefer a cycling route that doesn't need to be closed every time the President wants to drive somewhere. #dcproblems
The rest of the ride was a bit of a blur, not because I was going fast, but because I don't think there was anything that distinguished it from a normal trip, or at least nothing worth mentioning. So, as has become standard for this blog, let's talk about buttons some more. Thus far, 53 have been purchased, which is amazing. It's more than amazing. It's a-mah-zing. I'd like to thank Ann for mentioning them on the WABA bike forum and I'd like to thank Anne for posting on the goDCgo holiday gift guide. I have an entirely Ann/Anne-based marketing strategy, so if you know of any Anns/Annes/Ahns/Ayns that want to continue to publicize these buttons, please send them my way. I'd also like to thank all of you, even the non-Anns/Annes, for your continued reading, support, and button purchases. I look forward to seeing some of you at the WABA Holiday Party and seeing others of you at other places and not seeing those of you who have magical invisibility cloaks.


Ride Home 12/13

What happened today? I'll tell you.
The first two-ish blocks of my ride are on the sidewalk and I just don't like it but I like waiting for the light even less. I'd have to cross in the crosswalk with pedestrians and then wait in a line of cars in order to turn right at the circle and head down the hill. So I don't. And I choose the sidewalk and every day I think, " I wish I didn't choose the sidewalk" because even if it isn't especially crowded, it's at least moderately peopled (It's peopled! Sidewalk Green is PEOPLED) and that either results in my having to pass someone on a too narrow, too dark sidewalk or wait behind them, blinking clear light on their backpacks. And it seems like whenver I ride on the sidewalk, a bus has just emptied and then there's even more people I have to nuisance. I guess what I'm saying, and not well, is that choosing the "faster" sidewalk isn't necessarily any more convenient for me or for anyone else and I guess I wish I had the fortitude or patience or whatever to ride in the car-slowed street.
I don't, however, have any problem riding in the street on Massachusetts and I regularly exceed speeds of 10 (!) miles per hour. Even more than that sometimes, but I need to be wearing my skinsuit and aerohelmet and I need to be on a planet with considerably more gravity and considerably less friction. Or maybe less gravity and more friction. I took physics once, but I didn't retain any of it. Except, of course, my speeds are diminished by my repeated braking, a braking that is immensely loud and squeaky and probably ruins the days of nearby dogs (including, but hopefully not, the two toy poodles, one black on grey, walked by old man who is always walking those poodles) and my own day, since it signals me as some rube with poorly toed-in brake pads. "Nice toe-in, rube!," they all shout in my nightmares and then they drop that bucket of pig's blood at prom and then, oh, well, let's not get into that. In any case, stopped car traffic practically forced me to bail to the right turn only lane, but I didn't quite have the gumption to merge back into the travel lane and instead continued my prolonged "bail" onto the sidewalk, narrowly avoiding some hedges. I rode on the sidewalk until I reached a curb cut on the other side of a red light and I shot the gap, whatever that means, and found my way back onto the roadway.
So many traffic circles in this town and drivers still don't know how to do them. Geez.
No need to speed to a red light. Even more so when you're the one making your own speed (as opposed to burning hydrocarbons). I might be the laziest bike commuter in the world. I only "try" when there's a green light.
Rode up behind another cyclist at the intersection of Q and 15th and when I stopped, I proceeded my mindlessly drum the vague rhythm of holiday tunes as I waited for the light to change. I might have been rat-tat-tatting "Little Drummer Boy" but that seems to pat. In any case, I dinged my bell and the woman in front of me turned around and I was like "Uh, sorry" because it sort of seemed like I was dinging my bell at her, perhaps to hasten her movement even though the light was red and the perpendicular traffic was thick and there was really no place to go. What a putz. Glad I was wearing full-on superbiker kit too. Nothing says "I'm not trying to be a jerk" more than ringing your bell at somoene while wearing a bright yellow jacket and skin tight bike pants. Awesome. At least at the next block my putziness crown (not a real crown) was inherited by the dope meshie who rode around both of us at the red light and tried to trackstand only to almost fall off his bike. And then he pedaled too hard when the light changed and he was off and that was that.
A double-honk from a gentleman requesting that I leave the travel lane for a bike lane blocked by some idling vehicle. I moved over and slowed and he passed and the he stopped at the red light 30 feet in front of both of us. Hope that was worth it. Its better not to get too upset about these things. If you want to be the kind of person who takes umbrage at every little thing, drive a car. Or be the Count of Monte Cristo.
Sometimes I wonder if drivers think that bicyclists are so slow that they are capable of slowing down car traffic in front of them and not just behind them. I might be unfair in ascribing this attitude.
It's sort of weird to ride behind a car with a flat tire and a driver who doesn't know what to do. Just pull over. I think he might have been confused since he was driving in Senate Sergent of Arms Restricted Parking Area by the fountain and god knows nobody wants to run afoul of Terrance Gainer. I think he'd understand.
Then I got home and now I'm just chillin'.

Ride In 12/13

Trash day in the neighborhood and the garbage collection trucks were out and about, moving through the streets like the ghosts from Pac-Man and I, like cowed Pac-man in search of a power pellet, sought to avoid them. My nose isn't exactly sensitive (I don't detect the smell of banana especially well, so I've been told), but it's nose enough and knows enough to avoid that which wafts from the open back of a garbage truck. All of this to say that I turned right a block earlier than usual.
Bikes abound on the Hill still (The Hill Still would be the name of my never-to-be-launched moonshine-themed pub on Barracks Row, a commercial strip not to be confused confused with my never-fully-realized Israeli politician-themed caviar joint, Barak's Roe, which isn't to be confused with anything because certainly nothing like it exists) and I think that ridership will stay steady so long as the roads stay dry and so long as people don't leave for winter vacations. PROGRAMMING ALERT: At some point, I will be leaving for a winter vacation and there will be a cessation of blogging hostilities for more than a week. Just letting you know in advance. Advice to pass the time: read slower.
It's always a good idea to know where bus stops are along your route. Not because you're going to stop riding (Never stop riding. Once I stopped and put my bike on the bus and it took approximately 14 hours longer than it would have had I just continued riding. There was no mechanical issue- I just thought it'd be faster. This is almost never the case.), but because it's always a good idea to know when the bus next to you might be driven across the bike lane. Also, get a general sense of where buses along your route make turns because again, the whole not getting hit thing. You can either stay up really late and pore over maps and make one of those picture boards that connect all of the evidence that you see on crime shows or you can use my not-yet-trademarked Pay Attention to Stuff approach. I recommend the latter, but if you've got some unused cork board, photo paper and yarn, have at.
There's a certain kind of bike commuter who thinks that there is some pre-ordained order to the universe and that though one is passed previously, it was not meant to be so and that he (or she, in this case) ought to ride through ride lights in order to ensure that she re-establish her previous position to my front. Sadly, we don't live in a watchmaker's universe (the name of my closed-before-it-opened Casio superstore) and there is no rhyme or reason to these kinds of things. Just go as you go and let happen what should happen. I try to fight it when shoaled, but I should just learn my lesson and accept these things.
It heartens me to see other bike commuters ride through the formerly taped security bollards.
Did anyone see that girl downtown wearing the red pea coat, jeans and equestrian-style boots? How about the one in leggings (as pants) with the vest and the Uggs? Do you know her?
A goodly amount of bike traffic along 15th. Almost everyone I saw was wearing gloves, which is sensible. Tip: wear gloves. I read somewhere that it's sensible.
And here's my problem with the casting of the Eat, Pray, Love movie, which I've never seen. Shouldn't it have been Piper Perabo?
R street was only a little crowded with bicyclists. The guy in front of me was riding an older Raleigh ten speed. He didn't have a helmet, but he pulled his hood over his head, which probably impaired his peripheral vision (which is different from Perry Farrell vision) and maybe even hearing and perhaps inadvisable. I think that hats are probably better for head covering than hoods, but hats, for the most part, aren't sewn onto the back of your sweatshirt. Speaking of which, it was #cyclingcaptuesday and I obliged.
Almost met the back of a white van at an intersection near Sheriden Circle. I thought that the driver would be turning left, but he was continuing straight and I should have slowed down to give him enough room to get around the white van in front of him, which was turning left,  but I just kept my path in the bike lane. You know what they say about assuming? It makes an ass out of you and the guy who smacks into the back of a van while riding his bicycle incautiously.
I've taken to think of the hill on which rests Massachusetts Avenue as Reverie Hill, as I use the climb to reverie (which isn't the song they play to wake up people in the Army). Today's thoughts include wondering whether or not road users have the right not to be startled. Being startled ("he came out of nowhere!") is a pretty frequent complaint from motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians and its often justification for some some sort prescription/proscription. I'm not sure that there's an implicit (or explicit) right to not be started, nor a responsibility to not startle. But Reverie Hill is only so long.
The South African Embassy is doing some construction and they're using a trash chute from Chutes International.
The Vatican Embassy has a much less prolific nativity set-up (consisting of a drapery only showing Mom, "Pop" and baby J-money over their front door) than I would have expected.
About those buttons. I've got them. I couldn't mail them today because of MEETINGS, but they can be mailed tomorrow. I can also bring them to the WABA Holiday Party as that might be more convenient for me since many of you might attend and who wants to go to the Post Office unless absolutely necessary, amiright?


Ride Home 12/12

And now for something completely different. Well, not really. Not at all.
It wasn't as cold as I feared and I was plenty afeard. Caliban afeard.
It's a great feeling when you're the last person to ride through the light at Mass and Garfield and you can just ride down the hill relaxed and unworried about a driver pulling up too closely behind you or passing you with not enough distance. Little things like this can (and do) make a big difference to me on my ride home in terms of my demeanor. I'm much demeanor when a driver acts like a dope. Much.
I witnessed some poor decisions tonight. I watched an unlighted bicyclist run a light (not jaywheel) and cut off some drivers. I watched a lady jaywalk and then an approaching driver refuse to brake, instead opting to honk and swerve, even though it was pretty obviously that slowing would have been safer for everyone. And I narrowly avoided a driver who sped past me in order to beat the light in spite of the approaching loud and flashing fire engine. Full moon, I guess.
The hollandaise season (that's what it's called, right?) is one in which bike lanes seemed to be more impeded by delivery vans and trucks than usual, including those of the USPS. Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night will keep these steadfast couriers from blocking my way home. Drivers mostly understand and the ones who don't mostly abide, like the Dude, but not really.
One of these days I'm going to get t-boned on Q by a jumpy bicyclists in the Kleinway (haven't used that one in awhile a while). And I'm going to be so mad. One of these other days, I'm gonna get walked into by a pedestrian jaywalking between cars stopped in traffic. Note: stopped cars doesn't mean the bike lane will be empty. Just a friendly reminder. I hope that by committing this to writing neither of these things actually happens.
Whenever possible, I try to ride to the front of queues of cars and trucks and buses when there's a bus in front. It's just a visibility thing.
Another bicyclist gave me a big smile when we crossed paths at 11th and Pennsylvania. That's friendliness!
The Capitol is pretty much a symbol of contemporary America, in that it's surrounded by free parking lots and over-militarized security personnel. My suggestion about the latter: classier outfits. I'll even let them keep their gigantic guns, but it'd go down better with me if they looked more like Beefeaters, but Americanized enough so tourists don't gawk too much. I'd start here. Wigs optional.
Segway commuter! And some grey beard on a Bianchi! And some other guy, who was wearing khaki colored jeans. They all jumped the red and 2nd NE and East Capitol. I expected the cop to say something, but he didn't. Guess he wasn't psychic or he would've stopped them.
And now for something completely the same. But not really. BUTTONS! THEY'RE HERE. And here's what it looks like on the bike:

Tell your friends. There's a possibility that I'll bring 16 of them with me to the WABA Holiday Party and would be willing to sell one to you if you tell me the SECRET PASSPHRASE (it's: "um, can I buy a button?" Remember the um!) If you've already ordered, I'll be shipping/delivering in tuxedo in the next couple of days.

Ride In 12/12

I looked my superbikerliest today, on account of the bike pants I donned, and a couple of things happened. One was that when I asked a college-aged woman if she was ok as she stood aside her bike staring quizzically at her front tire, she said "You probably know a lot about bikes, obviously." I don't, but that didn't stop me from saying "Of course I do. I'm the 37th most popular DC bike commuter blogger! Don't you know who I AM?" (What actually stopped me from saying that is being grounded in reality. Somewhat.) What I did say, unlike an actual superbiker who would never leave the suffer zone to willingly help someone, is that I would look at her bike and try to help if she told me what was wrong. She told me that it seemed like the front wheel wasn't turning. She said that once before it "wasn't in right," so checked the quick-release and it seemed to be positioned correctly. I then looked at the brakes (since that's another thing...?) and they didn't seem to be scraping against the front tire. She then suggested that maybe nothing was actually wrong and her progress was being hindered more by the climb up Massachusetts than a mechanical issue. Since my progress is hindered while riding up Mass every day, I assented that this might be a possibility. I asked her where she was going and she said "somewhere by Sibley Hopsital" and I gave her, unbidden, some directions and then I left. I wonder if she made it and what obvious mechanical problem I missed. The takeaway from this story is that it's really easy to look like you know about bikes without actually knowing much (I did take Tool Academy, after all).
My other "revelation" today was about the Mary Poppins Effect. Timely, consider WABA's Women Bike Forum is tonight. Almost as if I have some volition over the things I think about during my ride. Well, the revelation isn't so much about the Mary Poppins Effect, which isn't real, as it is about the Lance Armstrong Effect, which is. The Lance Armstrong Effect is likewise about perception, but unlike the unreal MPE, it's about negative perception. I think the more be-lycra-ed (not a word, barely a concept) one is, the easier it is to be perceived as an "other," someone not just looking to get around town, but someone who's looking to race around town in a kind of aggressive and brashly athletic sort of way. The Lance Armstrong Effect (there's apparently other Lance Armstrong Effects, some that have to do with cancer recovery. I'd change the name, but I'm pretty sure that Lance Armstrong is the only recognizable bicyclist to most 'muricans) is one of a deliberate distancing and one that creates assumptions about bicyclists, assumptions to which even I fall prey (see "superbikers"). When you see someone decked out in bike gear and on a presumably fancy and expensive-looking bike, you assume that they know what they're doing and what they're doing is ably piloting their vehicle in a kind of sporty and aggressive (in that they're "racing") way and that you don't necessarily need to be delicate around them because it's all one BIG COMPETITION and the goal of the COMPETITION IS WINNING and that WINNING REQUIRES WHATEVER IT TAKES. In short, by having the external appearance of a hyper-competent athlete suggests a skill set and level of ability that belies the bicyclist's own vulnerability on the roadway. Do I think that people should stop wearing lycra? No. Wear what you want. It's a free country and you should do what makes you happy. But do I think that we should all (and drivers especially) stop making assumptions about superbikers and stop allowing those assumptions to shape their actions and behaviors? Yeah, I guess so. (Oh, and the other part of the Lance Armstrong Effect, wherein the cyclist himself adopts the posture of an arrogant, self-righteous prick- yeah, don't do that either. It's unbecoming.) Feel free to flay me in the comments if you take offense. It's just a working theory.
I decided that I work take 7th today instead of 15th and it worked out sort of fine. The bus/bikes only lane on 7th is treated like a joke by far too many motorists. But only bicyclists break the law, so I must be misunderstanding something.
Every building from the Convention Center north of 7th should be, on average, about 4 stories taller. Better living through density.
I saw the father-son combo on R again today. Looks like they're sticking to it during the winter. In fact, a lot of bicyclists seem to be sticking to it, at least on the dry days. At least five road by at the intersection of R and New Hampshire. I wonder if they ride through Dupont or turn onto 18th or what. I'm assuming that the majority are heading downtown, but I don't know how they'd get there. I'm always amazed at the willingness of other bike commuters to take routes that seem totally crazy to me. I guess I'm just risk-averse.
One last thing, unrelated to my commute. I'm collaborating with Bike Arlington on an "epic" post on bike parking at Arlington grocery stores. For the completists out there, look for it soon. Don't worry- I'll link to it, much in the same way that I never miss an opportunity to link to manfredmacx.com so you can buy buttons. Here's the deal with that: I've sold out of the initial run and I've had to order more. The first batch should be arriving tomorrow (or maybe today) and I will get them out in the mail soon thereafter. Please email me (talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com) if you want me to hold onto yours, or for an extra $20 to WABA, deliver them by bicycle to your home/office while wearing a tuxedo. Don't think I'm joking. I will do this. Thank you for your continued support.


Ride Home 12/9

We have a housewarming/holiday party, so I'm giving myself exactly 15 minutes to write this post. I apologize in advance for its crapulence (that word doesn't mean what I want it to mean). Just a quick update on buttons: we're kicking ass. I've had to order more. If we scale this enterprise up, perhaps buttons can be the new "green jobs" and can be the means by which we revive our economy. Or not.
I left work later than usual, but the campus event that I attended drew many motorists to the area and the roads were sort of clogged with considerable car traffic, some of it out of state. Always fun to watch drivers not realize that a parked car is about 300 feet in front of them and they're just going to have to get back in the left lane anyway.
At Mass and Wisconsin, I rode behind a woman bike commuter and she was pretty great. Well-lighted, fenders, rack and Ortlieb. She wins. Maybe it was one of you? I wanted to say something, but was diverged when she rode onto the sidewalk and I rode through the red at the bottom of the hill.
The intersection of Mass and 22nd and Florida is something of a disaster. I normally ride through and pass the stopped cars on the right and then ride across in the crosswalk, in front of the Masaryk statue (I have complicated thoughts on the man that I won't share with you), and then across the other crosswalk to wait at the red to cross to Q. Yesterday for some reason, I decided that I would ride between the two lanes of traffic, which would have been fine had not the light turned green at the exact moment I was passing between the front two cars. The driver on the right gunned it and I sort of really push it in order to make it across the the crosswalk, so I kind of cut him off. My bad.
 Tons of traffic on Q. Car traffic impedes bicyclists, bike lanes or not. At one point I was even cut off by a limousine. Another example of the 1% causes 99% of my commute problems. Ok, maybe this is the only example I've even given, but you get my point. Also, it's sort of weird that FedEx removed the turn signals from their vans to save weight for the holiday season. That has to be true since otherwise the driver would have used it, right? I'm sorry if I offended any of the pedestrians when I said "you're f-ing kidding me, right" maybe a little too loudly. I forget that other people can hear me.
3 minutes to go.
11th street continues to be my best route home. I still wish it was better. At least it's predictable, in that I'll know that the bike lanes will be predictably blocked pretty much every block. Maybe by a van.
There's a shop that I pass every day called Bricks for Kidz.  That's also the name of my youth summer basketball camp.
The valet parking situation at 11th and Penn is a mess. Ban valet parking. Ban everything. Boo. (This is my actual ANC campaign platform)
I'd like it if the Capitol paths were better lighted. You know, so people could use them and see. I'm sure that they can't be because they'll diminish from the domey splendor.
Ok, my time's out. Bon weekend.


Blogging tomorrow

Late at work, late home and stuff to do. I'm gonna sleep on it and then get something up tomorrow morning. Not just something, but the best post ever IF you (collectively) buy 10 more buttons tonight. Or something.

Ride In 12/9

Some good news. A Nigerian price just emailed me and he wants to buy like 15 "blogs + sandwiches" and all I need to do is transfer him the button money for admin fees. WABA is so lucky! I just wonder how I'm going to get to Lagos. Somewhat related, in that it relates to the button sales, I've decided that there should be a closing date on this whole thing and the closing date for any purchases from Tales From The Sharrows at manfredmacx.com will be December 31, 2011. So, you've got the rest of the year to buy buttons, blog posts, blog posts + sandwiches, and/or the bound copy of TFTS (but seriously don't buy this last thing). Thereafter any monies made from the sale of Tales From The Sharrows merchandise, as well as the use of my likeness in the forthcoming Veggie Tales From The Sharrows kids movie will go to me and I will spend it as I see fit, but mostly towards the maintaining my lavish bike commuting lifestyle.The buttons should be arriving on Tuesday and I'll get them in the mail soon thereafter. If you've ordered a button and would prefer to pick it up in person (and receive complimentary handshake and photograph), please email me at talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com to let me know. I'll be holding some kind of BUTTON HAPPY HOUR/TWEETUP on a yet to be determined date (but probably early in the week of December 19th) at yet to be determined downtown bar. If you say that you'll pick it up in person and then you can't come, it's no big deal and I'll just mail it the day after. Maybe with a hand-written note written on the back of a coaster I picked up the night before.
Only one bike in the Lincoln Park bikeshare station this morning. Back to normal. I must have left a little earlier than usual since the rebalancing van is normally there when I ride by. I left earlier than normal in spite of again leaving the house while still wearing my slippers. Attention bicycle shops: clipless slippers! For the recluse looking for just a little bit more ease in his upstroke.The slippers go quite well with the wispy beard I've been growing, though to describe my facial hair as wispy is an insult to wispiness. The beard has mostly come about through inaction, namely the action of shaving, but I might keep it going for a while as a "playoff' beard since winter riding is the closest thing to the playoffs of year-round bike commuting.
I rode behind a gentleman on East Capitol who was riding a fancy, to my eye, hydraulic-braked mountain bike that would be unfit for city commuting except that we had to detour from the road at 2nd Street since the security barriers were up and he rode across the patch of muddy grass between the ramp and sidewalk. It was like a Mountain Dew commercial. He achieved separation, whereas I achieved anxiety, near the base of Capitol Hill when he managed to pass a zombie jogger running with her dog, slack on an eight foot leash while I held up to avoid the pooch. By the time I got to Pennsylvania, he was already gone. I did pass him a few blocks later when he stopped at the behest of some tourists. They asked him to take a picture of them (standing in the bike lane) with the Capitol dome in the background. Brazen..
When I pass another cyclist traveling in the same direction on Pennsylvania, I cross into the opposite direction bike lane. This seems kosher, right?
If you're the guy who takes off as fast as he can when the light turns green so you can assert your dominance over the other bicyclists heading south on 15th, let me tell you a little secret: no one thinks you're cool. In fact, people are probably calling you a douchebag under their breath. Riding fast? Yeah, I get that. But pedaling like a maniac from a dead stop just so you can get past some old lady? First rule of public space: you're constantly being judged.
There's a consignment shop in Dupont Circle called Secondi. I know that I like to buy my clothes from places that share their name with Italian meat courses. Though the name, does lend a bit of classiness to the operation, like all things vaguely Italian, including the Olive Garden. I've learned this lesson and that's why I'm opening up my own consignment shop, Primi, dedicated to used-clothes for babies who didn't make it all the way to term. (Had to go a long way to get there, but I think it was worth it, which I don't think has ever been said about a trip to the Olive Garden. Except Yglesias)
Then the long, boring climb up Mass Ave happened. I'm guessing it's still better than the long, boring idling in traffic that drivers in the other direction face each morning. At least I'm moving forward. And since I too bring coffee in a mug (if you don't put it in hot, it doesn't get warmer along the way. I learned this about my thermos) and because I can basically mumble-sing any song that I'd want to hear on the radio anyway, I think I have the much better deal.
I'm hesitant to suggest that you listen to my suggestions, but I recommend that you don't try to cross Wisconsin at Mass if the pedestrian crosswalk is already flashing red single digit numbers. Only because I see drivers make the right turn without looking and at speeds that would make it unlikely that they could stop in time. Unlike other intersections nearby, there's also no prohibition there against rights on red, so be extra careful about stepping off the curb. Or be Iron Man (not Ironman) because then you could probably deal with the impact.