Ride Home 2/29: What happens when you cross the International Fig Line?

I'd like to quote from one of my favorite bike bloggers:
Arrived at work mostly soaked, but not in bad spirits (like a poltergeist?). Might be crummy for the rest of the day, so it could be a wet ride home. And if not, I'll expect the worst so I can be pleasantly surprised by something marginally better. "Expect the worst so you can be pleasantly surprised by something marginally better" is the slogan for next year's buttons.
And did I expect the worst? No, not really. In fact, I didn't even think that rain would be much of a possibility, so I didn't bother changing and when it really started raining, quite late in the ride, but still maybe 5 minutes from home, I was ill-prepared. I mean, not that I would've been much more prepared in my other, still-wet-from-the-morning-clothes (not much one can do to prepare for rain; you get wet, it happens), but I didn't especially enjoy having my work clothes soaked through. Yet another reason to get a job at Sea World (first reason: delicious fresh chum)- you can ride home in your wetsuit.
Before the rain started, it hadn't started and I rode much of the ride in (and through) a quiet fog. There just wasn't much going on. There was at least one of those drivers who does everything in his power (which admittedly isn't very much) to try to get in front of the cars in front of him by driving past them on the right. It didn't work. Sometimes you can tell that a driver around you is going to be trouble. First way you know: look for the Maryland license plate. Other hints:

  • the driver is lined up at a weird angle relative to the road markings. Like not exactly parallel to certain lines and definitely not perpendicular to others.
  • the driver isn't really where other drivers normally find themselves. If ride ride the same route every day, you have a pretty good sense of where to expect cars. When someone is where you don't normally see a driver, then it might be a sign that something went wrong. 
  • They're not driving and they're not stopped. They're doing something in between. 
  •  The driver is looking around, perhaps frantically. 
I'm sure that there's other things, but those are the ones I can think of right now. Add more "tip offs" to the comments if you have them. 
[Fourth wall alert: The Official Wife is having some "straight talk" through the tv with Holly from Dance Moms right now]
All sorts of problems with cars in Sheriden Circle. There was an event at some embassy and the valets (the ones who park cars, not Mr. Bates) were having a hard time getting the cars out of the road and the people out of the cars and car traffic backed up accordingly and I'm sure that drivers who weren't attending the soiree were appropriately miffed. Though, it's hard to tell appropriately miffed drivers from others. For the first time, I rode around the circle on the sidewalk on the inside of the circle. There is no crosswalk on the other side of the circle to exit onto Massachusetts. Pedestrian fail. 
One of these days, I'll count the number of drivers who can't but have one or two of their car's wheels over the white strip of the bike lane. Not that this will "prove" anything. Although I suppose it proves two things, the first being that a white stripe of paint will not necessarily keep you protected from a driver and the second being that many drivers, while they would never admit it to a camera crew that would never ask them, are constantly breaking the traffic laws. But we all know that only cyclists have the monopoly on scofflawism. 
Not a single bicyclist in either direction on Penn. Guess everyone was at the Wizards game. 
I don't find parked cars to be aesthetically pleasing. I guess I don't find operational cars to be particular beautiful either. Is there an aesthetic case to be made against the east side of the Capitol being used as a parking lot? Probably. I guess cars are just too much part of the firmament and I doubt that my photo montage of "cars parked in front of famous buildings, thereby ruining one's appreciation of the architecture" wouldn't play especially well as I barnstorm it across these United States. Guess I'll need to barnstorm something else because I am very much committed to barnstorming something. "Very much committed to barnstorming something" will be on the buttons the year after next. 

Ride In 2/29: A Flinstones/Mad Men crossover episode would feature Mastodon Draper

I used to think that the bike commuters of DC were like the itsy bitsy spider and were washed away by all the rain, but it turns out that they're more like the Little Miss Muffet spider, in that they're badass and will go to no small lengths to scare people away from their dairy products. Or at least that they're willing to ride in the rain, so good for them I guess. There was a little bit of a drop off in numbers, but not nearly as much as I was expecting. It's hard to stop riding to work once you've developed the habit. Unless for you, it's not, in which case, that's a fine choice too.
Friends don't let friends ride in front of them without fenders. Strangers, unfortunately, have no say in the matter. I know it's the same wet that falls from the sky, but it seems worse when it's sprayed in your face from the back of someone's tire. She didn't have lights on her bike either. Since most bicyclists also drive (this is a real stat, but I'm not going to look up the source), does everyone drive around habitually without their lights on? I know that it's an after-market add-on for your bike, but shoes are an after-market add-on for your feet and I don't see too many people biking around without those. Get lights.
The other day I got new pedals and today, thanks to a 6 AM delivery from LaserShip (this caused no small incredulity from the official wife, both that they came so early in the morning and the delivery company was named Laser Ship. She thought I was making this up), I got my new bike shoes. They're of the SPD variety, so that's something different for me. I spent the time between making the coffee and drinking the coffee trying to attach the cleats. I should have waited until after drinking the coffee. First impressions? They're good. Seems easier to unclip from these style pedals. For anyone thinking about making the transition to clipless pedals (don't ask my about the clip-in, clipless, Clipse, clipper ship distinction or why anything is called what it is), I recommend a bike commute as good practice. With all of the stop lights and stop signs, you'll get really good at clipping and unclipping, pretty quickly, too. Or you'll fall over, not being able to unhook your shoe from the pedal. So think of that as incentive. Being used to clipping in, I didn't get the pleasure of falling over this morning, but there's always tonight. Even though they're pretty much superfluous for the commute, I like biking in bike shoes. But I also like biking in regular shoes, hence the reversible pedals.
Got out-guiled by a CaBi rider that I had earlier passed when she moved into the right turn lane at the intersection of Penn and 15th while I got stuck at the light in the cycletrack. Out-guiling is one of my favorite hobbies, so that stung a little. My decision to stay in the cycletrack and wait at the light didn't have any profound impact on the overall time of my trip, so, to that effect, it didn't really matter. But who wants to wait a lights when you can position yourself so as not to? Just don't tell WJLA. While I won't eat my helmet, I'm waiting for the same hard-hitting journalism-like-substance to be applied to local drivers.
Saw Kyle on 15th street. He said "TFTS Rules!" and I responded like the woo girl I am with a high-pitched "woo." And he's totally right, if by TFTS, he's using the well-known and not obscure at all acronym for That Friends Television Show, which did rule its time slot for a number of years in the 90s and early aughts. Unless of course, he was referencing an entirely different TFTS, one with which I'm much more closely associated.
Less bike traffic than usual for much of the remainder of the trip. Usual amount of car traffic. I arrived at a stop sign at the same time as a woman I suspected of being Australian. Not because she was munching on vegemite-covered eucalyptus, but from her accent. Fewer parents walking with their kids lately. If I was responsible for the well-being of a child unit, I'd take that child unit out in the rain all the time. Not to toughen him up or anything, but just to make sure that he's not a Gremlin.
Arrived at work mostly soaked, but not in bad spirits (like a poltergeist?). Might be crummy for the rest of the day, so it could be a wet ride home. And if not, I'll expect the worst so I can be pleasantly surprised by something marginally better. "Expect the worst so you can be pleasantly surprised by something marginally better" is the slogan for next year's buttons.


Ride Home 2/28: Sid and Repugnancy

An update on the biggest story of the day from #bikeDC. According to those who know, or at least according to the librul media (so take it or leave it), it looks like the bicyclist involved in the crash this morning at 11th and U has serious injuries, but perhaps less serious than initially believed and even non-life-threatening. So, that's good. Once again, I advise you to avoid all comments left below this or any other bicycling story, unless you have a stronger stomach than mine. And whatever happens after the police inquest (do we have inquests in this country or did I pick up this terminology from a cop show on BBC?), the axe grinders and yahoos will still be there, so don't go searching for vindication, no matter your point of view. Because really, why do that to yourself?
Back to your regularly scheduled program, namely, my bicycle ride. I feel like it might as well be in reruns. There was plus change-ing and there was plus meme chose-ing. There were drivers of BMWs driving hilariously. There was me, biking, and wondering how little space I'd have to take up to convince people that it's not me that's the reason there's traffic. Spoiler alert: it is not possible. My favorite is when there's a driver looking to make a left turn in the left lane and there's me in the right lane and I perceive that it's somehow my fault that things have slowed down. Perhaps I'm being oversensitive.
This is new. Blocking the right turn lane on Mass where a right turn isn't even allowed at that time of day. I don't know if this is redundant or actually useful.
Don't drive into that car. 

Some day I'm just gonna take 23rd street out of Sheriden Circle and ride to Washington Circle and then ride back up New Hampshire to Dupont Circle and then ride down Mass to Thomas Circle and then take Vermont to Logan Circle and then ride straight out of town and never come back because I'd be so sick of bicycling through traffic circles.
Mr. Red Pants, are you out there? You rode past me when I stopped at a stop sign at Q. You said "on your left." I got that, but I wasn't expecting you to ride through a stop sign on my left, one that I stopped at (and by stopped, I mean slowed for) and then wend through some pedestrians at various crosswalks along the way while sort of waiting for red lights, but not really. And then for some reason, you decided to cross to the other side of the street and wait in front of the driver who was wearing a tuxedo (for real) rather than wait behind the woman in the dress that might have been a shirt and the leggings and the boots. I don't know where you went after that. The dress that might have been a shirt woman crossed 11th and probably proceeded down Q, but I didn't, so I don't really have much to add. Good amount of bike traffic on 11th, all heading the other way.
Through downtown was what it was (I've take my Nobel for literature please) and I spent much of it right off the bumper of the SUV in front of me. I crossed into the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack from the sidewalk, where I stopped to wait for the light to change, and I tried not to overdramatically sigh my way in front of the guy who blocked the crosswalk with his car. I might not have succeeded.
Fewer lightless cyclists out tonight, which is good. And a little ironic, since I rode home earlier tonight than yesterday, when it was much darker. It's really not difficult to have lights on your bike. I promise.
What's your favorite scold for someone jogging in the bike lane? I've never actually said this, but I think mine would be "Nice bike!" Of course, I don't say stuff like that because I've made it through life thus far without being punched in the face and I'd like to keep it that way. Helmet isn't going to help that.
I rode behind one lightless woman who bipped and bopped through the bike lane on East Capitol and when some driver eventually blocked her path, I had already moved over to take the lane and I said something like "you can come over" which she didn't, but didn't really acknowledge. Umbrage: activated.
And then the guy in the Arsenal shorts decided that he would ride in front of me as I waited at the red light at Lincoln Park. Why? Some day I'll muster the effrontery to ask. Why does everyone think that they're so freaking important? Oh, it's DC? Sorry. Forgot for a moment. Do the same people shove their way to the front of the Metro line? Funny thing about pet peeves: they're actually like pets. You get used to them after a while and no matter how annoying they are, you're attached and you just can't get rid of them. I don't get what's so hard about waiting behind someone, but I suppose I should just stop caring. It could be a long spring and summer.
 I stuck behind Arsenal shorts along Kentucky until I got to the store and then I shopped and then I went home. Ellie the Poodle, the original pet peeve, was there:

Ride In 2/28: Leap Day Eve Morning

For whatever reason, and I think it's the pictures of the mangled bike, this really got to me. A commenter claims to have seen the incident (but other commenters elsewhere tell a different story) and I hope there's a full investigation as to what happened. I also hope for a speedy and full recovery for the bicyclist, whom I believe is still in serious condition. I can't write dispassionately about stuff like this and I can barely write coherently in the first place. I certainly don't like to dwell on bad things, such as the potential for grievous injury when just trying to get to work (that's why, amongst other reasons, the blog isn't title Tales from OH MY GOD WE'RE ALL DOOMED!) and I like to keep this blog light-hearted and I at least try to be amusing, so reading something like this, and it happens far too frequently, is upsetting. That's not to say that I would recommend that we all ignore it, that we look the other way at the potential for danger as we munch our corn chips and make our merry way, blissfully ignorant to what happens around us and with little regard or care to our fellow travelers, on foot, on bikes, in public transit or in cars. In fact, I don't think we should do that at all. But we can't dwell either, focusing only on the potential for terribleness. If we did that, no one would ever get out of bed, unless of course they're focused on the terribleness of bed bugs, at which point they'd never get in bed, which would be a perfectly good waste of a bed and much of the floor space of a bedroom, floor space that could be used otherwise for a ping-pong table. Do what you can to stay safe out there and do your best to minimize risk. No one's invincible, except for Superman, but he commutes by flying (probably) and is fictional.
One last thing on recklessness: please don't be reckless. Riding a bike is easy and fun and fast and generally wonderful, but being inconsiderate to those around you is fairly inexcusable. I will not excuse you. Not even if you ask me really nicely. Ok, maybe if you make a nice greeting card and write in calligraphy. I watch people do things every day (no matter what their mode of transportation) that really makes me wonder what's waiting at their workplace that's so freaking awesome that they're in such a rush to get there. Free beer and puppies? Because if it's anything less than that, it's not worth pissing off everyone around you by acting like a jerk. Even if it is that, the puppies won't want to play with you if you're an selfish asshole, so don't be. So please keep that in mind, even if you don't have beer and puppies at your workplace.
I detoured from the normal route this morning to take some mostly crappy pictures of some new bikey stuff. Here's the new Bikeshare station by Stanton Park:

It's right on C D Street, meaning every westbound cyclist is going to salmon in that bike lane, at least for a block. I rode Maryland Avenue over from 8th street (where I thought the station was for some reason) and it wasn't especially terrible, but I think I rode it during a lull in car traffic. It would benefit from a road diet and some bike lanes, but I'm biased.
Anyone out there live and work within DC and drive to work every day? I want to interview you about your commute for the blog. You'll become instantly famous (to 9 people). Please email talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com. I'd prefer people who both live and work within the Federal No Representation Zone (my catchy new nickname! Tourist Board, you're welcome!), but any other daily driver is welcome to email me as well. I'm just curious about some stuff, most of which isn't related to bicycling.
The other thing I went in search of today was the new contraflow bike lane and sharrows network in Eckington. To get there, I rode up 6th (behind a guy on a CaBi) and then over K (where there seem to be a lot of families with young kids) to 2nd NE and then to the Met Branch Trail. I love the MBT, but it always seems so dour. A little like NoMa, which I find to be too antiseptic for my tastes, but my tastes are weird, so what do I know.
Here's what's on the ground, as of this morning:
Bike lane starts at 3rd NE. Nothing between MBT and there, so far.  

That sign says move your car on 3/1, so they can finish striping. 

R Street NE between 3rd and 2nd. 
That's the contraflow part. Then, if I remember correctly, the bike lane goes for another block with the flow of traffic and then it turns into sharrows. The sharrows cross North Capitol and extend to Florida, where the bike lane starts again on the other side. I would really like it if the bike lane was striped across Florida, kind of  like a parallel bike crosswalk, but I don't think that's in the cards.
R Street seems far too narrow for the number of cyclists who tried to pass me while riding on it. Rhode Island seems like far too wide a street to roll through the red light without stopping. A CaBi seems far less than ideal for trackstanding. And turning left from a right-hand bike lane is, as always, inadvisable. That's just a sample of my crosstown commute. March came early.
I didn't notice any bad traffic issues related to Dupont, but they hadn't turned the traffic lights off yet. Ride up and down Mass was uneventful. I think I even made it to work faster than I had planned. Guess I did something wrong.


Guest Post: Lisa and the red ruby clip-ins

The Sharrownator 3000, the machine into which I enter various bike commute "inputs" and receive a fully realized, borderline terrible blog post, is still in the shop. Apparently, it's increasingly difficult to find cathode ray tubes and the rare Norwegian butter it needs to keep functioning. That's the last time I ever buy a 'blogging machine' on CraigsList. Missed connection, indeed. Oh well. In place of my usual, here's a post from Lisa, the Rambling Rider, on tonight's ride home. Approximately, one million 'thank yous' to Lisa, who I absolve from the onerous responsibility of one million 'you're welcomes.' Read her blog. It's really good. 

Going home, I always approach my commute with dread. By the end of the work day, I am tired, I am hungry, and I am wishing I could just click my heels three times and say "there's no place like home" and be home with a nice, hot meal waiting for me. Alas, I am not in Oz, and this also ain't Kansas.

But! It is now light enough that I don't need my lights or reflective gear, and it is warm enough that I don't need my flap cap or my scarf or my lobster gloves. Hooray! That makes me happy, and in this spirit, I unlock my bike and start on my ride home.

Intersection #1: where the car drivers and I do a little dance, make a little love, and play chicken. I wave them along, and then cross.

A few feet in, and then the pain starts. The saddle starts hurting me as I pedal. ow ow ow. And then downhill. Whee!

Intersection #2: where I wait for what seems like forever until I cross. This is where some bikers will cheat and either bike on the sidewalk to avoid having to wait for the cars or bike on the crosswalk to force the cars to stop. I don't do either, but there is a pedestrian who is waiting to cross, and for whom the cars will not stop for; I don't know why. Finally, she takes a step into the crosswalk and the cars stop-- and then this is my cue to cross. I do cheat by biking into the parking lot. Is biking through the parking lot better than taking the road? On one hand, the parking lot has its share of perils, like car drivers who back out of the parking space without looking, or kids who are running around, also without looking. On the other hand, taking the road means pedaling furiously uphill and making violent gestures to make the left turn. Some days, I open Door #1, other days, Door #2. The Tiger or the Tiger.

Intersection #3: another wait, but shorter. I signal a left turn, and ride in the sharrows. Some days, I am harassed by taking the lane, some days, it's smooth sailing. Today, no harassment. Good. I admit that I Idaho stop the stop signs, but I look both ways and slow down.

Intersection #4: lots of folks walking their dogs. I downshift, and downshift again. And then, The Hill. Today, I decide to granny-gear it and spin. I pat myself on the back (figuratively-- I don't want to let go over the handlebars at this point) for keeping an even cadence.

Home stretch. Uneventful, which is how I like it. I pedal on, glide up to my apartment, carry my bike up the steps, and fumble for my keys. The dog barks, as he usually does, and I open the door and arrive. whew. 23 minutes and 27 seconds.

Ride In 2/27: Sampson and Delilah

When I set out to write this blog, I had one goal: to become the web's premier destination for bike commuter-themed Hello Kitty fan fiction. I soon have that up, on account of my own lack of interest in that subject matter, as well as the lack of interest from the remainder of humanity. So, I had some back-up goals, but here are two of things that I didn't want to do: 1. become the arbiter of proper bike commuter behavior and 2. become a bike commuter apologist. Perhaps it's because both of those things invite confrontation and when it comes to confrontation [I'm now hiding under my desk to avoid any potential confrontation from finishing this sentence]. Sometimes I slip up and express preferences, such as my thinking that it's poor form to pass someone at a stop sign or ride directly into a pedestrian at a crosswalk or cut off a rightfully turning driver, all things done within my field of view this morning by a woman in a camel (color, not material) coat. But it's really not my intention to foist my suggestions of what I think is "good" ridership on anyone, because, frankly, I'm not an expert or anything and I'm sure there are plenty of things that I do while riding my bike (juggling, eating corn chips) that rankle other bike commuters. We're all independent actors (like Parker Posey, maybe) and everyone should do what works best for them. You know, judge not lest ye be Judge Rheinhold, or whatever that saying is.
First ride in with the new pedals and I liked them very much. No clipping made me feel free and volatile and like it could fly off the bike at any moment, like a bird on a motorized scooter. Also, it being Monday meant that my legs felt relative springy (like a spring, not like spring) and the morning air was brisk and cool, like the copy on an iced tea print ad. I took the normal route and saw the seven people you meet when you bike down East Capitol (Mitch Albom is slipping), which included at least one person walking a big dog, one person walking a small dog, and one guy biking with a gym bag tucked under his left shoulder. I made it to First Street NE at the same time as the off-white SUV that I passed at Lincoln Park. Driving: not as a fast as you'd think.
Many a CaBi out today. System can't expand fast enough. Once the stations get in on the Mall, it's going to be in even greater demand. If Bikeshare did another Living Social deal (and I think they should), I bet it'd pick up maybe another 5000 yearly members. But that's just an ill-informed guess. I'm sure they have "math guys" (technical term) figuring out stuff like that. The overwhelming majority of Bikeshare riders seem to be of the variety that wear normal people clothes and skip the helmet [Judge (Rheinhold) accordingly], whereas I'd suggest that most people on their own bikes make some sort of sop to athletic wear and head protection, though this doesn't describe anyone. It just makes for an interesting dichotomy, but I don't very much about who people choose to attire themselves while biking. My commute is 8 miles one way and goes uphill for much of it and I don't like to wear sweaty clothes at the office and I haven't yet come up with a way to arrive at work sweatless (that braze-on squeegee just doesn't work), so I bring a change of clothes and bike in athletic wear. If I lived closer, I probably wouldn't. It's entirely circumstantial. So, there you go.
More illegal parking DRAMA in the 15th street cycletrack. Obi Wan was on it. As were others. And DDOT doesn't get why someone thinks this is okay. And yet, the read the comments here. How is any poor driver supposed to know not to park on the inside of bollards in a clearly marked bike lane? Um, how often do you see bollards and a dashed yellow stripe and think "ah, parking bollards and a dashed stripe by which I can center my vehicle for more accurate parking!" And clearly, the city has deliberately set up this confusing situation (nothing is as enticing than a dashed yellow centering strip, am I right?) on purpose to lure drivers into commuting parking violations. I mean, really. I get that bicyclists are evil and smug and self-righteous and all that, but surely in a situation like this, some people doth protest too much. Right? Or am I just being evil and smug and self-righteous and all that? Anyway, were I being those things I'd suggest the following: earmark the money for bike lane related parking violations to subsidize Capital Bikeshare memberships for those who couldn't afford them otherwise. Just a suggestion.
The usual R street race track. We all get caught at a red light eventually, so there's no real need to rush. You can't beat the system in a car and you can't beat it on a bike.
Probably the most downhill bike traffic on Massachusetts since the fall. It's been a mild winter, but it seems to be picking up even more now. March 1 is the day that I used to use as my "start biking now" day when I didn't commute year round. I'll be curious to see if there's a noticeable pick-up by next week.
The last 500 feet to my office always seem to be the most awkward, probably because I'm riding on the sidewalk and the sidewalk is crowded with pedestrians. I'd stick to the road, but I'm impatient and I don't want to wait in the long line of stopped cars. Oh well.
THIS IS A CALL FOR GUEST POSTS. Please write one and email it to talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com. Have an especially eventful bike commute? Don't? Great! That's exactly what I like to post. Experience all the fun of bike blogging with none of the remuneration.


Ride Home 2/24: If 'going Dutch' is splitting the check, what's 'going Hollandaise'?

I guess that if I had one regret about this blog, it's that it doesn't have a soundboard. Of course, that's the most ridiculous regret ever and it isn't really a regret at all. Anyway, imagine hearing 'zoop zoop zoop' which is what I imagine to be the sound of my going downhill with some pace along New Mexico on a wet road behind the trepidatious driver of a white minivan. And then imagine the grind-and-squeal some some wet brakes and then imagine the sound of my nearly bellicose sigh at a driver who turns left in front of me when it's questionable as to whether that was a good decision concerning my safety and well-being. If you still want to imagine sounds, and most assuredly you don't, you could imagine a whooshing thud sound of my struggling to get up the slight incline on Tunlaw and a whirring whoosh sound of me going down the other side.
35th street needs sharrows. Does anyone have a sharrow stencil? I will buy the white paint. Or maybe whipped cream if we can't find white paint. I'd provide Cool Whip if you can't find/make real whipped cream.
Why did I ride my old route through Georgetown? Because of nostalgia? Because I spent all day doodling in my notebook TFTS + Biking through Georgetown= Love 4 ever? No, not because of that (and not because I didn't actually do that), but because instead I thought it would be awesome for a bicycle shoppe (old timey, like) to swap out my current pedals for the new pedals that I had ordered. I tried to spend that bike shop (not old timey) Groupon that I had on a pedal wrench, but of course that shop didn't have pedal wrenches for sale, so I figured it'd be easier to just have a different shop do it. So I headed to a shop in Georgetown and they did it, and for free at that. Free because they made me wait for a little, not because I'm a local bike celebrity, which I am assuredly not, though the mechanic asked me if I commuted on the bike (which I do) and I thought he might have been a TFTS superfan, but he probably just asked because the bike is dirty as all get-out. Anyway, swapping the pedals was a good idea and made even better thanks to the rain and I enjoyed pedaling on the new pedals as much as one can enjoy pedaling on any pedals at all.
I can't be the only person who rides through Washington Circle going "nowhammynowhammynowhammynowhammynowhammynowhammynowhammynowhammySTOP," can I? Press your luck, indeed.
The other side of Penn isn't much better. A cycletrack would help things. "Help me, Jack Evans, you're my only hope," is the message that I'd put in a droid that I'd smuggle to a desert planet with two suns. From now on on TFTS, he'll be known as Obi Wan Evans, which is a name that he hasn't used in a while, not since the Clone Wars/Control Board. To top it all off, after the misery that was Penn, I arrived at the White House plaza at the moment the state security services were closing off Lafayette Park for some reason and diverting pedestrian and bicycle traffic elsewhere. So, that sort of sucked. I rode down the sidewalk (ILLEGALLY. DON'T TELL WUSA9!) and then across more sidewalk in front of the other side of the White House, near the Eclipse. When I saw a member of the state security services, I decided that I would ask him what I thought would be a clarifying question. So I says to him, I says, "Can I ride in the road or do I have to ride on the sidewalk?" I asked him this because there's a perfectly good, empty road next to a perfectly full of pedestrians sidewalk and biking on the road would be considerably nicer/safer. He said "You can bike on that road," pointing the parking lot/driveway behind him, "but not on this one." I said, "So the Elipse parking lot, but not E Street?" and he said "Yeah" or something to the effect. So, consider that clarified.
Then it was down Penn and I rode through some (literal) horse shit. Thanks, horse. I'll be sure to have my bike excrete in your stable.
Up past the Capitol, slowly, and then down 2nd NE behind the Supreme (because it has sour cream) Court and past C and almost D Street and I locked up my bike and went into a bar to see some friends. Good friends, and you can take this to the bank, are ones that spot you a drink. But if don't spot or spot you too many, then you might have issues. After a quick stop, it was back on the road, a little too close to a Subaru hatchback navigating around Stanton and then basically home with no other issues. Saturday is tomorrow, so there won't be posts, but I might ride to the ATM to deposit checks of $2.48 and $6.06. So, just imagine the sounds of something that mundane. Have a great weekend.

Ride In 2/24: Pista Resistance

It just started raining, maybe two minutes ago. We were promised this rain, along with high winds, but we were also promised a 75 degree day. The rain has materialized, but I'm skeptical about the temperature. Someone get me an amphibian and tell me if it feels 75 degrees. Or a thermometer, if you're skeptical of cold-blooded animals. In fact, when I was riding in, I felt downright cold. Perhaps this means that I'm an amphibian, I don't know. I thought it would be 50 or so and even though I had put on my yellow jacket after leaving #fridaycoffeeclub, it didn't seem like enough and I was more than a little uncomfortable.
I don't think the promise of a warm day lured out any more bike commuters than normal. Probably because of the equally, if not more valid, promise of the rain and 50 mph gusts. Not quite spring yet.
Same route as always, except after Penn, I went up 15th instead of taking E, as is my normal habit on coffee mornings. On 15th before the White House, I saw on a guy on an old Bridgestone with a carradice bag and over-wide SKS fenders. I could have sworn he would have been going to coffee club, but such was not the case. Perhaps I should have invited him.
Good crowd this morning and a very special guest, long-time friend of the blog, Kirstin, making her first coffee club appearance. Big round of applause. (I write this blog as if I'm hosting a game show. Who am I even asking to applaud?) A good time was had by all (I'm assuming), but unfortunately, it's not my job to stand around drinking coffee and make conversation about bicycles. I don't know if that's an actual job, but if there are any eccentric billionaires (or foolhardy millionaires or idiotic thousandaires) our there willing to pay me to do as much, please contact my agent/manager/pet, Ellie the Poodle. I'd also like to thank Roy for the strawberries.
It had just begun to spit a little rain when I left Swings. I think by 15th and P, it had mostly stopped. By the time I was on R, I think I was wholly dry. It wasn't much rain.
Sometimes I think about where I would pull over if I had to use a restroom during my commute. The answer is normally just work. I feel I might be oversharing, but this is of a practical concern and generally related to bike commuting. I don't know, it seems like a sensible thing to think about.
 I passed another bicyclist riding up Mass. I think the morning up Mass (missa est?) commute will become more popular for people come springtime and I fully expect to see more bicyclists. Since I didn't have anything else to think about, I decided that I would think about my bike commuting mantra and I've settled on two of them. The first one is this: I'm not special. That's not humility; it's reality. Everyone on a bike is just another schlub trying to get somewhere, no different from anyone else. I wish everyone (bicyclists, drivers, pedestrians, zookeepers, blimp captains) were a little more clear about this.It would help things.  My second mantra is Groove is in the heart, mostly because I want to see if someone from a Deee Lite fan site will leave a comment here, a la the Dean Cain people.
I'd like to thank that one driver who slowed down a little bit before passing me. Thanks.
Wishing everyone, in advance, a safe ride home. The only way you can "win" at bike commuting is by making it home safely, so take your time and take it easy, especially if the weather is crummy. I'm so paternalistic.


Invariably, I'll spend more time writing this post than I did riding with Marc. If, in fact, I limited the length of the time I spent blogging to the amount of time I spent riding, I'd pretty much have to stop now. (Though spending the exact same amount of time blogging as I do riding would be an interesting conceit and maybe I'll roll out it for season 3. The conceit at the end of season 2 will be that it was all a dream. The conceit of season 4 will be that I'm inside of a snowglobe. Season 5, somehow, will be claymation. I've got gimmicks for 8 seasons, after which I'll reveal that bike commuting was a metaphor for purgatory or something and then you'll take the message boards to question why you even bothered reading so long and whether all of the "easter eggs" even made any sense. In conclusion, WE HAVE TO GO BACK!) Marc is a colleague and while we don't work within the same academic unit, we both work at the same place, meaning that this I BLOG YOUR RIDE could be the first I BLOG YOUR RIDE that's a ride home rather than a ride in. Of course, we sort of just rode to a nearby Mexican restaurant and not a ride home, though I think it was close enough to his home to qualify. I haven't read the bylaws in some time.
We set off from bucolic American University (home of the 'fightin' muricans' [I'm being told that's not the official mascot]) around 5:30. I was on the Haul and Marc was on a CaBi. He's a Bikeshare commuter, through and through. By through and through, I mean that he doesn't even own his own bike (he owns 1100 of them). I think that this makes him a rarity in bike commuting circles (bike commuting circles are for people who work from home), but with the growth in popularity of Bikeshare, I think this rarity is becoming only medium-rare, like a delicious steak. He started commuting by bicycle after Bikeshares' inception (it was all a dream within a dream within a solar-powered station) and rides most days. When he doesn't, he takes the Metro for one stop, which actually takes longer than biking. Sometimes he'll Metro to work and bike home and he enjoys Bikeshare for the ability to take one-way trips. I suppose that makes him a flexitarian or maybe just a Sagittarius. For him, a month of one-way Metro is half the price of a month of car parking and half the price of a year of Bikeshare. Think about that.
We made our way across Ward Circle (the most useless circle in Washington) and down Nebraska, sticking on the sidewalk. Not literally sticking. Marc prefers the sidewalk to the road on Nebraska because the evening rush hour traffic is a bit crazy. It seemed a little cramped when there were pedestrians, but it wasn't so bad. We turned right on Van Ness and then it was street-riding the rest of the way.
According to Marc, the brief stretch of Van Ness between Upton and Wisconsin is probably the most dangerous part of his trip. I would tend to agree, not least of all because it's close to a McDonalds and someone might spill hot coffee on you. Just a lot of drivers making blind-ish turns and other drivers speeding to try to catch the lights. Marc, because he's considerate of others, tries to hustle to make the green light when he can, just so doesn't put people out. He's a nice guy like that. The other thing he tends to do is try to ride 'vehicularly," meaning that he stops in line and doesn't weave through traffic and takes turns and all that. I think that given the vicissitudes of his route, he doesn't have much other choice. For the width of the road (one lane in each direction), there's nowhere else for him to go. Van Ness from Wisconsin to Connecticut does have sharrows, so that's nice at least. Amazingly, he's never been honked at (thanks, sharrows!), but he has been passed aggressively and closely before by impatient drivers. Van Ness has two stops signs and a red light, so it's not like an expressway or anything. And it's a residential street with maybe a 25 mph speed limit, so I was sort of surprised at how much car traffic there actually was. I guess there are only so many convenient cross-streets in that part of town.
Without incident, we got to Connecticut, where we decided to turn right rather than left, and head down to Cleveland Park and its myriad eateries/drinkeries. For a block or two, we stayed on the sidewalk on Connecticut, but then went into the road because the sidewalk narrowed and it was just easier to ride in the road anyway. I don't very much enjoying riding on Connecticut Avenue. It's rather thick with the worst kind of car traffic, namely the sort of drivers who think that they're driving on a road that's supposed to allow them to go fast when it actually doesn't. It's really all about managing expectations, ins't it?
Marc docked at the Cleveland Park bikeshare station. His was then the only bike there. Tough luck, anyone looking to take Bikeshare from Cleveland Park at roughly 5:45 on a Thursday.
Here's some more stuff about Marc and Bikeshare and commuting

  • he almost never sees anyone else biking his route in the morning, nor does he see any "regulars" at the bikeshare station. 
  • The hill up Van Ness sucks. I agree. 
  • He's plotted his bike commutes (bike commuters love spreadsheets!) and found about a one minute variability between fastest and slowest trips. Comparing this to the variability in how long a red line trip might take (upwards of infinity hours) and driving (you could be stuck at the light at Wisconsin for hours), this is quite a good reason to take Bikeshare
  • Getting dockblocked and finding no bikes at your station is basically a death sentence for your bike commute when you live on the outskirts of the Bikeshare system(Van Ness, Tenley, AU, Glover Park). It's because the stations are too far away from each other and walking 10 minutes to the next closest station sort of defeats the whole purpose of the whole 'quick trip with no variability thing.' I asked him if stations within the residential neighborhoods might be popular and he thought so, but there's no real way to know until we try. So let's get on that. 
  • There's almost no real infrastructure in upper-ish Northwest. That makes March a vehicular cyclist by default. He said that when he bikes downtown, he's happy to use bike lanes and such and really loves seeing other people on bikes. I know how the feels, since that's more or less how I felt when I used to bike through Georgetown and up New Mexico.  \
  • One of the nice virtues about the diffusion of Bikeshare is the ability to use it to explore different neighborhoods and to essentially play bike tourist all over the city. You can take the Metro somewhere, find the nearest bikeshare station, tool around for a bit and either ride somewhere else or just to the train home. It's real multimodalism. 
It was an absolute great time riding with Marc and the generosity of his money and time is greatly appreciated. I wish him the best of luck with his continued CaBi commutes. As that Irish blessing goes, may bikes always be available when you need them and the road rise to meet your wheels! (I think it goes that way, but I'm not so sure).


As the Shirelles Never Sang, "Will You Still Blog Me Tomorrow?"

The night slipped away from me and I posted the ride in late, so I'll post a post tomorrow and the post won't be about my ride home. It will be a I BLOG YOUR RIDE post for I was off riding another person's commute tonight. I mean, it's not like it was a secret; he knew and stuff. So, that's that.
In other news, which is pretty much the same news, DeBonis covered the illegal parking kerfluffle from this morning.
In news about Others, looks like MC Gainey has a few movies in post. That's a Lost reference, for those of whom I've lost. For those of you remaining, there's coffee tomorrow morning at Swings and the whole gang will probably be there. You might even get lucky and have MG race you there. She's fast, so watch out.

Ride In 2/23: Shrimp Scampi

One of those mornings where the carryover effect of bicycling is a happiness that isn't immediately crushed by sitting down at your desk and opening your email. It was just that nice out. Hard to believe it's late February.
Another day on the Haul and another day wearing work clothes, albeit with sneakers and untucked shirt. It might have been cold enough for a jacket, but that would have spoiled the illusion. Nothing quite captures joie de vivre like an untucked dress shirt. And I'm all about joie de vivre, which is French for lazy and unkempt.
Every morning, I expect to see lines of bicyclists out on East Capitol and every morning I'm woefully disappointed. Maybe a couple here and there, but it's not like there are caravans or anything, which is a shame, because I think that the Hill (including Armory West) might be the residential area most saturated with bike infrastructure, has relatively calm residential streets and even the arterials (I hate this word. It makes me think of heart disease) like E Capitol, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and C NE have bike lanes and fairly low speed limits. Maybe the good weather just snuck up on everyone. Or maybe I'm leaving too early or too late. Or maybe it's downtown infrastructure that's the problem and people won't bike off the Hill. I don't know.
I wore a helmet today. May you judge accordingly.
I spent much of my ride behind a guy on a CaBi. He was wearing jeans and a jacket and looked like a normal person. "Bike commuters- they're just like us!" coming to a tabloid near you. Does anyone have a strong opinion about what a bicyclist should do when he needs to stop to take off his jacket, as did the CaBi guy in front of me? He stayed in the bike lane and I rode around him, but there's probably a case to be made that he should leave the bike lane out of courtesy to fellow bicyclists. I wasn't especially bothered, because, really, there are more important things in life (space exploration, corn chips), but I know that some of you have strong opinions about these kinds of things and I'd like to solicit them. Sometimes I stop at a light to check my phone or put something in my bag (corn chips mostly) and I don't know if I should be pulling off to the side or whatever.
I wanted to Storify this, but I sort of determined that it would take too long, so I'll just reduce it what happened into the usual TFTS-approved stilted narrative. You can read my twitter if you want play-by-play and analysis. Some driver parked his car in the 15th street cycletrack. Here's a picture:

At the time, I called him an ass hat and I deeply regret that, mostly because the correct term is asshat (one word). Long story short, enough people (the entirety of #bikeDC, so like 17 of us) complained about this on twitter that Jack Evans (Ward 2) roused the powers that be at DDOT and DCDPW and MPD and whatever other members of the local alphabet soup that handle parking enforcement and the car has now been towed. But not before the following: a parking ticket (which was there when I first saw it), a broken side mirror and a hilarious note. I applaud whomever left the note and I'll just assume that the mirror was broken accidentally because [DISCLAIMER] vandalism is wrong, even when someone parks in a cycletrack. I'd like to thank the many people who saw fit to tweet and retweet about this, as well as Councilman Evans, whom I pretty sure got involved because he hoped that car belonged to Vincent Orange. (Just kidding! Jack loves #bikeDC. Think he wants a Sharrows button?)
Speaking of buttons, I think I saw Rachel at the next intersection. I think, but I'm not sure. Another con for helmets. If it wasn't Rachel, then hi to whomever it was.
I've recently added a front basket to the bike I was riding today and I very much enjoy it. It was empty today, but I still liked having it there. Seems like it makes the front of the bike a bit more imposing causing the cyclists coming down the other side of the cycletrack to move over. Not without some reticence though. I'm thinking about making a sign for the front of the basket that reads "Move over." [phone ringing. "Hello...yes, this is he...really? An award?...most passive-aggressive idea of the year? Thank you so much! I'm honored. No really, thanks.]
I saw a guy on 15th with a plastic coat hanger dangling from his handlebars. That's kinda weird.
Too many drivers on R street and too many drivers driving alone on Massachusetts, where I counted six cars (out of approximately 1 million) that had more than one person in them. This, as usual, made me think about HOV lanes and congestion taxes and here's the thing: why aren't there HOV lanes in the city, where it's actually crowded? Like, what's the use of making the highways less congested if it's just going to dump everyone downtown on city streets that can't accommodate them? I suppose enforcement would be a hurdle, but it doesn't seem logical to have the narrowest, most crowded streets allowed to be occupied predominantly by lone drivers, right? I'm not a traffic expert, though. If you're not going to mitigate downtown congestion by having people to walk or ride bikes or take Metro (all of which are enviable goals), then maybe try to mitigate it by suggesting/enforcing carpooling. But this is America and that sounds like socialism or something.


Ride Home 2/22: My book about Elliot Spitzer would be titled Politics and Pros

Best night for bicycling in awhile. Not even cold. Not even partially cold. Just really great, far too great for the too few people I saw out riding. Maybe it was because I left marginally later than usual. I don't know. But had I my druthers, the city streets would be flooded with bicyclists, but we're not quite there yet. Maybe tomorrow.
I forgot to do my usual plug for the JDAntos Bikeshare data crunching. Here's part 8 and it's about elevation and trip distance. It's interesting. I think that the "answer," insofar as there is an "answer," is just adding more infill stations, but that's pretty much always the answer.
[I'm trying to blog with TFTS "favorite" Dance Moms on in the background. I said to Official Wife that "this show is really distracting." She responded, "you mean fascinating?" Yeah. I should retire to my "office" which I think is what we're calling the second bedroom, which is currently used to store Christmas ornaments, extra toothpaste and winter clothes. Glamorous.]
I wish there was a way that I could somehow use harness the energy that drivers waste speeding to stop signs. Is there an app for that? No? Is there an app that can turn my frustration with their brushing past me into something? Like something useful, like extra Angry Birds?
Road work in Sheriden Circle makes things interesting. Have to merge into the traffic lane and then merge into the circle and then out of the circle. Not the most fun. For a spot, I rode on the wrong side of the cones, which makes me a dangerous scofflaw/rebel without a cause/guy biking on the wrong side of the cones. It was some real Thunderdome shit.
Lots of bike traffic by the bike shop on Q. I guess it's time for tuneups or new bike accessories or whatever. Shopping for bike stuff on the commute home is like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach.
This might or might not have been Spiderman. I don't know if Spiderman wears a Spiderman backpack and wears a Spiderman helmet. I also don't know if Che Guevara has a poster of himself on his college dorm room wall.

I can't say that I've completely reconciled myself to the fact that slower bicyclists will invariably ride in front of me at stop signs, but I've at least reconciled to not blogging about it so much. I don't know what effect this will have on the overall length of the posts. I haven't quite reconciled myself to not blogging about taxis parking in bike lanes. Why do we have a regulatory and licensing regime for them if it's not resulting in overall service and quality improvements, including better driver behavior? I can't imagine drivers are much happy about it either, especially since it causes bicyclists to have to temporarily leave the bike lane and putatively (but not really) slow down car traffic. Boo taxis. Boo Radley.
I still want a Brompton. It'd be as useful as a strawberry is to a hedgehog. [Official Wife dissenting. "A strawberry is useful- it's its headpiece." I think this is a Dance Moms joke.]
Joggers. Zombie joggers. Everywhere. From now until November. It was fun while it lasted.
Does Michelle Obama drive a car with the license plate 1STLADY? Cause if she does, I totally saw her. Not very discreet.
Take my word for it. It said 1STLADY
I stopped by my dealer to pick up some shrooms. Shrooms is what I call white button mushrooms and my dealer is Safeway. "Tripping" is what I call making a mushroom stroganoff. I'm glad I took the time to clarify, lest I give everyone the wrong impression.

Ride In 2/22: Crimea River

In the spirit of combating bike commuter ennui (I think this is in the DSM 5), I opted for barbecue-style bike commuting, one defined not by mopped-on sauces or dry rubs, but instead signified by its lowness and slowness. If all bikes rides can be measured on a scale from 1 to "Dutch grandma," I was definitely at the "grandma" end of the spectrum. In fact, I see no reason why all bikes rides cannot be measured on such a scale and each gradient in the scale should be assigned a Colville-Andersen number (or European nationality and description, like Dutch grandma, Danish milkman, French mailman, etc) much as the way hot peppers are described in Scovilles. If this takes off, which it most assuredly never will, please mail all royalty checks, of which there will be none, to TFTS headquarters, which is my couch at home.
When I first started biking to work, in the course of deciding which bike to purchase as my daily commuter, I tested a few that made me feel like a milkman (upright, sturdy, slow, anachronistic) and I instead opted, as many others in this milieu do, for a hybrid, which made me feel sportier and athletic and all that. It was a good choice and the bike served me well and I very much enjoyed it at the time. But, whether through the pernicious influence of the internet or through the pernicious influence of sorcery, sometimes I crave the genuine milkman experience (not a Soderbergh film), so this morning I made it happen by taking the town bike outside of its usual bounds (namely west of 7th NW) and riding it to work. I also didn't wear a helmet. You may judge. I wore my regular work clothes and a jaunty cap. You may judge the jauntiness of the cap as well as my use of jaunty, which is an adjective I exclusively use to describe caps.

That's a picture of my basket and my messenger bag and my coffee mug.
That's a picture of a cone that might be giving mixed messages to Spanish speakers.
All in all, the ride was quite nice. Many bicyclists out, but no so many as to inconvenience me. Barely any going my way and the ones that were seemed nice enough. I don't think I even noticed especially crummy behavior from anyone, which means I have very little to report. I mean, not that I feel compelled to report only the bad stuff. I'd report the good stuff too, if anything really stood out. I mean, I took a picture of that cone, so that was something, right?
TFTS guest micro-post. Oh, and here's a bike commute movie (also not by Soderbergh).
I'd like DDOT to install a WATCH FOR PEDS AND BIKES sign at the intersection of Massachusetts and 34th. I'd also like them to install a mobile speed camera that takes pictures of drivers making right turns on red without stopping at the red. I'd also like a red rider bb gun and world peace.
I watched another bicycle commuter turn from Garfield onto Mass and ride up the street in between the go-straight lane and the right-turn lane.Watching someone else commute by bike seems to be much more harrowing than actually doing it, which seems pretty safe and easy. It's always interesting to see how poorly some drivers react to having to slightly slow down or give a little extra room. I wonder how they behave when there's real adversity in their lives.
It was a really pleasant morning and I'm getting excited for spring. Aside from fall, spring is the best. Unless you like summer and winter, which are also excellent seasons. Definitely top four, all of them.


Ride Home 2/21: Allah mowed

Cold opens are hard. I guess I could use some sort of tired schema, like imposing a chronological narrative whereby I start at the beginning of my ride, at work, and end at the end of my ride, at home, and tell the story of the journey in the order by which the events of the journey happened, only stepping out of the narrative to add pithy, semi-related comments stoked by tangential remembrances. Or, since that's what I do every day, I could do something different, like muse upon the construction of a blog post, stepping back one degree or perhaps two degrees by musing upon my own musing. Or, and this would be really crazy, I could just instead adopt the same formal outlook as I normally do, but subvert that formalism by indicating my own rejection of it. Or I could just link to Simpsons clips, which is the vastly superior option. There's a reason I left graduate school and it has nothing to do with those bounty hunters and that missing Aztec treasure.
I like that immediately upon leaving work I have a gentle decline followed by a gentle incline. The incline gives me an idea of how I'm feeling, whether I have any energons (the constituent parts of energy, according to physics maybe), and to see how the bike itself feels. I'm mostly convinced that my bike has opinions about how it plans to handle the ride. Maybe I should ask the bike to guest blog so I can better gauge how it feels about our collective enterprise of riding to and from work. (Note: save this artifice for a time when I'm really desperate for ideas.) Anyway, the collective result of this gentle "testing" was realizing that my energon supply was mostly depleted and that it'd be best if maybe I just took it easy. So I did that. 
Trouble in River City, if by trouble I mean some flashing lights on cop cars in front of the Turkish Embassy and by River City, I mean Turkish Embassy. More like Mustafa Come on. Am I right? Am I right? Actually, nothing much seemed going on and I'm glad for it. I ended up riding on the sidewalk because it seemed more prudent to do so. Nothing distracts drivings like lights on cop cars. Which, I guess, is the point. 
Can I yellow jacket be bright enough to glint? Because I think the one on the guy behind me did. That's a bright jacket. I don't know where he went, but he was gone before I was separated from the bike messenger in front of me, who counted down the pedestrian counter aloud with a "5-4-3-2-1" before he pushed through the yellow light and I stopped for it. 
Same salmon on Q as from last week (maybe), riding his CaBi in the bike lane. I didn't make eye contact and instead looked through him and he got the point, leaving the bike lane to ride in the travel lane (in the wrong direction), which is both unsafe and sort of dumb. Don't ride the wrong way in the bike lane. Don't ride the wrong way down a one-way street. 
I meant to not take 11th, but I took it anyway. Take that, subconscience. Maybe tomorrow. I thought about riding down to the Met Branch and taking that a little and then heading over to 4th NE and then down thataway. That would have been a good ride. Let's pretend I did that. That blog post would be so awesome. 
I liked to count the number of bike commuters I see at 11th and New York. Today was 6. This seems like as good a spot as any to make some perfunctory, unscientific count. A few heading uptown and a few heading downtown. I think there'd be more if there were bikes lanes on 11th along that stretch. Oh, if anyone ever wants to visit Washington (assuming you live somewhere else, like Kosovo or Loudon Country) and would like an official Tales From The Sharrows' "From my house to work and back" experience, just let me know. If that's how you want to spend your vacation, I'm around and also maybe I could give you some pamphlets about your brain disease and where to seek help. 
Tucked in behind a dude on Penn. By tucked in, I mean followed about 10 feet behind, so as not to seem like I was too close. Everyone needs their space. 
Near Lincoln Park, I saw a woman with a bike trailer and I'm certain I've seen her before. She was almost, kind of right-hooked by a turning driver and I kinda wanted to ask her what it feels like to be dragging a kid trailer and almost getting hit by a turning driver. But there's no real delicate way to ask that. Or one that doesn't sound sort of crazy. Anyway, I imagine that biking with precious cargo (like children or expensive tequila) must be tough, though I don't think it's unsafe in any real way. Probably have to just keep a cool head. 
Stopped at the store and then home. It was dark by then, but soon it won't be dark (as much, and then not at all) during the evening commute and to get my night biking fix, I'm going to need to set up some midnight rides, perhaps to a 24 hour restaurant. I should actually do this. This might actually happen. I'll let you know. 

Ride In 2/21: Have a cantaloupe, Lassie

Sometimes you're the lead guitarist, thrashing through power chords with a raw energy and other times you're in the back with the tambourine, beating it against the front of your leg and swaying side to side. Today was a tambourine day for me. I was more than content to sit patiently behind the riders in front of me, let them dictate the pace and just have a mindless morning of gentle pedaling while looking at the backs of other people's coats.
My tires are great and I almost certainly will never pick up a flat from using them (which is why I bought them) but they're rather unforgiving and have reasonably unfun rolling resistance, making a lot of trips seem more like slogs than they should be. I think I might swap them out when it gets nicer, which will be approximately 2 days from now. I don't know. I'm confident that as soon as I switch tires, I'll immediately ride over a nail. But that's what I get for living in an old converted nail factory.
Along Pennsylvania Avenue, I watched the cyclist in front of me have to swerve to avoid a pedestrian standing directly in the middle of the bike lane at the intersection, rather than a few feet back in the part of the mid-street pedestrian refuge that isn't marked as a bike lane. Personally, I think it's sort of obvious that there's a bike lane there and it might be a good idea not to stand in it, especially when one can see oncoming bicyclists (who were plentiful), but maybe it's not actually obvious and I'm just in some sort of bike bubble. I don't know how, without re-engineering the lanes (again), it could be made more obvious that there's a cycletrack. Maybe glitter? Neon lights? Bouncers and velvet ropes? Bike lane heralds whose sole job is to trumpet the arrival on bicyclists and thereby clear the area with a blast of their horns? It shouldn't be so hard to peacefully coexist, and yet here I am suggesting velvet ropes and trumpets.
My decision to turn right and follow another bicyclist up 11th was based in part from commuter ennui. I've taken more or less than same route to and from work for the past couple of weeks and I wanted to break it up a bit and do something marginally different. I mean, I ride 11th every day, but do I ever ride in north? I think I've done it once before, but not in months. It was mostly fine. A lot of pot holes. A goodly amount of manhole covers. Wide enough streets, though the guy in front of me, black coat, earmuffs, road bike, chose to  ride in the door zone, so I decided to do the same. Sparse car traffic and no one opening their car doors made this just fine. A bike lane on 11th would be nice. It would basically shortcut the "need" for the laughable bike/bus lanes on 7th and 9th. Were I DC bike czar (not a real position...yet), I'd try to space out the north-south downtown bike lanes every 4 or 5 blocks, so 15th, 11th, 6th and 1st NW. That seems like a reasonable thing to do. Of course, were I actually bike czar, I'd probably end up on Fox News and/or deposed.
It was nice to ride uptown behind another person, since I'm almost never traveling in the same direction as anyone else in the morning. I wonder where the guy was going. He turned down Rhode Island and I turned left at R and for a few blocks, I had a slightly different commute from normal and then it was the normal commute again.
I think that passing a bicyclist on the right is rude and poor form. I don't know if bicycling draws iconoclasts and libertarians who like to flout rules and conventions (I flout Comic-Con, nearly daily) or whether there's simply not enough standardized guidelines to proper behavior in traffic that no 'norming' can actually take place, and far be it from me to actually tell other people what to do, but there's a certain sense in behaving in a predictable, logical manner. I'm not even talking about following the law, which, being a Comic-Con flouting iconoclastic libertarian, I don't especially care for, but a separate set of guidelines by which bicyclists operate vis-a-vis ourselves. You know, like a social contract.
I spent from 15th to past Dupont Circle riding behind a woman wearing a green coat. I'm sorry that I don't remember more about her. Her coat was very green and it apparently wiped my memory with its greenness, like a high-powered magnet would do to a computer.
Budget Rental Trucks, U-Hauls, and the like are probably the most dangerous vehicles to bike near. This is because, unlike other larger vehicles in operation, these rental vans are operated by amateurs with little knowledge and experience and limited awareness concerning the size and parameters of their trucks. Being passed by one within two feet is decidedly unpleasant. I'm usually fairly ambivalent to bad driver behavior, willing to say 'no harm, no foul,' because really, why dwell on what could have, but thankfully, didn't happen? But I must have eaten the morose-flavored Pop Tart this morning and I was more bothered than usual about how someone else's lack of care for my well-being could have had such terrible consequences. Some days it's great to the "vanguard of the revolution" (all bike commuters are Bolsheviks. Dan Maes was right!), thinking that you know something "special" and what you're doing is somehow paving the way for others and helping the advance of a better, greener and more sustainable future (even if you don't brag about it). Other days you just think how much bullshit it is that you could've gotten hit by a truck by a driver who doesn't care on a road that doesn't cater to you by a government that barely acknowledges you in a society than vaguely disdains you. I recommend the former over the latter.
Well, that was glum. Sorry. To make up for it, here's a picture of Ellie the Poodle, looking cute.
"I'm cute"
As always, thanks for reading. See you on the ride home.


Guest Post: Oddman's journey of 2000 miles is a matter of inches

I am currently on a train in the deepest,darkest jungles of Tibet, searching for enlightenment and a stick of spearmint gum. The wi-fi connection can best be described as "inter-mittens," which is also how I would describe a ball of yarn being played with by a kitty. As such, I've out-sourced my evening bloggery to long-time reader, Oddman (that's a pseudonym. His real name is John D. Ingcognito), but I will never out-source my gratitude to him for his time and effort. 

“It’s all about the gear inches!”
I first got back into cycling at age 53 with a Dahon Espresso, their basic full-size 21 speed. In a week, I told the dealer that I actually hated that bike - it was very narrow-geared (I found out later 36-86 gear inches), the front gears would never shift easily, and I hated the way my arms hurt leaning over and my neck hurt keeping it tilted up to see forward. (How can anybody see this as natural?)
The dealer was great, and swapped me into a Speed D7 - great bike, I learned to really enjoy the ease of use and “nimble” handling. Problem? Still too narrow a gear range - I was starting out up hill in 5th gear, so I upgraded to a Speed P8.
Ah, a perfect combination; big chainwheel, wide-range 8 speeds, and almost-upright seating. I kept this bike for a long time, had a wild wipeout, got some heart problems, and couldn’t ride anymore, so sold the bike.
After getting better through some experimental medical work, I returned to biking with an old, well-used Bike-E recumbent bike. I took a long winter to clean it up and get back into shape. At the same time, I also wanted a small folding bike to keep in my van for quick rides around the monuments. I picked up what turned out to be a rusted hulk of a Classic Dahon, but took it all apart, cleaned up acres of rust, and put it back together. It survived. I sold it and began a CL buying/fixing/selling spree, not ever making much money (even lost a bit), but it was great healing therapy, something to do while I was getting strong again. I learned to do a lot of minor repairs, (but could never get a front derailleur to shift as smooth and immediate as the Bike-E’s Sturmey Archer rear hub-nor could many bike shops) and made friends with good mechanics when I did the repairs wrong. I did find some honest, reliable, and competent mechanics in the area: 1 in Vienna, 1 in Springfield, and 1 in DC (or so I thought).
With changes in residences looming, I sold the best folder that I built up (The Silver Edition P8) and the recumbent and began exploring “big-wheel” bikes. I considered going the CL route with these, but really just wanted to ride this Spring/Summer, not constantly repair things. So, began looking into buying a new bike, with hot cash in my account.
One year later, I finally have one but not by the route expected.
What I learned from the few years of riding, and taking into account my medical condition, was: 
I’m a large person, and sadly, a small-wheeled folder just can’t take the strain;
I want gear inches to be as close to 35-95 as possible;
No aggravation of a front derailleur;
A riding position that keeps my head upright;
Looking for the $500 price point.
Why not another recumbent? My new digs in Sterling are right along the W&OD Trail, so I can ride into town and take Metro or MetroBus back home. I also want to use my bike for everyday use, never starting my van except to go to work (grocery shopping and such). The recumbent I really liked had no way to attach a rack and wouldn’t fit on Metro, so a “standard” big-wheel bike was the choice.

“Perservering through narrow-minded manufacturer decisions and nasty bikeshops.”
Beginning in January of 2011, I checked out a few bikes. First thinking that I wanted a “crank-forward” bike, to simulate the feel of a recumbent, I tried out 2 models, one from the dealer where one of my trusted mechanics worked. Nice bike, heavier than I thought, and discovered I had difficulty getting into a correct pedaling position.  A CF just wasn’t the same as a recumbent. Also, the front derailleur wouldn’t shift well and the chain wouldn’t stay on the front ring. I didn’t want to think I had a bad mechanic, (and no one yet has gotten a front indexed shifter to shift well enough to suit me), so I looked into the next CF bike, sold at a recreational sports shop. Nice bike, but with all the engineering supposedly designed in, I still needed the handlebars moved up and back 1 inch. Should have been easily done with a $15 quill stem; the store wouldn’t do it without my paying more. Six months later, they still had the unsold bike, and still wouldn’t replace the stem for me without an additional charge.
So, began looking into every bike and bike shop in the Va/Dc area - “Oh, the Horrors!” I found stores staffed with absolutely clueless sales persons - clueless about the bikes they sell and clueless about simple customer service. One store, I just wanted to look at saddles (knowing what my, ahem, wide-track backside required), and the salesperson began to explain to me how my choice would hurt - my dear, I just rode 400 miles on one just like it, and it fit great. This same store has a 2010 bike that would work just right, except again, would need a more upright threadless stem. They wouldn't change its $15 part for less than $50 dollars.
I looked at another bike, a leftover 2010 model that might have been OK except the stem again – the sales manager said it wouldn’t raise, so I didn’t even test ride it. I found out later that it had a quill stem, the ones I like, easily adjusted, and it could have fit but by then, the 2010 bike was sold.
I went into one store, merely stating my needs - the salesperson immediately directed me towards a $900 bike, saying that nothing else he sells would fit my parameters. Odd, because at another of their local stores, a great salesman immediately knew what would fit my needs, was going to order one in my size for me to try out, and 2 months later, never got back to me.
Oh yeah -probably a reliable store in Reston, but the manager said he won’t order a bike without a 20% downpayment even for a test ride, and tried to direct me to, yes, a quality bike, one that he had in stock, but it had that threadless stem problem, where the part had to be changed to get the bars at my needed position. The manager said that he would get my body to like a leaned-forward riding position. Yeah, right! Arrogance!
Finally discovered a bike from a shop that has a good reputation, but he had a price tag on it $30 higher than the manufacturers listed price. Not even worth arguing about.

“It’s all about the gear inches”
I found out that almost all manufacturers consider single-front chainwheels appropriate only for their “entry-level” models (entry level at $400-500!). OK, I could stand an entry level bike, but for some reason, the manufacturers think these bikes should be geared as to not go too fast, almost every one with gear inches from 38-85. I need a better “low gear” for hills and I regularly travel at mid-90s, so as not to “spin” too much. My heart doesn’t like me when I “stand” on the pedals to get up to speed or spin too fast, so, how about swapping out clusters? Oh NO, not without great additional cost.
Finally, I followed the words from a trusted advisor- buy the bike that fits best and then make it work. One, and only one, bike remaining fit perfectly, looked great, and the dealer worked with me to switch out enough parts to get the gear range I needed. Great, except it had a brake noise that after 3 attempts, wasn’t alleviated. At the time, I didn’t blame the shop, I think the bike had some defective parts, but I also learned that even from “upscale” manufacturers, their entry level bikes have lower quality minor parts that won’t allow a proper fix, even by the best mechanics. I later found out that every bike I test rode from their shop had brake squeal.
I found an old beater  to ride while waiting for the model  that worked could be ordered, I showed it to the mechanic, and he went into scare tactics, that it needed complete overhaul  before it could be even safe to ride (or how I heard his concerns), or all parts replaced. I decided to offer it to a friend, first doing all the repairs they suggested (new wheels and such). I rode it for 200 miles, and then left it for new-wheel adjustments. I picked it up, and on my first turn, the rear wheel fell off. It wasn’t the same since, making noises and riding poorly, and the shop said they couldn’t find anything wrong. During that visit, one of the owners berated me as trying to do a lot with a little – no, just that very few bikes fit my requirements, and they had one if only the sales manager knew his products.
I never gave it to my friend, had my trusted folder/recumbent dealer rebuild the rear wheel and sold it as a loss. The shop did give me some labor charges back, but still, I’m at a loss and still, not owning a new bike!
Finally, I discovered an exercise equipment chain that is going out of the bicycle business and selling off their 2011 stock of brand-name bikes (Jamis) at 55% off. I found a great basic bike, and let the above trusted dealer doing service and repairs, at my cost. Already I have had to have a spoke replaced, but the above professional wheel builder reset all spokes with proper tension.  
I probably spent twice as much this year on CL bikes and bad repairs as the bike that the sales manager was uninformed about, but I finally have a nice new bike that I can rely on. In trying out all these bikes, I still rode 2046 miles last year, and hope to do that much or more, but with less aggravation.
And since December, with a TFTS button on the front.

Ride In 2/20: Dean Cain is able

Ellen is over and while you're still in your pajamas, there's probably mostly eaten bowl of cereal next to you on the table by the couch and if you're not wearing slippers it's probably because you left them upstairs and rather then get up to get them, you just decided to tuck your feet under the blanket or maybe put them up on the coffee table but not in a way that disrupts the magazines or would leave foot marks on the glass. Or at least, this is the scene that I've imagined for you, the lucky many who are able to stay home today, freed from the bondage of your federal or federal-affiliated jobs and granted a not unpleasant February day to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of the presidents, all of whom were men, some of whom had beards. Maybe later you'll go for a bike ride or maybe later you'll sit down to write up a blog post that you'll email me (talesfromthesharrows@gmail) so I can put it up this evening as has become my Monday habit. I'd very much appreciate your effort, even if it's not much effort at all. I find that writing about bicycling (a commute or another ride, or even just tips or gear recommendations or anything really) is a great way to honor, let's say, Rutherford Hayes (male, bearded) and vastly superior to watching even more daytime talk shows. Considered yoursevles besought.
In case you couldn't tell from my pitiable first paragraph, I am at work today and I commuted here by bicycle. Over my eight miles (Cheddar?), I saw 9 other bicyclists. That's a rather low number, even for a colder day. Either people weren't working or they decided to drive to work (a possibility I even considered) on account the free parking. I'm guessing that most everyone was just off today. Car traffic was likewise rather minimal. Contrary to what you'd think (maybe), I don't like commuting on days when there's less traffic. Drivers seem a little bit too relaxed and not as attentive as usual (ha!) and perhaps not nearly as aware of bicyclists, since there aren't nearly as many of them to be aware of. Plus, what am I suppose to write about? The nine people on bikes I saw? Ok.
  1. guy with bike trailer (penn ave), with hard plastic suitcases in them. For some reason I thought he was transporting stereo equipment. When I passed him, I said that I liked his trailer. He might have grunted. 
  2. Guy by White House. He rode through Lafayette Park, while I was stopped to adjust the tension of my pedals. I had tightened them too much and I couldn't barely unclip. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to unclip in time if I needed to (in case of emergency maybe?), so I actually stopped halfway through the trip to adjustment. 
  3. Purple track jacket. I see this guy a lot. This time it was on 15th between K and L. He might also have been wearing a headband. I appreciate bike commuters who wear the same distinctive clothes everyday. Makes my job easier. 
  4. CaBi on Mass. Guy riding towards Thomas Circle, mixed in with traffic. 
  5. CaBi by Dupont. Guy riding down Connecticut Avenue. Sort of evocative of earlier guy on CaBi, in that he was white and youngish. 
  6. 6. Guy on Schwinn racing bike by Sheriden Circle. He was riding either on the sidewalk or very close to it. He looked cold and a little uncomfortable. 
  7. Guy riding down the opposite sidewalk on Massachusetts, by the Observatory. His bike might have been orange or I might just be making that up. He was the only person I saw riding down Mass today. I would've expected more for some reason. 
  8. Guy riding up Mass way fast. He came down Macomb in front of me and just took off up the hill. I tried to give chase (for what it's worth), but he kept well in front of me. He must've been feeling good this morning, because I certainly wasn't. Legs just didn't want to go to work. 
  9. Girl on Mass sidewalk with buttons on backpack. She had a few buttons, but none of them Sharrows buttons. I guess that means there's room for market growth. 
I did put air in my tires this morning, but it only made my bike feel even heavier. Stupid heavy air.
I bike past the Superme Court every day and I never write about it. So, here are my thoughts on the architecture and ambiance of the Supreme Court building: it's fine. A bit ponderous.
By the end of the week, it'll be at least 60 degrees and I expect everyone to be out on bikes again. I'm going to wish safe and hassle-free travels to all. I don't know why I'm doing this now. Maybe because I've already told you about pretty much everything I seem to recall about my trip this morning, already exhorted you to write a guest post, and have completely run out of other things to mention. Or, maybe, it's just because I'm a nice and thoughtful person. I think we both know the real reason.
For those of you looking to spend your day not writing a guest post, here are some things to read:

How Public Perception of Light Rail Influences Its Economic Benefits

We Need a 'Broken Windows' For Traffic Crimes

How to Solve the Boomer Retirement Crisis

Enjoying the Saints in Late Antiquity

Or, as always, I encourage you to read selections from the many wonderful blogs listed on the right of the main page.


Ride Home 2/17: The Land of Milk and Hominy

Freude! Freude! Beethoven totally got it right when he borrowed from Schiller and my tochter aus Elysium is getting the heck outta Dodge (euphemistic city, not car brand) when the clock strikes five-ish (the time, not Finkel) on the fifth day of the work week. Nothing that won't give you Diabetes is quite so sweet. (That was also what I wrote in the Official Wife's last Valentine's Day card.)
I left my bike outside today, rather than locking it up in the usual inside place, and it made for a quicker escape. I doubt that I pedaled any faster than usual, since I refuse to pedal any more than strictly necessary. Those draisine dudes had it right.
I received a LATE BREAKING text message that was late nor breaking re: an opportunity to meet up with some friends for a quick beer on the way home. The stipulation that the beer was quick was my own, in that I have a dog (aka Ellie the Poodle) who needs to be walked and fed irrespective of my desire for beer and camaraderie. Nonetheless, I detoured to make this happen, but not in a way that was sensible. I rode Mass almost until Dupont and took 21st down to M and then M over to 25th and down 25th to Pennsylvania, crossed Penn inadvisedly and crossed it back slightly more advisedly as that's where the drinking hole (note: not actual hole) found itself located. I locked up on a street sign, which I hate, but them's the breaks of bike parking in this city sometime. Some other bike dude (technical term) waited for me to lock up so he could do the same, which he did, as I found out when I left. I enjoyed a spot of ale (or bottle of beer, whatevs, but I'm trying to be 'poetic') and some good talk about how terrible a candidate Mitt Romney is (he's the Mitt Romney of terrible candidates) and then it was once again off on the rest of my ride home. All safe-like and such.
I didn't want to ride through Washington Circle (less dangerous circles include Xena's chakram) so I took L (no cycletrack yet) until 15th. I really, really liked riding L because traffic was moving but at a speed not so much greater than one I could maintain and I sort of felt like I was some badass urban bike type even though in reality I'm very much not that. Drivers along L have a funny habit of just using the right travel lane as a parking lane or idling lane or turning lane so there were some spots where I had to leave it on a few occasions, but that wasn't a big deal. In short, it was relatively fun. In long, it was relatively fun but more so. I shan't tell you what it was in medium (fun). I turned off at 15th and took that through Lafayette and the followed it to Penn.
Operating a pedicab doesn't look easy. Big props to those guys.
Oh so much fun just following along as the fourth bike in a caravan bopping from light to light. And then I saw someone with a SharrowsDC button! First time in the wild. I took grainy picture (that I can't post for some reason) of none other then #bikeDC's data crunching luminary JDAntos. He's also a resident of Armory West- South (not a real neighborhood) and we rode together most of the rest of the way home. We talked mostly about the soon-to-be brand-new secure bike parking facility at the College Park Metro station, which sounds pretty awesome and like a really great deal for College Park bike parkers. (The College Park Bike Parkers were a barnstorming baseball team in the 1890s.) It was nice to have a bit of conversation for the last miles home and I was glad that Justin decided to head down Penn instead of taking his new normalish route home. Bike commuting is, and always will be, a moveable feast.
For those of you having a three day weekend, have 150% more fun than normal. I'll be back Monday with the same old shenanigans. Viszlat.