Trick or treated

Got waylaid with Halloween duties. Will post tomorrow.

Ride In 10/31: The Usual Schtick

Nippy. I stayed warm with the help of many clothes, including a hat and some (2) gloves. It wasn't too bad, but it was one of those transition days, the first one that really signals that it's getting colder and soon this will become the new normal. I find these kinds of days (like the first really dark ride home or the first snow) to be rather jarring and hard to prepare for, but not altogether bad. Just different. Another thing that's hard to prepare for is wet leaves, which can cause the quite the anxiety and/or falling down. Perhaps worse than the wet leaves are the twigs and sticks that find their way into bike lanes (via Krampus?) that prove hazardous, especially if you're not paying attention. Other than 1) pay attention and 2) ride a bike with thick tires, I don't have much in the way of advice. Maybe don't ride in the bike lane if it looks that bad. Bike lanes, as always, are totally optional and you shouldn't feel compelled to use it if you think it'll be unsafe.

Speaking on unsafe, u-turning taxi across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes. In his defense, the flashing sign that reminded drivers that this is illegal was taken away before the hurricane. Nonetheless, this isn't an excuse. We've still got a long way to go. A long way.

This isn't great.

Obviously there are other, larger issues that need to be attended to with greater urgency than bike lane cleanup. But I hope that they do get around to cleaning this up at least somewhat soon.

I rode past the White House and then up Pennsylvania Avenue on the other side. I mistakenly and obviously stood in one of the travel lanes on 17th while waiting for the light to change and blocked traffic, rightly receiving a honk from a peeved driver. I try to avoid being oblivious during my commutes and this was a pretty big fail on my part. I hate being honked at, but this time the alternative was her running me over with her car, so I'm gonna be ok with it.

The side of a bus told me that I could buy Wizards seasons tickets for $399. Note the lack of decimal point between the 3 and the 9 and my subsequent uninterest. I lack wizarditude. The side of another bus compared the sitcom How I Met Your Mother to the book Fifty Shades of Grey, with the black-and-white picture of the cast of the show under the words 50 Shades of Funny. If that's how he met the mother, it will certainly be a surprise twist that I didn't see coming.

When two cyclists race each other on the commute, it's called a Cat 6. I believe this terminology is derived from the time when some guy dressed his kitty as Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica and he thought "well, this has been as productive as racing another bike commuter." The only thing more fun than watching a Cat 6 unfold is watching a passive-agressive Cat 6 unfold, where neither rider wants to admit to the other than they're engaged in an EPIC race. This happened in front of me on Penn from 17th to Washington Circle. It was pretty silly.

I took a tour of the L Street cycle track. Some of my reactions and thoughts about it are here. I think I'll ride it again this afternoon to see how that goes.

From L, I rode up 15th, then left on R and through Dupont and up Massachusetts. On Mass, I fell in behind a woman who wore black shocks adorned with pink and yellow skulls and crossbones. Argh. Initially, a guy on a Specialized road bike was behind us, but then he went out into the street to pass and kept going at his own pace. I watched drivers pass him too closely. After Garfield, skull-n-bones decided to do the same and I watched drivers come within a foot of her as they raced to get around. There is nothing that validates my decision to stick to the path more than watching what happens to other bike commuters when they ride in the road. Were they in actual danger or did it just look terrible? I don't know.

On the other side of Wisconsin, I did move back into the road and ended up taking the lane until after Macomb Street on account of the wet leaves where I would normally ride. I moved back over before the final little climb and it proved all right. I watched two cyclists almost collide when one of them, the one coming downhill, failed to stop at the red light as the other started to cross the street. They shared words, which I didn't hear, but I doubt that the words were particularly amicable, though the offending guy did look pretty apologetic.

I forgot my lock. My bike is in my office, but it hasn't offered to help with work at all. Lazy.

Some preliminary thoughts on the unfinished L Street Cycle Track

I'll get to the usual shtick later, but I rode the L Street Cycle Track from New Hampshire Avenue to as far as it's currently installed (ending to the west of 16th Street NW) and I wanted to share my initial impressions:

  • It's beautiful. It's amply wide enough for cyclists of varying speeds to maneuver around each other and since it's only one-way, people won't have to worry about moving back over and cutting off the person they just passed. This frequently happens on the two-way 15th Street cycle track and it will be a welcome change. Unfortunately, it's also wide enough for someone to drive or park a car in. This is problematic. Curtailing this will require considerable driver education and considerable enforcement.
This gentleman needed to go to CVS.
  • Bollards everywhere but the mixing zones (and parking garage entrances). This is a protected lane, meaning that there's some physical separation between cyclists and drivers. Obviously, this provides an extra level of comfort and the perception of safety. 

  • The mixing zones aren't terrible. My biggest concern about the design of this lane has been, and continues to be, the mixing zones, where car traffic merges across the bike lanes so drivers can make a left turn. Traffic was fairly light this morning (and not irrevocably snarled, as some of our finer media outlets might have predicted) and I didn't have any trouble negotiating the mixing zone with any drivers, mostly because I didn't arrive at any at the same time as any drivers. There will definitely be a learning curve here for all users. My biggest concern about the mixing zones isn't for when traffic is moving quickly, but rather when volume is heavier and drivers, in an attempt to move to the left, block it. This will be annoying. I also wouldn't mind if there were some bollards on the inside of the solid green painted area, providing a bit of a buffer between the track and the turning cars. 

  • The intersections aren't painted or striped. There's a green painted area at the end of the bike lane, but no stripes or paint across the numerical cross streets. I think that some road striping that "suggests" how cyclists should move back to the left would be very beneficial. At one intersection, I had a driver to my left who was making a left turn and a driver to my right who was proceeding straight. In an attempt to accommodate the guy on my left, I stayed pretty much in line with the green patch when I rode forward and this put me rather close to the driver on my right. Some additional road stripes that indicated where I was supposed to be would make this clearer for everyone.

  • There are a lot of parking garages on L Street and this is going to be an issue. In order for drivers to access the parking garages, they'll need to drive across the bike lane. This creates more opportunity for potential conflicts and everyone will need to use abundant caution in order to abate this. I worry more about the afternoon rush than the morning one- when the garages empty and drivers need to "poke" their cars out into the cycle track in order to get a clear view on oncoming traffic. This happens on 15th too and I can't really think of a way to avoid it. Drivers will need to learn to look for cyclists and vice versa. Likewise, drivers will need to learn not to block the cycle track while awaiting their turn. Another thing I saw drivers do was to pull into the cycle track before making the left turn into the parking garage. This is a problem that could be solved with a centrally placed bollard at the "entrances" at each intersection. Or just with learning and time.

  • Cycle tracks are great pedestrian refuges. Can't make it all the way across the street when you jaywalk? Chill on the cycle track. Again, nothing new here. Just something that will happen. 

  • Hotel loading zones. There are a few places along the way where the cycle track gives way to 30 Minute Hotel Loading Zones. Obviously, this is less than ideal. 

  • The (temporary) problem of the unfinished lane. This will only be a concern for another few weeks, but right now the unfinished lane (the parts without the bollards) look like a regular narrow bike lane next to a regular wide travel lane and this might prove confusing to both cyclists and drivers. Like I said, this problem will go away soon, but just keep that in mind if you ride it in the next few weeks.

I don't have an overall assessment because I don't think it's fair to provide one on an unfinished project. I look forward to seeing it when it's completed and all of the bollards are down and green paint is painted. I suspect that, like all pieces of new infrastructure, it will take some time for the users to adjust and the rules and norms to be established. Nonetheless, I expect these things to get sorted out and for the lane to become a permanent and welcome fixture in #bikeDC. 


Ride In And Ride Home 10/26: Belated Happy United Nations Day!

It so happened that I was to be at work before 7 AM, which is significantly before my normal start time. This meant that I left the house before 6 and it was dark and the roads were mostly empty. I really enjoy bike commuting at different times and you've never had the opportunity to come on the early end of the morning rush hours, I encourage you to try it. It's almost peaceful or almost resembles something peaceful, assuming you're calm enough to not be enraged by zombie runners running in the bike lanes, which is a thing that happens. For zombie runners, miles are brains.

It was dark, so I wore a helmet. I don't know if this is an effective, logically or statistically sound risk mitigation strategy or rather some throwaway "just in case" primordial achluophobic claptrap. I also wore Chuck Taylor All-Stars. I left my normal non-bikey bike shoes, the Vans slip-ons, upstairs and I didn't want to wake the Official Wife trying to retrieve them. And when I unfolded the bike, I realized that the chain had slipped and I dirtied my hands getting it back in place.

The ride went fast. Maybe I even went fast. It's to say for sure. With no other cyclists about, at least towards the beginning of the ride, I wasn't able to gauge my speed against anyone else's and I might have overexerted, as is my habit when I'm riding by myself. I took Penn to 15th, electing to ride in the cycle track so as to benefit from its extra protection from car traffic, thereby mitigating risk (maybe?) when commuting at an unfamiliar time and in the dark. I'll get used to it as the fall and winter drag on, but for now, it seems very foreign. I saw this:

Local political candidates are finally pandering to cyclists. I don't know if Kishan Putta will actually be able to get the cycle track repaved (I suspect these things are done on a schedule and I don't know how much influence the local ANC would have), but that this kind of pandering even exists in DC shows how far we've come. Things are changing.

I stopped at the Starbucks at Connecticut and R. First time in that Starbucks. I wasn't confident that any place nearer to work would be open any time soon and I was confident that without coffee my productivity would be less than zero. I brought the bike inside. Here it is:

So much marginally more convenient than locking it up outside. 

Winter's coming, as they say, and it's a wise idea to invest in a good thermos for bike commuting. Mine is a Thermos-brand thermos. The vacuum insulation keeps the coffee hot and the lid opens with the push of a button, making it easy to use when wearing gloves. It also seals well and won't spill if you put it in your bag. These are all important considerations!

Fake Fact: The Subaru Forester is named after John Forester.

On account of going into work early, I missed the #stoputurnsonpenn gathering/protest, but Bicycle Space made a video and DCist wrote something up, so it's like I was there. Everyone who came out for it is a great person and as someone who rides Penn every day, I just want to say thanks.

I rode home down Mass, as usual. I was passed too closely by a guy riding a scooter. Does any group of road users evoke more antipathy than scooter users? Oh yeah, bicyclists.

There was a trail of besuited college students walking up and down Embassy Row and some other college students wearing costumes doing the same. That means it's NCSC (pronounced nick-sick) and also that it's trick-or-treat the embassies time and that's pretty much a summation of the highlights of the fall semester for the extremely dorky and sort of sad internationally minded local collegians. I've done both.

Cross L Street at 19th and the streets had been milled, awaiting repaving and the addition of the cycle track. It's easy to see the cycle track as "TAKING ONE LANE OF TRAFFIC AWAY FROM CARS" (the all caps is mandated because that is a scary and terrible thing, like a National Weather Service announcement), but there's an alternate way of looking at it, namely as a way to corral bicyclists and free the other two travel lanes from them. I've ridden L Street before and it's a bit of cluster. You have people who ride on the left side and then some who ride on the right and you've got people filtering through traffic when it's stopped and a whole mess of other behaviors that occur when you asked people on 30 pound pieces of metal to interact with other people encased in two tons of metal. If the worst fate that could ever befall a driver is getting stuck behind the "biker going 5 miles per hour) than he ought to be relieved that those cyclists are being an alternate space so his interactions with them is that much more minimized. Just an alternate perspective.

No more crosswalks to people stop jaywalking. If they can't follow the rules of the road, I don't see why they should be given any additional infrastructure.

Sometimes the Secret Service erects gates by the White House and thereby channels all pedestrians and bicyclists through the narrow gap between the security gatehouse and the OEOB. This tends to be not enough space. It is sort of annoying.

I'm not saying that all New York drivers in DC are terrible, but it seems like every time I see one, he's doing some kind of sketchy maneuver.

There were no u-turns on Penns during my ride home except for a cop car (understandable). And a taxi. Maybe it's time to organize a boycott. Silver Cab- you're on my list. Although the diffuse nature of taxi owner/operatorship in DC makes this kind of boycott a bit more difficult to arrange. Nonetheless, maybe it's time for economic action.

I'm a bit late in getting this post done, but there's still enough time in the weekend for me to wish you the best of luck in enjoying it. Also, go Toffees!


Ride Home 10/25: Chocolate Milquetoast

If you almost take the lane, almost all people won't try to pass you too closely, but, unfortunately, it's not the almost all people that you should be worried about, it's the other people, the ones that don't have the good sense to know that by almost taking the lane you intend to actually take the lane and thereby not get passed too closely. I know the difference between a three foot pass and a two foot pass and a one foot pass and a play action pass and this wasn't a three foot pass and I'm pretty sure there wasn't a fake handoff on the play either. Afterwards, I raised my arm, said "fuck come on" and then I let it go because what's the point because there's no reason to have an altercation and what's done is done. Next time I'll take the lane and ride plumb right smack down the middle. It's the only way. The driver ended up getting backed up in a long line of car traffic and I rode on the sidewalk for a while and then jumped back into the road and I'm sure that I was through Dupont Circle and down 19th before the driver even made it to Florida Avenue. So, so much for that close pass. Really worked out for you.

The reopening of the south entrance to the Dupont Metro has caused a lot more foot traffic on 19th. It's still a desirable route, but you have to pay a little more attention for distracted pedestrians. Non-distracted ones too. It's sort of incumbent on the bicyclist to not hit people. Them's the breaks, so use them brakes.

It makes me really nervous to watch a bicyclist pass a driver on the right, between the car and the curb. That's just right hook city and it scares me to the point of almost wanting to scream "NOOOOOOOO!" and maybe dramatically ride towards them in slow motion. I don't think it's a good idea to pass a driver on the side where he's trying to turn. Just a suggestion.

Some things from the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track:

This is a fixie. It has a chainguard. It has one yellow tire and one red tire. It cost $94 and is from buy.com. I can't speak to the quality of the bike, but it seemed to work fine and it's hard to argue with $94. I know all of this because I heard the rider talk to this guy:

The pedicab driver, who asked where he got the tires. Clearly yellow tires would just complete the pedicab ensemble.

Would you ever rent a tandem? This was a Bike and Roll tandem. I don't think I would ever rent a tandem. Not even by myself. I hope they watched out for this:

It's not a great idea to use a bike lane as construction equipment parking. I guess they were doing roadwork this morning, but come on. This isn't cool. Someone could get hurt.

At the base of Capitol Hill, I ran into Dave and Kid O and their trip home. Craziness! We rode on down the wrong way of Pennsylvania Avenue/Parking Lot, in the opposite direction of the oncoming traffic, but through the empty parking spots to the left of the roadway. Dave suggested to Kid O that what we doing was wrong, but if we did it slowly, it would be ok. Kid O met him with the rejoinder "or if we do it fast." Kid O has unlocked the fundamental truth of city biking- you can pretty much get away with anything provided you do it slow enough or fast enough.

Another successful hill climb and I fell into line behind some other bike commuters and zoned out for the rest of the trip home. An early day tomorrow for me, but if you're around in the morning, I encourage you to check out the "oh no u don't" #stoputurnsonpenn event. Please tweet about it. I will follow wistfully.

Ride In 10/25: tl; dr Congo

Weird weather. It felt like fall but covered in an wet electric blanket. I wore shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. They proved adequate.

The mystery squeak/squeal is back. Or was back, but then it left. It's entirely possible that my Brompton is powered by a very small mouse that lives in the bottom bracket. Summer, and the long grass is a snare drum.  At 11th and P, I determined that the squeak/squeal only occurred when I rode in one of the gears. I then did two things: I stopped riding in that gear and I look intently at the cog, using my telekinetic powers and eye lasers to, I don't know, fix it or something and afterwards, in spite of my lack of telekinetic powers and eye lasers, when I switched back into the gear, it didn't squeak again. That is, until after I got to work and rode the bike from the building that house my locker to the building that houses my computer. Both buildings house other things. It would be wasteful otherwise. The bike squeaked again (like we did last summer?), so I spent some of my lunch time examining the thing and trying to clean the gunk and I hope to have a quiet ride home.

Ran into Dave and Kid O once again today and we rode along the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track for a block or two before we exited the lane to take to the sidewalks and then ride past the Navy Memorial metro station and through the big plaza. I rode along with them because so long as anyone is heading north and west, the general directions of my morning commute, I don't mind diverting from my route. Also, because I like chatting. We chatted for a while while we rode and chatted more on E Street near the entrance to the parking garage of the building where Dave works. Among the things we chatted about is this planned street action on Friday morning, which unfortunately, I won't be able to attend. I didn't count, but I'd estimate that during the time we talked, maybe 15 cyclists rolled into the garage. Could've been higher. Afterwards, I rode E to 11th, passed the temporary traffic cluster that is 11th and H (the H stands for hellacious) and then continued on my way, watching the even-more cyclists than usual stream south on the popular bike route. It was nearly 9 and I'm not normally this close to downtown at this time, so I had no idea that the bike volume would be so high. Lots of bikes.

I did the thing with the eye lasers at P and then turned left onto R and fell in behind a group of other people on bikes and paced myself accordingly. There's a pace at which you can ride to get from 16th Street through Dupont Circle, but if you aren't willing to maintain that pace or don't get a fast start, it's not going to happen and then there's no reason to rush. I see no need to ride extra hard in order to wait longer at a red light than I would have otherwise.

I'm still learning how to ride with a messenger back on my back. I've mastered riding with a monkey on back, but that's not quite the same. Today, my lunch, the last of the leftover lasagna, was in a glass container (Note: not a mason jar) that dug into my bag and I tried to make some adjustments while riding and that mostly worked, but I think what I'm going to invest in is some bike-specific chain mail because that is the practical thing to do with Renaissance Fair season coming up.

Great slog up Mass today, both to and after Wisconsin Avenue. I suggest that DDOT add a red light camera at the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin.There's a no turn on red sign that is consistently ignored. DC could get some $$$ (oh yeah, and safety).


Ride Home 10/24: Charitable Reductions

I contributed to this. I kindly request that you do this. For some reason, and really, I mean some reason, I was invited to that media lunch that Green Lanes and the Downtown DC BID arranged to discuss the rollout of the L Street cycle track and the general benefits of protected bike infrastructure. Presumably to report on it. I'm not entirely sure what media is supposed to do, other than post listicles about funny-looking cats for the page hits and the lulz. So, here's a summarized version of my thoughts on the L Street cycle track, its installation, and the phony reaction to the non-story that is its installation:

  • Adding bike infrastructure, at this point, is banal. There's plenty of it already. It's not novel. 
  • Declaring this banal bike infrastucture to be "controversial" is boring and predictable. 
  • A shit ton of people are going to use the cycle track.
  • Some other people, no matter what, will complain about that, insisting that a shit ton of people are not, in fact, using the lane and even if they were, their using the lane will be responsible for, among other things, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and/or various outbreaks of Mad Cow disease. Some of these some people will remind us that they are, in fact, avid cyclists who ride bicycles on the weekend, mostly in parks or on paths. 
  • The bike lane will become permanent and everyone will learn to cope with it.
  • This will not stop lazy stories complaining about the "OMG bikers run red lights almost hit me on the sidewalk where are their helmets HELMETS HELMETS lycra-clad Lance Armstrong wannabe WHAT ABOUT MY PARKING blah blah blah"
  • People will go about their lives as usual. Bicycling will become more popular. DC will change, because cities always change because that's just what cities do, and life will go on, possibly with occasional tacos, depending on one's proclivity towards eating Mexican food or Korean food if you like Korean tacos. 
The Green Lane Project has the right idea. Protected cycle tracks are an unalloyed good and there's basically no real point in even arguing with that. And DDOT is right- installing these kinds is the right thing to do for DC, its residents and its commuters. And the Downtown DC BID is right- more people on the street is better for business. Density is what makes cities cities and you can do more density when you build for people on bikes and on foot. WABA is also right- if we don't want "bike lanes" to (again) become proxy flash points in the kinds of cosmic battles that happen in changing cities, then cyclists and their allies need to speak up, reminding political leaders that they're important and that more than being important that they're just bike lanes and that they're like fire hydrants- people should want to have them, irrespective of their race, creed, color, age, gender, orientation, eye color or taco filling preference, because they are useful and they work and they provide positive benefits in an urban environment. It's three weeks until this one is down and "everything changes" except nothing changes because we've done this before and we're going to have to do it all again to make sure that M Street gets done soon and gets done right. So, let's do that. 

I look forward to never being asked to return to a media lunch. I mean, unless they want to invite me back. I'll go. I'll even do a cat listicle next time. Lunch was very good though. I ate a half-sandwich. It might have been egg salad. It was definitely a kind of mayonaise-based salad. 

Trip home was good. I rode behind a bus on Massachusetts and then I switched the sidewalk and rode behind a guy on a CaBi and then I tried to get off the sidewalk, which I did, only to find myself back on the sidewalk as I waited for the light to change opposite the Masaryk statue on the other side of 23rd Street. I like to wait on the sidewalk there out of courtesy to any driver who is trying to make the right turn on red. 

I rode down 19th, past the Jamba Juice (I've yet to stop for a smoothie in spite of my unrequited love of smoothies) and then I rode behind a guy with dark hair in black on a fixie who had a black Chrome bag and then two blocks later I was passed by another guy in black with dark hair on a fixie who had a black Chrome bag and it was deja vu all over again. These commutes get repetitive, but this is getting ridiculous. I watched a gentleman on a motor scooter try to ride past traffic in the two feet between the side panels of the stopped cars and the curb. I didn't go especially well, but he made it. Impatience for the win!

I might have heard someone actually say "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies." 

Lots of lawyers in DC, I've noticed (I'm very observant). Some personal injury firms specializing in bike crashes could probably do decent business if they set up their offices at some key intersections. I mean, except for stupid contributory negligence laws. 

Pennsylvania down to the White House (saw two people I know, one for sure saw me), south down 15th (scaffolding now up by Treasury so fewer pedestrians in the bike lane) and then another bike train down Pennsylvania Avenue. One of the conductors of the bike train won the Passive-Agressive Bike Commuter of the Week Award when he elected the squeeze between two cars that were blocking the box rather than just go behind where there was ample room. Passive-Aggressive Bike Commuter of the Week is the new EGOT. If you win 52 weeks in a row, well, I guess you should maybe get some therapy. 

Just crushed Capitol Hill on the Brompton. That's a really good feeling. Makes riding up Massachusetts seems like it has a point, or if not a point, at least some kind of benefit. But they don't give awards for crushing hills on your bike commute. Other than getting home negligibly faster. 

Stopped at the grocery. San Marzano is the patron saint of expensive canned tomatoes. I didn't even get tomatoes. I got chicken. Boneless and skinless, like a jellyfish. 

Flipping a switch to activate the dynamo hub is really cool. It's way better than having to press two buttons to turn on lights. So much easier. 

Anyone want to buy a creperie in Hill East? It's closed a while back, but I suspect that's only made slightly less scare the scant demand for crepes in my neighborhood. 15th and C SE. If you buy it, install some bike parking. Thanks. 

Ride In 10/24: Wyld Stallyns

I'm just going to skip over last night's commute. You probably didn't want to read about how I used my Brompton to dispatch those ninjas anyway. Or the banal truth of what actually happened. But this morning's commute, well, that's one that I will write about and not because it features ninjas because ninjas, unfortunately, have been displaced. I blame streetcars, bike lanes, dog parks and samurai. Do samurai even fight ninjas? I feel woefully under-prepared for this whole digression and I regret bringing up fictional ninjas in the first place. Almost as much as those fictional ninjas regret trying to take me on during my ride last night only to feel the wrath of my bright blue folding bicycle. I call it Sting and it glows when ninjas are near or fictionally near, as was (wasn't?) the case last night. Anyway.

Prior to leaving home, I decided it would be prudent to apply some lube to my bike's chain, which I did and I only ended up with my hands covered in a lot of black sludge and my bike still squeaked and now I think my bike might be part bat and is using echolocation as a means to get me back and forth from work. This is a nice feature and I highly recommend it for your bicycles.

Like a lot of other cyclists, I blithely roll through red lights. The majority of times it's not especially blithe, but sometimes it's blithe and now and then I think about whether my blitheliness (not a word) is just as bad as the way drivers blithely drive over the speed limit or the way ninjas blithely attack you in the dead of night. I think when things become rote, such as a familiar commute, it's easy to accept patterns and probabilities in a way that makes you less law-abiding and less diligent. Am I hypocrite for complaining about drivers complaining about speed cameras catching them breaking the law while I jaywheel to my heart's content, rarely giving it a second thought? Yeah, probably. Does self-awareness about this hypocrisy do anything to make me ride differently? If I were to be totally honest, unlike those duplicitous ninjas, I'd say not really and only rarely do I give my attitude and behavior vis-a-vis traffic laws any kind of scrutiny. Which makes me just like most everybody else. In conclusion, I have no conclusion. Just try to be safe, I guess, and accept the consequences if you get busted when you transgress knowingly. Or never undertake any kind of self-examination about your public behavior. And brush your teeth at least twice daily. Floss cameras would be the worst!

I rode in a pack of bicyclists today down east Capitol, in position six of seven, and then in another pack of bicyclists down R Street, number five of five. It was like a spontaneously organized self-forming bike train, when commuters band together in an effort to find safety in numbers. The advantage of a real bike train, aside from the opportunity for those involved to make choo choo noises, is its constituents don't typically start racing and passing each other in an effort to prove BIKE COMMUTING DOMINANCE, which isn't in listed in the DSM, in spite of my numerous written requests. Ride as fast as you want, but don't race. Save racing for races. And save whales for whaling..wait, not that. Just save whales. You can race them, but you shouldn't. Because they're big and in the ocean. And salt water will ruin your bike. But improve your taffy. So, trade-offs.

The construction crew working on the South African embassy is exceedingly nice to people walking and riding on the sidewalk on Massachusetts Avenue. In spite of the fact that it's a crowded space and they have equipment strewn all about, the workers almost always give way and extremely cognizant of the people passing through. This isn't always the case with construction crews and I feel like it deserves a special commendation. Good job, Turner and associated subcontractors!


Ride Home 10/23: No Post Tonight

Git hone late, working on another project. Will let you know if/when it materializes. Will use pronouns in future posts. Namaste.

Ride In 10/23: 20,000 Leagues Under American Bicyclists

Trying to keep this short. 

I saw Dave and Kid O (presumably a nickname) riding along East Capitol near the Supreme Court and I passed and said hello. I believe that she's 10 or so. To be a 10 year old bike commuter in Washington DC. I would love to read the perspective of a 10 year old on her bike commute. Maybe we can get a Tales From the Sharrows KIDS edition. It will have the advantage of being considerably better written and vastly more insightful. 

Pennsylvania Avenue to 11th Street. I rode slow and low (low because I was on the Brompton) and in that one way and that one way only did my bike ride resemble the preparation of delicious barbecue. Other than my being lightly sauced. (ZING!)

I saw friends of the blog and cofee club regulars Ted and Jean at the intersection of 11th and Rhode Island and I dinged my bell and yelled their names but neither looked over. Womp womp. I might have also seen Rob, he of HubScrubDC, at the intersection of 15th and R. And then I saw a guy who liked kind of like Henry Kissinger, but I don't think it was actually him. 

My Brompton squeaked in a kind of perma-squeak that sounded terrible. I cleaned the chain this weekend and I think I under-re-applied the chain lube. There is no amount of extraordinarily simple bike maintenance that I cannot screw up. I even installed my front wheel incorrectly the other day. Pretty much only one way to do it and I still found a way to muck it up. 

They should just open up Ann Taylor Gourmet already. Two birds with one stone for professional ladies who like sandwiches, right? It would probably go best on Connecticut Avenue. Other clothes-related musings: leggings aren't pants. But aren't they just Cycle Chic Lycra? And when it comes to Smart Wool, I'm Smart Woo! It wasn't even that cold this morning and I wooled up. No regrets. That stuff's addictive. 

Here are some unsought hill climbing tips:

-Use a low gear
- Don't overexert yourself
- Remember that the hill is as long as long as it is and absolutely no longer
- If you can help it, don't get a job on top of a hill


Ride In 10/22: It's not the size of your Hadron Collider...

Everyone already knows that bike commuting is the best kind of commuting, but is it also the best kind of biking? I think yes. For example, you don't have to ride through mud or over treacherous rocks. Or across obscenely long distances or on some kind of death trap half pipe thing or in an oval because ovals are the worst. And you don't have to rush or hurry or both because it's a not timed. But even if it were and if you took a little extra Sudafed in the morning, you can't be stripped of your 7 best commute times. In conclusion, bike commuting is almost as good as cake and puppies.

This commute was especially pleasant. It's still the GLORY DAYS of October and it's a joy to be outside. Basically, it's like there's a guy with a boombox following me around blasting Beethoven's Ninth. It's that nice. In my mind, the guy who's doing that is on a skateboard, which is sort of weird because he's also (imagined) in the bike lane and you'd think that even in my own fantastical delusions I'd reserve the bike lane for bicyclists and yet it's not the case. There were a few other bicyclists in the bike lanes this morning and it was a diverse lot of law followers and lawbreakers (no jawbreakers though), split into no discernible demographic pattern. Young men on road bikes who stop at red lights? Old women on cruisers who roll right through them? Young women on bikeshare bikes who pass without warning? Guys in jeans who lurk behind you too closely and then race you once the light turn green? Yeah, the morning commute takes all sorts. It's a cornucopia of people just making up norms. A normucopia, if you will (which you shouldn't). It keeps things interesting, but sometimes I wish that bicyclist behavior was a bit more standardized. I wonder if it's that way in the more civilized parts of the bike world.


This is new (and newly moved). It's at 7th and Pennsylvania. Apparently, there another sign by 13th, but I somehow missed it. I appreciate the effort to inform drivers to not do the obviously illegal thing that they were doing previously while completely aware of its illegality. It's a step in the right direction and I hope it's paired with a nice chianti aggressive police enforcement against drivers who do ignore the signs (or get on Pennsylvania Avenue in the 6 block gap between them). Unfortunately, and I'm not trying to be cynical, the I don't think we can "flashing sign" our way out of the persistent problem of illegal u-turns. Give us bollards the length of the cycle track. Please. Certainly if a flashing yellow road sign isn't offensive to the delicate aesthetic sensibilities of the Commission on Fine Arts, then stately, doric* bollards wouldn't be.
*By pretentiously referring to the plastic stanchions are doric, I'm hoping to curry favor with the aforementioned Commission of Fine Arts and their delicate aesthetic sensibilities. Given Washington's preponderance of ponderous Neoclassicism, the bollards by comparison are quite graceful. Note: I am talking out of my ass, in case that wasn't abundantly obvious.

Closed sidewalk at 15th by the Treasury. No accommodation for pedestrians. That sucks.

Literal government red tape. 
Sure, that meant that bunches of them were walking in the bike lane, but I hardly begrudge them for it. If they aren't given anywhere else to go and no clear instructions, they're of course going to walk in the cycle track. As a modus operandi, I encourage patience with those walking in the lanes and impatience with those who've forced them to do so.

So much bike traffic on 15th. It might be time to double-deck it. CaBis on the upper level, express traffic on the lower level.

There should be a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant called Clandestino's. This is apropos of nothing.

L Street cycle track construction starts tonight. I don't know if this is going to be a "game-changer" for DC bicycling, but I do know that there will be at least one newspaper article that cites "confusion" from drivers and include at least one suggestion that "nobody told us" this was going to happen. If this doesn't happen, I'll eat my hat. Or some pizza. I'm going to eat pizza in either case, but probably not tonight, though they idea of watching bike lane construction while nomming a pie sounds pretty sweet.

R Street through Dupont and up Massachusetts, which felt really good. I even got up out of seat and rode faster than was strictly necessary in order to maintain my forward momentum. It must be Monday. Not sure I'll be blogging tonight- going to see a movie (not Atlas Shrugged Part II, strangely enough) and the other movie patrons probably wouldn't like it if I had my typewriter out the whole time (I type by smashing my typewriter into my iPhone keyboard. It's inefficient, but I'm old school like that). Hasta tomorrow.


Ride In and Ride Home 10/19: Gelato and Lattes

The weather's the weather whether you like it or not. The pseudo-autumn has continued with days that bring a warm rain and high humidity which is essentially impossible to dress for. It's too wet for no jacket and too warm for one. I started my trip wearing gloves and a hat and ended my trip not wearing pants the gloves and hat, shedding them at different stop lights around the route. Dressing and undressing is yet another good reason to stop at stop lights. This is especially worth remembering if you happen to be a bike salad messenger. To the best of my knowledge, bike salad messenger is not a real job.

East Capitol to Pennsylvania. Saw this:

When you're a hammer, every problem's a nail and when you're a recovering medievalist who studied sepulchral monuments of East-Eentral European queens, every assemblage of cones and prone bollards is a tomb. I doubt this is a common problem. I actually left the cycle track to go take the picture. In crossing the street an oblivious driver nearly drove through me in her attempt to make a right on red on 14th street. I think I said "Excuuuuuuse me!" and gestured to the walk signal. Forget mandatory helmets. We should have mandatory bunny ears laws.

I can't be the only one who thinks that #fridaycoffeeclub needs branded merchandise, right? Or maybe I can be. Maybe I shouldn't be? Or maybe I should.

After coffee, it was back to 15th and up the cycle track, which I remember to have been relatively uncrowded and then R and up Massachusetts. I really wish there were more crosstown bike lanes, but that's pretty much the ones I have to take. I guess all commuters tire of the daily repetition of their routes and I suppose I could be more variable in my selection, but it's easy to fall into ruts and so I have. I mean, I haven't literally fallen into any ruts, which I suppose would be much more common were the roads not paved. Thank goodness for asphalt.

I can't recall too much about the trip home. It was Massachusetts through Dupont and down 19th. I left earlier than normal commuting time and had to contend with a different set of drivers, drivers who were on average worse than the post-five crowd. I don't know why this is, but every time I ride at a non-standard weekday time, it's just a worse overall experience. Though, in total the experience was nice because there was no rain and the temperature was nice and I was on a bicycle and that's always a good thing. Though the Brompton has a new Brooks saddle on it and, how shall I say, it has been something of a pain in the ass breaking it in. No pun intended.

Penn to 15th to Penn. I didn't notice any additional police enforcement by the bike lanes, but I might have been being myopic.

Up the hill and down East Capitol and home. Another week down. Another week to go. And then another. And again and again and again unless someone commutes my commute, but then I'd still probably ride to the store and such. One you get the bike bug, it sticks with you.


Guest Post: @Gypsybug goes the extra mile(s)

When I don't go to work, I tend not to commute by bike. That's something of a tautology, which I believe is also the name of those snow camels from the beginning of Empire Strikes Back. So, I had nothing to blog about, unless you wanted to read about how I missed the opportunity to get EtP the pumpkin spice spa package at the groomer. Luckily, though, the #bikeDC community is full of wonderful people and when I heard that one of them had a ride home that she really enjoyed, I reached out and "BAM!" within seconds I had this post waiting for me in my inbox. I really ought to adjust my "You've got mail" sound to something more soothing than "BAM!" When I get a lot of spam, it's like I'm at the Somme. Anyway. It also helps that this post of courtesy of the internet's most beloved bike commuter (they had a vote and she won), who can crank out a great blog post like nobody's business. Thanks, MG! 

Fall days like the past few we've had are some of my favorites for bike commuting. Days are mild, but neither the mornings or evenings have that cold bite to them yet. Night comes sooner, clearing out the commuter traffic somewhat.

Tonight I jetted out of the office just as the last bit of daylight was still in the sky. I looked at the flags around the Washington Monument. They said to me, “Tailwind on the backside of Hains Point.” I felt the mild air breeze by. It said, “You should ride some extra miles.”

I agreed and guided myself through the Lincoln Memorial tourists and down Ohio Drive to that famous local bicycle haunt, Hains Point. Despite the pleasant temperatures, the Point was pretty empty. The occasional roadie buzzed by me. Little did they know I was carrying a hefty cookbook in my pannier. And a U-Lock. A pair of shoes. An umbrella. And War and Peace, large print version. Ok, not War and Peace, but the other things, yes. So that's the only reason they were passing me. Yeah, that's the story I told myself.

Even slow laps around Hains Point are still faster than making a pot roast!
I've really been enjoying the Point of late. For whatever reason, I've been finding it quite meditative. I fought the headwind down north/east side of the point and made the turn to the tailwind. Yes! I tooled around lost in thought, watching the lights of the planes as they waited in diagonal lines in the sky to land at National Airport.

As I went to begin another lap, someone greeted me. My friend Michael! He was riding a carbon bike with no fenders, but we're friends anyway. Not having seen each other for several weeks, we rode around chatting and catching up on life.

As we rode, a group of three cyclists passed on our left. One of them rode a beautiful red Bridgestone RB-1 that I'd seen on the Point before, accessorized with a white Ortlieb pannier. Style points for that pannier, sir. Some of you know that bike man Grant Petersen designed these bikes before founding Rivendell (and prior to writing his current book, Just Ride).

The other bike looked like a Coho. Cohos are handbuilt bikes that were made in North Carolina by Chuck Lathe. I've ridden a couple of brevets with Chuck, and always liked the aesthetics of his bikes. Chuck stopped making Cohos a couple of years ago, and I have never seen them in our area.

I told Michael I had to ask this guy about his bike. Michael and I pulled up alongside the trio, and I asked the owner about his beautiful Coho. It was so exciting to see lugged steel on Hains Point! According to the owner, I was looking at the last Coho that Chuck Lathe ever made. Wow!

If you're not a steel bike geek, my story might not sound too exciting. For me, though, it was the cherry on top of my beautiful evening. I enjoyed the beautiful weather and quiet night, unexpectedly caught up with a good friend, and saw two stunning steel bikes that are no longer made, all from the perch of my saddle on the post-work commute.


Ride Home 10/17: Yankee Doodle Shandy

Read this.

No, seriously. Read it. It's important. Anecdotes are the worst form of evidence and anecdotes are pretty much the bread and butter of this blog. But Dave collected some actual evidence, collected on one block over a half hour of a regular weekday morning. I ride Pennsylvania Avenue every day and I've seen a lot of stuff and I've complained about a lot of the stuff that I've seen but I was positively shocked about the depth and scope of the problem of u-turns across the bike lanes. I'd say that it stretches credulity, but, unfortunately, it doesn't. And it's needs real redressing and I'm not sure how we can go about it because really the redressing needs to happen before someone gets seriously hurt.

Anyway, back to the bread and butter of this blog: pictures of bread and butter. Ok, that's not really the bread and butter of this blog either. But it is a reminder that bread and butter is delicious. But maybe not quite as delicious as Shake Shack, which is one of my top favorite shacks, ranking slightly higher than both Radio Shack and Sir Ernest "Shack Dawg" Shackleton. (Shack Dawg might not have been an official nickname.) My arrival at the decision to get some Shake Shack was the result of what I thought was the unhappy accident of missing my turn onto 19th (missing it because I didn't want to cut off a taxi that I wasn't sure would stop for me) and ending up on Connecticut Avenue, a street I almost never take, mostly because it's designed to maximize the speed of cars on it. I got stuck at a red, saw the Shack, called the Official Wife with the "I'm gonna bring home Shake Shack for dinner, k thanks bye" call and then went about with the whole ordering and waiting thing ("Brad" was number 53) and then I rolled up the paper bag, shoved it in my messenger bag, which now smells delightfully of grease and fries, and set off once again, taking Connecticut to 17th.

A few close car passes on this ride home. I don't really want to talk about it. Close passes are bad. But I'll take a close miss over the alternative.

This was unusual. Maybe it wouldn't be unusual if it were 1882, but it's not 1882. Romney's not president yet. I liked a lot of things about this. It made my night.

1) Pennyfarthings are awesome.
2) The guy had an appropriate and appropriately old-timey mustache
3) He had his wife or girlfriend with him, riding on a CaBi behind. I suspect she's a big fan of Laurie Gottlieb.
4) You just can't beat the setting. The area in front of Capitol is just a great place for weird bikey stuff. We should do more weird bikey stuff there. Better than the weird drivey stuff that Congress does there half the time.

After filming the guy, I rode past one of the Capitol Police Officers, because I was feeling chatty and annoying I guess, and I asked him if he'd ever seen anything like this before. He said that he had seen a guy on a highwheeler twice as high. I said "oh really?" instead of what I was actually thinking ("that's bullshit") and then when I rode past the mustachioed wheelman (Mustachioed Wheelmen is the name of my barbershop quartet. We lack both mustaches and wheels) I told him that he was fantastic and he thanked me, presumably agreeing with my assessment.

A quick jaunt down East Capitol and then around the park and home. No rides tomorrow. Catch you on Friday.

Ride In 10/17: Oblates in the Outfield

So, I finally bought a Chrome messenger bag. I might have well have put down a security deposit for an apartment in Williamsburg. I have fully atrophied into urban bikist cliche. That said, I sort of love it. Even the "seatbelt" bit, which is silly and fantastic.

We can talk about paint and signs and all sorts of other road features that can be used to deter drivers from making illegal turns, but sometimes it just comes down to yelling. I hate that that it's true but it's true. I had to yell at a guy today who managed to "miss" the no left turn sign, "miss" the bike lane markings in the road, "miss" the arrow on the ground that indicated that you should drive straight, and "miss" seeing me in his sideview and rearview mirror. And, luckily, in spite of "missing" all those things he missed me, due to a timely "HEY." I do believe that these were all honest mistakes and that there was no malice and since he didn't continue with his illegal turn after I rode by, I think he was just a guy who wasn't paying very close attention, which is a thing that happens sometimes. But the extent to which it's understandable or forgivable- well, I don't know. I guess it depends how forgiving you are.

I rode 11th to R. It was perfectly brisk weather this morning and I felt good on the bike. I've bit in a bit of funk lately and this ride was the first one in a week where I really felt like I was having unburdened fun, as opposed to burdened fun, like backpacking or something.

Coordinate events for WABA! I'd apply but the description says they're looking for an "experienced professional" and not a "rank amateur." I can barely coordinate my socks.

The Bike Rack once again set out free coffee and I availed myself of it, as did many other bike commuters, including Friday Coffee Club regulars Ted and Jon. Throughout the course of drinking coffee, I was complimented on my bike, complimented on my Road Holland shirt and I was recognized by a former student. It was quite a coffee stop. I always watched the flood of people on bikes on the way downtown.So many people. And so many of them just rode past the coffee, like they couldn't be bothered! I put up with a lot of shit from my fellow bike commuters, but riding past free coffee? This is the biggest #bikefoul of all.

This coffee was free for bike commuters.
After coffee, I walked the bike back to R, through the construction zone on the sidewalk and past the sidewalk closed sign, and then headed west Horace Greeley style. I probably didn't go west enough.

Does seeing green have drivers seeing red? Writing that sentence that was my unbidden audition to be a local transportation reporter. And to answer my question, no, not really. I'm pretty sure drivers are fine with it, but what do I know.


Ride Home 10/16: International Water Polo Championships

Another successful venture. It's as important to harp on the successes as it is to bemoan the failures and since the bar for success is so low (getting home), I suppose I should adjust my harping accordingly. So, think more lyre than harp, though what I tell you about these rides is the truth, if sometimes abridged. Though I think guitars have bridges and neither harps nor lyres do, though what liars do we shouldn't trust, nor should we harp on. We should instead harpoon the liars, as we might their big fish stories. Now I'm blubbering.

Like I was saying, it was a successful ride home. I am, however, getting sick of almost-nearly (I struggle with the exact terminology to describe something that doesn't quite come to fruition, but if it did, it would be bad) finding myself banged into by the side of someone's car as they move it from one lane to another without first checking to see if I'm there. I mean, I don't expect them to explicitly check for me, but they really ought to check for someone. Anyone really. Stuff like this is just another reminder that in the current state of affairs if you biked with the same level of inattentiveness as that with which some people driver, you'd end up a hood ornament. And if the car already had a hood ornament, it would be totally awkward because who would even want to be a hood ornament understudy? Not me.

But "safety" isn't the primary reason I'd like separated bike infrastructure. It's to avoid car traffic, which thwarts me when I ride through the downtown areas. Sure, I could ride between the lanes of cars as they're stopped on a clogged street, but I don't really like doing it on account of my relatively poor bike handling skills (look ma, no handling!) and my general concern that the traffic will clear and I'll find myself in the midst of a kind of motorized Pamplona. So, world, don't give me a bike lane to keep me safe from cars. Give me one to keep me moving.

I shan't recall too much the chicanery I used to bypass the four or five blocks of solid car traffic on 19th. It wasn't legal, but it wasn't too antisocial. Very few glowers. I still shouldn't have done it.

The plaza by the White House can get quite crowded and weaving through can get quite tricky. It's best just to slow down, even if you've developed an aptitude for navigating through tourists like you're jumping barrels in Donkey Kong. Don't think of tourists as barrels! It's condescending. Also, I'd like to suggest to #bikeDC (but not you guys, because if you're reading this, you're super nice) that bikists (this is my new thing. Bikers means "dudes on Harleys" and cyclists means "dudes racing in the Tour de France" so maybe we could create a middle term? I'm not wedded to bikist if you have a better alternative) stop for people crossing the street at the intersection of 15th and New York Avenue. You know, because often they have the light and also because it's the right thing to do. Just a suggestion.

I love the bikist that rides in work clothes and bike shoes. The guy I saw today also had a salt and pepper beard, but that's an entirely different stylistic choice. On occasion I'll do this, but maybe I should do it more often. It's a fun, completely incongruous look and I sort of think it signifies exactly where, in a mimetic sense, commuter cycling is right now. (Still haven't read Mimesis. Long-time readers of the blog know that I'm almost always about to read Mimesis, but then don't. Ok, maybe they don't know that, but they do now. Someday)

I rode up the House side of Capitol Hill, where I rode past a man who was on his bike while smoking a pipe, and then continued down Pennsylvania, finding myself stuck behind one or two buses each and every block. I turned left at 12th and then right on E and then left at 14th and I went into the grocery store, wherein I accidentally shoplifted an avocado. Please don't tell old man Safeway. I sometimes just put my groceries in my bike bag instead of using a basket and when I checked out, the avocado both slipped my mind and slipped to near the bottom of the bag and that's how I stole it. Please do not use the description of this technique as part of your own plan to steal avocados- I do not want to be party to your crimes. I would, however, attend a party if you were serving guacamole, but do not reveal the provenance of said guacamole if it derives from absconded fruit! I paid for my other groceries. Whoops.

After the store, it was only another 3 minutes until home. Fall is in the air, but it's still not too nippy to mandate long pants each ride. Once that happens, then it's fall for real. Maybe we can make it until November.

Ride In 10/16: Appeasement

Quiet morning, cool morning. I wore gloves. They were not ermine. I wore a cap, which was not coonskin. Very little of my outfit derived from the demise of woodland creatures, with the exception, perhaps of helmet, which I believe was taken from a very safety-conscious badger.

Standard non-standard route, which is the route that takes me along Madison Drive and next to the National Mall, America's front yard. I take disagree with this characterization because there's no National Gnome Statue or the Museum of Crabgrass or anything like that. I've looked.

I had one of those awkward mishaps where I might have cut off a turning cyclist or he might have cut me off (it was unclear, since we were crossing paths) and I hate when that happens. I think I said sorry. Sorry.

I'm a traffic jam magnet. I was riding on the path next to the reflecting pool and found myself stuck behind three gigantic maintenance dump trucks. Just another use for a multi-use path: driving on it!

23rd Street needs a road diet. It might have Celiac disease.

I met up with the Official Wife by the Foggy Bottom metro and afterwards rode over to Virginia Avenue to pick up the trails that I would take for most of the rest of the way to work. I find crossing the Rock Creek Parkway to be one of my distasteful things I'm ever asked to do on my bike. It always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and not just because I lick the road signs while I wait. It just really peeves me that a road through a park is turned into a one-way restricted use commuter highway during rush hour. Peeves me! Here's my peeved-eye view as I waited to cross:

Cones of oppression
I know that a lot of cyclists like to use this road, especially on weekends, but if I had my druthers, we'd just unpave it and let nature reclaim it. This is a bad road and an unnecessary road and it creates bad incentives.

I counted 99 bicyclists riding in the opposite direction of the Capital Crescent Trail from the entrance at Water Street to the staircase at Manning Place. That's a lot of bicyclists. Two were on recumbents. All but three wore helmets. There were many, many reflective yellow jackets. There's definitely a stylistic dichotomy between the "ride on streets" riders and the "ride on path" riders that you could probably chalk up to a suburban/urban split, but which is probably actually based on the distances that each group rides, with the path riders typically covering more miles and preferring bikey clothes to make that more comfortable. I thought it was a pretty even mix of men and women. It definitely skewed older. The CCT is the CBS of DC bike infrastructure.

The climb up Macomb Street wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (it's been a while), nor were the hills on Loughboro and Nebraska. Traffic was reasonably sparse, at least until nearer the university, when I bailed to the sidewalk for a block before crossing the street and riding into the garage. I locked up my bike, gave myself a high five and continued on with the rest of my day.


Ride Home 10/15: Ant Elopes with Antelopes

"Redeye" is normally used in describing air travel, but it can apply equally well to fall bike commuting. I'm trying to learn to apply eye drops (I've never had contacts or had to use one of those emergency eye flush showers in chemistry, so I'm a bit squeamish) and they provide some degree of nightly relief. If only Brooks made some gentlemen's commuter goggles. I'd finally look like the classy biplane pilot I've always aspired to be.

It was cloudy and eventually rained, but I didn't think the rain would hold off, so I braced myself for a ride that would ruin the recently established cleanliness of my bike and also get my socks wet, which might be a fate even worse than a dirty bike. Wet socks are the worst. Wet sock puppets are even worser-er, unless you're using wet as a synonym for drunk because that would be fucking hilarious. Anyway. There were literally dark clouds hovering over the Capitol. It was like every dramatic scene in every bad political thriller ever. I suppose I've robbed this post of some drama by revealing that I beat the rain, but getting rained on isn't that dramatic in the first place. Unless it's melodramatic, like in The Notebook. Hey girl, I wore my Showers Pass jacket home anyway.

There are some other bicyclists on my commute route home, but never that many and it's rare that traveling my new route through Dupont and down 19th that I ever find myself behind another cyclist, but today I did and we rode together from roughly Sheriden Circle to L Street. And let me tell you something: it is absolutely terrifying to watch someone else bike commute. Especially when you see that person almost get pulled into be a lane-changing driver. She saw him and it was ok, and were I in the same position, I probably would've written it off as a fairly standard, par for the course, near-but-not-that-near miss that happens pretty much every single day. But watching it from 15 feet behind- it was worse than wearing wet socks. I might have made some kind of noise (certainly not a word, perhaps a kind of grunt or grunt-like noise), but there really wasn't much else to do nor much else I could've done. And as soon as it happened, it was over and nothing happened and then I rode past the driver, again to his right, and then we rode together for another block and then she turned off somewhere (I thought to ride up the sidewalk to avoid the car traffic backed up trying to get onto K, but then she wasn't there) and I found myself stalled on a hill and luckily in an appropriate gear to slowly standing pedal my way up the hill without falling down and then the mundane commute continued with a left turn and a few more blocks of pedaling and even more negotiating with drivers.

Around the time I got to 15th and Pennsylvania, I started to convince myself that maybe I could make it home before it started raining (SPOILER ALERT: I've already spoiled the fact that I did). I rode with a steely determination. Just kidding- I rode normally, which is with a kind of determination that's considerably more malleable. Ok, my determination level is pretty much talc. My effort level doesn't even register on the Mohs scale really. I did try to ride sort of faster than usual and tried to not get stuck at red lights if I could avoid it and I did avoid it at 7th by passing the bicyclist in front of me. The only other thing that happened on Penn was my seeing a minibus/shuttlebus driver pull a u-turn across the bike lane. It was cool though because he let me ride past first and he held up his hand at me, so as to suggest his general pacficity towards me. THIS DOES NOT MAKE IT OK. I don't want to keep beating the same drum (though I do have a gift card for Timpani & Co. Their blue boxes are larger), but 1) enhanced enforcement of these flagrant violations are needed and 2) enhanced enforcement will do nothing to stop this problem in a permanent way. So, here's my pitch: No Taxation Without Physical Separation (of bike lanes). Think I'd get a night in jail if I didn't pay? Probably more.

I don't know if the guy in front of me was also in a rush, but he was certainly riding fast and I thought it might be clever of me to try to match his pace as that seemed like a good way to get home faster. And I mostly accomplished this, at least through the Capitol grounds, but on East Capitol he pulled too far ahead and by that time I didn't think it would even rain any more (BREAKING: It didn't. At least while I was riding. You might have read this paragraphs ago.) and it didn't really matter that we was still rushing and I wasn't rushing because stop lights and perpendicularly moving traffic are the great equalizers and I caught up a couple of blocks later. Things like this are good reminders that rushing hardly ever really works. A thing like this is a good reminder that the Addams Family is a great tv show. [snap snap]

Ride In 10/15: The best made flans of mice and men

Happy Monday! My commute started with my biking some shoes to a Fedex store. Two pairs of shoes: the ones I was wearing and the ones that were in a box to be shipped back to the online shoe store from whence they came. Were the shoes a Balrog, I was their Gandalf and the Fedex store was the Mines of Moria and the packing tape was, um, I'm not sure and now this whole horrible metaphor fell apart faster than Numenorean society. There was just enough room in the pannier for my work stuff and for the shoe box and I was only slightly overloaded from the time I left home to when I locked up outside the Fedex by the Eastern Market Metro. I parked at the rack out front as a man was getting out of his minivan. Unprompted, he began to tell me about how his wife keeps a bunch of clothes in the car. And also lots of lipstick and a pair a pantyhose. I smiled and nodded and this conversation, unsolicited, continued as we both ended the store. He mumbled a good deal. As a fellow mumbler, I found this to be annoying (I didn't say I wasn't a hypocrite. Or maybe I just mumbled it and you couldn't tell). I didn't have much in the way to offer as far as ripostes go, so I stuck with the smiling and nodding and peppered in a "uh huh" and a "yeah" because, even when confronted with mumbling strangers confronting the idiosyncrasies of their spouses, I think it's important to be an active listener. Perhaps I should be an active ignorer if I don't want this to continue to happen. (Can one even be an active ignorer?)

I freed myself from the burdens of this one-sided conversation after I over-taped the return label onto the box and I bid myself farewell to continue along the way, riding down South Carolina Avenue SE to E Street SE. E Street SE has rumble strips on the street outside of St. Peter School, presumably to alert drivers that they oughtn't run over the children. I think it says a lot about driving that we need to actively engage people with bright signs and rumble strips and speed bumps and other features in order to suggest that they don't hit children with cars. One would think that the desire to not want to hit a child with one's car would be strong enough to suggest caution, but I don't have any children so I'm not really an expert. I guess one could argue that any steps we can take to make our most vulnerable people less likely to be injured is a good thing, but one could also argue that if you're the kind of person who doesn't pay attention or follow the law while driving, you shouldn't drive. Or we could just harp on making children wear helmets all the time and declare our obligation to their safety complete based on our scolding them if they don't. We have lots of options, really.

Women hate sexxxy bike shop employees, so writes friend of the blog Alex Baca. (Why yes, I am wildly misrepresenting her views so you click on the link to read what she actually wrote.)

E Street to South Capitol to Washington Avenue to Independence Avenue to 3rd Street SW, where I rode in the left lane for a good ways before making a left turn down Madison Drive. Madison Drive was the fullest of cyclists I've ever seen, which is to say that there were 4 other cyclists. Madison has two lanes for driving (and two more for parking, sort of. The one on the north side is intermittent) and the lefter lane has the sharrows. This means that if you ride where the sharrows are and a driver wishes to pass you, he will do so from the right, which contradicts good sense and well-established practice. So, if you don't want this, are cyclists expected to move over into the right lane to allow drivers to pass on the left-side and doesn't that defeat the whole point the sharrows? In any case, I rode in the right lane, but this didn't help matters any because then a driver didn't have any free lanes because other people were in the left. Angst ensued. Mostly mine. The driver seemed fine.

I turned onto 14th Street. 14th Street is at least six lanes wide but I bet there isn't any room for bike lanes.

I turned left at Constitution and then crossed that street at the light turned yellow and then red, followed 15th for a long block and then turned into the cycle track. The cycle track runs directly in front of the headquarters of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which I believe is currently being #occupied by a theater troupe that is satirically posing as real Occupy protesters because there's no possible way that a lefty, redistributionist group could ever in all seriousness be protesting socialized benefits provided to ex-government employees, right? Right? I don't get politics.

There's a guy who was standing on the K Street median with a sign that read "Honk if you love someone." Ugh. How about "Don't honk if you love someone"? Absence (of honking) makes the heart grow fonder (of drivers).

Running over acorns is awesomely fun. I don't recommend this pastime if you have skinny tires.

He's coming to get you!
I think it makes a lot more sense for parking enforcement officers to ride bikes than to drive (given the speed at which they move and the frequency with which they stop) and to the best of my memory, this is the first time I ever recall seeing any parking enforcement being done by bike. Good for DC.

I don't like to be someone who scolds other cyclists. One, because who the hell I am to scold them? (37th most popular DC bike blogger, but that's beside the point) But also, because I don't think it's especially productive. I know that my reflexive response to anyone telling me how to do anything on my bike, whether they're right or wrong, would be the tell them to eat rocks, or something along those lines. I'm just nice like that. So, I never really say anything to people. But here's a suggestion: don't antagonize other people on bikes! What limited about of in-group solidarity there is amongst bicyclists (and there is very little) can dissipate quite quickly.

The Korean Cultural Center, a banner told me, is hosting a group of Korean authors to speak about Korean literature. When writing Korean literature, please remember to consult the Korean Strunk and White and their seminal The Elements of (Gangnam) Style. Tip: When addressing a sexy lady, always use "heyyyyy."

One last thing: one of my wife's coworkers had his bike stolen (pictured below). This was on late Friday/early Saturday in Adams Morgan. They cut right through the u-lock. If you're trawling through bike ads on Craig's List, email me (talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com) if you come across anything that looks like a match. It's a brand new bike. Thanks for the help.


Ride Home 10/12: Priceless Piers

Justin Bieber said it best when he said- who am I kidding? I don't know any Justin Bieber quotes. I'm not some scholar of the modern pop culture vernacular. I'm just some bike blogger, untethered in a sea of pointlessness, awash in a foam of unmoored nothingness and aghast at an ocean of needless wherewithal. I also am some guy who saw some other guys who were wearing pink tutus and this was by my house and I think it might have been related to a Race for a Cure, a Susan Komen joint. I don't know for sure, for I did not ask them, as I make it a point to avoid asking men in tutus many questions because each question would lead to the inevitable question- why are you wearing a tutu?

There's a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue, between Idaho Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue, in which there are two lanes, but one of those lanes sometimes turns from a "go go" lane to a "park park" lane and every day I watch drivers pull into the "park park" lane expecting it to be a "go go" lane only to find themselves thwarted and, presumably, disappointed when they realize that they won't be able to "go go" and will have to merge back into the lane from whence they came. Drivers, unlike cyclists, are the most optimistic people on earth. They always think "ah, this is it. this is the time I BEAT THE WORLD" and act as if the same thing they saw the other day, the fact that people are always parked where they are always parked, won't in fact be the case and that this day will be the day will be the one when they will be able to do it, when they will be able to WIN THE COMMUTE. Of the many delusions that the joys of internal combustion have given man, this is perhaps the most pernicious.

Massachusetts Avenue to Q Street. We might as well call it Queue Street as it's nothing but a line of cars that impedes the progress of all others, even thought some of the others find themselves in what should be an unfettered bike lane. And yet, unless one suffers the delusion that he can, in fact, pass through a minivan as if it was just a figment of his imagination, this is not so because minivans are assuredly not figments, just as they are assuredly within the bike lanes and this is assuredly annoying.

I thought that I could keep pace with a Capital Bikeshare bicycle while astride my Brompton and yet I found myself in some difficulty when attempting this task. Maybe the CaBi rider was super fit. Maybe I am a sloth.

I saw some gentlemen pushing a hatchback at the intersection of Q and 9th. First, they pushed it fore and then they pushed it aft and then one jumped in and the other left and I don't know what happened after that because the light turned green and I rode away and I would have gladly assisted the effort in pushing the hatchback had they asked or had they had a more clearer vision about where they wanted to push the car. I'm willing to embark on silly tasks, but not if they're pointless. I have standards, you know.

This is 7th Street NW.

As you can see, the concrete barrier is on the wrong side of the bike lane. For a moment, I thought that maybe we weren't doing it wrong. I was wrong. The barrier is there to protect the construction, I guess. Or maybe prevent parking. Whatever it's there for, it's not the protect bicyclists.

I stopped at BicycleSpace, the best bike shop in DC per everyone, for a quick Brompton checkup. The bike checked up well (No copay. Thanks, Obamacare!) and I managed not to buy everything in the store as I waited. Thanks to some excellent timing, I got the chance to ride with Erik, co-owner of BicycleSpace, on the way home. Erik had recently just completed L'Eroica, which is not a Beethoven symphony, but a ride through sterner parts Tuscany undertaken on vintage bicycles. It sounded absolutely amazing and of a quality far superior to all rides that I have ever taken and that even includes the time I rode my bike to get beer from the second-closest corner store. We talked about the ride as we rode down 7th and Pennsylvania and around Grant Circle past the Capitol. It sounded all sorts of challenging and all sorts of amazing and I'm really glad that someone who loves bicycles, and I mean really, really loves them, as much as Erik does got to partake in it. We said goodbye near the Capitol and I rode up the hill and he rode home.

And near the end of the ride, that's where I saw the guys with the tutus and that means we're near the end of the post, as the posts tend to mirror the order in which the rides themselves happen. Otherwise, what kind of narrative structure would I employ? These are the things that keep me up at night. Ok, not really. Have a bon weekend and, as always, remember, dance with the one that brung ya. (I haven't quite finalized my sign-off. Suggestions are welcome.)