Ride Home 2/27: String Bean Theory

I rode down New Mexico Avenue and then up the tiny hill on Tunlaw past the Russian Embassy and down the tiny hill on Tunlaw where they're soon to build a new intersection to discourage drivers from turning off Wisconsin because it's now marginally less highway-y than it used to be, made that way in the name of preventing people from getting hit by cars as they try to cross the street. To my mind, Tunlaw and 37th Street, to which Tunlaw flows, make terrible cut-throughs on account of the stop signs every block, but I am not possessed of the peculiar trait of many people who drive, a trait of myopia that willingly trades continuous slow movement in place of alternatingly stopping and going. Wait, strike that. That's exactly my affliction and that's exactly why I ride a bike to work. I guess the affliction of which I am not afflicted is the belief that there's any way to "beat traffic" and that's why I simply opt out of it. There is also no way to "beet traffic" or at least no way to do it without staining your hands.

37th to R to 34th, which has a bike lane, but little else of interest. 34th to M, a street with much interest and many buses and some pedestrians and double-parking and fancy cars, both driving and double-parking, because M Street is the main drag of Georgetown, a neighborhood as posh as George IV, who was either a once dandy King of England or one of Foreman's eponymous-er kids. Truth be told, I derive greater pleasure from riding past stopped luxury cars than I do more pedestrian (?) vehicles. It's downright schadenfreude when I pass the German ones.

M to Pennsylvania to L, which possesses still a cycle track, though that cycle track no longer possesses the posts at its entrance each block. They were removed to make way for snow plows, which would subsequently make way for bicyclists, but the lack of snow has made this removal moot and the return of the posts (like this blog itself?) would make for bettering my overall commuting experience. It's not that drivers always drive in the bike lane, it's just that sometimes they do and why settle for sometimes when we could prevent it all of the time?

L Street to 11th and 11th to Pennsylvania. There are more Bikeshare stations on 11th (two more) than there were previously.

Pennsylvania Avenue to the Senate side of the Capitol and I rode on the driveway instead of riding on the path, which was otherwise occupied by middle schoolers in business casual. I would suspect that any business run by tweens would be casual, but my idea of dressing up involves changing into "formal" slippers, so I'm not really one to talk.

I rode down East Capitol to 11th Street, rounded the park and took Kentucky to the grocery store, where I parked my bike and went inside to buy, among other things, Canadian bacon. Alberta, was named after an English princess, Princess Louise and they named it Alberta because Louisiana was already taken. It is unclear what an Albertan Mardi Gras is like, but it's likely that they laissent les bon temps roul-eh. Cause it's Canada. Get it? #hockey #timhortons #stereotypes

I rode down D Street from the store and I desperately wanted to take a picture of the van with "Lady Ryda" graffitied on its trunk, but there were people outside and I wouldn't want them to think I was taking a picture in a mocking fashion. Mocking fashion is for Joan Rivers. Alberta's rivers include the Milk River, which flows eventually to the Missouri-Mississippi and eventually to the Louisiana Delta. You might think that Delta Blues is derivative, but probably only if you're into calculus jokes.

16th to A to home. Pups are good, Official Wife is good and I won my appeal against a misplaced fine on illegally overgrown shrubbery, so I'm good too. Things are good.


National Women's Bicycling Forum

Please keep in mind that the winner of the National Women's Bicycling Forum plays the winner of the American Women's Bicycling Forum in the World Women's Bicycling Series, which is a best of seven series where home field advantage was determined by the winner of the Women's Bicycling All-Star Game. In any event, this is a major league event and you should consider attending! 

Women Pedal to the Forefront of the Bicycle Movement   
Congressmember, industry trailblazer and NYC Commissioner 
headline upcoming National Women's Bicycling Forum 

Washington, D.C. - February 7, 2013 - When it comes to biking, women mean business. The popularity of bicycling is skyrocketing nationwide -- and women are leading the charge in this revolution. 

According to a recent national poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, more than 80 percent of American women have a positive view of bicyclists and two-thirds think their community would be a better place to live if riding a bike were safer and more comfortable.

On March 4 in Washington D.C., the National Women's Bicycling Forum will unite hundreds of leaders to showcase and build on that energy and momentum.Hosted by the League of American Bicyclists' Women Bike campaign, this unique event will highlight the central role of women in one of the most exciting trends in America today: the power of bicycles to bring better health, economic benefit, and travel convenience to millions of Americans. 

The Forum will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on March 4 at the Renaissance Washington hotel (999 9th St NW, Washington, D.C.). Tickets are $85, which includes lunch and free childcare. Click here to see the full program and to register. 
In just its second year, the Forum will feature a full-day of programming with more than 30 speakers, including keynote addresses from major leaders like:
  • Georgena Terry: founder of Terry Precision Cycles, the first brand of bicycles built specifically for women  
  • Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL): helicopter pilot, Purple Heart recipient, former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs -- and hand-crank bicyclist 
  • Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan: New York City Commissioner of Transportation and architect of NYC's dramatic rise in bicycling
With a theme of "Women Mean Business," this event will provide special focus on industry leaders, entrepreneurs and the economic impact of female bicyclists. According to the 2012 American Bicyclist Survey, women represent a critical majority for the future of the bicycle movement: 60 percent of bicycle owners aged 18- to 27-years-old are women. In 2012 alone, women reported that they planned to spend nearly $2 billion on bike products.

"Clearly, women mean business when it comes to making biking better in their communities," said Carolyn Szczepanski, League Director of Communications and Women Bike. "Across the country, women are shattering previous stereotypes and stepping up to design cutting-edge infrastructure, launch innovative advocacy campaigns and take the lead in the bike industry. This event will put the spotlight on just a handful of the key female leaders who are charting the course toward a healthier, safer, more economically vibrant country -- by bike."

Highlighting the impact of women in the American bicycle industry, the opening keynote will feature a conversation with Georgena Terry, the first engineer to create women's bicycles and launch an international women's brand, and nearly two-dozen small business owners will display their products and services in the Women Bike Pop-Up Shop.

Additional high-profile speakers at the Forum will include:
  • Jenna Burton, founder, Red, Bike and Green 
  • Anne-Marij Berendsen, president, Gazelle Cycle Imports
  • Karen Brooks, editor, Bicycle Times magazine  
  • Deanne Buck, Executive Director, Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition 
  • Nicole Freedman, director, Boston Bikes
  • Mia Kohout, publisher, Momentum magazine
  • Jacquie Phelan, trailblazing mountain bike champion, Bicycle Hall of Fame  
  • Nicole Preston, National Campaign Director, American Diabetes Association
  • Leah Shahum, executive director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition 
  • Sarai Snyder, founder, Cyclofemme  
  • Elysa Walk, General Manager, Giant Bicycles USA  
Both women and men are encouraged to attend the National Women's Bicycling Forum and the event is intended and geared toward bicyclists of all ages, abilities and advocacy involvement.

Media is invited to cover the event. Contact carolyn@bikeleague.org for press credentials or to connect this national event to women's cycling initiatives, leaders or businesses in your community.

Learn more about the Forum and the Women Bike campaign atbikeleague.org/womenbike and stay up-to-date by following @womenbike and #womenbike on Twitter.

About the League 
The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America's 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. Learn more.

About Women Bike
Women Bike will the first national advocacy campaign to empower more women to bicycle and become engaged in the diverse leadership opportunities of the bicycle movement -- as advocates, engineers, retailers, manufacturers and policy makers -- through networking, knowledge sharing, resources and inspiration. Learn more.


Dr Strangefold, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Multimodal Commute

For my birthday, a decennial one, at my behest/pleading, the Official Wife very generously purchased me a Brompton folding bicycle, which I love. If it were red, I would call it my Bromptomato, but the bike is arctic blue and that color doesn't readily lend itself to fruit/vegetable portmanteau names and if the name of your bike isn't a fruit/vegetable portmanteau, what's the point of naming your bike at all? In any case, I ride this bike to work a fair amount and only rarely do I take full advantage of its foldability (or fold ability?) and bring the bike on the Metro. You see, I'm one of those bike commuters who actually likes to ride to work, but, this morning, confronted with a cold wind and a cold cold (it lingers, in spite of my best efforts and copious leechings), I decided that I would split my commute, sandwiching a Metro trip between two delicious slices of bike riding (kind of like grainy liverwurst on a buttery brioche). So, here are some things about that:

Destination Station- My workplace is nearest the red line and my home is nearest the Blue/Orange line. However, there's a red line station not too far away (maybe 2 miles) and I prefer to avoid transfers at all cost (like Arsenal). I find them to be an immense hassle for two reasons: 1) I don't ride the train enough to know the interior station layout, which escalators to use and which line goes in what direction. I frequently end up twirling about in MetroCenter before finding myself collapsed in a fetal position on the brown tile floor, rocking myself and whispering "Shady Grove or Glenmont?" over and over made catatonic by my inability to consistently recall which end station is the one I should aiming for, and 2) There is no length of time that feels longer than the amount of time that elapses after barely missing a train and waiting for the next one. If it's a 5 minute wait, it feel like an hour. If it's 10, I might as well be in the Chateau D'If. Furthermore, the added complication of carrying a folding bicycle makes it such that you really not want to be running to catch a train. It is highly likely that you will injure someone and even likelier that that someone will be yourself. Also because avoiding transfers can be the entire pretense (justification?) of the bike ride itself.

Some pretty obvious tips that I'll mention anyway:

  • Fold your bike out of the way of crowds of people. Don't be that guy who rides as close as possible to the escalator before dismounting. Doing that will ensure that you are history's greatest monster and you'll assuredly be burned in effigy for generations to come.
  • Don't try to walk down the escalator with your bike. You will probably hurt someone (yourself). And even if you don't hurt someone, the escalators really aren't wide enough, in my experience, to accommodate carrying a bike safely past other people. I like to stand of the escalator (ON THE RIGHT, lest one of regular straphangers shanks you) with the bike on the step in front of me. 
  • Have your fare ready before you even enter the station. Again, this seems really obvious. Even for when you're not bringing your bike. It's just good sense. 

  • Never ride your bike within the confines of the station. The Metro station is not a velodrome. It is not a hippodrome. It is not a palindrome. Your bike should remain folded for the duration of the trip, even if some tourists ask you to unfold it because "thereare no bikes like that where we're from." Politely demure and refer them to YouTube for a folding demonstration or for dramatic hamsters.  
  • Go to a less crowded part of the platform. If you can. I try to get to the front of the train because, for the most part, those cars are less crowded and have more room to fit you and your bike. When I get in the car, I immediately yell "I'VE GOT A SWEET FOLDING BIKE AND YOU'RE ALL GONNA NEED TO MAKE ROOM FOR IT, BITCHES" and this is highly effective (at getting you punched in face). What I prefer to do is try to get to one of the ends of the train car and look for room for the bike against one the doors. Doing so, puts your bike out of the path of most people and that's really what I'm trying to accomplish: to be as unobtrusive and un-inconveniencing as possible. 
  • Never put your bike on a seat. You can try to fit your bike on the floor in front of your seat, but in my experience, there isn't really enough room for your bike and your feet. You have the option of self-amputation, but you could instead, place your bike in the aisle, as close to you as possible. If no seats are available, stand with your folding bike placed between your two feet, rather than next to you.  Always keep physical contact with your bike. This promotes a healthy bond between you and your bike and might also transfer useful antibodies and nutrients. Also, it wards off thieves and pickpockets and urchins because essentially, the Metro is an underground, rolling production of Oliver Twist

Bringing your folding bike on the Metro is really like being a guest at a party. Sure, it's a lame party and you had to pay a cover to get in and instead of Bugles, there's sad-faced, dead-behind-the-eyes federal employees, but you're still a guest and you need to focus on being polite. Simply put, the Metro is not the world of bikes (the outside world is the world of bikes) and you should try to take up as little room with your bike as possible. Because this is the polite thing to do. And also because it will allow you to practice crouching, which is a valuable ninja skill. You don't actually need to crouch, but focusing on taking up only the space you and your bike absolutely need should be paramount. Furthermore, try not to let your bike dirty anyone. Chain grease is the occupational hazard of bike commuters, but not something that train passengers should be expecting. Oh, and apologize if you accidentally hit someone with your bike. Come up with a funny excuse like "My bike hates you" and tilt your head back and laugh maniacally. Or be sincere because that's much better.

Splitting your commute, riding some on the rails and some on the roads, can be a great idea for times when you're sick, tired or when the weather is less than ideal or if you're trip is too far/hilly/strewn with bear traps to complete in the time you have allotted. While it's completely permitted to bring your folding bike on Metro (even during rush hour), it's still best to remember this is a significant privilege not to be taken for granted. Following the obvious suggestions above that you most likely already do anyway can ensure your multimodal commute is successful for you and everyone else, but mostly you.


What Does the Sustainability Plan Say About Bikes?

Mayor Vincent " Mayor Vince Gray" Gray has, today, revealed his sustainability plan (it's a pretty ambitious document) and some of it directly references bicycling and much of it, if implemented, would indirectly impact bicycling. Here are the key excerpts (page 83-84):
Goal 2: Expand provision of safe, secure infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.
Target: By 2032, increase biking and walking to 25% of all commuter trips.  
My take: Seems like a good idea. Not sure if the 25% number is meant to refer to solely DC residents or whether we'd like commuters from the States to likewise take up bicycling and walking. If it's the latter, I'm not sure how that's supposed to work. Perhaps we spend some loot procuring a bunch of these and stationing them at the borders.
Action 2.1: Develop a citywide, 100 mile bicycle lane network. (Medium Term)
The District currently has 4 miles of protected bicycle lanes, 56 miles of bicycle lanes, and another 55 miles of separated multiuse trails. Still, not everyone has easy or convenient access to this infrastructure and there are many more people who would like to bike as long as there are safe routes to and from their homes and destinations. Improving dedicated bicycle access around the city will encourage more people to travel by bicycle. The District will expand the existing bicycle lane network to include 100 miles of connected lanes. These new bicycle routes will be prioritized in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River where bicycle infrastructure is currently insufficient. 
My take: I don't know how accurate those numbers are, but I'll take them as about right. It's really only an expansion of 40 more miles. I think the key word in this goal is "connected" in reference to the 100 miles of lanes. DC needs a bicycle network and not just more lanes. Also, if you want to hit 25% modeshare, the old "let's paint a white stripe and call it a bike lane" trick isn't going to be sufficient. DC needs to prioritize protected cycletracks and that's going to require a whole lot more space and a whole lot more political capital. Maybe we could redeploy the car crushing monsters from the borders to strike fear in the hearts of car-loving NIMBYs. Just throwing that out there. I mean, if we're going to invest in them, we might as well get maximum utility. With regard to the EOTR bike infrastructure expansion, it's a laudable goal and one that emphasizes transportation justice. Along with the streets, don't forget the bridges! 11th Street is vastly better now, but the other bridges are a mess and could stand for significant improvement for better bicyclist and pedestrian connectivity.
Action 2.2: Expand the Capital Bikeshare program by 200 stations. (Medium Term)
The Capital Bikeshare program has been extremely popular since it began and has grown to nearly two million riders in just two years. To maintain this momentum, the District will expand Capital Bikeshare by an additional 200 stations in the city with a specific objective of incorporating neighborhoods further from downtown into the program. In the future, Bikeshare will be a viable travel option both within and between all wards. These additional Bikeshare locations will be coordinated with District and regional transit services to support ease of transfer from one mode of travel to another. In particular, new Bikeshare stations will be prioritized near new Streetcar and Circulator bus stops.
My take: 200 sounds like a lot, I guess. I mean, that'd be more than double what we have now. I'm not a Bikeshare data boffin (I know you're out there!) so I won't try to get all technical about the utility of expanding the systems to neighborhoods versus expanding it in the core or whether the commuting pattern in DC makes it such that the system will always be imbalanced or even whether Bikeshare expansion is useful towards the overall goal of increasing bicycling modeshare. You all have much more knowledge (and stronger opinions) about this than I do. Putting Bikeshare stations near streetcar and bus stops seems like a good idea. Also, Metro stops.
Action 2.3: Partner with community organizations to deliver bike and pedestrian safety education. (Short Term) The District already benefits from initiatives such as the DC Bike Ambassadors who attend community events across DC to encourage more people to bike for fun, fitness, and transportation. Bike Ambassadors educate residents about bicycle commuting and distribute bicycle maps. They also collaborate with drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians to promote the safe use of roads, sidewalks, and trails. To improve public safety, the District will expand the coverage of bicycle and pedestrian safety education to ensure that more drivers, community groups, and public transit operators are aware of pedestrian and bicycle safety measures. Every road user—including bus, car, and taxi drivers—has an influence on the safety of non-motorized travelers. The District plays an important part in ensuring that everyone understands their role in creating a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists. 
My take:  Seems sensible. But there's only so much that yelling "Don't hit people with your car who are walking or on bikes" can probably accomplish, but maybe we can employ some grandmas who are really good at guilt-tripping people and in that way, it'd be like a senior jobs program too. Ultimately, I'm unpersuaded by the idea that people drive recklessly around bicyclists and pedestrians because they simply haven't been told not to enough times. But hey, whatever. Yelling isn't very expensive.
Action 2.4: Collect data to improve understanding of cyclist and pedestrian travel patterns. (Short Term) One of the biggest challenges in planning for bicycle and pedestrian access, infrastructure, and safety is the availability of biking and walking travel patterns throughout the District. Without this valuable information to form a baseline or predict future changes, it is difficult to plan for future users, allocate funding, or design and build new infrastructure. Currently, there is a lack of robust, high quality data on bicycle and pedestrian travel patterns in DC.The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will take the lead on improving data collection and analysis about cyclist and pedestrian travel in DC. This data will be reviewed on an annual or biannual basis and used to prioritize investments in future infrastructure design for cyclists and pedestrians.
My take: I'd like to submit the past two years of blogging my rides in DC as evidence. Maybe this can also finally be a good use for Strava. Just have DDOT follow everyone who rides or walks through the city and they'll know soon enough where everyone is going. Generally, I'm of the belief that have more data is better than having less data when it comes to prioritizing bike infrastructure and also in Star Trek TNG episodes.
Action 2.5: Program crosswalks and traffic lights for improved safety and convenience of pedestrians and cyclists. (Medium Term)
Crosswalks and traffic lights can be risky places for pedestrians and cyclists. Some of our crosswalks do not provide walkers with enough time to cross the road safely, especially those with reduced mobility such as seniors or people with disabilities. DDOT will complete a full review of  crosswalk timings to ensure that all of our pedestrian facilities are programmed for the safety of all potential users. For cyclists, traffic light cycles will be analyzed along major avenues in the central city and business districts to ensure safe and convenient travel for both cyclists and vehicle traffic. In some cases along major routes, traffic lights may be able to be adjusted so that cyclists and vehicles can both travel unimpeded through green lights on their way through the city. Phasing of lights may be adjusted for different times of day for consistent traffic flow.
My take: Yes! It'd be great if traffic lights reflected more than the needs of drivers. It was also be great if we changed the red/yellow/green to colors that are a bit more modern, fashion-forward and runway inspired for a more haute couture experience. If I ever caught a "green wave" while riding through the city, I'd smile for the rest of the day. However, you can't just fiddle with the lights without thinking about the design of the bike infrastructure itself (e.g 15th Street). But it's nice that they're thinking about this.

So, that's the story about bicycling in the transportation section of the Sustainability Plan. Obviously, this is the first of many, many documents we'll see from this plan (to say nothing of what we'll see from WeMoveDC) so there's a long way to go. In the mean time, I'm just hoping for consistent and steady progress on the projects already underway (M Street Cycle Track, finally finishing the Met Branch Trail, spring 2013 50 station Bikeshare expansion, 7th and 9th Street, etc.) and I'll worry about the big stuff when it's time.


Ride In 2/19 & Ride Home 2/19: In Search of a New Gimmick

I'm back. I went away for awhile (though not really), thinking that maybe I'd find some other, better stuff to do with my leisure time than write about my bike commute. I did not find that thing because, simply put, there is nothing better to do with one's leisure time than write about one's bike commute. Except maybe more bike riding. Or maybe panning for gold. Because you could use that gold (I'm sure you'd find it) to buy a cool bike and then you could ride that bike to work (you probably wouldn't find enough gold to quit your job) and then write about it on your fancy new computer (assuming there's enough gold left over and gold prices remain favorable) and in your spare time, when you wanted to take a sabbatical from the bike commuter blog that you write on the fancy computer about your rides on the cool new bike bike, you could set up an alternate blog about gold panning if you had the yen to continue to write and not continue to pan. Conversely, you could pan bike blogs, irrespective of whether they're written on fancy computers or about rides on cool new bikes, or you could bike to a pan shop (a panaderia?), which might be an errondonnee category. Very few shops exclusively sells pans (the market has gone to pot) and I imagine even fewer shops sell pans for gold panning, earning them a panning in online reviews and such. Goldpanner would be one the less intimidating James Bond villains. "I've caught you, Mr. Bond, but I'm going to turn my back for a moment and wade into this icy creek now- ACK! [he learned villainy from Cathy apparently] You've shot me. Now I'll never be able launch my world-dominating evil plan to make an insignificant sum from this marginal amount of water-harvested precious metal. Je suis mort." To the best of my knowledge, besting James Bond is not an errandonnee category. Though there really are a lot of rules and I'm not sure I've made it the whole way through. I guess it could be a wild card. A wild card at the CASINO ROYALE [now the camera pans (!) back to reveal this paragraph framed within the view from the inside the barrel of a gun, we hear the shot and the theme music and then the movie begins: James Bond in Sharrows are Forever/License to Bike Commute/GoldenPan/From #bikeDC with Love]

This was an awfully (emphasis on awfully) long run-up with nothing in particular to follow. I still haven't really figured out a new conceit (emphasis on conceit) and while I could tell you about my routes and the happenings of both rides with the usual level of mind-numbing detail, I oughtn't. Maybe tomorrow. I did see a guy today fail to unclip from his pedal while waiting at a red light and I watched him lose his balance, begin to tip over, continue to tip over and finally end up on the group, "trapped" underneath the non-drive side of his bike. This was at the very peopled intersection of 15th and Eye, NW. I have previously been the guy who has fallen, but I've never seen it happen. I've been pretty shit-eating about my falls (because, honestly, whatever, right?) and this guy was pretty cool with his own comedownance (neologism!)- "new cleat!" he said, all smiles, after he got back up, unfazed- and I encourage others who have had (or someday might have) this misfortune befall (!) them to adopt the same attitude. But the thing I didn't know from never seeing it happen before is how fucking hilarious it is to see someone slowly tip over and fall down. Honestly, bike commuters are like the clowns of the streetscape. We can bring so much joy. Let us bring joy. Let everyone else be serious and self-serious. They can have it. We have bikes and slow-motion falling down and that's so much better.


The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail doesn't need a bike ban

I wrote something for Greater Greater Washington, which is one of the greater greater local blogs, about the needless and silly bicycle (and roller blade!) ban along certain sections of the allegedly multi-modal Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Many thanks to the editors of that site for allowing my contribution. They do great work and if you aren't regularly reading it, you should. Also, big ups to the Official Wife who greatly assisted me in writing and editing.

You'll notice, if you read the piece, that I played it pretty straight, avoiding my usual digressions into ALL CAPS, medieval Hungary references (in medieval Hungary, they didn't have a bike ban, they had a Bánk bán), and pictures of sad-faced poodles with captions like "Why does the Navy hate us?" It was an interesting experience and one that I found both difficult and challenging, which are more or less synonymous. But I think it was a worthwhile enterprise (like the air craft carrier?) and with some luck, maybe we'll see some change. Because, and I'm not sure I emphasized this enough, this ban is really, really dumb. It's like using a [big Navy ship] when a [littler Navy ship] would easily easily resolve the concerns about pedestrian safety. We all want safe spaces to walk and enjoy and play and we're all annoyed by jerks (bike jerks, roller jerks, walking jerks, pogo jerks, soda jerks) who choose to act in ways that prevent that. But a ban is a disproportionate response to that concern. Having the trail closed along this stretch, one of the nicer and more enjoyable parts west of the river, would be like shutting down the Beltway between Silver Spring and Bethesda from a genuine concern that some asshole is going to tailgate. We wouldn't do it for cars, so why do it for bikes? There are better solutions and we should try to find them.

But maybe more than the disproportionality of the response (ban for the whole thing because there are some choke points that *might* potentially cause issues), I think that thing that really rankles me about this is the misperception of who cycles in DC and who would use this trail. Sure, maybe the [space-age fabric-donning + disgraced Tour de France champion + Spice Girls song] would show up, as they do on almost all trails, but so would a lot of other people. Maybe it'd be a family biking from Hill East to a baseball game. It could be a woman who lives in Kingman Park who wants to get some exercise in nature. It could be me, desperate for page hits and trying something new. There are more types of bicyclists in heaven and earth, Horatio (Hornblower?), than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Making decisions based on outmoded, jaded stereotypes doesn't help anyone. And, frankly, it's more likely to hinder the people you're trying to help- the ones who would derive real use and enjoyment of the facilities, but happen to want to do so on bikes- than hurt those you're trying to ban- who will most likely just ride through anyway (because, as not stated in the piece, there's very little enforcement of these rules). 

So, that's my foray into semi-serious bicycle advocacy. I might drop back in to GGW from time to time (if they'll have me) if I can think of anything else semi-serious worth writing. Thank you all for reading the post and for your supportive comments. I promise to never ban you from my well-wishes. 


To not err...

My friend Mary, she of the world's best bicycle commuter blog, has once again posed a contest for cyclists to keep them riding and inspired in the winter months. The challenge is dubbed the "errandondee:" a portmanteau combining the English word "errand" meaning laborious chore and the French word "randonee" meaning glorious and far-too-long bicycle ride. Details on the contest may be found here. If you've been looking for an excuse to take to your bicycle for practical purposes in the cold weather, I can think of none better than this. And if you like categories and rules and restrictions and footnotes and the submission of sworn affidavits verifying that you did, in fact, get to the dry cleaners before it closed, well, this thing will be right up your alley. And there's prizes! Or at least, a prize. Previous contests arranged by Mary have had prizes such as: really cool pins and patches, gold doubloons,  Jay Z concert tickets, and all-inclusive vacation packages to premier Alpine spa destinations, except maybe not the things other than the pins and patches. But, amazing prizes aside, this is a great opportunity to get out there on your bike this winter and I heartily encourage you to do so. Allez errandonee-ers!


The End of Confusion

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For the Examiner, in a piece titled "Cars, Trucks Block L Street's New Bike Lane Frequently," Liz Essley writes:

D.C.'s newest major bike lane on L Street NW is causing confusion for drivers and frustration for bikers, as truckers and commuters park in the lanes because they don't know they're not supposed to, or they don't care.

So, which one is it: do drivers simply not know or do drivers just not care? I have some reasons to think it's the latter.

By my count, there are 75 (!) signs that read No Standing or Parking Anytime between the start of the protected cycle track at 22nd Street, NW and its end at 12th Street NW, a distance of a little more than a mile (1.1 miles per Google Maps walking directions). That works out to an average of about one No Standing or Parking Anytime Sign for every 78 feet of the cycle track. While the signs are not evenly spaced, multiple signs are present on each block. You can see photos of each one of them here.

With this in mind, I think it is fair to say that regardless of who's blocking the L Street bike lane today, it's not because of confusion. You can dispute whether the cycle track is an unwise or unjust misallocation of roadway to a small minority of users (I happen to disagree, as do Mayor Gray, DDOT and the Downtown DC Business Improvement District), but there is no disputing that it is abundantly clear that those who park in the cycle track are doing so fully aware that it is prohibited.

Let's stop with the CONFUSION and call it out for what it really is: apathy.


No Rides 2/4

Took the day off of work. Should be back at it tomorrow. Work, that is. And the biking there.

I've been thinking for some time now about a format change for the blog. As much as I enjoy writing about the picayune details of my daily commutes to and fro, I'm beginning to wonder if there's anything there anymore. I mean, there are lots of things literally there- I notice them daily and they are remarkably consistent in their continued existence. Even the change remains the same. But, I've mined that vein for two years now and I'm wondering how much frisson/coal remains. It's gotten comfortable (unlike a coal mine, so I've read from DH Lawrence and such) and like a coal miner after yet another long shift, I think I need to stretch (and bathe).

Accordingly, I've been considering a sabbatical to give myself some time to ponder where I want to take thing (industrial England?) and how I plan to take you all with me (pedicab?) or lose you in a way that allows us to still be friends. Preferably, I don't want to go away for summer vacation and make new friends and have things be awkward when we come back for junior year, like in the setup to any movie about high school kids ever. So, if the posts become less frequent or start taking different formats or if there are fewer or more pictures of poodles (assume more), just know that I'm trying new things to see if anything sticks and consistently amuses me. As always, I welcome your feedback. The blog will still, most likely, be bikey and very DC focused, but beyond that, I'm not exactly sure where it'll end up. Maybe it'll end up, by noon tomorrow, being the same thing as it's been because I'll forget that I wrote this. That'd be hilarious.

Ride Home 2/1: New Bay

Before leaving work, I put more air in my tires, using the frame pumped that's stored on the Brompton. It was a good idea and it translated immediately into a much faster and easier ride. However, when riding on Massachusetts, I could tell that my bike was stuck in the lower gear and didn't elect to shift into the higher one in spite of my attempts to have it do so. Two gears and I still can't it right. Eventually, I managed it sort it out (mainly through shifting and shifting back again and again, until the derailleur worked. When it comes to bike mechanics, I have two moves: trying the same approach repeatedly and bringing my bike into the shop for professional assistance. These two approaches aren't mutually exclusive and I normally find that taking the first step almost always guarantees my taking the second) and the bike switched into the sterner gear and I was able to bring it up a speed more in keeping with the car traffic around me, which I found to be safer and more comfortable. It's more the speed disparity than the speed itself that discomfits me.

Seamless.com is a service that allows the online ordering of food and the good folks at seamless.com have purchased some bus ads and at least one of these ads makes no sense to me. It reads "The last good phone call was Watergate" or something to that effect. I don't get it. It's cool that you're in Washington and trying to be "political," but this makes no sense to me.

The L Street Cycle Track flexposts were removed to make way for snow plows, that the lane might be plowed were snow to arrive. Snow didn't arrive, but parked cars did.

It's almost like they're trying to park on the painted bicycle person.
I've always suspected that the end-of-block posts were temporary and that a certain point, a critical mass (er...) of cyclists would use the lane that driving or parking it in would be unthinkable, but 1) I don't think we're at that point yet and 2) I'm less convinced that that point is ever achievable. Simply too much CONFUSION APATHY. Though, on the other hand, there were never any end-of-block flex posts on 15th and there's very few instances of parked cars there, so maybe I'm just being overly cynical. But on 15th, unlike L, there's parking bordering the cycle track, so that's a rather big difference. In conclusion, put the posts back, ok?

I've taken to wearing a wool winter hat lately. It's not bikey, but it works.

On Pennsylvania, between 7th and 6th, the driver of a black town car, drifted towards the cycle track and then rode into the cycle track and then made a u-turn through the cycle track, all while I watched. And then, fortuitously, approaching in the other direction was a mountain bike-mounted police officer, perhaps patrolling for these very infractions. As I rode past, I said "hey, you wanna give a ticket to that guy?" and he was like "whar?" and I was like "just made a u-turn through the bike lane" and he was like "on it" and the "on it" was very much weighted heavily with the subtext of "you can leave now" (and rightfully- I imagine that police don't really want to have to deal with gawkers and onlookers and busybodies, especially during a traffic stop, which even when routine, has the potential to be fraught) and I started to leave, but not before turning back and taking this picture:

I don't know if a ticket was issued, but I'm glad the officer at least took the time to pursue it. However, much the L Street, this is one of those situations where I'd rather have plastic flexposts prevent the "crime" rather than paid professionals have to deal with it afterwards. But, you know, fine arts and such.

From 3rd NW, up Capitol Hill, to 7th NE, I rode with Dave K on his way home from the office in Arlington. We spoke of many things- riding in normal people clothes, the importance of having a reversible belt at the office, building and rebuilding bikes- and it's always nice to ride along with someone you know, especially on a Friday and especially on a ride home. Bike commuting is a solitary pursuit best shared with others.


Ride Home 1/31 & Ride In 2/1: Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things

Last night I was riding in the L Street Cycle Track. Car traffic to my right was stopped, as sometimes happens because cars are a remarkably inefficient way of traveling downtown. I had the cycle track to myself and was moving along just fine, but as I approached the intersection of L of 19th and moved into the green painted section of the cycle track (to the right of the turning cars), I noticed that a gaggle of pedestrians were planning to take advantage of the stopped car traffic to blithely cross the street against the suggestion/mandate of the traffic light. In short, they were jaywalking and they were about to jaywalking right into me. I yelled "stop" in an exasperated and annoyed tone, as I was both exasperated and annoyed ( I'm the Man of 1,000 Facial Expressions that Express Exasperation With the World Around Me, thanks to bike commuting) and I stopped my bike, miffed. I made eye contact with at least two of the people crossing the street and then I glanced up at the traffic light, which still showed I had the green. Their eyes followed mine. Then the light turned yellow and they kept walking. Then a beat. Then one of the women, a woman who I'm sure is probably a nice person, said "I'm sorry." Then a beat. Then she continued, and this was her mistake, "...I'm glad you're not on the sidewalk because I yell at people who ride on the sidewalk." To which I replied, "No, I'm where I'm supposed to be, trying not to hit you." Listen, I get it. We all make selfish decisions in traffic sometimes and that can put other people out. But just apologize and don't throw in some non-sequitur about cyclists on sidewalks! Oh, I see- bikers are bad and somehow because bikers are bad sometimes that excuses her being bad and somehow makes my being upset unreasonable. Don't make excuses. Just apologize.

Sometimes I think the greater danger of the L Street Cycle Track comes from pedestrians than from drivers. Not because they're distracted and not paying attention, but simply because of self-interest and advancing that self-interest at the expense of others. CONFUSION and DISTRACTION make for great excuses, but sometimes it's just APATHY. Let's stop conflating these things.

Later in the ride, I kicked a cone. It was a traffic cone and it was placed in the bike lane in front of the Folger Shakespeare Library. I unclipped my right foot from the pedal, swung and it back like a polo mallet and struck the cone, laces down, about midway up, sending it cascading toward the curb. I learned later than night that Dave had also kicked that cone, maybe only a few minutes before I did. Next time, I might just take the cone, like a pirate's plunder. Don't put cones in the bike lane. Unless they are ice cream cones. Then, soft serve please.

My bike has a mechanical issue (SPOILER ALERT) that I am incapable of fixing and it's that one of the brake hoods has become loose and has drifted down the handlebar, so it points downward rather than remaining level with the top of the bar. It reminds me of a stag with uneven antlers. On account of that, I rode the Brompton today. I rode lethargically. I felt like it took me 2 hours to get from home to Swings. I was dispirited by the wind and then further dispirited by how slowly I was progressing and then even further dispirited by how dispirited I was from those other things. It was like a vicious cyclone of dispiritedness. I could have used some of the air from that vicious cyclone to fill my tires, which seemed low and might have contributed to the lethargy.

After coffee, I rode up 17th Street to Farragut North, where I folded, both the bike and the bike trip, and decided to take the Metro to work. The Metro platform was quite crowded, but the train itself was fine and I was able to grab a seat and watch the world go by. The world that went by was very dark. The world inside was very orange.

At Tenley, I recommenced the ride, taking Wisconsin to Nebraska and then rounded Ward Circle partially and then I arrived at work and have been here since, except for taking Bikeshare down to Glover Park for lunch. I forgot my gloves during that ride and my fingers have only recently forgiven me.