Prison Memoirs

"Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is... maybe he didn't."- Eli Cash

I worked from home today, which a thing that I'm sometimes, but not frequently, able to do. I have a pretty standard work schedule and a pretty regular commute, meaning I ride into work on the five weekdays and at pretty on the "get in by 9, leave after 5" kind of schedule. How very gray flannel suit of me. Anyway, I realize that my situation, and perhaps increasingly so, is not really the standard one for many area bike commuters, who either work from home and have to carve out rides at different times of the day or work on a shift schedule or work on weekends or work overnight or work from various locations in non-traditional office settings. As one might learn from an elementary school play, we're not all the same.

Sometimes when I leave work early or go in late or have a day off and find myself riding at different times from my normal rush hour, I feel like I'm confronted with a totally different terrain and a completely different cast of characters. Cars are parked where they're not "normally" parked. Pedestrians aren't where they "normally" are. Pogoists clog the streets, springing from "out of nowhere" and making you question why they're not mandated to carry licenses and insurance. The speed of traffic flow is faster or slower. Those you ride along with are more louche or more serious or more self-serious or less attentive or more vigilant or more soccer mom or less bus driver. The whole thing is like watching the actors from Mad Men performing an episode of How I Met Your Mother on the set of Battlestar Galactica. ["Have you met cylon Don Draper?"] You recognize the constituent parts, but the total experience is dissonant. Bike commuting isn't an act without context and often it's the context that shapes the experience more than the act itself.

So, allow me to solicit your feedback. How is your ride shaped by when you do it (and with whom your "sharing the road")? Do you think that grass would be greener if your commute was your commute but at a different time and with a different set of fellow travelers? Additionally, do you think that grass would be greener if you stopped riding your bike over it and listened to various lawn care professionals and watered it every so often and maybe used a turfbuilder for once? Or, thanks to circumstances, do you think that you're met with unparalleled favorable conditions that you would never trade, no matter what? Not even for a million cheeseburgers [or cheeseburger equivalents for those of who don't denominate in cheeseburgers]?


  1. I bike from Tenleytown to Franklin Square around 7:30am and conditions are super different depending on whether I leave early or late, even 5 minutes on either side. If I can get there before 7:30, there are few enough cars to ride safely on Connecticut Ave between Cathedral and Calvert. After that, it gets too congested and ornery so I take 29th to Calvert. In general though, you really get rewarded for heading out earlyish. Commuting back at 4pm is the added bonus.

  2. I'll respond by quoting one of my recent Facebook status updates:

    "Ahhhh, bicycle commuting in Austin, TX: playing leap frog with the #1 bus, keeping pace with the poor saps stuck on MoPac, and the comedy styling of the frenetic cagers in a big hurry. "

    Due to the continuing drought conditions our grass is a little brown. Some of our bike lanes are starting to turn green. We have lots of sprinkles and toppings due to the great ice-storm freak out of 2014. Our water department patches utility work like a group of 5 year olds with plastic shovels and pails. And the drivers...oh the drivers...100 to 150 new ones each day thanks to hitting the top of the Forbes fastest growing cities list yet again.

  3. A day doesn't go by that I don't think what an awesome commute I have on the Mount Vernon Trail. I love the mornings with the sunrises over the Potomac. My regulars like the Hoppy Guy and the Trash Walker let me know if I am on schedule. The occasional surprise wave from Reba or Nancy Duley adds variety.
    At 7 am the drivers in Old Town and I communicate telepathically. Just a glance and I know I can go through the stop sign. Any other time of day, the parking space hunters will kill me for doing that.
    Of course Rosslyn sucks any time of day but you can't have everything.

  4. Mainly warmth (more sun = better). Also, TurfBuilder (TM) isn't good for the local watershed- but then again, neither are lawns. Now gimme that cheeseburger & get off mine...

  5. If I leave my house between 8:30 and 9:30 am and return home between 5:00 and 6:00 pm, I know the exact light cycles and exactly when I need to hurry or coast. On the occasions I travel outside of those windows, I am thrown for a loop by weirdly timed lights and my commute takes 20ish% longer, which is a nuisance. It does give me a nice excuse for a relaxing ride home, though - if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? It's not very tempting to coast through a red light when it's red light stacked on red light stacked on red light. Red lights all the way down!

  6. I sometimes have to work on weekends, and there is a marked difference between commuting then and commuting during the week, even on a bicycle. I don't deal with much car traffic to begin with, but when I do, it's much lighter on the weekends. There are also fewer bicyclists, but my route is not (yet) congested with bike traffic. Maybe I'll notice more when the weather finally stays warmer.