Surly Ogre

This is not a bike review. Even if it were, it wouldn't be. I don't really know enough about the technical aspects or aesthetics of bikes to properly review them or compare them or even put them in some kind of context. There are probably lots of people on the internet who do and I bet they are capable of mustering some very strong opinions to accompany their very deep knowledge of these things. If you'd like to read stuff like that, I'm certain that you could easily find them. But I digress.

WHEN I think about bikes, like all people, I think first and foremost of Emily Dickinson. [Ed. note: insert bad pun about the Belle of Amherst.] Obviously. [Ed. note: insert reference to the fact that you can recite ED's poems to the theme from Gilligan's Island. Research whether the Professor taught at a small Massachusetts liberal arts college.] And lest we get too morbid about bikes and Dickinson, this isn't some reference about stopping for Death or death stopping for me- the Ogre has disc brakes and stops just fine. Even in the rain. No, the reason Dickinson comes to mind is the following:
The Heart wants what it wants - or else it does not care -
I didn't intend to buy a Surly Ogre. It's really quite a brash bicycle and in general, I'm not especially drawn to brashness. I like things to be muted, to be understated, to be 'classic.' I don't like wearing shirts with logos on them, even if they're tiny specks on the breast pocket. I like dark colors. I dye my hair a boring-er shade of brown than it naturally is because I just plain don't want to stand out. I'm inclined toward the humdrum. Have nice things, but nothing too flashy. The Ogre is flashy. The Ogre is what happens if you went to 3D print a bike and left the printer's setting on "exaggerated." It has giant tires. It is beefy. It is beefier than a paleo Bolognese sauce served over a steak on top of a pile of hamburgers. The Ogre suggests that it could be ridden over things and into things and through things. It looks like the kind of bike you'd want to have in case of a zombie apocalypse. Maybe you'd use to ride away from the zombies or maybe you'd grab a chainsaw and use it to ride headlong into them. It's the kind of bike that makes you think writing "grab a chainsaw and use it to ride headlong into them" seems like a prudent response to a hypothetical zombie apocalypse scenario.

I didn't intend to buy a Surly Ogre. I saw it in the shop one day and took it for a test ride on a lark. A lark! It was solid and responsive and I brought it back and told them how much fun it was to ride. And then a few weeks later, I found myself taking it out again. This winter was a tough winter. The spring has seen the birth of many new potholes and I think that maybe the part of my brain the normally eschews over-the-top bicycle purchases was jarred and jostled after riding into one too many of them. Maybe that part of my brain came loose and said to the other parts of my brain "Listen fellas, we gotta do something about this. If we can't convince him to just take the bus to work, maybe we can at least get a less bumpy ride." And then maybe all of those brain parts worked in concert to draw me back to the Ogre and convince me that the things I would normally find to be comic and unnecessary were actually sublime and needed. Or maybe I went to a hypnotist, like in Office Space. I don't know exactly what happened, but I do know that I was determined to have the Ogre and- after much hemming and hawing between the jostled brain parts and the unjostled ones- circumstances conspired to allow me to purchase the bike and so I did.

I plan to use this bike primarily for commuting in an urban environment. It is unlikely that I will find myself riding it in the middle of the taiga or the desert or bush or anywhere extreme and desolate and unpeopled and demanding. I will be riding it mostly on city streets. Maybe on a mixed-use path. I'll take it uphill everyday (FUN FACT: it's not a super agile climber, but neither am I) and I'll load it up with groceries during the trip home. It will more the suit the task and has thus far. In no particular order, here are some things I really like about this bike:

- Disc brakes means that I can stop, especially in bad weather. As a year-round bike commuter, I appreciate that.

- Big tires means it's a pretty cushy ride. Did I say cushy? I might've meant crush-y. You could probably crush things with them, though I've yet to do so.

- Rack and fender mounts mean that it can manage a rack (or two) and fenders, which are essential for any kind of commuting bike (in my opinion)

- The funky Jones bars are funky.

- That it's a Surly and that I think that means something. I guess I've developed some brand loyalty after riding the CrossCheck for a few years. They're probably not the "best" bikes in the world, but I think that they hit the cross-section of functionality, attractiveness, customizability, and price pretty much right.

The heart wants it wants. Is this bike somewhat superfluous? Sure. Do I think it's essential that urban bike commuters take a maximalist approach and only ride to work on giant-ass, off-roady monster bikes? Not at all. It's actually a pretty silly thing to do and there are many more bikes that are much more suitable to do the kinds of things the vast majority of bike commuters, including me, would ever want to do. Will this bike inspire me to off-road adventures? Maybe! (read: maybe not. Unless off-road adventures are redefined to mean riding through the grassy median into the Safeway parking lot instead of on the driveway) But in the mean time, it's a damn fun bike and if I believe in anything, it's that you have to make your own fun. You should also make your own salad dressing. It's much cheaper. Especially vinaigrettes. Some pictures (of the bike, not salad dressing) below:

Yup. It's a bike.

Still a bike from this angle.

Hey look, that bike again.

Foregound: bike. Background: different bike.

Where you sit.

That bike from those other pictures is capable of transporting some donuts


What's new with me

During the last few weeks, unfortunately, I have seen more than my fair share of bike maladies and I shall recount some of them for your reading pleasure.

- I lost a jockey wheel on my rear derailleur. I know not where it went. It self-ejected somewhere, I think, on L Street SE between New Jersey Avenue SE and 8th Street SE. Prior to this point, my bike was making some funny creaking noises and I didn't know exactly what they were or from where they came. When you lose part of the bike that helps the chain through the derailleur, it complicates (read: makes moot) any and all efforts to power the bike. I tried nevertheless. Then I walked the bike home. It was dispiriting. Of the very many strange bike maladies one can face, a situation in which a piece of your bike simply decides to part your company is a bit of a personal affront and not great for one's self-esteem. Screw you, plastic wheel. Who needs you anyway? Me? Oh. I'm unsure of how this came to pass (I'm not ruling out sabotage- though I should because that's just crazy), but it came to pass. The good folks at the Daily Rider hooked me up with new jockey wheels and also with the knowledge that I've nearly killed my rear derailleur and it's probably time for a new one. So, that's nice. I will readily admit that I have not been keeping up with adequate levels of bike maintenance (sorry!), so that's doubtless contributed to this. Though it might also just be broken down from a lot of us. I don't know.

- In light of my needing a new rear derailleur on one bike (and you can really tell because the shifting is wonky and erratic), I decided to switch to the Brompton and that Brompton three blocks from home on its maiden replacement voyage granted me the gift of a rather dramatic flat tire. It was a rear flat. The air left quickly, like the popping of a balloon. I decided that maybe I could fix the flat and so I tried and initially I thought a new tube would be all I needed and I'd be back in action soon enough. I didn't notice right away, however, that there was a rather large gash in the tire itself and that the tube was poking through. I remounted the tire and with each spin of the wheel I heard this thumping noise. Then I saw the exposed tube, kicked myself for not seeing it sooner, and set off to buy a new tire, having convinced myself there was little I could do to salvage the gashed one. I bought the wrong brand of tire. Then I returned the wrong brand of tire for the right brand of tire and then I replaced the tire and the Brompton was back in business.

- The day before bike to work day, I crashed. The small-wheeled Brompton and I found ourselves unexpectedly in a pothole and I found myself soon thereafter on the ground. I went down elbow first. I had some superficial wounds (mostly road rash) and a little bit of soreness in the right ankle, but was otherwise able to pick myself up and ride to work and then home again at the end of the day. The funny thing about crashing as a result of riding into a pothole on such a small-wheeled bicycle is how you find yourself on the ground without actually experiencing the falling. First you're up, then you're down and there's essentially no time in between. Two drivers, including a cabbie, asked if I was ok.

- I'm buying a new bike. It's a Surly Ogre. I plan to use it for commuting. I don't know if I've gone full "prepper" or what, but I'm very much looking forward to being able to take on any weather condition or pothole or terrain or anything else that dares get in between my home, where I sit on the couch and watch tv, and my workplace, where I sit in an office chair and stare at a computer screen. Theoretically, I guess I could use it for other things, things like riding to the top of a mountain on dirt roads or some kind of on-bike goat herding on rocky crags or whatever, but since most of my rides do not involve mountain dirt roads or goat herding on any kind (for now), I look forward to mainly taking on the ruddy streets of DC from SE to NW five days a week. I'll post some pictures and maybe write something up when I've got it in hand. I really debated over getting this bike, but I'm really happy that I decided to do it and I look forward to taking possession of it soon.

All in all, it's been a rough few weeks between the mechanical issues and the falling down and hurting myself. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to the change in seasons and the sundry summer riding opportunities. It's really a great time to be a bicyclist in and around DC and even with the small hurdles of your bikes breaking down and minor physical injury, the bad days are far outnumbered by the good ones.


Jonathan Swift Would Be Proud

Sunday, Sunday, Sundae? Just maybe!

Kidical Mass Arlington Presents:


The details:
When: Sunday, May 18, 2014 11:00am (roll out 11:15am)
Meet: Lacey Woods Park - at the play structure (near the restrooms on the map)
Parking: On the surrounding residential streets - I've heard Edison is a good bet.
End: Taste of Ballston -- Wilson Blvd & Glebe Road.

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4667252
Bonus stop: Bluemont Junction Park - we'll stop for a quick (5-10 minute) look at the Caboose and group picture

Note: The end is about a mile from the beginning. The best route between the two, ishere. Parking near the end in Ballston isn't the easiest, so I'd recommend parking at the start, and biking back at the end. If folks want to pick a time to meet and head back, I'll be happy to lead that mini-ride.

Bicycles, Donuts, and You

We have Bike to Work Day. We have tweed rides. We have seersucker rides. There are group rides and pacelines and nice and easy rides and kidical masses and #brewvets and #coffeeneuring and rolling bike parties where everyone dresses up in Star Wars costumes. "Boba Fett? Where?" Boba Fett everywhere . There's even a weekly Cupcake Ramble, though I think it's not always cupcakes with which they ramble. There's also bike commutes and aimless, purposeless solo jaunts and long century rides capped with shower beers. But there's only DC Donut Crawl and it's coming up soon. Sign up, ride bikes, eat donuts, be charitable.


DC Donut Crawl 10am Saturday, June 7
Join us on Saturday, June 7 (the day AFTER National Doughnut Day) as we bike through DC and enjoy some glazed goodness from a sprinkling of the District's finest doughnut shops. With each registration, participants will receive a free spoke card and a donut at each of the three participating shops. Sweet, custom-made DC Donut Crawl cycling caps are available for only $10 - make sure to grab yours!


Food For Life Logo
We're proud to be partnering with a wonderful, local non-profit called Food For Life. Part of the proceeds from this year's crawl will go toward this organization as they continue to empower low-income young adults to change their lives through culinary education and training. Click here to learn more.


The 2nd annual DC Donut Crawl will kick off at 10am from Mount Vernon Square. Our friends at BicycleSPACE will host the start of the event and provide ride marshals and volunteers. Participants are asked to bring a helmet and a working bike. If you don't have your own bike, don't fritter! See the Sponsors section below.
Golden Brown DeliciousAstro Doughnuts & Fried ChickenDistrict Doughnut
Do-nut be late, as we'll be biking in groups to each doughnut shop. The first stop on the crawl will be Golden Brown Delicious (GBD). After that, we'll hop back on our bikes and head to Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken.
Our last stop will be District Doughnut, who will host us at the incredible shared kitchen space of Union Kitchen. We'll also have food, games, prizes and a bike blender! We should be done close to 1pm and will have biked a total of about 4.5 miles (burning off the equivalent of ONE donut). Click here for a map of the course.


BicycleSPACECapital Bikeshare
BicycleSPACE will be providing prizes for contests and Capital Bikeshare has graciously provided 50 free 24-hour day passes to be used by people without bikes on the day of the event. If you don't have a bike, you can add this promo to your order on the next page.


Last year, over 250 crawlers (or crullers) joined us on our trek for torus treats! Help us make this year bigger and better - register here and RSVP on Facebookso you can share with friends!


Some Pictures of the Not-Yet-Finished M Street Cycletrack

The M Street Cycle Track, the ongoing-est #bikeDC project this side of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, is slowly marching towards completion. It's not done yet, but it's closer to done than it was last week and should be even closer to done by the end of this week. I will not make any predictions as to when it might achieve actual doneness, but maybe that will be relatively soon. Workers are working on it, or at least were as of this morning. I think before Bike to Work Day (this upcoming Friday) might be too ambitious of a goal, but maybe they'll surprise us.  I had the chance to ride it this morning and I took some pictures of some parts that are done and some parts that remain to be done.

This is from 16th Street. This part looks mostly done. The posts are much closer together than they are on L Street. There will also be a parking lane which will provide additional separation. 

This is from directly in front of Caruso Florists, hence the flowers, maybe. I am unclear as to whether this section will also be protected by parking or whether it will just be protected by flowers and plastic sticks.

This part isn't done. They're fixing up the sidewalks, so presumably when that's done, they'll do the cycletrack too. 

This is pretty much how the done part is supposed to work. One-way cycletrack, plastic sticks, and a lane for car parking. 

This part doesn't have plastic sticks yet because it's not done. That probably explains why the driver is parked next to the curb and not in the parking lane. Because it's not done yet. 

All in all, for a work in progress, I'm pretty pleased. It's not done yet, so these are just preliminary judgments, but I would say that the design is an improvement on L Street. There are, unfortunately, still mixing zones and like on both L and on 15th, there are a fair number of parking garages along the way, so there will be drivers crossing the cycletrack to enter and exit those. Nevertheless,  I think that the combination of the much closer together plastic sticks and the parking lane buffer, will make M Street one of the better pieces of bike infrastructure in DC when it's all done, which it is not yet.


Polite Bike Commuting

A totally real email from the inbox: 
Dear Sharrows,
I am a DC bike commuter and I feel a great kinship to other bike commuters. Certainly, they feel great solidarity with me because, after all, we're all on bikes and that must mean that we're all awesome people. Anyway, I'm writing to get some support in my firmly held belief that it is not important that I act in a polite manner when interacting with my fellow cyclists. It's weird because sometimes I do things like cut them off or pass on the right or pull in front of them at stop signs or pass too closely and they act all upset. What's their deal? We're all on bikes. Why can't they just be cool??? 
Hugs and kisses,
A totally real person
 I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't get totally real letters like this from totally real people all the time. That said, veracity aside, sometimes I get the impression from fellow cyclists that they care little about their comportment as it relates to everyone else on bikes. And I guess that's unsurprising because I don't think that drivers always care about obliging their fellow drivers and pedestrians aren't always looking for ways to best manage their interactions with other pedestrians, so why should people on bikes be any different when it comes to interacting with their fellow cyclists? After all, people are people no matter how they get around and some subset of those people are going to act in antisocial and impolite ways and I'd be deluding myself into thinking otherwise. But that also means that there's another group of people who, perhaps if they gave it a little thought, might want to act in a way that's cognizant of their fellows or at least in a way that might be perceived as such. So, assuming that those people are, in fact, out there and not chimerical fantasies of my own imagination, I offer some unsolicited advice on behaviors that other cyclists might find polite.

[Now, please do keep in mind that this is not a definitive list and also that the "comedy of manners" is popular genre for a reason- mores vary and misunderstandings happen. Even if you adopt all of these behaviors and even if you attempt to ride your bike as politely as possible, sometimes you will piss a fellow cyclist off for some reason. It just happens. This is the nature of human interaction. It's ok. It's nothing getting too worked up over, though it is frustrating when it occurs. "But I was trying to do a good thing! Why are you mad!?" is an exasperating phrase in an interior monologue, but you have to accept it as an aberration and just let it go. Unless it keeps happening. Then you should probably question my advice, your implementation of it, or both. Caveat emptor and all that.]

On Passing
Sometimes people are bikes want to travel at different speeds. Crazy, right? That means that one cyclist might want to pass a cyclist who to that point had been in front. A few things:

Call out your pass. you know, let that person know that you're going to pass them. Ring a bell, say something, I don't know- use your judgment. It's helpful. There are times that I won't call out a pass, but it's normally if I'm really going out of the way to give a lot of room or if I think that alerting the person to the pass will somehow complicate things. Generally though, just say or do something.

Pass on the left. For the love of Zeus, please only ever pass on the left (in America and other left-hand side type places. Do the opposite in opposite places). Our whole transportation system is sort of organized around the idea that faster things go on the left side. Left lane on the highway is the "fast lane." You walk on the left of the escalator, stand on the right. With most bike lanes, the travel lane is to the left and that's where the (maybe) faster cars are. I try not to indulge myself in to many "bad" behaviors, but if you try to pass me on the right, I will try to run you into the back of a parked car. I know it's wrong, but I feel quite strongly about this and I'm willing to risk ire to make my point. Not nice, I know. Just pass on the left, ok?

Pass with enough room. If drivers are expected to give three feet, you can too. A standard bike lane isn't wide enough to accommodate a pass, so if you insist on passing someone in the bike lane, get yourself out into the travel lane, pass them and get back in. It's pretty uncomfortable to be passed super-close by a bicyclist and while not as dangerous as being passed super-close by a driver, it's still not fun. The "passer" is the one doing the passing, so the passer has the obligation to abandon the bike lane to pass. If that prospective passer wants to stay in the bike lane (or can't get out because the travel lane is blocked by car taffic), then tough luck. The "passee" is under no obligation whatsoever to get out of the way. The "passer" needs to "get over it."

Pass only while moving. To shoal, such as it's come to be defined, is when someone pulls in front of a cyclist already present at a stop. It violates all principles of "first-come, first-serve" and all sorts of queue codes recognized the world over. You wouldn't step in front of someone at the coffee shop because you think they're going to order a fancy latte thing that's gonna take forever to make and you're just ordering a drip coffee. You wouldn't cut to the front of the bank line because you're just making a $20 withdrawal and the person in front of you is doing some complicated transaction with deposit slips and checking accounts and money orders. So, why, upon seeing a cyclist or a bunch of cyclists, would you think "lemme just get to the front of this line. I'm probably faster anyway." Two thoughts on that last bit:
1. There's a distinct possibility that you are not faster than the person you just pulled in front of. That person will become extraordinarily annoyed upon finding this out. That person will then probably pass you. And then, at the next light, when you do it again, that person might lose their shit.
2. If you're so convinced that you're faster, then it'll be no bother for you to prove that when everyone gets moving again. It won't be such a big deal to wait.
In general, the guiding principle at all stops should be to defer to the cyclist in front of you. It's not that hard.

On other things
Some other things to think about:

Yield. There are a lot of right-angle intersections on my commute where there are stop signs on one street, but not stop signs on the other street. I've noticed a lot of times lately that rather than deferring to the rider who's on the no stop sign street, a cyclist will just make the turn and cut off the person riding on the perpendicular street. That's not really cool. I don't care too much about your coming to a complete stop, but it's generally better to not cut people off by making a turn in front of them when you could slightly slow down, let them pass, and then turn after they pass. Likewise, if you've decided that you're going to roll through a stop sign or a red light, please don't make a cyclist coming through that intersection have to slow down or swerve to avoid you. If someone has to do that, then you shouldn't have rolled through the light. Poor judgment on your part.

Take turns. Take turns at four-way intersections. Crossing someone's path because you didn't feel like slowing down isn't a very nice thing to do. You wouldn't like it if it happened to you.

Give enough space. You should certainly pass with enough space, but you should also just generally give enough space to your fellow cyclists. You don't need to ride super-close behind them. When stopped, you don't really need to sidle alongside of them. You certainly don't need to blow on the back of their necks because that's hella creepy.

Don't judge. Oh, you don't like that someone isn't wearing a helmet? Ok. You're not crazy about the fact that someone flipped off a driver? Great. Think someone's bike isn't great for some reason or should or shouldn't have a component? Neat. It's fine that you have opinions. But please don't share them. Why would anyone care what some stranger has to say just because he also happens to be on a bike nearby? I certainly wouldn't. I think that conversation is fine and that some people are more ok with it than I am (I'm not a really chatty person), but you should probably try to catch the hint if someone doesn't want to talk with you.

Don't condescend. Somewhat related to judging, some things to never do include saying things like "good effort- this is tough one" to someone you don't know as you pass them climbing up a hill. If that person tells you to fuck off, you should count your blessings that they only did that. It's nice to say hello or nod. But there's a line past which you're no longer being nice and instead acting like a condescending ass. Looking over your shoulder to see how much distance you've just put between yourself and a fellow cyclist- why? Is it a race? "You're pretty fast for a ________" is a thing that you should only say if you're willing to risk getting the shit beaten out of you. I mean, really. Come on. Treating other cyclists, through word or unspoken actions, are if you are somehow superior to them is just a terrible idea. Disdain is unbecoming.

There you go. Some ideas about how to be polite to other cyclists. Obviously, you are also allowed to be polite to non-cyclists. In fact, I encourage it! Politesse is great. It's a good personal habit and it's an important civic virtue. Like anything else, you can't really control the actions of others. I mean, if you had magical powers or a mind-control machine, you could. You probably don't have those things. But you can control your own actions. Hopefully. In that spirit, I recommend trying to be nice to people are trying to think about empathy and maybe even trying to abide by some of the ideas above. Feel free to add some more ideas about etiquette in the comments.


UPDATE: Weekend Biking Event for Peoplez with Kidz!

Two events this weekend:

May 3: The ABCs of Family Biking at the Capitol Hill Montessori School from 11AM-2PM brought to you by Kidical Mass DC. Events include all of the following except for a few of extra things which I made up and added to the list for laughs:
  • A Show & Tell to talk to area parents who bike with children of all ages
  • Bicycles and equipment available at local bike shops to help parents bike safely with their children 
  • Frame welding for kids!
  • Free Youth Bike course with WABA instructors to teach basic riding skills to children.
  • Parents & Kids Riding class to help parents bike alongside their kids, either alone or in a “bike train” group.
  • Balance bike races for our youngest riders
  • Baby aerohelmet fitting
  • A cargo bike obstacle course where interested parents can test demonstration bikes and experienced family cyclists can pits their skills against one another in the East Coast’s first-ever “Fiets of Parenthood” competition
  • Silent auction to win autographed copy of of a book by some Flemish junior race you've never heard of
  • The opportunity for parents to “Swap or Sell” their gently used family biking equipment 
  • Free bike repair clinics from The Bike House
May 4: UPDATE: everything I previously wrote about the Kidical Mass Arlington ride was wrong. Sorry! THIS IS THE REASON THAT YOU SHOULD NOT WRITE BLOG POSTS BEFORE DRINKING COFFEE. I apologize. Here is some correct (and current) information about Kidical Mass Arlington's spring and summer schedule:

For the 2014 Spring-Summer-Fall season, we're generally riding on the third Sunday of the month, with some bonus rides thrown in, and some adjustments for some special events. Here's the plan, with the usual caveat that things happen, and you should check the website for details and confirmation.

Sunday, May 18 – Taste of Kidical (a ride to the Taste of Arlington)
Sunday, June 1 – Kidically Spring
Sunday, June 15 – Daddy Kidical (Father’s Day Ride)
Sunday, July 6 – Tour de Kidical (Ride to watch the Tour de France)
Sunday, July 20 – Kidically Arlandria – Joint ride with the newly formed Kidical Mass Alexandria
Sunday, August 10 – Fairly Kidical (a ride to the Arlington Fair)
Saturday, September 27 – Kidically Clarendon (a ride to Clarendon Day)
Saturday, October 4 – Arlington Fun Ride Family Ride
Don't forget to double check the website right before the ride to confirm details.

And here's a flyer:

Once again, there is no ride this Sunday. There will be other rides though and you should go to those. 


Some thoughts on cars in bike lanes

This is not an unfamiliar sight. In fact, if you like the genre, here's a whole tumblr about it.  People putting their cars in bike lanes is something that cyclists in DC contend with on a daily basis. They drive their cars into bike lanes in spite of plastic posts, in spite of painted pictures of bikey people, in spite of green paint, in spite of the signs that say BIKE LANE, and in spite of the presence of vulnerable people on bicycles who, in choosing to ride in those bike lanes, are clearly seeking out some kind of physical separation from cars and their drivers. People idle or park their cars in bike lanes in spite of plastic posts, in spite of green paint, in spite of painted pictures of bikey people, in spite of signs that say BIKE LANE, in spite of signs that say NO STANDING OR PARKING ANYTIME, in spite of the presence of vulnerable cyclists who glower at them and curse at them and question why and how with all of the plastic posts, the green paint, the painted pictures of bikey people, the signs that say BIKE LANE, the signs that say NO STANDING OR PARKING ANYTIME and cursing and glowering cyclists looking for some small bit of respite in the city from the overwhelming and uncomfortable sensation of having to ride feet or inches away from thousands of pounds of hurling metal and plastic and horsepower, why and how with all of this they still find themselves idling or parking in a bike lane. And yet they still do it.

Is it because of #CONFUSION? It is because signs that the read NO STANDING OR PARKING ANYTIME are insufficiently clear? Is it because most of the world's parking spaces are indicated by the presence of plastic sticks and painted pictures of bikey people and green paint? Are these drivers just making mistakes? Are they wayward and entrapped and lost and not in any way desirous of parking in the bike lane, but instead somehow bewildered and unclear and under the impression that they're not doing anything wrong because there's no indication that these green lanes with plastic sticks and painted pictures of bikey people and signs that that read NO STANDING OR PARKING ANYTIME mean anything other than "Yes, it is totally ok for your to park your car here!"? If we just added a few more plastic sticks or a little more green paint or a few more painted pictures of bikey people, would that finally do it? Would that finally clarify that the bike lane with the sign that says BIKE LANE abutted by the other signs that say NO STANDING OR PARKING ANYTIME is, in fact, a bike lane and then, thanks to those few extra plastic sticks and that little extra bit of green paint, the driver would finally realize that he had been mistakenly parking where he ought not?

Let's not talk about bike lanes for a little. Let's talk about turn signals.

I happen to notice that some people in cars make turns (or change lanes) without using turn signals. Sometimes this creates really dangerous situations. Other times, it really doesn't seem to make that much of a difference. Let's say a person makes a turn without using his turn signal. What do you think is the most likely reason this happened? Some choices:

a) using a turn signal is confusing and the person making the turn was unable to figure out in advance of making the turn how to use the turn signal.

b) using a turn signal was too physically difficult for the person to do.

c) the person was unclear as to whether a turn signal was necessary or in any way mandated by law or custom for the kind of turn he was making.

d) the person did try to use the turn signal, but was met by mechanical failure somewhere in the turn signal process (either in the lever or in the turn signal wiring).

e) the person forgot that the he has the ability to indicate his desire to turn as he rarely has need to turn his car, either because he is out of driving habit or because he habitually only drives in straight lines

e) the person making the turn, knowing full well that he does have the option to use a turn signal and knowing full well that using the turn signal prior to turning is mandated by both law and custom, elects of his own free will and volition to not use the turn signal because while turn signals are habitually used prior to turning cars they are not strictly necessary to the action of turning the car and he has made the judgment that in this case, in this situation over which he has total control of his choice as to whether or not to use the turn signal, that the use of a turn signal is not something he wishes to do, either because he believes it would be unnecessary or unneeded in the situation or simply because he fails to rank indicating his turn in advance of making the turn as a priority.

f) zombies are chasing him and he's trying to escape them.

Cars don't turn without using turn signals. People turn cars without using turn signals.

Cars don't drive over the speed limit. People drive their cars faster than the speed limit.

Cars don't park in bike lanes. People park their cars in bike lanes.

[Bikes don't roll through red lights. People on bikes roll through red lights.]

So why do people, after assessing their situations, make the choice to turn without using a turn signal or park in a bike lane? Some thoughts on the latter:

1. They don't think of the bike lane as an inviolable space where cars should never under any circumstance be.

2. They don't think that they are inconveniencing or endangering one.

3. They don't think that they're actually 'parking' or 'standing' in the bike lane because they're only doing it for a short period of time, so it doesn't really count. [Sort of the way that driving only 3 mph over the speed limit 'doesn't count']

4. They have weighed the benefits and potential costs of making the decision to park in a bike lane and determined that the likelihood of their facing negative consequences for making this decision is very low, whereas the benefit of their parking or standing is greater.

If you happen to ride the L Street cycletrack regularly, you notice a few different kinds of bike lane blockers. They are:

1. The worker- this is someone doing a job (deliveries most often) who believes that the benefit of blocking the cycletrack far outweigh the potential punishment for doing such.

2. The flasher- no, not that kind of flasher. It's the guy who leaves his blinker on while he runs in to grab something. Maybe a smoothie. Maybe a donut. Maybe it's to pick up medicine. Either way, he's doing a quick in-and-out.

3. The taxi- (or the airport van or the livery cab or the Metro Access) similar to the worker, the guy's doing a job and blocking the bike lane is seen as abetting the completion of that job.

4. The idler- yup, dude is just sitting in the car. Why's he in the car? He's waiting for someone. Probably to pick them up. Maybe they said they'd be down in 2 minutes. Or maybe he just dropped them off when they ran inside to grab a smoothie or a donut or some medicine.

It is extremely rare, I find, to come upon someone who has just parked their car in the bike lane and left, like one would do if they parked their car in a parking spot. Because the people who are blocking the bike lane know that they're not in actual parking spots. Because of the NO STANDING OR PARKING ANYTIME, and because of the plastic posts, and because of the painted bikey people and because of the signs that say BIKE LANE and because of the green paint. And because in their years of experience existing in the world, even if they've never seen a cycletrack before, they know that these things do not indicate 'Ok to park here.' So, why then, are their cars there?

It's because they don't think they're parking.

If they were "parking", they'd go to a space. Parking means leaving your car for a destination. Parking means paying at a meter. You don't need to "park" if you're just gonna run in real quick for a smoothie. You don't need to park if you're just waiting for someone who's going to come down in 2 minutes. You don't need to park if you're unloading passengers or unloading produce. None of those things require "parking"- they just require some space for you to put your car while you accomplish the task. Parking punctuates trips. People who are in the bike lanes, for the most part, don't see the need for punctuation.

One of the things I notice every so often (and I find vaguely infuriating) is someone idling in a bike lane next to an open parking spot. Why not just pull your car into the spot and idle there? Like, you're blocking both the spot and the bike lane by idling where you are- why not just pull into the spot? It's open! Do it! But people don't do this. Because that would be parking and parking comes with it a whole host of responsibilities (most begrudgingly, paying sometimes) and so the person will instead keep their car in this nether space, this in-between land that isn't the "parking" lane and at the same time isn't the "driving" lane. It's a space that fits the mental state of being in-between those two things. And it's where the bicyclists are and it's annoying for them, but what are you supposed to do? You're not driving and you're not parking. You're in between! Why can't they just understand that the space set aside for them happens to be the perfect space for someone who is in-between?!? "I'LL GET YOU WITH MY STOOL," someone in this in-between space might say. Where else is the in-between person supposed to go?

Obviously, there are engineering solutions. Make a bike lane or a cycletrack something better than in-between space and you won't get in-between car people there. You need more than green paint and you need more than plastic sticks with big gaps between them. If signs that unambiguously read NO STANDING OR PARKING ANYTIME fail to provide sufficient clarity about whether people in cars should stand or park anytime (answer: no), why would green paint and painted pictures of bikey people and green paint? Simply put, I'm of the opinion that it is close to impossible to all of the time dissuade people who are physically capable of easily putting a car in a bike lane  from doing so. Where there's room to easily park a car, someone will easily park a car. Because they're not really parking it. They're just putting it there for a bit, just real quick.