Rides 8/29: Negotiations

One is faced with limited options upon encountering pasta and broken glass strewn about the inside of a bike bag, and even fewer when not armed with a parmesan grater and a comically oversized pepper mill. The scene:

This was the aftermath of a fall earlier in the ride, a fall that I though had solely resulted in minor embarrassment and not a major loss of lunch and the besaucement of what I had planned to wear to work. At a red light on Pennsylvania, I had realized that I had strayed too far into the crosswalk and as I tried to scoot myself backward, I lost my balance and down I went. I laughed. It was kinda funny. Slow motion falling down on your bike bears virtually no resemblance to slow motion as depicted in Brian DePalma or John Woo movies. It's undramatic. I didn't realize at then that the fall liberated my rotini. In fact, it was hours after the discovery of my pasta mishap that I recalled my falling down again (prior to getting to work, I told some people about it, laughed and promptly forgot) and finally put it all together. Initially, I had thought it was my u-lock, also in the bag, that broke the container after riding over a pothole. That seemed dubious at the time, but it was my working theory for a number of hours. Anyway, think twice about the following things: 

1. Using glass containers 
2. Bringing lunch to work
3. Falling down
4. Riding a bicycle 
5. Leaving your house ever/preparing and eating food

I think this is the first time in years of bike commuting that I've dirtied work clothes with food, much preferring to soil them with coffee. That's just so much more efficient. Ultimately, this really wasn't the biggest deal. I was able to get most of the glass and food out of the bag fairly easily and had a back-up shirt in the office ["in case of emergency break glass" is more like "in case of broken glass energency"] and had yet another "funny" happening in my bike commuting life to turn into a blog post. If next week's posts are lean, I'm thinking about "unintentionally" exploding something with a cream sauce. You don't get to be DC's 37th most popular bike commute blogger without resorting to gimmicks occasionally. That's just the biz. You can either try to consistently write something interesting or spill your lunch with hilarious results. BRB- gotta stir my bolognese. 

Friday's commute, aside from the falling down part and the pasta surprise, was one that I shared for a small part with friend-of-the-blog Rudi, who was off his bike due to injury for a long while, but now back and we rode G to Virginia Ave and up through Georgetown to around Wisconsin. It's been a long recovery for him and it's no small joy to see that he's riding again. I don't know how well I would cope if injury kept me away from bike commuting for a prolonged amount of time, but I can tell you one thing: it'd be good for my glassware budget. 

Riding home was probably fine. I can't really remember any details, salient or otherwise. Oh yeah, I stopped at the bike shop and looked around for a little while and bought a bike tool that I needed (a spaghetti strainer) and some new brake pads and I rode home on E Street past The United States Tax Court, which is probably just like the 80s sitcom Neight a Court except during the day and only about tax law issues and maybe without as much Markie Post, but I haven't checked her IMDB or anything, so maybe she's some kind of Tax Judge now, so who knows really. 


Rides 8/28: Fax number on your business card: weird or not?

Is it still Thursday? It's been Thursday forever or so it seems. Thursday is, without a doubt, the (second) worst day. It's not the end of the week yet, but tantalizingly close. It's enough days into the week to solidify a judgment (a negative judgment perhaps) on the week's overall tenor (Pavorotti stars in the Green Acres opera?) without yet being able to fully escape that week, so you have to sit through the whole day knowing that the week has been, on the whole, not a great one, but you've still got enough of it left that you can't really do anything about it except muddle through, knowing no matter how good the next few days might go, the week will still be, on average, what Monday through Wednesday rendered it already. Thursday is the day you envy people taking even longer long weekends. Thursday is the day you want to be Friday, but isn't Friday. Thursday taunts. Thursday is fake accomplishment, like a perfect attendance award or Miss Congeniality or a Master's degree they give you when you drop out of a Ph. D program. Today was Thursday and still is. 

I got stuck behind a man today who refused to take his turn at a flashing red light. He was on a folding bike and I suppose I can understand his trepidation, but driver after driver tired to wave him on and he demured, but cyclists behind us rode through and we just both waited. He waited because that's what he felt was necessary to do, probably because of safety (or perhaps a misunderstanding of the law) and I waited because I will, in virtually every case, defer to the judgment of the cyclist in front of me, even when he's wrong. A man must have a code, and all that. Eventually he went and I went and the past was history, as the past tends to be. Anyway, my general advice at flashing red lights is to turn turns, but with care. That's my story. 

I've been riding on paths more lately and there's a certain kind of path user who travels down the center of the path, and not on the right side as is customary. This person is the Marcia Brady if path users. I am Jan. Some other people are Greg, Peter, Bobby and Cindy and you [yes, you!] are Alice. In conclusion, maybe don't travel down the center of the path? 

School's back and the crossing guards are back. That we need them isn't great, but they they're there is. 

Massachuseets Avenue, which I take on the ride home, has been dug up for utility work lately and there are some rather "fun" divots every so often. A smaller tired bike might not fare as well. 

L Street to 15th and then Pennsylvania, where a driver told me she liked my shirt, which is a pocketed Road a Holland bike jersey. I also enjoy its pockets. I keep things in there, like a mama koala. Along with my keys and phone, it's also where I keep my mama koala similes. Ample room in there, like in a kangaroo pouch. 


Rides 8/27: Tiny Top Hat

Another week and another Gear a Prudence. Many thanks to the question writer for writing an amazing question. Some more thoughts on owning more than one bike: 

1. Bikes are like Lay's potato chips. They are greasy and delicious and when you tilt your head back and dump the crumbs into your open mouth, it's best to do it with a door closed. Also, hard to just have one. 

2. Unfortunately, you (generally speaking, unless you're an acrobat) can pretty much only ride one at a time. This will lead some people in your life to ask why you need more than one, since you can pretty much only ride one at one time and aren't all bikes pretty much just the same anyway? The mature response to this question is to shove your fingers in your ears and yell a loudly "I CANT HEAR YOU." Oh, you wanted a mature response? Never mind. The mature response is to fake a knee injury and writhe around in the floor until an ambulance spirits you to safety/superfluous surgery/medical bankruptcy. 

3. There's all kinds of formulae involving N, where N is a number related to the number of bikes your partner might abide before they launch you into the ocean with a trebuchet, but I don't think that's really always the best way to assess the proper number of bikes you ought to have. You might have an overly kind partner whose love for you let's you take ad tante of then and pile bike after bike into your studio apartment, even when you shouldn't. That's really not fair. Take advantage if their love to rent a storage locker! Way better than tripping over a bike on the way to the coffee maker in the morning. 

4. Only buy bikes you love. If you fall out of love with a bike, even a little, sell it. Ask for money and not magic beans! Amateur move that. Sold bikes bring joy to new owners. Don't be a bike hoarder.

On the way home, I ended up behind a fellow bike commuter who apologized to me for not knowing where she was going, but unbeknownst to her, I am a sometimes helpful person, and so I helped her navigate (and led her since I was going that way) from the end of the L Street Cycletrack to the beginning of the Met Branch Trail. Two things: 

1. She might've been a plant. Not a ficus or anything, but it's awfully convenient that I have this whole giving advice to bicyclists gig and then a of the sudden a real-life bicyclist asked me for some advice. 

2. I've written about this before, but it is a MASSIVE problem that there is no good way to bike relatively directly and unfetteredly from downtown to NoMa and parts north and east and amplifying the worstness of this, there aren't even good signs to direct people on the kinda bad ways to get across town. We ended up riding on K (I believe I asked "are you ok riding the wrong way down this street?" Sorry!) and around Mount Vernon Square and K again, but I'm not sure had I not known how to get there, we would've been able to figure out on the fly how to get there. So, yeah, that's a problem. I wish wayfinders would a) know that bicyclists exist and b) assume bicyclists know nothing about anything. I know I certainly do. 

Anyway, she was very nice and it's kinda fun to provide real-time GPing to real-life people. Being unhelpful is overrated. 

I bought milk at Aldi. There's a view of the Capitol from Maryland and 17th NE that's very nice and not a few of the Capitol I've seen very often. 

I bike down 14th and was behind a guy who chatted to some women in a car at a red light. They knew each other and were all going to the same place. He said that it was likely he'd beat them to the BBQ they were all heading towards (even though he had to go pick up his mail at his old place) and then said that he'd beat them there and eat a hot dog before they could eat a hot dog. Then he caveat-ed with the guarantee that he would certainly eat a hot dog before them if they're vegetarians. World-class caveat-ing, sir. 


Rides 8/26: Milestones and Minestrone

At every decision point with my bike commuting lately when the binary choice was either "be more comfortable" or "go faster," I've elected for the former and I think to generally good effect. This works well on most days, as I rarely put more of a premium on the few minutes I might save by trying to go faster, preferring much more to make the time I do spend on the bike to be an overall more pleasant experience. But sometimes I do want to try to go faster, though not necessarily because I'm in any particular rush. Sometimes it just feels good to try to make a bike go fast. Not just for the speed either. I mean, you could go fast by taking Southwest from Baltimore to Kansas City, but the swiftness of commercial air travel rarely evokes the same kind of joy that pushing a bike slightly faster can bring, even though it's orders of magnitude slower in actuality. 

One of the benefits of bike commuting that I sometimes forget amidst my paeans to its practicality and inexpensiveness and all that boring stuff is its physicality. You feel it. And when I mashed my way up the hill tonight and I stood up and I looked a fool because I wanted to outpace 3 cyclists on the other side of the fence (one of whom had a bike polo mallet) and stomped and wheezed, it felt so *right* to be temporarily ensconced in a burst of uncharacteristic effort. 


Rides 8/25: Rotisserie Turkey

I work in education. Today was the first day of school. School is, for the most part, about learning, but the other side of that is teaching, and while I don't teach, I think about teaching and learning a lot since that's the kind of business I'm in, though somewhat obliquely. 

I rode behind a guy on Pennsylvania Avenue and the cycletrack is built in such a way as to precipitate conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians. What cyclists see as the bike lane, pedestrians see as the crosswalk and refuge, and both groups are right and wrong and neither and both and it's all because of the bad design and unclear markings and it's no one's fault in particular, except for the people who designed it and the politicians who compromised a better design and the subsequent people and politicians and inertia that keeps it from getting better. But it's really not the fault of the users- the hand was dealt and we're all just playing the cards. Anyway, I rode behind this guy and as we approached an intersection he saw some guys standing in the bike lane/crosswalk and he yelled. It wasn't a "hey! I'm coming through here so I just want to make sure you see me, so look up so we don't inadvertently collide" (these kinds of yells are pretty common and fairly anodyne and I think I have enough of an ear for them to know what they sound like and what aren't them), but more of a "hey what the hell are you doing you morons! Get out of the way because I'm coming through and you better move or else" (but that's more of a supposition and even if that wasn't the kind of yell this was, I've heard enough of these kinds of yells to know that they are common enough and real and true enough to be sufficient for the basis of this story, even if this is not exactly what exactly happened this morning). In short, the guy on bike was pissed and wanted to clear the way not because of concern for an imminent collision, but because he didn't think those guys should be in his way at all. 

It's a pretty common thing in a crowded city for people to think that your not being somewhere would be better than your being somewhere. Having overly strong opinions (and the means to realize them) about who should and shouldn't be where is basically the story of all of human history. Forget class struggle- it's not liking your neighbors that drives the dialectic. 

You know how when you're a little kid and there's a hot stove and you reach for the hot stove and maybe a parent whacks away your hand or maybe a parent doesn't because the hot stove'll teach you a lesson about curiosity or cookery or something? 

The problem with commuting is that too many people want to be hot stoves. I shall be the conveyor of lessons. I shall teach you not to transgress. I shall be the means by which you learn proper behavior. I will inflict upon you a cost for your misdeed. You will learn by me. 

Truth be told, I don't see a lot of bicyclists doing this. I think the position of relative vulnerability mostly precludes it, but yelling to intimidate a pedestrian and thereby "teach him lesson" about standing in the bike lane is a thing that happens, and that's hot stove-y. More common, unfortunately, is the driver looking to "teach a lesson" to a fellow driver or cyclist or pedestrian by honking or tailgating or passing too closely or giving a "love tap" or doing some other horrible anti-social thing that's meant to both reinforce dominance, but also serve a pedagogical benefit. Learn the lesson, don't repeat the mistake. 

Remember when you were learning your times tables and you thought 7 * 8 was 42, so Mrs. Fogel got into her Hona Accord and angrily honked at you until you got 56 instead? Good times. 

I think what I've learned from working in education, though obliquely, is that there are many paths to learning and barely any of lessons are taught by hot stoves. To want be one, is, I think, to miss a larger point about teaching and learning. But maybe that's the point. 


I took the trail home today and rode along the river and then through SW to the store and then up into SE and to the back of a church in an alley where I met my chutney dealer and then I biked about 10 blocks more and was home. 


Rides 8/22: Sconces

It's not that nothing interesting (or interesting enough for what constitutes interesting for the purposes of DC's 37th most popular bike commute blog) happened on the rides in and home today, but if it did, I don't exactly recall it enough to retell it. That's hardly the fault of the uninteresting stuff, is it? I mean, unless it truly was a pair if nothingburger rides, which they might have been, though my lack of exact recollection if then makes rendering this judgment hard. Did something happen with a bus? I guess. Were bike lanes in some kind of condition that could be remarked upon for some reason? Highly likely. I bet I saw a thing. Almost definitely. Conclusionarily (should be a word), all of the things that happened definitely occurred and that's something for sure, I suppose. 

I did see a bike with a bent back wheel. The bike was locked to a sign post at Massachuseets and Q. Wheel was bent 90 degrees. I kinda think that the wheel got that way after it was locked to the sign and not before and I can't imagine what the rider if that bike might think if he locked it up with an unbent wheel and would return to it in such a terrible condition. There are, they say, five stages of grief and I suppose you'd have a long enough bus ride home to get through a few of them. Or worse, maybe you'd just ride the bike with a bent wheel in sad, sad circles during Denial. Maybe Anger would give you the rage strength to smash the wheel back into true. Bargaining would be useful if you put the bike up for sale on Craigslist. And, of course, nothing says Depression like sitting on a crowded bus during rush hour. And then, the last one, whatever that is. 

I stopped to pick up pizza on the way home and that's why I carry a cargo net with me. Lots of good ways to carry pizza on a bike, but most of those good ways involve me dropping the pizza and crying hysterically, but the net seems to work, so get a net. Or get The Net on DVD. You could watch it while you eat your pizza out of the pizza box you ran over when you dropped it because you didn't have a net to use to being your pizza home. Other good uses for a net: 

1. Catching fish 
2. Catching criminals 
3. To keep stray hairs from finding their way into pizzas that you might make
4. To properly secure your 90s Sandra Bullock DVD movie collection. 

But really, use for transporting pizza home is probably the best, because pizza. 


Rides 8/19, 8/20, 8/21: Pompey, Crassus and that other guy

On Tuesday, I had a work thing and yesterday, I had a personal thing, but today I have no thing, so commence Impression: Bikerise. 

On the ride home on Tuesday, a lady stepped out between two parked cars as I biked by and was like "WHOA WHOA WHOA." Two thoughts: 1. I am not a horse and 2. I think I was passed her before she realized that we could have (but didn't actually) had the potential to collide. 

Yesterday, a man asked me to buy him three Bavarian Creme donuts because his blood sugar was 54 and I declined and wasn't pleased with me. I instead bought an ice cream cake and had the good sense to walk my bike home rather than trying to balance it on my handlebars. Sometimes, but not too often, good sense prevails. 

On the morning ride in, I realized that the 90 seconds or two minutes riding alongside the reflecting pool might be the most relaxing part of my day. It's very calming. I think it's the trees. I love cycling in the city, but there's something to be said for smooth and shady paths. 

The other morning, a man scolded me "stop sign!" having thought my "stop" inadequate and not to his liking. More than that, I think he was just upset that he could drive through his stop sign first. I responded "cell phone!" As one was pressed to his ear. Two things: 1. Distracted driving is maybe more relatively dangerous than cycling past a stop sign after half-heartedly half-stopping (but still illegal, so scold away! I am the Gabbo of bike commuting) and 2. Who interrupts his phone call to scold a bicyclist who's doing something marginally wrong? What a terrible conversationalist! Now, it's conceivable he wasn't actually scolding me and maybe the person who was on the otherend  of the line was like "what's the name of that red octagon thing they have at some street corners?" but I think this unlikely. Anyway, my thinking is that if you can interrupt your phone call to scold a stranger who's causing you no harm, maybe you don't actually need to be on the phone? But like I said, I'm the worst. 

Stopped to buy a new key ring on the ride home tonight. Bought the wrong size key ring. That was unfortunate. I kept the receipt, so I hope to exchange it tomorrow and apply my 19 cents towards the purchase of the slightly larger key ring I need. I never would have been in this whole mess had not my keys fallen out of my pocket and gotten run over by a bus. A good reminder to never get run over by a bus. 

There was a gentle rain this evening. You could almost feel the first hints of fall, but not quite yet. Not for another few weeks yet.  

There's a new Gear Prudence (again?!?) this week and I really enjoyed writing it. Both questions were real questions from real people with real bikey problems. So, if you're a real people with a real question, please email me at gearprudence@washingtoncitypaper.com. You don't have to come up with the acronym either. People have asked and if that's holding you back from writing in, let it hold you back no further! Many thanks in advance. You're all the best. 

Oh, and to follow up on the question about essentials, allow me to tell you what I carry on the Ogre: 

Hand pump
Spare tube
Patch kit 
Tire levers 
Cargo net
Knog lights
Drawstring bag 

Maybe I should take my own advice. In my primary commute pannier, I carry: 

Some mesh reusable grocery/producebags
A pocket guide to DC bike laws
A form from WABA you can fill out if you're in a crash (given to me by a lady named Judy outside of my local grocery store this week. She was in a crash earlier this year and now is zealous about informing other cyclists to do this. I met Judy previously, maybe a few months ago at the same grocery store, but she didn't remember and I didn't want to interrupt her doing what she's doing because I think it's a pretty good idea)  
A pen
Some SharrowsDC buttons (to give to celebrities to expand the brand. I've yet to do this. Emai/tweet me if you'd like one) 

Basically, I carry a lot of stuff related to buying and transporting groceries, which is good because I do that a lot. No shark repellent, but if I lived closer to the ocean, probably. 


8/18: Candia Crush

"That a bike?" is the commonest question I get from strangers when I take the folded Brompton onto the Metro. It's the secondest commonest question I get from strangers generally, the most common being "that a puppy?" about EtP, who is five six and exuberant, but not a puppy. Like the Brompton, she is small, but she doesn't really fold and I'm pretty sure she's not allowed on the Metro. I guess I could buy her an extra-small service animal vest, but it's unclear what service she could plausibly provide. "Oh, yeah, that's my service animal. She, um, helps me, um, pair wines with meals. Yeah, that's totally a justifiable reason to have a service animal. Why I need her on the Metro? Um, maybe we're going to the wine shop in anticipation of a fancy dinner party? Does that sound plausible?" Anyway. Easy bike ride down Massachusetts to Union Station and another easy one down Nebraska to work.

New Mexico to 37th on the way home. On M Street, I watched a guy on a CaBi try to "squeeze" between a Circulator bus and some stopped car traffic. I think we (and by we, I guess I mean bicyclists, but also every other transportationist) need to excise the whole concept of "squeezing" from our transportation lexicon. Simply put, we don't squeeze well. We are not juice boxes. We are not whoopie cushions. We are frightfully rigid. And while we might fit, in the narrowest sense of the term, there's not much too pleasant about it. And the consequences of "squeezing" even when done well is a level of intimacy with our fellow travelers that maybe should've required us to buy them dinner first. And at it's worst? Attempts at squeezery result in collisions and (even at slow speeds) touching yourself or your vehicle to someone else or their vehicle is neither societally acceptable and can (at higher speeds) be really super dangerous. Reconsider the squeeze. 

Barrels of laughs. 

What's the sound of no shoulders shrugging? 

Lots of parents and kids on bikes onPennsylvania  Avenue and to be perfectly honest, it's awful. These poor kids are going to grow up thinking that bicycling isn't terrifying and have expectations that accommodations be made for safe cycling. It's gross. 

"Tourist family in jorts: German or nein?" isn't likely to be the next big gameshow sensation, but if it were to be, I think I'd like to be a contestant. My guess was "no" but I was willing to be surprised. 


Rides 8/15: ARTCRANK

I consider myself an artist. Mostly, a sandwich artist. [Screw you, Subway. I was making sandwich art at The Factory with Warhol well before you stole the term d'art. And what did we have with our sandwiches, which were primarily grilled cheese ones? That's right, Campbell's tomato soup.] Anyway, like I was saying, I'm basically the sandwich Matisse of bike commuter blogging and I consider it my duty to the artistic community, both the sandwich artistic community and the non-sandwich one, to share the information below about Artcrank, a bicycle-themed art poster show that is looking for DC arts types who don't work exclusively in gouda and liverwurst:

Artists who are selected for the show will be asked to produce one original poster design and provide:
  • - 1 Display Copy (Becomes property of ARTCRANK)- 30 Sale Copies
  • Artists are responsible for printing their own posters.
  • Maximum size for posters is 20" x 26". Posters can be smaller than this, but not larger.
  • All posters will be sold for $50 each.
  • ARTCRANK takes a 40% commission on all poster sales, with the remaining 60% going to the artist.
  • At the conclusion of the show, any unsold Sale Copies of posters will be returned to the artists.
  • No artists selections will take place until after the Call For Artists closes on August 30 at midnight EST. The artist roster for the 2014 show will be announced the following Friday.
So, if this speaks to you and you'd like to participate, don't tarry! It's a great opportunity to share your bicycle art with the world and potentially make $900, which'd buy you 36 work week's worth of $5 footlongs. Go here fore more info on how to submit your work. Go here for more info on the Veggie Delite

As for the bicycle rides of August 15th, yes, I did those. The weather has been immensely forgiving and I think I've mostly forgotten what bad sultry oppressive summer days are like. I can't say I mind forgetting. The temperate weather has proved catnip to cyclists and would-be bike commuters have turned into has-been bike commuters. Wait, that doesn't sound right.

E Cap to Penn to M.E. Swing Co for coffee and from there G Street to Virginia Avenue. On Virginia Avenue this guy tried to pass me on the right twice, having not gotten my disapproval of this maneuver by my hurrying up and refusing to cede any space as we both approached a parked car blocking his path. This response is, admittedly, puckish at best and downright hostile at worst, and I should really find a more mature way to cope. Many bicyclists, for whatever reason, have issues with bicyclists passing them. This really isn't my case at all.  I'm in no particular rush to get anyway and couldn't care less if someone passes me- on the left. But on the right? It's just too much. It's madness. It's anarchy. A man must have a code.

Riding up Wisconsin, I noticed the cyclist in front of me had a prosthetic leg. His prosthetic clipped in (I think) into the left pedal, but other than that, I don't think there was any modification to the bike at all. I've seen riders with hand bikes a few times, but this is I think the first time I've come across someone riding with a prosthetic. I don't know how common it is, but this guy seemed to have it down. 

I rode home down New Mexico and Tunlaw, which eventually turns into 37th. It'd be nice if 37th turned into a road that didn't have so much ruts and divots and potholes. It's a pretty abysmal cycling experience. All you want to do is gently glide down the hill, but between the stop signs every 10 feet and a road surface that could best be described as lunar, it's very unpleasant.

I recommend procuring a bungee cargo net. It's not very useful until it's very useful. I don't use it a lot, but when there's an irregularly shaped thing you need to get home and your bag is otherwise full, it definitely comes in handy. I guess the thing doesn't need to be irregularly shaped. It could just be a square watermelon. 

L Street to 15th, where I saw the guy I always see who bikes with a small white dog in the 'kid' trailer behind him. This guy is my hero. 


Rides 8/14: Quince Jam

"There's a shortage of perfect [summer days] in this world. It would be a pity to damage [your mood by not riding your bike to work on one of those days]- The Princess Bride, kind of, with Robin Hood, Man in Tights, and Mrs. Underwood adapted for bikey purposes. 

Anyway, it was a good idea to commute by bicycle and I did. I rode through the city, mostly because I predicted that everyone and their mothers would be on the mixed-use trails. Luckily, I was able to "share" the cycletrack with some pedestrians forced from the sidewalk by building construction. People, rightfully, seem to have no problem walking in bike lanes and for the most part, aside from having to slow down and be marginally more cautious, I don't have much issue sharing it with them. Not their fault the sidewalk is closed and it's totally unreasonable to suggest that they cross the street to walk a quarter of a block. So, maybe I should get over it bothering me so much. Or, maybe not. Allegedly, the District of Columbia has "laws" that should prevent this sort of thing, but it seems a low priority. Were I to have my druthers, they'd put some cones in the parking lane next to the cycletrack and "sacrifice" a few parking spaces in the name of more room for cyclists and pedestrians. But, I ain't got no druthers. 

Guy in a straw hat driving a convertible yelling and cursing at other drivers because they ____ (?). Kinda gives all guys in straw hats a bad name. FUN FACT: I have just enough self-awareness to know that wearing a boater is not a good look for me. It doesn't mean I don't basically always want to rock a boater (Scylla?) and especially while riding a bicycle in the summertime. But alas, I still don't and it's probably for the best. ["Well, that was an illuminating digression into the writer's regrets on not wearing straw hats," says no one.] 

I saw Kristin riding up Massachusetts Avenue while I was riding down it. We said hello to each other. Was that so hard? Gear Prudence 1, Strawmen 0. 

No great way to to right from L to 15th. Maybe they should build a flyover ramp. Seems practical. 

I love the kids who skateboard in the Pennsylvanie Avenue cycletrack. No, seriously. Kids between the ages of 12 and 16 need a way to get around and I'd rather have them doing it themselves on skateboards (or bikes or hang gliders or whatever) than in the cars of their parents or, even worse, the cars of their slightly older peers. That we've built infrastructure that's putatively safe enough for them to do this is something we should be happy about and we should try to build more of it. Sure, teenagers are annoying and they're especially annoying in groups and in public, but being annoying hardly seems a reason to deny them safe self- propelled transportation options. If that were the case, would we have bike lanes? Interstates? Anywhere? Yeah, no. 


Rides 8/13: Frizzante

Leaving work I saw a van for Aquaman Pool Service. You'd think Aquaman would have better things to do with his time than clean pools. I guess undersea crime isn't what it used to be. You'd think it'd be more prevalent with all of the sunken treasure, but the allure of guarding Spanish gold from Bob Ballard all day must pale in comparison to ensuring the indoor pools of Bethesda have proper pH balance. Or something. 

Such a warm gauzy sun this morning. The rays felt like hay, whatever that means. I took a picture of the Lincoln Memorial, which glistened. "Who left the cap off my f&$king Glisten?" Almost made it into the Second Inaugural. I don't always love Federalia (the section of the city that people who live here think of as the whole city), but sometimes its artificial monumentality makes for pretty enough views. 

Saw a hipster uniformed Park Ranger riding his fixie to work. Saw a car with a Maryland plate and a McDonnel for Governor sticker. Saw a tourist family that I thought was Danish. 

I got lost in Burleith looking for a back way that I knew didn't exist into residential Glover Park. I watched people walk down the street to wait for the bus. You could probably make good money selling breakfast burritos to those would-be bus passengers. Buses are infrequent enough and who doesn't love a breakfast burrito? No better audience for quick-eating breakfast foods. Would they buy waffles? I'm undecided. 

On the way home, the driver in front me let out an anguished scream when another driver changed lanes and she had to slow down a little. It reminded me of Charlie Brown's anguished scream. Good grief. I heard it because I was close by and her window was open. I wonder how many anguished screams I don't hear when windows are closed. Lots of things you don't hear when you're not listening, either. 


Rides 8/12: Wearing a Wire

Missed the big rain, didn't miss the small puddles afterwards. Ride your bike through puddles. It's pretty great. On your bike commute, you have to make your own fun. You can, I've also heard, make your own curtains and save some money and imbue your window coverings with a better sense of your personal style. I don't sew, but I do have some windows, so tips like this are definitely half-informed, at least (also at best). You might also be able to make your own Venetian blinds, but who has the time and, furthermore, how are you even going to get the gondola inside? But I digress.

Don't ride your bike unwittingly through potholes. I did this morning and I was jarred and a bystander said something like, and I regret that I can't recall it verbatim, "ain't that the way it is" and I thought it rueful. I said, "at least I stayed upright." And so it goes. 

Some new bike parking in the former bike parking desert (not to be confused with bike parking dessert, which is probably some kind of inverted U-shaped chocolate cake, or should be) of Georgetown:

It's outside of clothing store Zara and not up two blocks in front of my sentimental, if not gastronomical, favorite bad Chinese food spot, but maybe someday Kitchen No. 1 will have bike parking and it will be No. 1 in terms of bike parking and not just No. 1 in bad Chinese food. 

Saw two tiny poodles on the ride home. One was white and one was apricot. I didn't register seeing any non-poodle dogs. Are there even non-poodle dogs? 

L Street to 15th and the city was empty. Few cyclists and paltry car traffic. Generally, I don't like empty cities. They remind me of zombie movies. I think it's kinda funny that in most zombie movies the zombies don't drive cars. And that's a shame because if anyone would love standing in line at the DMV, it'd be zombies. Zombie DMV is, I think, the best fake reality show concept never made. 


Rides 8/11: scurrilous accusations

The thing about cement mixer trucks- and there are many things about them, but this is the biggest- the thing is it's that they're preposterously large. It's not that they're actually the largest trucks you see- there are larger, volumetrically at least- but there something especially hefty about them that adds an additional layer of menacing bulkiness. Perhaps it's the bulbous back, wherein the cement mixing happens. Maybe it's the implied solidity (or potential eventual solidity) of the contents. They're not the commonest of big trucks either. You'd think there'd be more, given the amount of building that goes on, but there aren't comparatively that many of them within the species of "big trucks you see in the city." Maybe there's a cartel. Or a union. Or some kind of natural scarcity born from the diffusion of Cement Mixing Truck-Eating Giant Robot Dinosaurs. I don't know. But before I talk more about cement mixing trucks, some pictures from M Street:

Oh really? Will there be uncomfortable beach chairs there? Maybe ones I could pedal? 

Close enough. Those bikes belong to SoulCycle, which is newly opened. If you'd like all the exercise of bicycling with none of the going anywhere, there you go. I've never done a spin class, but I imagine it's quite like real-life bicycling. With pedaling and everything. Must be weird when the instructor yells at you to "get off the sidewalk!" or flings open a car door at you, but I guess this is the verisimilitude people desire. Or not. 

About halfway up Wisconsin I was off to the nearly far right in the right lane and I heard a noise, a belching growling guttural engine noise, and it was the engine of an approaching cement mixing truck. So I moved over. But not closer to the curb. I moved to the center of the lane and there I stayed, pedaling my way up the hill as slowly as I did before I moved over. And that was fine. There wasn't enough room in the lane for me- quite small- and the cement truck- quite big- and having realized that, I wanted to leave no doubt of this realizationto the driver of the cement truck behind me. I wasn't going to make the mistake pf letting him make the mistake of thinking that it'd be ok to pass. Because it wouldn't have been ok. And that's ok. 

But is it ok that me on a bicycle and a guy driving a cement truck are really supposed to share the same space on the same road? That doesn't seem like it should be ok. "But the cement mixing trucks need roads! How are they supposed to get to work?" How am I supposed to get to mine? It's a funny thing to be declared a vehicle. 

On the way home, I saw the narrowed cycletrack on L: 

The posts used to be in the gaps between the chevrons, but they're a foot closer to the curb. Will this prevent a driver from parking in the cycletrack? I think so. Well, maybe. I mean, at least in those parts (not necessarily in the "mixing zones" [cement mixing zones?]). Ok, I hope so. Will it stop a determined driver? They're just plastic sticks. They're not magic or anything. Nevertheless, I hope the pilot program leads to measurable improvements. 

Because #journalism, I went to check out the bike valet use at the One Direction concert at Nationals Park. It looked like this: 

This was still a few hours before the concert, so maybe more people (more than no one?) ended up using it. A few things: 

1. Rain was forecasted 

2. None of the info about the transportation options for getting to the concert mentioned the bike valet. Nor did the automated message at the One Direction concert line I called mention it. I had to email the stadium to verify it's being open. 

Nevertheless, and caveats aside, I was pretty disappointed. The bike valet is packed for baseball games. Obviously not everyone was coming from biking distance, but nobody? Unchaperoned tweens and teens trusted enough to attend a concert by themselves, but our streets (or our mindset about their travel) aren't set up to have them bike there? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? Not much really, but who doesn't love hand-wringing and overly broad and sweeping conclusions based on anecdotal evidence meant to fit into preconceived ideological conclusions? Maybe Liam? You know, like how every boy band has a "cute one" and a "bad boy" and one "who's rigorous about methodologically sound empiricism." 

L Street to 11th threw done wrongish way riding and up and over Potomac to Kebtucky to the grocery store. This was outside: 

Do I call 311, 911 or a children's book author? 


Rides 8/5, 8/6 and 8/7: Forms

When I don't write daily, I tend to forget the details, salient and otherwise, of the things that happen on my bike commutes. After awhile, they all tend to blend together. I can tell you a few things that didn't happen. It didn't rain, for example. I didn't pick up any flat tires. I didn't have to fend off an army of giant space bugs, sent on a mission from their home planet Xanfor VII to invade the Earth and conquer humanity. I'd say that of all the things that didn't happen, that last one was my favorite.

I've been riding along the Mall in the morning and through the city at night. I've begged off the park for the past few mornings. Foliage is nice, but we're not exactly the best of friends these days. Due to a gardening mishap (namely, gardening itself), I have the current misfortune of a poison ivy rash. It hasn't affected my bike commuting, but it has made me want to spend less time around greenery. The twitter hashtag #notallivy trends in my timeline.

I remained impressed with the ever-increasing number of bicyclists on the road, even in August when a lot of DC clears out. With fewer cars, it's kind of like being a kid in a candy store. DC should aspire to having August-level car traffic all year round. That would be a laudable goal. I would laud that.

For the third week in a row, the Washington City Paper has published my Gear Prudence column, in which I try to offer serious advice in a serious way about serious bicycling issues. It's all very serious. The week I wrote about fraught interactions at intersections and also about the clothes you might want to wear or not wear while cycling. I'm glad that someone asked about cycle attire because I find issues of self-presentation to be super-fascinating. In the end, I told the questioner to wear whatever he wants, but now I'm kinda having second thoughts about it. It's not very good advice. Most people dress terribly. So, my new advice would be to wear what other people want you to wear. Pack a lot of changes of clothes- it's likely that opinions will vary along your route. Costumes changes aren't easy, but you're the one who chose to ride a bicycle and you should really try to conform to expectations of others as much as possible.

Now, as for the issue of wearing bike clothes while biking to a date and then changing when you get there, I see some potential pitfalls. Some pitfalls:

1. Changing and freshening up in the restaurant bathroom might be inconvenient. And there are barely any phone booths anymore, so it's not like you can Superman it, even if you wanted to. And then you'll have your bike clothes in a bag and what if they accidentally spill out of your bag at some point. "Nice chamois" your date might say. Or he/she might just look horrified.

2. What if your date beats you to wherever you're meeting and he/she sees you lycra-clad? Are you prepared for that? Will that just lead to an awkward conversation about your weird bikey lifestyle?

3. If you need to flee your date for some reason (I don't really know what reason would precipitate this, but let's assume this happens), would you be so out of habit in riding in regular people clothes that you can't make a quick getaway? If you have to change back into your bikey clothes, won't that slow you down?

4. I don't really have a 4. Honestly, 1 through 3 aren't that great either, so I might just retreat back to my original answer of "wear what you want." But maybe ride to your date in your date clothes? That doesn't seem to onerous, right? And maybe slightly less complicated? 

Anyway. No commute to work today, but I did ride to coffee and then from coffee to a different coffee shop from which now I write. Next up, I think coffee maybe. Oh, also between coffee shops, I rode to a different coffee shop (in an alley), but that place HAD NO BIKE PARKING and so I didn't stay there. Get bike parking, coffee shop in the alley! This isn't very complicated.


Rides 8/4: Yams in a can

When does your new route become your normal route? Is it 3 rides? A week? A month? Does a habit become a habit retroactively from the time you started it and not much later on, when you finally realize that it's what you've been consistently doing for the recent, but not just immediate, past? These are the kinds of things you can think about when you ride down the National Mall and up the Rock Creek Trail. I guess the mind can wander when you're not overly consumed by needing to avoid cars and their drivers. Lots of runners though. And cyclists today too. More than yesterday and Friday, and I guess that makes sense since summer weekends in DC have a way of stretching out longer than streetcar estimated delivery schedules. (zing) 

Washington Harbour, as seen from next to the Kennedy Center, looks like what someone from the 80s thought 2014 would look like. I always think "what a fancy spaceport!" It is not a fancy spaceport. It's barely a fancy seaport. 

I didn't get off the trail by Calvert and crossed the Parkway and then rode past the zoo on a part of the trail I'm not sure I've ever taken. In one of the zoo parking lots, a Coca Cola delivery van was being unloaded. Don't the pandas know it's bad for their teeth? I can't tell you the last time I went to the National Zoo, but I can tell you that I saw a sign that indicated you can't bike through there. Personally, I think that's a huge missed opportunity because if it's anything the zoo needs more of, it's MAMILS. 

There's a street called Porter and it's one of the few that leaves the park up and to the west. The hill discourages. I made it to Connecticut Avenue and was granted a rest to catch my breath at a red light. Like many of the other state avenues, CT through and around Cleveland Park could be turned into a less hostile street. But cars. 

I followed Porter up the next batch of hills to Wisconsin and then over to work via Nebraska. There was one superbiker I saw and one guy in street clothes on a Surly LHT who was tall and thin and might have said "yee haw" and he passed me. 

Ride home was nothing jazzy. Lots of cyclists on L. A bunch more on 15th, including a little kid with a baseball bat in his backpack. Regarding bike-borne athletic equipment, yoga mats are nearly ubiquitous, then tennis rackets, and I've seen at least two guys biking with golf bags full of clubs, a woman yesterday with a badminton racket and two shuttlecocks, and now, one kid with a baseball bat. Never seen anyone with a hockey stick or a jai alai cesta. Not yet at least. 

A bit screwy down by the White House and along Pennsylvania Avenue on account of the African Leaders Summit. The attitude of the state and local security apparatus towards cyclists can be described as " not overtly hostile" when times are good, but whenever there's a pretense- and an gathering of 50 world leaders is a pretty good one- the situation mostly breaks down and what were bike lanes return once more to their natural role as auxiliary SUV parking lanes. It's not like there's anywhere else, other than 6 other lanes, they can park. 


Rides 8/4: Summit

The National Mall is a big expanse of grass, dotted by one obelisk. It's very bike-friendly in the morning, when the museums that flank it aren't open and before the tourists line up to ride in elevators to the top of obelisk or circle the sunken pool surrounded by stately altarless baldacchinos or ascend the steps to a seated Lincoln. It makes for a nice ride and I'm foolish for only doing it so infrequently, though it's now been two in a row. Here's the castle where Old Man Smithson used to live:

Everyone knows that DC was built atop a swamp, but few people know that Old Man Smithson was the one who drained that swamp and was declared the First Margrave of Columbia and given the land upon which to build this castle. Before there was a reflecting pool there was a reflecting moat, but George Washington made Old Man Smithson fill it in because the Founding Father did not believe that moats were in keeping with the Great American Experiment in Democracy and also because the reflecting moat would unwittingly lead the president's cows to dive into it, having been lured by equally inquisitive cows staring back up at them. In an attempt to win back the favor of George Washington, and perhaps someday restore his coveted moat, Old Man Smithson set about gathering precious artifacts from around the world, but each successive prize was never good enough for George Washington. When Smithson died, George Washington was like "what do I do with all this crap?" and, also because Martha had given him a labelmaker for Christmas, he decided to build a bunch of museums to house it.

Too tall, not enough parking

Once more, I retreated into the woods and rode through the park on a winding path, a creek and a cemetery on one side, the effluvium of car traffic on the other. There were few people on the path, but probably more cyclists than runners. It's another place that morning suits. I'd take it home in the evening, but it's a little indirect and I think the narrow path might lose some its charm when more peopled. And in the evening, even if I wanted to ride in the road (which I don't), the highway through the park changes direction and all of the drivers rush outward, escaping the teeming city and its horrid urbanity through the shaded wood that bisects it. 

Afternoon came and that meant leaving work and seeing a bike tied to a lamp and that bike advertised grass fed beef, as bikes sometimes do. 

If this is viral marketing, do I have hoof-and-mouth disease now? I don't know if locked bikes make for effective billboards, though I did stop to take this picture, then tweeted about it, and have now included it in a blog post, so maybe? 

Down Massachusetts and 21st Street and to L, where I followed other cyclists in the cycletrack to 15th where I followed other cyclists in another cycletrack and then to Penn where I followed other cyclists in another cycletrack. I try to be understanding about pedestrians blocking the the poorly designed cycletrack, which runs through what should be the pedestrian refuge in the middle of the block, and I'm generally forgiving because almost all visual cues seem to suggest that that's exactly where you should stand. But standing there and blocking the bike lane with your bike? Like, of all the kinds of people who should maybe be cognizant that they're standing and blocking the bike lane, maybe a bike commuter (this was not a bike tourist type) would be the one kind of person who I hope would have the situational awareness to not do this. And yet, twice in 6 blocks. We really ought to modify the design. And sooner rather than later.

Rode to the top of Capitol Hill and it was motorcade o'clock. We were all stopped and we waited as seven to ten SUVs drove from the Capitol to the Russell building across the street. 

I'm rarely competitive with other cyclists, but I will try to prevent you from passing me on the right. I might even succeed. 

Hyper-local neighborhood gripe: I don't very much care for the intersection of 14th SE/15th SE/Independence/South Carolina/Massachusetts. It's a lot of roads crossing and it's a lot of pavement. For what it's worth, maybe Independence should be a two-way street. Whether this would uncomplicate things or complicate them in a way that's more people-friendly is up for debate. I mention this because I couldn't make my usual left turn onto A because the driver closest to me was on her phone and I didn't feel like chancing it. There should really be a law! Oh, never mind. Maybe if we all just respected each other. Or maybe not


Kidical Mass Arlington to ride to County Fair, eat funnel cake

They'd like you to join them. Bring a kid. And a bike. And a willingness to see agricultural competitions. If you have sufficient space in the bakfiets, maybe you can buy and bring home Arlington's Largest Eggplant. "Sorry, Timmy. You're gonna have to walk. Mommy needs the front for this giant eggplant" you'll say, ensuring his lifelong distrust of eggplants. Anyway, seems like a fun thing to do (the fair, not making Timmy walk) and if you're inclined to bring your kids to the fair and bring them by bike, then join the Kidical Mass caravan. 


One of the great things about living in this little urban-village-county that we call Arlington is that it has its own County Fair, complete with rides, funnel cakes, and agricultural competitions. And biking really is the best way to get there. So come out to ride the rides and enjoy the Fair with us!

When: Saturday, August 9, 10:00am (roll out 10:15am - come early to play!)

Meet: Monroe Park, S Monroe St & 14th St S, Arlington
Parking: On surrounding neighborhood streets
End: Arlington County Fair, Thomas Jefferson Community Center, S Jackson St & 2nd St S; an easy 1.2 mile ride back to the start.

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5270929

We start off at Monroe Park, one of Arlington's many cute neighborhood parks. We'll roll around the leafy neighborhood streets of Douglas Park, Alcova Heights, and Arlington Heights, including enjoying Arlington's first bike boulevards (9th St S and 12th St S), which parallel Columbia Pike.