A silly little thing about ribbons

The disclosures come first. I picked up a free t shirt and a tote bag and the tote bag, which was a fire-engine red, contained a tape measure emblazoned with the Great Streets logo and truth be told, I didn't know the tape measure was in the fire-engine red tote bag until after I got home. Along the way, I had a tiny cup of Atlas Brew Works beer. I ate somewhere between 4 and 6 dumplings and 2 shumai, both at a Charlie Chaplin-themed cocktail bar. I received free transportation in a shuttle bus for a number of blocks, but not many blocks that I couldn't have just walked. I did not take any gelato. I regret this. I have not once voted for any politician I saw, with one exception and only once. I did pick up the giant golden scissors, but only for a moment. There was no quid pro quo. I was not offered this benefit in exchange for any word or deed. What I would have done for this honor, I will not disclose. I did buy two Americanos, one at the beginning and one at the end, and while I paid for them, they did come from one of the businesses visited, the first one.

In a different context and if you squint in just the right way, you could mistake grand opening ribbon for finish line tape. They're the same stuff really. One says 'finish' and one says 'grand opening' but those are just words. The ribbon could say anything. As much as ribbon can say, that is. Muriel Bowser is hosting an 5 kilometer race to mark the start of her term. Vincent Gray cut 17 ribbons to end his. Ribbon at the beginning, ribbon at the end. It's a ouroboros of ribbon. You can get wrapped up in ribbon.

Let me tell you about the scissors. I don't think they're real gold. I think you're supposed to know that, but maybe you didn't. Part of me knew it, but another part of me didn't want to know it. They're hefty. Heavier than I thought they'd be. I didn't really give their construction much thought, but had I, I wouldn't have suspected the solidity. They were metal and metal the whole way through. I guess you don't want to mess around with ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors. To fail to cut the ribbon would be inauspicious. Would you take out a Swiss Army knife with little scissors and make many little cuts where one big one didn't do? Would you bite into it with a canine just to get it going and then tear it the rest of the way? Would you just walk away? I guess this is why the scissors need to be real metal. This isn't a gimmick. This a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

In many parliamentary systems in many civilized countries, the responsibilities of governing and ceremonial functions are divided between a prime minister, who leads the government, and a president, who serves as the formal representative of the State, but without much actual power. There's good sense to this arrangement, but it's not the kind we have here. On the local level, that means you get stuff like this. We ask our elected leaders to govern and also tend to ceremonial functions. Does that make the ceremony more potent? Or does it degrade the leader, who should have other (more important?) things to do? When the President throws out the first pitch of a baseball game, is the pitch more important because he's taken the time out of launching missiles at terrorists to attend a baseball game and aim for a different kind of strike? Or, when the President misses the plate or bounces one or lobs a meatball, did he degrade the office and its dignity? When we ask our politicians to throw baseballs (or cut ribbons), are we elevating the mundane? Or are we reminding our leaders that they are nothing special, that we own them, that they are not potentates, that we set the agenda and the agenda is ho-hum. Or is it the other way around? Do we need our baseball games to be more than baseball games and our insurance agency sign improvements to be more than insurance agency sign improvements and do we, from these ceremonial actions, gain something so much more? Are we seeking a benediction? Are we seeking a photo op? Do we just like pomp?

This was my afternoon. The details are what they are, as is the commentary.

Typewriters have ribbon, but we don't really use typewriters anymore. You cut film, but we don't really use film anymore. One of the apparatus within rhythmic gymnastics is a ribbon. Stevie Wonder sang about a ribbon in a sky. That ribbon was for 'our love' and not to mark the grand opening of a gelateria or a new sign for a liquor store, at least so far as a lyrics tell us. Subtext might suggest otherwise. Open closer reading, I can reveal that subtext does not suggest otherwise. The ribbon in the sky for solely for love and it was not cut by giant golden scissors in the final days of a mayoral term. So far as we know.

Improvements, genuine improvements, should be celebrated. They should be marked by an occasion. It is fitting and proper to do this. Not everything can get a golden spike. Not should everything get spikes, in any metallurgical form precious or not so precious. Spikes, gold or otherwise, are driven into the ground and rivet. A ribbon, unfurled, provides a temporary limes and then when riven, you can cross once more. Closed. Cut. Open.

We should have more ribbon-cuttings, not fewer. More than 17 in one day? That would be a new world record. Probably. I much prefer ribbon cuttings and grand openings to the erection of statues and slapping a name on the side of a building. History will remember the big stuff and what history doesn't cover, nostalgia surely can. Let the novelty of opening be fleeting and celebrate it in a fleeting way. Let civic celebration crest and subside. Let the ribbon fall away. And then put down the scissors. And then pick them up again once more.


Gear Prudence 2014 Year In Review

I don't think this made it onto the web last week, but it was printed in the actual paper, so I cut out the column and now it's on the web. A bit bootleg, but it works. I guess. You can read the Gear Prudence 2015 preview, which is not in the format of poorly done decoupage, here


Rides 12/23: End

Town empties before all big holidays. It even empties before small holidays. And on evenings. And weekends. The best part about Washington, apparently, are the roads out of it. But like most places, like amusement parks and all-you-can-eat buffets, it gets better when you have more of it to yourself. I don't begrudge anyone for leaving at all. I'm looking forward to staying home for holidays and maybe actually doing some DC stuff that I wouldn't normally do. I'm frequently scared off from doing things by large crowds and rarely does waiting for anything seem worthwhile. Maybe this is why I don't take Metro.

I took the M Street Cycletrack and noticed that DDOT had striped a long missing piece at 17th. It's a Christmas miracle! Or maybe a Hanukkah miracle (I'm not sure when they did it)! It might not even be a monotheistic miracle at all. It might just be that the work order was finally submitted. In any case, it's another one in a flurry of year-end bike projects that DDOT has accomplished. Well, mostly accomplished. It still needs plastic sticks.

I like when the arrow directly over the bicyclist figure points directly at what's blocking the bike lane

The loading zone will be next to the cycletrack, as it is about 25 further down the road

I stopped at Patisserie Poupon for some 'last-day-before-vacation' croissants for my colleagues (I'm a very good co-worker. If your workplace could use someone to sometimes bring in pastries, resume available) and left my bike out-front and unlocked. Wisco is a tricky place for bike parking, in that there is none. The shops are all pretty small and face the street along a pretty narrow sidewalk, so there really isn't a ton of room for bike racks anyway, nor a centralized location that would make sense for customers for a bunch of stores. I'm also not sure how many customers arrive by bike, but that doesn't really tell you much- maybe they don't stop because there's nowhere to park a bike. (Nope, nothing to do with the big hill.) Also, it's probably unfair to ask our sidewalks to do too much, especially when they're so narrow. And you can't widen them because then where would people park cars. And you can't turn one of those car parking spots into a bike corral because it's only a parking space between 9:30AM and 4:00PM because if they were parking spots all the time, then there wouldn't be as many lanes in front of the stores for drivers to drive right past them? It's a real conundrum.

I decided to end my year of bike commuting into work with a ride up New Mexico Avenue. The bike lanes were full of leaves and unloading delivery trucks and the cars of people who either cannot parallel park well or simply don't care to, but at least there's a bike lane. And I guess that's my larger attitude about the state of #bikeDC in 2014 (I wrote something in WCP about it and it's available in print, but I don't think it's online yet, so go out and grab a print edition).

I left work early and headed home the usual way down Massachusetts and then took Q across town to 15th before heading up to T, over to 14th and down another block. I stopped for some celebratory falafel, as one does. Considering the Jesus, the alleged reason for the season, was a middle eastern dude, I'm pretty sure that's a way more appropriate Christmas food than ham, which again, Jesus, the presumably kosher-keeping middle eastern Jewish man, would not eat. I also had French Fries and were new world foods such as potato available to Jesus, I'm sure he would have enjoyed them mightily.

14th Street is an awful street for bicycling. The bike lanes aren't respected, there's too much construction, the road is ripped up. It's just awful. If you ride it everyday, you're either a hero or a moron and maybe both.

L to 11th to Pennsylvania, up the hill and home. The bike commutes for 2014 are in the books. Looking back, I'd say my favorite commuters were that one Thursday and then those two Tuesdays. See in 2015.


Rides 12/22: Almond Joyeux Noel

A few things from the morning:

- Funny thing how much harder it is to ride to work when you've got brake pad rubbing, preventing the free movement of your rear wheel. But it makes you stronger! Because bike commuting isn't hard enough already sometimes. I fixed it later, which is to say I had it fixed, but more about that later.

- First time up 11th to R to Massachusetts in maybe a couple of months. It's shorter than riding across town (either via the Mall or Penn and M) and faster too. I think I know this and I think I knew it, but I learned it again. I saw Ted on 11th (hi Ted!), but not much else noteworthy. R was a bit of a cluster and mostly because there was no car traffic and that fact gave drivers license to go as fast as they pleased and that's typically at a speed faster than which I'm really comfortable biking around. Bike advocates, whoever they are, always like to talk about how bike commuters and car commuters are on the same team- one less car! build bike lanes and I'll stay out of your way! more room for you!- but sometimes the uncomfortable truth is that, maybe, I'm not super-thrilled about a world in which the fewer drivers are allowed to go super-fast near the more of us on bikes. It's unpleasant. And as much as I'd like to say 'see? look, open road for you! all thanks to my biking!', I can't help but think 'gosh, I wish the road wasn't so open so you couldn't drive so fast on it. Like, we convinced everyone not to drive and this is how you do us? dude.' I don't know. Maybe it's a design problem and maybe it's a paradigm problem or maybe it's both. Like, I want us all to be on the same team, but it seems hard when the goals (vroom vroom fast car vs. not be around speeding cars because they are unpleasant) seem so diametrically opposed. I guess I'm conflicted.

- They've opened a cafe on the grounds of the National Cathedral. If they threw in some discounted scones, I'd probably convert to Episcopalianism. It's a pretty nice space, but more importantly, it's at the top of the long climb at the intersection of Mass and Wisco, so it basically never not a good idea to stop. No bike parking, unfortunately. But who's going to steal a bike from in front of a church? Oh, bike thieves? I see. Anyway, place looks like this:

A thing from the evening:

This tree symbolizes trees in winter

It was cold and raining. It could've been worse. I remember being in high dudgeon about something or other, but I forget what it was now and that's probably for the best. Massachusetts to 21st to L to 12th to M to 7th to the not-yet-moved BicycleSpace, where an able mechanic ably fixed my brakes. They say that you learn from your mistakes but I'm wondering how many more mistakes I have to make before I learn to never try to fix anything on my bike itself. Speaking of mistakes, from the shop I rode by the Verizon Center, which was hosting an event (hockey?) and cycling near an arena on an event night just tends to be a terrible idea. Because cars.

E Street, Columbus Circle and Massachusetts some more. Rounded a couple of parks, then I was home and happy to be out of the rain for the few minutes it took me to leash up the pups and go back out in the rain. Last commute of the year tomorrow.


Rides 12/19: Turn Right

I really need to write these up before Sunday. A few days elapse and whatever stood out from the commute no longer stands out and then I have to make up a bunch of mundane stuff, maybe even more mundane than than what actually happened, and substitute the false memories for the real ones. I think this might also be the plot of Inception 2: #inceptioneuring. What I can remember of Friday, as I tend to remember better with my taste buds than with my brain buds (note: I never took an anatomy class, am unsure if brain buds are an actual thing), were cupcakes. These cupcakes were brought in celebration of the fact that a bunch of us get together every Friday to drink coffee. Why exactly this needs celebrating, I'm unsure, but far be it from me to complain. In any case, thanks for the cupcake! It was a really great chaser to the donut that I hurriedly wolfed down, so as to free my hands to house a cupcake. Anyway, woo baked goods.

Two things I remember from the ride home and the first of those two things was a nasty pair of gashes in the road from some utility work at 15th and K. They were each maybe an inch and a half deep and at least 6 inches across and I was glad it was light enough still to avoid running into them. I wouldn't be too surprised if they took out a bicyclists or two later in the day, as that's what nasty gashes can do. I was on the Cross Check and not the Ogre, but happenstances like these confirm to me that people who cut holes in the street give very little care about bicyclists who later need to use those streets. SPOILER ALERT: this is pretty obvious. I don't know how utility work is undertaken in more bicyclist-friendly places, but I can only assume it's worth more care than 'eh, what's the worst a two inch cut in the pavement could do?' In this regard, it's a reminder that bicycle-friendliness (whatever that is) is more than paint and plastic sticks, or even concrete curbs and dedicated traffic signals, but a mindset that acknowledges that there are bicyclists, that there are always bicyclists (and they're pretty much everywhere), and that perhaps things should be done in such a way as to not cause them needless harm. You see this lack of mindset with utility cuts and you see it with blocked bike lanes and you see how it applies to pedestrians as well with closed sidewalks and the 'why don't you just wait here for 2 minutes for the light to change, cross the street, walk on the other side of the street for a block, wait another 2 minutes to cross back?' signs that accompany them. When afterthought becomes forethought, then we'll have actually gotten somewhere.

The other of the two things I remember is the addition of more parking stops on the 900 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. As of Friday afternoon, there were stops about 3/4 of the length of this block:

I think that maybe this could work. I worry, however, about the number of events that take place on Pennsylvania and whether these would need to be removed and re-installed throughout the summer. I don't know. Hopefully not. The perils of installing a center-running bike lane on America's Main Street, I guess.

So, that was Friday. But this is Sunday, and earlier in the day, I had the pleasure to take part in (but far from complete) the Hains Point 100. Hains Point, if you don't know, is a man-made island by the Jefferson Memorial that separates the Potomac from the Washington Channel and it's mostly a recreation site and has a pool and a golf course and it's a popular stretch for runners and, especially, cyclists, who ride loops around it. Each loop is maybe 3 miles, maybe a little less. Anyway, the idea is to ride a mentally mind-numbing century around HP for the very good cause of raising money for the WABA Women & Bicycles program.  As in previous years, I did just a few laps and went home because 100 miles is a really long way and 3 mile lap increments is a crazy way to get to 100 miles, but there were many people who did the whole thing and they're real heroes. So, if you're one of those people who did the whole thing, or one of those people who just showed up and did some of the thing, then you're a pretty great person and I'm glad that the DC bicycling community, whatever that is, has people like you in it.


Rides 12/18: Citron

oh, hey. it's me. i'm here. using all lowercase letters for some reason. maybe it's to epater les bourgeoisie. maybe it's because my shift key is broken. maybe it's because i just don't feel that capital. maybe it's because i'm feeling dimunutive. or maybe it was a conceit that got my to start typing and now i can't find a way out of it. anyway, i'm back now. I'm back now from being away (I rode on Friday, but I didn't write about it and I have scant memories of it now) and I rode to work today, Thursday, and it was nice to be back on the bicycle. Except for the gentle, but cold, breeze, which nearly felled me. I labored headlong into the wind. I gritted. Winter would be different without the wind. Sometimes I imagine a version of myself that lives in Chicago, but my imagination far outstrips my actual fortitude. I'm not Carl Sanburg. I'm not even Ryne Sandberg. "Here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;" Bold slugger for a second baseman at least. A second city second baseman. Like a rhino, I lumbered slowly into the gale. Pachyderm. Thick-skinned. You'd have to be if you never win a World Series. Or to ride a bicycle in the winter wind. Or to write a biography of Abraham Lincoln. Stormy, husking, brawling. Anyway. 

Pennsylvania, 15th to M. They're not quite done with the interim temporary covered walkway sidewalk on M Street that will maybe keep pedestrians out of the M Street cycletrack while the construction goes on and on and on at the building at the corner on M and 20th. They're painting it white. 

'let's paint it white!' 'screw you, Huck Finn!'
When this opens (tomorrow? Monday?), it will be an improvement for cyclists and pedestrians and for hucksters trying to lure easily duped tourists to the famous covered bridge that George Washington himself built with all that extra cherry tree wood lying around. "I cannot tell a lie. I painted it white to hide that it was cherry wood!" might say a historical reenactor in full colonial costume before he demands $10 for a picture with him. "Also, this sidewalk used to be a canal. That's why I built this bridge," he might stammer if anyone started asking too many questions. "No refunds," he would also say, proving himself first in war, first in peace and last to acknowledge that he's ripping you off. 

A driver missed me by about 6 inches, cutting across my path in order to turn into a paint store parking lot. It was more dumb luck that any skill on her part. I doubt she (or I) could be that lucky again. Of the many things drivers do that confound, the super-close pass is the one that's just the worst. I have to think it's because they don't know how close they're actually driving. And that they don't know is even more terrifying. I drive sometimes (though almost never to work) and I've driven a lot longer than I've habitually biked and even with all that I wonder sometimes 'how assured can I be that I'm not 6 inches wrong?' 6 inches wrong isn't a lot wrong, until it's too much wrong. 

The zebras on Pennsylvania Avenue 

"screw you, Huck Finn!" "that doesn't make any sense" "But it's a call back" "Whatever"
will soon be removed and replaced with parking stops, like they have on First Street NE. But until then, the zebras remain. However, parking stops have been added a few blocks to the east and I saw them today. They look like this:

It's still a work in progress (they go for about half a block) and I don't know if there's supposed to be something between each stop, but for now, the gap is pretty big.
"Mind the gap" "Screw you Huck Finn!"

Prone bike for scale

With the usual caveats that I am 1) not a bike planner, 2) not a traffic engineer and 3) not as tall as I'd like to be, some thoughts:

1. It's not done yet. 
2. I don't get why the gap needs to be so big. But maybe something is going in the gap, because see 1.
3. If the gap is to remain this big, there will be lots of room for drivers (if they are so inclined) to pull u-turns through the parking stops. 
4. Even if the gap were smaller, it would be pretty easy for a committed driver to pull over one. Because cars are big. And committed drivers can do pretty much what they want. So, I think, and again, see all caveats and earlier points, the idea is primarily to dissuade drivers from thinking about u-turns and thereby prevent them without actually "stopping them" if that makes any sense. I mean, any extra delineation that further clarifies that the cycletrack is actually a cycletrack is really good, but, if you look past all the caveats and the numbered points to the picture of the zebras, you can pretty much see that this 'if we put some things here, no matter how they're spaced, it'll definitely stop drivers from making u-turns' theory doesn't seem to hold true in all cases. Anyway, I'll keep you posted on how this develops. Because that's my jam. 


Rides 12/11: Helicopter Droppings

Some victories from today's commute brought to you by social media and responsive local government:

First this:
And tonight, this:

Now, granted, I'm not just some average bike commuter. I'm a bike commuter with the 37th most popular local bike blog, so I've got huge pull. Basically, I tweet and the government is like 'whoa, that guy? Well, check the work orders and make sure that bike commute bloggers one through thirty six haven't asked us to do anything and then, like if you have time after lunch, maybe just, you know, indulge him? Clearly he has issues if he's interrupting his bike ride to tweet pictures of leaves." Anyway, once again, much thanks to the DC Department of Public Works. Thank you.

And another good thing from this morning:

What is this even a picture of? I'll tell you if you keep reading
This is a picture of a temporary walkway under construction along M Street just west of 20th Street. For the past few months (since summer at least, but probably even before then), the sidewalk has been closed and pedestrians have been instructed to cross the street rather than walk in the adjacent cycletrack. Pedestrians, being normal people who aren't total morons, rightly reject these instructions and walk in the cycletrack because that's much more expedient and a more obvious solution that crossing the street to only have to walk back half a block later. But, hopefully, with the construction of this covered walkway, the sidewalk will be reopened and the cycletrack will once again be free of pedestrians, allowing it to return to its natural state, blocked by idling delivery vans.

And a weird thing:

Baby on a gator
I'm not sure I'd want to advertise that I let my precious gator get climbed on by some dangerous baby, but I'm not a parent, so I don't know how these things work.

It is illegal to ride on a sidewalk in the downtown DC business district, wherever that is. There are places in the downtown DC business district where the sidewalk is 30 feet wide. Popular mixed-use trails in the DC area, shared by bicyclists and pedestrians by the thousands without (much) incident are not 30 feet wide. I present these statements with no intention of drawing any conclusions.

L Street to 15th and then down to Pennsylvania. I think there was a big event at the White House, but otherwise not that much traffic on 15th or Pennsylvania. There were no marchers today. I don't think I saw anyone protesting outside of any buildings either. Maybe later. Maybe not.

I try not to think too much about how I ride past the Capitol twice everyday and there's maybe only a handful of people inside who think I'm worth treating like nearly all other American citizens and solely because of my zipcode. I don't think the Founding Fathers even imagined a society with postal codes, much less postal-code based discrimination. When they wanted to send letters, they were probably just like 'hey, guy on horse. Take this to Tim. He lives like, I don't know, in some town in Maryland. Just ask along the way. No, there's no five digit numerical code associated with this 18th century market town. Why would there be? And how would that even help? Just go, ok."

As a rule, I won't pass a bicyclist in front of me if he or she is waiting for a red light. I'll just wait behind him or her and then I'll go when they go. It's a pretty simple maxim- 'defer to the judgment of the person in front of you because they got there first.' However, there is more room on the scroll and there's an important codicil that says that this rule can be completed ignored if the person in front of you has a phone out.

It's Friday tomorrow. One more day until weekend. And then weekend stuff, like _______. I just love underlining stuff on weekends.


Rides 12/10: Nowhere to run

Took off for work later than usual this morning and had a meeting before coming in and found myself riding across town on the I Street SE/SW bike lane towards Maine Avenue and the construction project at the wharf that is the construction of The Wharf, which I believe is a wharf of some sort. And by wharf, I think I mean some buildings and maybe also an actual wharf. But I think its wharfiness will be a secondary concern and the buildings will be the primary concern. Anyway, the result of the construction is that the driveway/road/bike route to the fish market is totally blocked and in order to get over that way you need to ride on Maine Avenue, but there's no good place to cross and something of a grassy median in the middle and so I popped my bike up onto the grassy median and crossed the street again. I'm not sure there's a better way to do this and since, generally speaking, I'm not the biggest fan of getting off my bike and lifting it onto grassy medians to cross the street, I think I can pretty much cross off from my list riding anywhere near the The Wharf, the Fish Market, or the interim Anacostia Riverwalk Trail for the next few years. Neat.

The wind was a jerk. I'm pretty used to going pretty slowly, but along Ohio Drive I think I established a new slowness record through a combination of a nasty headwind, the lumbering Ogre, cycling street clothes and (I think) a dragging brake pad. I "fixed" my brakes this morning (the ones that wouldn't stop) and perhaps I over-corrected so instead of failing to grip, the pad rested against the rotor and that's not really an ideal situation. I think I 'fixed' it again at work and the ride home did seem smoother. There's a learning curve when you adopt any new kind of bike technology and my curve with disc brakes has been pretty steep. For the non-experts out there, disc brakes are when you throw your old CDs between the spokes of your tires and your slowed down by shattered reflective plastic and liner notes. The stopping power is pretty good (way better than MP3 brakes), but I'm not as used to adjusting them as with caliper brakes and my minor failures and inability to stop fidgeting with things results in the sometimes hilarity of trying to power through extra drag. Oh well. It was slow going.

The District of Columbia, like other places, has had a rash of protests lately and primarily, these protests manifest themselves with bands of people marching in the middle of the street, normally accompanied by a few police officers. They chant and they walk and sometimes the protesters block intersections. There's probably a lot you can say about this, especially in the 'what do these protests mean in the context of public space? what do these protests say about urbanism? what do these protests say about power and streets and car culture?' variety, but as far as bike commuting is concerned, I would say that in my experience, protests and rolling street closures and blocking lanes and all that, has really affected bike commuting at all. Bike commuters are kinda like cockroaches and they're kinda like a leak in your roof- water's gonna get through one way or another. Maybe it won't be the most direct path and maybe you won't notice it at first, but eventually there'll be a puddle on the floor. Better get a bucket.


Rides 12/9: Bury Your Gold

Cold. Rain. (Moose. Indian.) Those these aren't my last words on the matter and I could be more thorough and not so walled in. Not much to do about in the cold rain other than to decide whether or not you want to ride in it and once you decide you do, you just got to get to getting. So, I got to getting. East Capitol and then up Pensylvania Avenue and through downtown on the M Street cycletrack separated bike lane protected bike lane mostly separated and irregularly protected bikeway (technical term) and there were puddles and I rode through them, but not especially mirthfully. Just with the regular amount of mirth. Adequate mirth. Mirth enough.

Rode up Wisco and had to vacate the right lane, which is normally empty since it's a variable parking lane and for the most part drivers remain clear of it regardless, because someone left his or her Maserati idling and with the flashers on. A few thoughts:

1. Is driving a Maserati to work on slow city streets like bike commuting on a high end Pinarello?

2. There is no way that someone who drives a Maserati thinks that he and I have 'equal rights' to the road. THIS IS WHY YOU BUY A MASERATI. TO SHOW THAT YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE.

3. If I were a different, more evil person, I could imagine a scenario in which I popped into the illegally idling Maserati and moved it somewhere. I would probably also need to be the kind of evil person who can drive a stick shift.

4. Bike commuters get a ton of shit for slowing down traffic and taking up road space. That's fine. Most of that is bull plop and such accusations are not much to get worked up about. And yet at the same time, you'd be shocked (or not) by the number of drivers who take up entire lanes of traffic by idling, standing, or illegally parking just for a 'quick trip' to grab a cup of coffee or duck into an ATM or do other some mundane task for which properly parking a car would just be too onerous. And FOR SOME CRAZY REASON, it's vanishingly rare that I ever read screed-laced invective-filled bilious 'old man yells at cloud' letters to the editor detracting a practice that seems far more disruptive to the sacred 'traffic flow' that a bicyclist zipping down the road, taking up 3 feet of space that no one was really using anyway. I guess we see what we want to see.

On the way home, I noticed that my rear brake wasn't working so well. I think I beschmutzed my rotor in the course of some maintenance in the morning and while the brake pads were biting, they didn't actually catch the rotor and stop the bike. No matter. The front brake worked and I wanted to get home faster anyway.

21st, L, 15th. I've more or less given up on taking L all the way down to 11th, though I'm not sure why. Apparently, there is holiday decor to marvel at City Center, so maybe I should head that way in the spirit of gawking at giant luminous reindeer. 'Tis the season. I think I don't go down that way more often because riding 11th can be fraught (comparatively much more fraught, since there's basically a protected bike lane on 15th from L to Pennsylvania, whereas 11th just has the white stripe-y kind of bike lane, so behavior change noted, bike lane engineers) and because the transition from L to 11th is much more clunky that the one at 15th. I mean, in actuality, maybe not 'much more,' but at least a little more. Ok, barely more. But enough more to make me not want to do it and it's my ride anyway and you can't tell me what to do. YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME [runs into room, slams door, tries to crank up stereo, but stereo is set to NPR, so just ends up cranking All Things Considered, loses desired effect of petulance]

Pennsylvania, up then Jenkins Hill, then down East Jenkins Street through the Jenkins Hill neighborhood, all the while muttering to myself about our colonial overlords. I stopped at the grocery store and I didn't mutter there. I just bought some potatoes and sugar and then rode home.


Rides 12/8: Mr. Templeton

It appears that I didn't write up Friday's rides. I was like 83% sure that I had, but now I'm only about 37% sure, which is about 37% too much since I'm now quite sure that it's not there and it's not in draft. Whoops. I'm just going to skip it. Just like Beethoven skipped Symphony 2.5. He went right from 2 to 3, because in the 19th century they didn't even have decimals, probably. They just didn't have any need for them back then. It was a simpler time. 

Over the weekend I bought a new cycling cap (thanks for the assist, Ryan!) and its merino and has snug earflaps. I quite like it. Always important to cover your ears. That way you don't hear random strangers mocking your dorky earflapped cycling cap. But, function over form! And form-wise, it's not even that blad. It's a solid, slimming black, which is great when you have copious hair girth.

Picked up a commute buddy at 4th street on the Mall and rode behind him until Rock Creek. We didn't really talk or anything, but I rode along behind him for a couple of miles, sometimes a few feet behind other times up to a dozen yards and then I lost him at a red light and then caught back up again. About him, I remember little. A green winter hat? An older bike with downtube shifters? It's best not to grow too strached. Commute buddies are like beta fish, except normally you don't flush them when their time comes up. 

Normally I feel pretty springy on a Monday morning, but my legs just didn't seem to want to participate in this morning's ride. At least, not with any vim. They participated, but you could tell that they didn't really want to be there, which complicates a bike commute somewhat. Professional cyclists tell their legs to shit up. The best a bike commuter can do is implore his legs to stop pressing snooze. 

"Hey, bud"
"Hey, Fingers. What's up?"
"Why didn't you put your gloves on before you left work?" 
"Well, you see, I didn't think it was going to be that cold."
"Well, you see, we've been riding now for 10 minutes and you can see now that you're quite wrong."
"Sorry, Fingers."
"So, you can stop and put them on?"
"Come on!"

The Trader Joes on 24th has about 8 u-racks in front and they're pretty good and accessible, though they fill up on more popular times but not tonight. Bike racks in underground parking garages are great (especially for store employees!), but the real bread-and-butter of grocery store (where you can buy both bread and butter) bike parking is when the racks are 
1. Plentiful
2. Of proper quality and type. 
3. As close to the entrance as possible. 

You can compromise on any of these three, but if you get all three right, you can really build a loyal cadre of bicyclist shoppers, some of whom will make impulse dessert decisions and pick up a chocolate ganache Danish while waiting in line even though there might have already been cake at home. 

Protestors at Connecticut and L. They marched up Connecticut into the intersection, then held a "die-in" blocking car traffic in both directions. Pedestrians and cyclists found their way through. There was some honking, but not nearly as much as I thought there'd be. A block down L, the bicyclist behind me asked me what the protest was about. I said, struggling for a graspable one-word answer to a surprisingly complicated simple question, "Ferguson" and while I'm not sure I was totally accurate, she seemed to get it, even though I was surprised she asked in the first place. 

I don't know if I saw Michelle Bachman in an evening gown outside of the White House entrance by E Street, but I definitely saw people in evening gowns and I'm fairly certain I heard a guy in a tuxedo say "Michelle Bachman." But really, she wouldn't be invited to something at the White House, right? 
Two NPS Park Rangers standing in the middle of the bike lane and one complained to the other that bicyclists who rode past them weren't singing their bells. Sounds about right. 


Rides 12/3: Scads of chads

An in-between weather day and I under-dressed for the morning and over-dressed for the ride home and I wore the same clothes for both trips. IF ONLY THERE WERE SOME KIND OF NEARBY NATIONAL CHAIN RETAILER WHO SOLD A WIDE VARIETY OF OUTDOOR GEAR AND CLOTHING. Well, soon enough.

I took the usual route in. Half-way up Wisco, I felt a bit out of it and ducked into a deli for a quick snack. The best part about biking to work is the actual biking but in a close second place, it stopping biking to eat a snack. If an activity isn't worth interrupting, it's not worth doing. Or something like that.

I took the back way into work, which is what I call Tunlaw and New Mexico. I think it's just as direct as riding up Wisconsin to Massachusetts, but it feels like a back way because it's all quiet and residential and vaguely forest-y. My favorite woodland creature is the deer, but my second favorite woodland creature is the Volvo driver. So majestic. So easily spooked. When I chance upon wood in the woods, I trod lightly, lest it bound away and injure itself. I hope that the Park Service doesn't need to cull them. Think of Sweden's GDP! WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF SWEDEN'S GDP?!?! You start taking out Volvo-ists and you're gonna ask the boffins at Ikea to have to figure out how to flat-park even more umlauts into boxes than they do now and poor Stieg Larsson! To maintain their standards of living, poor Stieg is going to have to crank out another trilogy and you know that won't be without diminishing returns "The Girl with the Dolphin Tramp Stamp"? Who wants to read that? "The Girl Who Plays with a half-empty thing of Tic-Tacs because that's the only thing in her Mom's purse"? Yikes. It could get rough.

There are parts of my ride home that I don't especially enjoy and the bit on Massachusetts Avenue by the entrance to Rock Creek Park is one of them. It's two lanes and the left lane is almost always blocked by a driver intending to turn left and this means that one of the drivers behind him likely is trying to change lanes. This means that I can either 1) hug close to the bumper of the driver in front of me, hopefully dissuading someone from changing lanes because there isn't enough room 2) leave a big gap and hope that I can brake quickly enough if I need to or 3) ride on the sidewalk. Or 4) take a different way home. I feel like an under-appreciated aspect of the current state of bike commuting in DC (and probably a lot of places) is how forced you are into choosing the least bad option in a lot of cases. It's just that the circumstances are dealt to you and at the best, you have some plastic sticks and your wits to keep your upright and to be perfectly honest, most of the plastic sticks have already been run over by errant drivers and aren't there anymore. There should be no surprise why more people don't do this.

21st, L, 15th and the White House plaza was closed, as it sometimes is. H Street is inadequate for bicycling (does it really need so many lanes? I mean, need is a funny word), so I rode on the sidewalk for half a block and I have no regrets. Then 15th to Pennsylvania, where some non-MPD police person (transit police? housing police? museum polce? I don't know) had parked in the cycle track, having been able to find no room in the 8 other lanes on the street. Then after him, it was a pretty quick jaunt up the hill, then down E Cap and Kentucky to the grocery store and then another few minutes after groceries, I was home.

I didn't ride to work today (I'm working from home), so no 12/4 post. But happy birthday, Mom!


Rides 12/2: Slab of Marbled Beef

I missed the worst of it this morning. Mostly by chance. I totally would've ridden in the cold rain. I would've embraced it. I would've loved it. I would have grinned from ear to ear. I would've ridden faster and stronger and with more even pedal strokes. I would've sung and joyously shrugged at the motorists as I gleefully passed by. I would've arrived to work 10 minutes faster than usual, buoyed by a super-speed I would've discovered in the near-freezing December rain. I would've grown two inches taller. I would've probably saved upwards of five stranded kittens, kittens stuck in trees and maybe in burning buildings, buildings that burned in spite of the cold rain. I would've had a great time. Guaranteed. Or maybe these are just the things you can assuredly say when circumstances allow you to not ride to work in an unforgiving rain.

I did ride in later, when it was still cold and the roads were wet, but without the sogginess. It felt like slow going. East Capitol, down the hill, and along Pennsylvania Avenue, which was quiet and easy. I rode past the White House. I don't think I looked at it. I normally try to look at it. I rode up Pennsylvania on the other side, which struck me as very wide. I mean, it's only 8 lanes. Barely any room for anyone, really. If people in DC fretted about the width of roads the same way they did about the height of buildings (and these things are related), then we'd really be onto something. But, nope. A street 100 feet horizontal is barely adequate whereas a building 100 feet vertical is an ungodly abomination. Maybe we should compromise on roads and buildings that are 50 feet and built on 45 degree angles. That seems reasonable.

Sometimes I try to imagine what kind of bike commuter I'd be if I didn't ride my exact bike commute. What if it were 2 miles shorter? What if it were 4 miles longer? What if some streets with bike lanes lacked them and what if others had protected cycletracks instead of white paint? What if all the roads were half as wide and all of the buildings were askance? The thing about hypotheticals is that they make a hypo out of you and theticals. Wait, that's not right.

It was still cold on the way home. Massachusetts to 23rd to L and this was the part of my bike trip when I started musing about what my attitude about bike commuting would be if I never worked 8 miles away on top of a hill and just worked closer to the city center. 15th and then I turned left on H because I thought that the White House plaza was closed, but I don't think it actually was. H was empty, as was 15th and then Pennsylvania, both of drivers and bicyclists. I remember riding along Pennsylvania and forgetting the last time I saw another cyclist. It was one of those nights.

Rides 12/1: Ute Movement

The first day of December and the Monday after Thanksgiving and it was warm and the cyclists were out if not in droves, in plenitude. I followed the usual pathway along the Mall and up the Potomac to eventually M Street, before taking the 33rd Street bike lane towards Volta and then up Tunlaw eventually and then New Mexico. Too warm for winter, but not warm enough for early fall, I wore a mishmash of clothes that kind of worked, but also kind of didn't. They say there's 'no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing' but there's no such thing as good weather with bad clothing either. I don't think my enthusiasm for the ride was dampened in any way, but my brow was.

Though this was nothing in comparison to the ride home, when the heavens emptied as I rode along L Street. I had previously ridden down Wisco and then stopped at the grocery store and everything was going swimmingly until it really started to go swimmingly. It was a mean, torrid rain, the main effect of which was to thoroughly soak through me, though I suppose it soaked other things too, so I don't feel particularly singled out or anything. The rain stopped, at least in such heavy volume, by the time I reach 15th and K and from then, there was no rain, but only darkness.

Along Pennsylvania, I was passed too closely and without warning by a fellow cyclist and I took offense. Is it so hard to not do this? Anyway, a few lights down the road I had caught up to him and I let my worse self get the better of me and said to myself 'oh yeah, let's pass this guy going uphill, even though I have five bottles of wine in my bag and a baguette sticking out of it' and as I set him up for what would be an epic 'take that!' at the base of Capitol Hill, I heard a the gentle thud and gentler skid of my baguette meeting the pavement, having ejected itself from my bag. The universe doesn't want you to be petty, so sometimes it ejects your baguette.

Later up the hill, it ejected itself again. I guess the universe and the bread really wanted to make a point.

"Yeah, I'd like an order of the wet leaves with a side of wet leaves and for dessert, I'll take some wet leaves with wet leaf sauce. Oh, and an extra order of wet leaves on the side." There were a lot of wet leaves in the bike lanes. Tis the season.