10/30/14

Rides 10/30: Hopped up on goofballs

Like most days, my day today started in the morning. It started with my riding to work on the Sulry CrossCheck. I mean, technically it started with my struggling to wake up and then slurping some joe and then finding my way outside eventually with a different bike from the one I rode the past few days. I put some air in the tires because I had all this extra air lying around and I was like 'stupid air, ugh. where should I even put you?' and then I remembered 'tires!' and then I so off on another bicycle ride to another day of work, another day of work that still isn't Friday.

There are many paths around the Washington Monument and I normally stick on the low path, the arc that passes wider and gently, but today I took the high path, the one with the incline and the one from which you need to turn somewhat or else you don't get back down and instead have to ride around and around the Washington Monument forever like a perpetual motion May pole. I don't think I'm going to write a Yelp review of the inclined inner path on the north side of the Washington Monument- it didn't leave that much of an impression- but it was fine and I'd do it again if so needed.

Every so often when you ride a bicycle to work you find that your legs are much better at it than you expecting them to be and, in disbelief, I noticed that I made it up the hill from K Street to M Street with a zip I didn't expect nor truly comprehend. I was like 'legs! what's gotten into you?' and my legs were like 'I dunno. Maybe it has something to do with all that air you had lying around and stashed in the tires' and I was like 'whatever, legs. why do you have to ruin everything by pointing out that properly inflated tires and not some sudden burst of leg-related amazingness is the cause of my zip?' They declined to respond.

Homewards, I rode alongside the driver of a black BMW with stickers from Harvard and Penn in the rear window. He liked changing lanes and did so quite often in the brief stretch of road we shared. Sadly he was foiled by a parked car and found himself stuck in the right lane and the many drivers he weaved through and past, passed him in the left one. You can't outsmart a parked car.

Massachusetts Avenue has been the subject of a great deal of road work lately and a lane was closed and car traffic was backed up and I fled to the sidewalk. So long as sidewalk cycling (in this part of the District) is legal, I will never, ever, ever feel bad about doing it. Especially when the alternative is to wait a really long time in a long line of cars. It's not that waiting would be unsafe- no one was driving more than a few miles per hour and only for tens of feet at a time- it's just that I didn't have to and felt no compulsion to waste my time doing so. Saddling bike commuters with the burdens of car drivers is dumb and I don't really accept 'a bike is a vehicle and everyone on the road has the same rights and responsibilities so you need to be saddled by car rules and be just as miserable and inconvenienced as a car driver.' Sorry. I didn't choose car. I chose bike. I chose bike for a reason. Pretty much this reason. Among others.

I saw a group of five or six bicyclists who looked like they had just returned from a long tour on the C&O. They were weighed down with muddied panniers, muddied beards, muddied jorts and however much a few liters of tattoo ink weighs. I guess they looked like they had a fun time. I stayed behind them for the length of Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th to 3rd. Then I rode behind a guy on a CaBi who was wearing a navy suit jacket but navy pants that were not of that same suit. I noticed. People always notice.

The bike lane along the East Capitol is sometimes blocked by delivery trucks and sometimes by drivers looking to parallel park, but I find that most of the drivers who discover by a flick of my left hand that I must evacuate the bike lane on account of these things are basically understanding and accommodating. My situation is pretty scrutable. They get it. "Like, oh, the bike lane is blocked and this bike guy needs to move over to get around it and so, ok, I won't run him over" isn't the world's most difficult feat of comprehension, but it's appreciated nevertheless.

10/29/14

Rides 10/29: A Low Dishonest Decade

I spend a lot of time on my bike commute. It's not just the 45 minutes each way, but then it's the writing about it and all of the hours I spend trying to avoid writing about it and then coming up with lies that I plan to tell about it and then convincing myself just to tell an embellished version of the truth instead and then erasing that and then just deciding to go with the boring truth, but it's a lot of time nonetheless. I don't regret it. But what I've learned from writing about my commute, even more than just riding it, is that sometimes it gets boring. Only so many different things happen each day at around the same time on around the same route and even in a vibrant and ridiculous city like the District of Columbia, even someone deeply committed to the idea that there is something interesting in the repetitive and banal can find himself facing a lack of inspiration. So, you gotta spice things up. And I wrote some suggestions on Urbanful about enlivening your daily ride.

Got talked to this morning. He was a pleasant enough man and he wasn't a native English speaker ('how do you say it? stroller? that you push the baby?') and he had questions about my bike coffee cup holder, namely where to get it and how much it cost. People who love coffee and bicycle to work and who don't have a bike coffee cup holder tend to have these exact questions. We rode along together and I thought I was pleasant enough about it but I eventually ran out of things to say and he didn't have any more questions and I lacked the social grace to move the conversation in another direction and then we rode along for maybe another 3 minutes in total silence and I'm not sure we made eye contact and maybe it was awkward. Maybe it wasn't? It was. But here's my bike coffee cup holder if you'd like to bike coffee cup holder twins. 

Rock Creek Parkway to K Street to Wisconsin and up the hill, just like everyday. I played everyone's favorite game 'don't get hit by that bus!' and everyone's second favorite game 'don't get hit by that SUV!' and realized that everyone has terrible taste in games. 

There are lines every morning outside the Apple Store in Georgetown. Just like the bread lines in the Great Depression except not like that at all. iQueue for the Genius Bar. 

Gloomy on the ride home and I shared New Mexico Avenue with another bike commuter and this is rare. I wore shorts and short sleeves and he was wearing tights, a winter coat and gloves. One or both of us was completely misdressed. 

37th, Tunlaw, R to 34th and through residential West Georgetown which is 17% less charming than residential East Georgetown. The street I took does have a bike lane, though narrow, but unmistakeable. I don't fully understand what compels people to drive their cars in this bike lane as its very avoidable, but people do and I huff a little as I slow to squeeze between their cars and the ones parked. If I was more sensitive to indignity (and I highly encourage anyone who commutes by bike to avoid being so), I'd feel insulted. 

Followed some foreigners (were they Scandinavian?) on Bikeshare bikes on M Street and they handled the somewhat tough and trafficky road quite well, mostly by going slowly and taking the lane and generally not giving a shit that they were SLOWING DOWN SOME TAXIS, which, to the best of my recollection, remains not a felony. Generally speaking, you ride slow enough and ride blissfully unaware enough, and most drivers are just gonna give up waiting for you to get out of the way and move into another lane. There's a middle speed, not fast enough to stay apace with traffic and not so slow that drivers will give up and change lanes, that can get you in trouble. 

L Street to 15th to Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Up the hill. Home soon after. 

Have you read this week's Gear Prudence yet? Because that's also not a felony. Not yet at least. Anyway, if you do go on Halloween as a 'sexy bike advice columnist,' 1) yikes! and 2) let me know. I haven't the slightest idea what that costume would look like. You also deserve some kind of prize and maybe some kind of therapy, vouchers to which might be your prize! 

10/28/14

Rides 10/28: Sombreros and Tigers

It's my dad's birthday. Happy birthday, Dad! 

Lovely morning in DC and clearly the bicyclists were ready for it as they poured forth from wherever and there were gobs of them coming from every which way, the way they sometimes do. Weather isn't the only determinant factor when it comes to the amount of cyclists commuting, but it's a big enough one to notice the difference between a cold and rainy morning and one that presages a sunny day with warm for October temperatures. Unfortunately, sometimes the exuberance of being back on the bike creates a headiness that leads to minor breaches of etiquette such as raciness (in that people want to race. Now I'm thinking about racey breeches, which are an entirely different thing) and an exuberance that translates into too-close passing. It's best to ignore what you can and forgive what you can't ignore. Bicycling is EXCITING and sometimes people get swept up in it. It's ok. 

If you read yesterday's non-post, you might have read the link to Brooklyn Spoke's response to some tired "cars go VROOM" tripe in the New Yorker. Now, obviously, cars go soooo much VROOMer in New York, but it led me to think about Vision Zero in the context of our mayoral election and I wrote something about it in Greater Greater Washington: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24692/vision-zero-wont-be-easy/

This election aside (one week!), I'm worried that saying "I support Vision Zero!" is poised to become an empty phrase. OF COURSE, no one wants anyone to die a traffic death. Traffic deaths are indiscriminate and awful. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that they're saying it. Frankly, I'm glad that safer streets is a thing candidates feel compelled to support. But my question remains: what are you going to do about it? 

Rode home, stopped at the fancy Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue. I'm old enough to remember when it was a slightly less fancy Safeway. Then I rode through residential East Georgetown, which might be my absolutely favorite place in the whole city to ride my bike. I can't say why exactly, but I'm just besotted by it. Probably nostalgia. 

Saw a muffin on a recycling bin, took a picture: 


It's a metaphor. 

[Nope, I'm not gonna explain it. Just gonna not mention it any more and see if you're willing to nod along because honestly, I have no idea if a muffin on a recycling bin is a metaphor. But maybe you do! And far be it from me to rob you of that insight!]

Guy pulled up next to me at Pennsylvania and 15th and the first thing he said was "5 little monkeys jumping on the bed." I was super grateful he had a child on the back of his bike and he wasn't actually talking to me. That is not a conversation I was prepared to have.

I judge myself on how well and expeditiously I cope with/detour around impromptu street closures, of which there are many in DC, because of POTUS and FLOTUS and motorcades and the state security apparatus and whatnot. Pennsylvania was blocked from 6th to 3rd and the cyclists in front of me turned left at 6th and so did I and maybe we all biked for half a block on the wrong side of the road (sorry!) and up Indiana/D and then we split apart and I continued through the scary, near pitch black underpass beneath DOL. I didn't plan to ride over that way today and I can't say that I was really excited about having the opportunity foisted upon me, but an unplanned street closure is the ultimate test of the urban cyclist's mettle and guile. If you do it well, you feel great. If you screw it up, you'll never feel worse.  On a bike in the city, you are almost always helpless to the circumstances around you, but on a bike in the city you're almost never helpless in the circumstances around you.

10/27/14

No Rides 10/27: No title either

Worked from home today. No bicycle rides. Accordingly, I haz a sad. Back at it tomorrow. The bike thing, not the haz-ing a sad thing. I hope. Anyway. In the mean time, go read this by the very good, very smart and very on-point Doug Gordon at BrooklynSpoke (bike blogs are sooooo much better in New York. It's the city water): http://brooklynspoke.com/2014/10/27/vision-zero-versus-the-new-yorker/

It's very good, very smart and very on-point. 

10/26/14

Rides 10/24: Scattered among a hundred cities and wholly given over to unfamiliar affections

Friday. Fry Day. Fried, eh? Friday. It's not Friday anymore. But it used to be. Some things about Friday:

- They didn't make it from Pittsburgh to coffee. They only rode about 240 miles before a combination of injury, inhospitable conditions, and good sense cut short the ride. But man, what an effort! And what a wonderful venture for those who set off at 3AM to meet the riders somewhere along the C&O. Bike people are crazy. The best kind of crazy.

- The effort of the Metropolitan Police Department to dissuade/punish cyclists from/for rolling through stop signs on K Street under the Whitehurst Expressway continued on Friday. Usual caveats aside (i.e. if you don't want a ticket for running a stop sign, don't run a stop sign), this isn't a long-term solution for anyone. I don't think it's going to convince the cyclists who don't stop to become cyclists who do stop and I don't think it's going to convince the people who see cyclists who don't stop to become people who are sated now that some cyclists sometimes have been punished for their transgressions. IF ONLY, there were some kind of superfluous lane that could be converted into a cycletrack and placed between the parked cars and sidewalk, but there's no such superfluous lane. Just a sparsely used central turn lane. Oh well. 

- I took a slightly modified route on the way home (with the aim of checking out a historic viewshed ruined by bicycles) and this route took me down E Street. I have high hopes for E Street (someday) and while it has bike lanes now, they don't go quite far enough and are of an inferior, very easy to block sort. Right now they run from Union Station-ish to 13th Street NW and provide an alternative to Pennsylvania Avenue, which is almost weekendly closed for some event, barbecue, fun run, concert, or whatever. So, they're an important alternative route, even if they have problems. The biggest problem, I think, is that they end too soon. It would be so, so, so nice if thy connected to 15th, but we don't have that now because cars? Because taxis? Because hotels? Because Freedom Plaza? I don't really know exactly, but I can tell you that the area of Penn/E/13th/14th/15th/Freedom Plaza/Pershing Park could just be so, so, so, much more if it was a lot less focused on the movement and stashing of cars. I'm not holding my breath. 

A thing about Saturday: 
- I judged the Kidical Mass DC Halloween ride costume contest at Capitol Hill Bikes. I had a really great time and totally didn't mean to make all those kids cry, but you gotta bring your Hallowern A-game and when you don't, I'm gonna call you out on it, three year old girl in weakass zombie costume. Not sure I'm going to be invited back next year. But I had a ton of fun, so to Megan, Jeff and all the parents and kids involved, thank you all so much for having me!