4/18/15

Rides 4/17: money

Let's talk about money. The marginal cost of a bike commute is barely anything and the marginal costs of other forms of commuting (driving, public transport, Uber) are comparatively higher. Some people commute by bike to save money and others commute by bike because they don't have any money to spend. Some don't commute by bike for other reasons (they like to read or they enjoy driving or they live 40 miles away from work or they don't want to show up at work sweaty), but there are some people who don't commute to work by bike, and otherwise would, because the conditions in their area feel unsafe for bicycling and since more or less everyone has the same primary interest in remaining safe and whole, they have to forego bicycling to work even though they would want to otherwise. I don't know how many people fall into this camp, the would-but-for-fear would-be bike commuters, but it's more than zero people.

And here's where that ties into money: these people are being extorted. Instead of getting to spend marginally no money on their commute, they're forced into bus fare or paying for parking or taking a cab or whatever. Because things have been built in such a way that biking isn't safe. Isn't that messed up? How many people are spending how much on driving bikeable distances because those distances have been made completely inhospitable to biking? Sure, some people can (and do) put aside their fears and get on the bike and get to work that way mostly irrespective of the conditions and some set of that set is probably pretty happy that they've done so. But to have built our society in such a way that a virtually free form of transportation comes with the trade-off that it might be scary as fuck and completely unaccommodated? That's messed up.

Friday was a really nice day weather-wise and I took the Brompton. I stopped for coffee on the way in and groceries on the way home. Circle of life.

4/16/15

Rides 4/15 and Rides 4/16: without pictures

Two days: let's go!

Yesterday morning was marked by coffee, namely free coffee offered to bike commuters by The Bike Rack, which is not the kind of rack that stretched people in Medieval Times. They do it about once a month and I always try to go because you don't turn down free coffee. I watched scads of bike commuters ride by and they didn't even turn their heads when the shop folks said 'free coffee for bike commuters!' Who are you monsters? Maybe you don't drink coffee, but if you do and you can't find time in your life to stop and accept a free cup, I'm not even sure you should be riding a bicycle. I'm not sure it's the mode of travel for you. I'm sorry.

I rode up Massachusetts Avenue for the first time in a while. I used to do it every day and now I don't. It's like seeing a friend from college. "oh hey, remember that time, we like, totally, um, did that thing? yeah? that was cool. so, you married now or whatever? Oh, two kids? that's cool....' [conversation trails off] I mean, as far as that simile in any way resembles what it's like to ride up a hill you used to know. It's not a very good simile. It's not a very good hill.

Funnily enough, I ride down Massachusetts Avenue nearly everyday, including yesterday and today, and though it's the same street, downhill and uphill really seem like two different roads entirely. I guess that's the difference between a two dimensional map and a three dimensional reality. Stupid reality.

I didn't see any gyrocopters on the way home yesterday. Today, I didn't even look.

Parts of Pennsylvania Avenue were closed to cars today to celebrate Emancipation Day with parade and concerts and whantot, but it wasn't really closed to bikes. Is something closed to cars really closed? Is a shopping mall closed because people can't drive from the Build-a-Bear to the Ann Taylor? (honestly, these are the first two mall stores I thought of, so PSYCHOANALYZE THAT) Biking home along Penn was great because the Parade was in full-swing. I love parades, especially super-local ones, but I'm just throwing it out there: what if next year's Emancipation Day was less parade and more of an open-streets event? Could we do that? I think we could and I think maybe people would like it. If we're going to shut the street anyway, maybe we should make the street more open.

I've been bike commuting for a while and I've gotten used to a lot of things, but the one thing that I can't really even get used to is distracted driving. When someone passes you within a few feet and I look over and see the driver utterly besotted by his phone, all I can think is that it's utter coincidence that he didn't drive right into me. That's it. One nudge of the wheel, one abrupt turn of my handlebars, one unexpected bump that shakes either of us off our paths, and I'm toast. You can get used to a lot of things about riding in traffic (and there are a lot of pretty crummy things that we're asked to get used to), but it's hard for me to used to the possibility that it's good fortune that's keeping me safe from people who can't bother to pay attention. And we wonder why more people don't bicycle.

I don't know what else. It was a pretty glorious ride home with gobsmackingly perfect weather. We don't get a ton of days like this, so I hope you got to ride today. Also, I ate a pretty good chicken sandwich for lunch and accompanied that with lemonade, so really, everything's coming up me today.

AS for tonight, I'm off to Smith Public Trust in Brookland to hear a talk by Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built For Cars. WHAT WERE THEY BUILT FOR? My guess is llamas, but I don't know if Carlton is going to tell us or if we have to buy the book and read to the end. So if you don't come tonight (but really, come!) and you don't buy the book, just take my word for it that it was llamas. But really, try to come tonight if you can.

Pictures without captions:

every word on the sign is good

selfie

not llamas

Happy Emancipation Day!

pagan offering and/or lost kids toy

Balloons


4/14/15

Rides 4/14: Undisclosed Vocation

It rained. I went to the trees. Again. The trees are over.

over

I mean, the trees are still there, but PEAK BLOOM is over, so what's the point really? Is this a time to contemplate the ephemeral nature of life? No, not really. It was raining and I had to get to work.

Before I went to the trees (on my way there, really) I rode along the Washington Navy Yard Riverwalk, having arrived there via 11th Street, having ridden that underneath the highway bridges and past the highway on-ramp and past the Washington Navy Yard itself, or at least the outer buildings of it and past a coach bus parked in the bike lane. The Riverwalk prohibits bicycles or at least that's what the sign there says. Along the way I passed the Barry, a ship, that they will soon tug away from the yard. Did I stop to contemplate the ephemeral nature of ships? I did not. It was raining.

After you ride past the baseball park, you can take Potomac Avenue into the industrial parts of DC between the now baseball stadium and the still Fort McNair, at least so long as these industrial parts of still there, which likely won't be for much longer. This part of town is called Buzzard Point, presumably named after Apollo XI in honor of Edwin "Buzzard Point" Aldrin, but maybe not. Where they're planning to build the soccer stadium (and then, presumably other things) right now there's an empty lot and there's also a salvage yard where scrap comes to die and be reborn or at least crushed into cubes. Did I stop to contemplate the ephemeral nature of scrap metal? I did.

Ok, not really.

After the trees, it was the usual way, as it usually is.

On the way home, I found myself distracted by big thoughts about cities and free will and responsibility and trying to remember Third Eye Blind lyrics. "Mommy, who is that bike man mumble singing kind of popular songs from the late 90s and is he ok?" might have asked astute small children. When I wasn't incorrectly misremembering song lyrics I was thinking a question that went something like this: would downtown DC be better or worse if it had fewer people driving through it at rush hour? And if the answer is "much better" are we actually going to do something about it? I'm not one for self-improvement (see: my inability to make proper grownup food choices when left to my own devices), but I'd like to think that given the pretty straightforward "better or worse?" choice and having arrived at the verdict of "better," you could at least start making decisions that move you (or in this case, downtown DC) in the "better" direction. No need to complicate it. Do what makes it better.

It rained on the way home too.

4/13/15

Rides 4/13: X-1

I rode on Friday and I took some notes to write a proper post (notes consist of me sending myself an email with words like 'bridge' and 'what happens when you don't push the button. It's a very professional operation) but then I was otherwise occupied over the weekend and so now I'll just mention two things quickly and we'll move on to today (I know you're in a rush):

- a guy on the bike in front of me, the guy was wearing a trench coat, but that's beside the point, had gum in his mouth and then he spat that gum out and it went flying off to the side of the road and didn't come anywhere close to me. But the guy in the trench coat, he turned around and he looked at me and he said "Sorry!" What's wrong with you, #bikeDC? You've gone soft.

-  I wonder how many of the pedestrians I see who freak out and jump back every time a bike comes within 10 feet of them are the same people who think nothing of driving their giant cars within inches of a bicyclist. If vaguely nearby bikes are so terrifying, how do you think someone on a bike feels about a much closer and much larger car? Oh well.

On today:

Trees! Again!



Then it was the usual way uphill and to work slowly and then back up through the quiet streets and generally all things were quiet and good, as morning bike commutes are allowed to be.

On the way home, I wanted to take the longer way as the weather was nice and I didn't want to waste it. I took to the Capital Crescent Trail and had a brisk ride, one brisker than maybe I even intended. Not much good taking the long way when the long way turns out to be even faster.

I took Virginia (ovebuilt) to E (overbuilt) to the Ellipse Parking lot (why?) and got myself stuck behind a bunch of temporary fences and the Secret Service had to let me out. The officer obliged, but he could've equally been like 'no, get out of here' and that would've been a fairly reasonable response. I guess you just used to encountering weird security barriers when you bike around DC and for the most part, provided you're decently polite, things go fairly well, but it is a kind of strange 'normal' if you think about it.

Some drivers think nothing of going straight even when an arrow painted on the ground indicates that the lane is designated for left turns only. Is this a problem of education? If it's education, in what way are we failing to teach arrows? Are arrows confusing? (I don't think it's a problem of education.)

I rode up the hill behind a guy on a fixie. He sorta crushed it. Good for him.

4/9/15

Rides 4/9: recoil from the coil

To the trees once more. It's not that I even love the trees, but the trees are what we have and many people from around the world come to the trees to gawk and with the trees pretty much nearly right on my way from home to work it seems downright wasteful to not take a moment of two to stop to take them in. We are nearly at peak bloom. (Bill Murray's character in Rushmore was Herman Blume. Whether he was peak, I might or might not say.)

sol victus


I don't spend a lot of time around the Tidal Basin. This might be do to my lifelong fear of basins. A lot of people say that the Jefferson Memorial is their favorite and at one time in my life, a time when I didn't know very much about myself, which is to say callow youth, I would have agreed with them, though now I can some with some degree of certainty in callow adulthood that it's very much not my favorite. Lincoln is far better and hands-down. Perhaps because he's sitting and Jefferson stands and why should you trust a man who stands over a man who sits, which is a far superior way of being. I suppose if they ever make a monument to a fully supine president, I'd likely considerate that my favorite, but that's neither here nor there. [But it'd be Clinton, right?] Anyway, a lot of people don't know this, but I read it on one of the plaques by the Tidal Basin that the Founding Fathers so loved the the classical that not only did they attempt to emulate it in their governance and architecture, but they build the tidal basin to stage mock naval battles, just as they did at the flooded Colosseum. I really didn't know that. Learn something new everyday.

Ohio Drive to the usual path along the river, but then I quit the path and moved over to the empty roadway. In order to facilitate morning car traffic (at least that of it heading towards the monumental core), the US Park Police shut down some lanes to allow for more direct zooming. So, you've got two closed-to-cars lanes on a perfectly good road just sitting there, completely empty. Because. So, I accidentally missed seeing the 'road closed' sign and rode on the otherwise empty road past the Kennedy Center and the Watergate to Virginia Avenue. It's perfectly possible that doing this was illegal. But seems UTTERLY CRAZY to leave a road empty to traffic that could use it, namely bicyclists. So I might start doing this everyday. And I'll be sure to write you from the gulag once they catch me. [fun fact: this scofflawism is somewhat brought to you by a Gear Prudence questioner who asked if this was legit. So maybe I can write off my soon-to-be tickets as a business expense. Research!]

daily ciclovia maybe
On the way home, I took Massachusetts to Q Street to 14th, where I locked up my bike and bought some sushi made by robots. Then I went back over to 15th instead of riding in the bike lanes (?) on 14th. Around 15th and K, HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK. I'd hate to know how bad the traffic would've been had not helpful drivers reminded those in front of them to go. Car traffic, really more than anything else, inconveniences bicyclists. This is undeniable. But it's not nearly as bad for bicyclists than it is for other drivers, so for the most part, I don't find it that big of a deal. I do think a lot about drivers and generally what my valence should be towards them when they're blocking an intersection and miserable and ragey and wanting to be moving more than anything else in the world. On one level, I really do sympathize. Like, I've been there. It sucks. But on another level. it's like 'um, driving in downtown DC at evening rush hour. How did you think this was gonna go? Like, did you just move here? from another planet?' Like, drivers had to ahead of time that not only was bad traffic a possibility, but pretty much a guarantee. AND YET, the reaction to it more often than not is shock rather than resignation. I don't know. It's something.