Ride Home 6/29

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, except instead of water, substitute "get back on the bike" and instead of safe substitute "likely to not get another flat tire" and then adjust the syntax and the prepositional phrases, well, you get the point. Another flat tire. This time it was on my way to the Dean's house (the Dean being an actual dean, as in of a school, and not someone named Dean who I give the honorific of "the" for some reason) riding up the MacArthur Boulevard bikeway. I was with colleague, who is something of a superbiker (and marathoner and hill runner and ultramarathoner and that general kind of guy) and he was patient with me as I patched the tire. It was a pretty clean puncture and there was no glass or nail or other identifiable debris. We examined the tire and didn't notice anything, so I chalked it up to bad luck, but vowed that I would get my bike to the shop as soon as possible.
Then the event at the dean's house happened and then I left. It was a pretty easy ride back, down Seven Locks Road and then MacArthur. I've never ridden in this part of town and I was relatively impressed with the facility, which is basically the width of a travel lane with sometimes bollars or other barriers, sometimes just a double-white stripe. There were a lot of bike types riding in the roadway, which I didn't full understand since there's a good path right there, so I'm just going to defer to their judgment and assume there's a good reason for it. Hopefully it's not just to irk drivers.
What's the deal with Glen Echo Park? I'm just going to say that it's DC's Coney Island until someone corrects me. I appreciated the historic streetcar out front, though it's a shame they imported it from Philadelphia. It reminds me of the sadder, non-roller coaster parts of Lake Compounce.
Have you ever biked MacArthur Boulevard? Have you sent much time in the Palisades? I just doesn't seem like it's even in the same city. Weird.
I got stuck on the median at the end of MacArthur at Foxhall, before riding down the horrible sidewalk along Canal. That could be a really nice bike route, but I'm not holding my breath. Right now, it's dotted with fire hydrants and telephone poles directly in the middle of the path. Of course, the other problem is that any improvement to bike facilities along Canal would lead to the inevitable question of "now what?" since Foxhall is not bike-friendly, nor exactly is MacArthur. I guess you could make the point of improving Canal up to the underpass that connects to the C&O, but that makes way too much sense.
You know that Salon has offices on M street? Who's in there? Sirota? Pareene? Some programmers or ad sales guys?
I should have rung the buzzer. 
I took my bike into Revolution and consulted the lead mechanic, the Jedi Master to which I was the figurative padawan during my Tool Academy days. My question was simple: has it been bad luck or is it something that I've been doing wrong? He appreciated my positive attitude when I said that all the flats had provided me excellent practice opportunities. Or maybe that chuckle was from pity. Anyway, he removed the tire, examined it and found a hitherto-unfound gash in the tire. I guess that this exposes to the tube to road detritus, thus making it more vulnerable to puncture. So that's that. There's nothing wrong with the rim strip, there (though this was unsaid) was nothing wrong with my tube replacement- it's just that there was a hole in the tire and these things happen. All in all, I'm rather ambivalent about the whole affair of the past week (heretofore known as "the week of ill fortune"), but I'm glad that the issue has been properly diagnosed and I'm glad to have a few days off riding to give time for my new tire to get here.
I rode home and, luckily, experienced no bad fortune. I rode the Custis for a while behind some guys out on recreational rides. It was a nice day for it, though I never understand the work schedule that allows guys to go out for rides on an early Friday Wednesday afternoon. More power to them, I guess.
When I got home, I received this rather wonderful email from a friend currently studying in order to join the law cartel:

So, here's the takeway: don't ride on the sidewalk. Also, do your best to avoid lawn ornaments, especially if they are plastic and of waterfowl. Don't necessarily avoid them because of your legal liability, but instead do so because they are extremely tacky and it's best not to associate your super-suave, modern biking lifestyle with throwback, antediluvian yard decoration. Or, make sure that you're biking in such way that benefits the public as a whole? Can we test case on this, maybe related to climate change?
I'm off the next couple of days, so I bid you adieu until Tuesday. If you're looking for something else to read, check out the blog roll on the right side of this page. There's some great bike stuff out there (way better than this) and I heartily encourage you to check it out.


  1. The MacArthur sidepath isn't really very good, IMO. I used to ride on it from Wilson Lane and back, before I knew any better. Here are some of the problems with it.
    1--It's a two-way bikeway that for much of its length is not even separated from the regular travel lanes. There is no room for error, especially if you are riding in the against-traffic direction (west).
    2--The path has more debris than the road. (The path is rarely swept, but the road is constantly "swept" by the tires of cars and trucks.) I have gotten flats riding on the path, but not on MacArthur.
    3--It is very dangerous to ride on a sidewalk or sidepath in the against-traffic direction, even if the path is separated, because drivers trying to turn onto MacArthur tend to only look for fast-moving vehicles coming from their left.
    4--The sidepath is often used as a parking area, even though signs are posted forbidding parking.
    5--People often walk their dogs/push their babies/amble aimlessly on the sidepath. It's much easier and safer just riding with traffic on the road.
    There are probably more reasons that I'm forgetting at the moment...

  2. Glen Echo Park? It _was_ DC's Coney Island until it refused to integrate in the 1960s. My mom tells stories of taking the streetcar to get there in the '50s.

  3. Thanks for the very-thorough rundown of the issues with MacArthur. It was my first time riding it and my initial impression was that it was fine, but I definitely understand the concerns about the separation and the debris (I picked up a flat along the way, so point 2 is especially resonant). It sounds like it could benefit from some more permanent separation, even just a little raised curb between the roadway and the path might serve to keep the debris off the trail. As for parking, dog walkers and drivers making turns, I don't know- this seems to befall any on-street bike route/sidepath. It's just puts bike advocacy types in a tough position to say thanks for the path, but I'm gonna take the street because most drivers are quite unfamiliar with these kinds of problems and would be unlikely to acquaint themselves with them. All they see is a path right there and people eschewing it.

  4. @David- Segregated amusement parks and streetcars? Wow, we are talking a long time ago. It seems like the current version of the park does various arts and cultural programming (and that's admirable), but it's a shame it's still not an old-timey amusement park.

  5. @Brian -- you can still take a ride on the beautiful old carousel. (There's no upper age limit!)

    The old streetcar right-of-way would make for a really cool completely separated trail from Glen Echo to Georgetown, but for various reasons, this has not turned into a reality.

    You also raise a good point about motorISTs being angry at cyclists who don't use this "perfectly good" sidepath and instead choose to ride completely legally in the travel lanes of MacArthur. I have had motorists yell at me, "Get on the sidewalk!" even when there isn't a sidewalk. MotorISTs are irrational. They just want you to get out of the way, even if they have to stop and lecture you for 5 minutes about where they think you should ride. (They can't be in that much of a hurry if they can afford to stop and lecture you, can they?)