Ride Home 5/31

I left work early, like 2 o'clock early, because I'm suffering the effects of some sort of throat illness. I'm going to the doctor's office tomorrow, so we'll see what I've got.
As far as bicycling is concerned, my ride home wasn't anything to be especially proud about. It was slow and a bit labored. I also don't mean to sound self-righteous. There's nothing virtuous about riding home when you don't feel well. It's not something I even recommend. It just would have inconvenienced me more to go home any other way and I just wanted to get home as directly as I could so I could take a shower and take a nap.
One of the good things about a daily ride is knowing exactly how much effort it takes and being able to judge whether or not it seems doable given the conditions. I figured that since I coast downhill for the first 3 miles or so, I could take it easy and save any effort for Arlington, which is (up)hillier. I wasn't overly concerned about the sun and the heat and I think that turned about to be the correct judgment- it was hot, but not as offputtingly hot as the morning's weather, which I tend to find much more jarring and uncomfortable.
I traded 34th street (bike lanes) for 35th (no bike lanes) and that was fine. 35th Street was the route I took until about September of last year and it has fewer intersections than its eastern neighbor. It also houses a coffee shop and a gardening store as opposed to a corner store with a whiteboard out front advertising HOT PANINIES.
Then a bunch of other stuff happened and then I got home. Worst Tales From The Sharrows ever. If I think of anything else later, maybe I'll post an update. This is awfully ill-timed for last minute votes in that contest I promise to only mention once again. Here's the last, last-ditch pander for more votes:
Ellie the Pander Poodle
Also, while you're using the interwebs to vote for bike things, check out this petition from Erik at Bicycle Space. More info here.

Ride In 5/31

I find it somewhat hard to believe, but it's still May. That means you can still vote this very blog in this very blog contest. Only til midnight. Just think how cool you'll seem when you tell your friends that you waste your time at working reading an award-winning bike commuter blog. On second thought, don't think too much about that.
I'm feeling a bit under the weather. I have a hacking cough that sounds like sputtering engine of a Model A and a sore throat. I might have picked this up in Brooklyn, where I was visiting the Official Brother this weekend. He lives in Greenpoint, ensconced in the plaid and over-tattooed world of the "hipster," a wold in which the bicycle is more the rule than the anomaly. But of all the bikes I saw, there were but a few that looked lovingly cared for and there were far too many rusty chains, flat tires and vaguely unpleasant looking bikes about for my liking. It's sad to be surrounded by neglected bicycles. Though this might be part of the hipster affect, so maybe I just don't get it.
Blogging, as we're all aware, requires the delicate balance between interiority and dispassionate observation. It also requires a keyboard and some perspicacity. However, all of these things go out the window, when you're not really feeling great. My goal today was just to get to work with as little effort as possible. My pre-modern medical beliefs are such that I thought that I could sweat away whatever is currently befalling me. It didn't work, though this might be due to the fact that my sweat was from the preposterous outside temperature (around 423 degree this morning when I left) than from any physical exertion on my part.
I sought balance. I didn't want to pedal so fast as to wear myself through, but I also didn't want to go so slowly as to feel like I wasn't making any progress. This kind of rhythm is pretty easy to achieve on an exercise bike, but much harder on a real commute, with the stop lights and the cars and the whatnot. I figured that if I just stayed seated the entire ride, then I'd be in a good place. This was more or less true.
Now to prattle:
- what's there to say about an old man in bike shorts?
- do red pumps that look like Dorothy's ruby slippers really go with staid grey dresses?
- I guess it's wrap dress season?
- It's hard to exert social pressure on fellow bicyclists. It's much easier for a me, when driving, to get other drivers around him to behave a certain way, like yielding to pedestrians, than for me to convince my fellow bicyclists do to the same. Bikes are for renegades (Lorenzo?), I guess.
- Don't almost bike into me when you turn from M street onto the Key Bridge sidewalk. There's plenty of room. Thanks for the apology though.
- I think that bicyclists are invisible to road repair crews. I'd file this under "special powers," but I'm pretty sure it's not a useful skill.
- Speaking of road repairs, I think that there's a higher instance of driver bad behavior in the block or two after being stopped by a repair crew than anywhere else on the road. Hold a stop sign up at me? Ok. Hold a stop sign up at some one driving a car? Well, you've just declared war and they're going to "have to" speed and run stop signs for the next block to make up for the lost time. Seriously, next time you're in this situation, judge for yourself. If you're on a bike, be extra careful.

It's going to be very hot on the way home.


Ride Home 5/26

I won't be blogging tomorrow, so this is the end of week for me. I'll resume on Tuesday, when I'll be back at work, working and whatnot.
The ride home today was not espeically interesting, aside from the preposterous hotness and humidity, which seemed more in line with a Jurassic Park environment than one that should be habited by humans.
I appreciate conscientious drivers. There's not much more to be said about that, but nonetheless, it's worth putting that in the public record. Conscientious drivers make my day. They pass with adequate space, in a way that seems safe, and avoid the worst of the impatient, bad driver habits. Thank you from the bottom of my heart (feliz navidad?)
Empty roads make for joyful cycling. This is made even more joyful when you can catch some key lights and avoid waiting behind exhaust-spewing buses.
I decided that today was the day that I would stop complaining and start taking some different routes. I eschewed R street for S (it was fine) and I skipped Nash for Fort Myer. I think that the reason I rode Nash was because it's flatter and it broke up the climb through Rosslyn into more manageable sections. Fort Myer is doable except for the a) speeding cars and difficulty merging and b) the continuous incline. I don't know that I'll do next week, but as of today, I'm self-satisfied.
I stopped mid-ride at my wife's other office in Rosslyn to say goodbye and good luck to her graduating intern, for whom she was hosting a going away party because she's, yet again, cool like that. This was convenient because it was horrifically hot outside and I doubly appreciated it because I was given a bottle of Sam Adams seasonal varietal for my troubles. I threw it in my bag rather than pour it in my water bottle.
Wilson Boulevard was Wilson Boulevard (once I said "Bildt is Bildt" to (perceived) great aplomb. This might have been the most pretentious thing I've ever uttered) and I was happy for a relatively uneventful ride home. I felt that my drivetrain was a bit dirty and that this was hindering my overall velocity. I should clean my chain some time soon. I really hate dirty drivetrains, but one only has so much time he can spend maintaining his bicycle. Dirty Drivetrain, I think, was also a member of the Wu Tang Clan from 1997-1998.

Ride In 5/26

I forgot both my new goDCgo water bottle and my sunglasses this morning and I was subsequently sun-blinded and parched. It's a hot day and it was a hot morning, hotter than usual, but probably just a presage of the months to come. I think the two week sweet spot of DC weather is over and as we approach June, we can look forward to gross, uncomfortable commutes with the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. Wear suncreen. Speaking of which, Matt Yglesias posted this chart (based on data from Transportation for America) yesterday:
His takeaway is that pedestrian deaths are a huge public health problem, though not the biggest one we face. My takeaway is that melanoma is really, really scary.
Anyway, you don't read this blog for my mortality-related hangups, but instead for some other reason that advanced google metrics have yet to reveal to me. Perhaps something to do with bicycling?
On my bicycle this morning, I pulled alongside a rather beefy gentleman on a rather large hog, that is to say motorcycle, not boar. He nodded at me with a nod of acknowledgment, as if our bi-wheelism was a uniting bond, and I sort of nodded back, not wanting to affront the beefy gentleman. It was only after I nodded that I saw his holstered sidearm. I'm pretty sure that his polo shirt had some sort of badge insignia on it and he was probably in the law enforcement/security field, but when one lives in Virginia, one never knows.Granted that this is Arlington, but still. Glad I nodded back.
I'm coming not to like the intersection of Fairfax and 10th/Kirkwood because if I can't make it over to the left lane, then I get stuck in a bike lane that just ends and leaves me rather limited options. Being a pragmatist, I choose the "go whatever way you can when there's a break in the car traffic and hopefully end up in the right place" approach. It tends to work, but not without some low-level lawbreaking (I mean running lights, not check fraud, or something).
Fairly uneventful ride down Clarendon. I really wish that the big construction sign past Rhodes could fit into the width of a parking space and not intrude into the bike lane. Are there some regulations about this? If I complained, would I be a NIMBL (not in my bike lane)?
10 bikes, including 2 CaBis, coming in the opposite direction over the bridge today. I don't know if that number will go up or go down as we get closer and eventually into the summer. I don't think that heat tends to dissuade riding as much as a cold, so I expect the number of riders to stay pretty high through October. I also think that CaBi ridership will continue to pick up.
I rode the cobblestones up 35th because I'm a man and I'm tough. Grrrrr! Nothing says tough like "grrrr" which is something that an angry 13 year old Liz Phair fan might type when frustrated by snarky comments in a thread on an online Liz Phair fan forum. I did not extensively research this.
I blew through the stop sign coming downhill on Tunlaw and 39th. A guy driving a green minivan turned his head to give me a real serious look. The reason I so cavalierly rode through the stop sign is because no cars were coming from a direction that would have necessitated my stopping and furthermore, the aggressive driver behind me was closing in quite closely and I feared that had I stopped, I would have been putting myself in more danger than just by riding through and putting more distance between me and the car following me. I'm sorry if I offended your sensibilities, but this is at least an explanation of why I did what I did.
Campus plans! They cause so much traffic! In the way that things in the future affect things in the present! I saw two women walking back after presumably protesting for a while with a handmade, homemade (I hope- if it was professionally done, they got screwed) black marker on white poster board sign reading "AU CAMPUS PLAN CAUSES GRIDLOCK." I tried to get a picture:
Protesters in center, walking home after protesting. Picture taken from 18 miles away.
You might see some stopped cars behind them. I tried to get some other pictures of cars stopped. Here they are:
More traffic on Nebraska.

Long backup down New Mexico.

Now, it might or might not be that AU CAMPUS PLAN CAUSES GRIDLOCK, that is to say that it will cause future traffic jams for some reason that doesn't totally make sense to me. But all things considered, even if the campus plan is rejected, the status quo is pretty terrible! I didn't count or anything, but it didn't look like most people driving their cars on Nebraska and New Mexico this morning had anything to do with AU (it's the summer). They looked like people who live in a part of town that has limited public transportation options who were using their cars to get to their jobs, which aren't at the university. Or maybe they were heading to the DHS headquarters up the road. Or maybe to the store or to drop a kid off at school. Again, I don't really know- I guess I could have stopped and asked. As far as I could tell, the gridlock was caused by too many cars on the road at the same time and not the plan to build stuff within the next decade. But you a sign that has TOO MANY CARS CAUSE GRIDLOCK wouldn't be as fun and you probably wouldn't get much support from your ANC.


Ride Home 5/25

My CaBi adventured continued with a two part ride. The first leg of the journey was from work to my "staff appreciation" event in Chinatown. I didn't give especially too much thought as to how I would go, but I did do a little map research, along with thinking about some of my previous experiences biking downtown from work.
I took Mass downhill past the Observatory. If you haven't done this ride on a CaBi, I thoroughly recommend it. Start at the Cathedral, lift up your feet and just hang on. I thought that I broke 30 according to one of those speed monitors, but it must have misread me because as I got closer, it changed from a flashing 33 to a mundane 25. The midday traffic wasn't such that I felt I had to cede most of the travel lane and I rode fairly stridently right down the middle of the right lane. Traffic started to bunch at the bottom of the hill by the mosque and the entrance to Rock Creek, but the right lane remained fairly clear. At one point, a bike messenger pulled out from one of the embassies and I rode behind him for awhile. Unlike most bike messengers, his bike had a derailer. Wuss. He spent most of his ride talking into one of those cell phones that doubles as a walkie-talkie. I felt the urge to say "roger" and "over" a number of times but refrained.
I took Q across Dupont rather than ride through the circle itself because last time I found that to be exceedingly annoying and borderline harrowing. Q is fine; it even has a bike lane. A lot of big trucks followed the same route and for most of my trip I was behing a USPS van whose driver just totally ignored the white stripe that's there to keep me "safe" or something. I got on the Kleinway at Q and rode that down to H.
I love the Kleinway. It's basically the best piece of cycling infrastructure this town has. But there's something about it that's just catnip for antsy pedestrians. Do they know that it's not a holding area for pedestrians who just really, really want to cross the street and can't seem to keep themselves on the curb? I know that there's nothing anyone can really do about this and maybe in times when there's greater use by bicyclists (this was midday) this isn't the case. I also can't seem to time the lights right.
H Street, from 15th to 8th, is a mess. Don't ride on it. I only did because I had only ridden it recently on weekends when it isn't such a mess. Between the weird shifting at New York Avenue and the construction at City Center DC, it's just not the best route across town. But there was a convenient Bikeshare station (with two empty docks!) at 8th and that was good enough for me.
Then "staff appreciation" happened and some hours later, I was allowed to go home. I picked up the CaBi from the same station where I docked, but instead headed down to G, which unbeknownst to me had a bike lane heading westerly.
G to 15th to I, which is my preferred crosstown route. On G, I had something of a "big idea" about CaBi, which probably isn't anything especially interesting, but I'll share with you anyway. The thing I like about Bikeshare is its deliberate appropriation of public space. Sidewalks or parking spots are converted into docking stations in a way that indicates that bikes (not anyone's bike in particular, but something like the platonic ideal of bikes) are an integral part of the cityscape and deserving of their own real estate so to speak. A Bikeshare station is such a better image of "bikes" than the heretofore default image of some random dude's beater chained to a stop sign. I think that these kinds of things matter, maybe to the point that I overvalue them.
On I, I was stuck behind a fellow CaBi user (we need a name for them/us. CabIst? CaBiker? CaBean?) who had a much different approach to riding from the one that I normally adopt, which is to say slower and randomer (not a word). I like to ride in straight lines in a very deliberate sort of way. I feel that this communicates to those around me that I know where I'm going and I'm not to be trifled with. I can't speak to the extent that this message is actually understood. Anyway, around Farragut, she turned onto the sidewalk and I continue towards Washington Circle, aka the Circle of Doom. I took the circle three quarters around and went down New Hampshire on Virginia and over the TR Bridge.
Thank god no one was coming in the opposite direction on that bridge because it is very narrow. If you don't know, try it for yourself. Just one at a time, though.
I passed only a handful of other cyclists before I docked at the Rosslyn metro stop on Fort Myer. Not crazy about the location of that dock. I think it's rather far away from the Metro and this might discourage people from seeking Bikeshare for their trips. This might not be impactful now, but as the system expands deeper into Arlington, it might become the case.
The reason I docked at Fort Myer was because I was picking up some sweet goDCgo water bottles from friend of the blog, Anne Factor, whose tale of Bike to Wherever Day, was pretty great. As a rule, I'm a fan of free stuff and when I saw goDCgo had given out cool goDCgo water bottles on Bike to Work Day, I used twitter to badger them into finding out how I could get one/many. Not only is Anne a charming writer, she's a delightful person and I was happy to meet her/get free loot. I told her that I would she would make the blog and so she has.
Bikeless, I walked home. It's about 3 miles from Rosslyn to my abode and while I don't mind walking (some might say that I love walking to the extent that I will masochistically foist it upon them to, let's say, walk many miles to Wendy's on a cold winter's day during college), I really missed having my bike. I think that a lot of people's misapprehension about biking is a fundamental misunderstanding of distance and means of travel. Driving 3 miles= easy; walking 3 miles=hard; biking 3 miles=????? Well, it's actually a lot closer to the driving end of the spectrum than the walking end. There are certainly other factors (perceptions of safety, primarily) that serve as significant dissauders (maybe a word), but I think that not actually knowing how little effort it takes to cover a significant distance through use of a bicycle is a substantial reason more people don't ride. Blocks are a unit of walking distance & miles are driving distances- maybe it would behoove bike advocates to adopt some intermediary unit of measure (kilometers?) as the unit of biking distance? That would also fit in with our effete europhilia. Anybody?

Ride In 5/25

Very special episode today on account of my having a "staff appreciation" event downtown. I decided that I would ride to work by CaBi since I hate parking my bike in unfamiliar places and am probably overly paranoid about it getting stolen. But you read stuff and you figure better to be safe than sorry and since I have a CaBi membership that I rarely ever use, I figured that this would be an ideal circumstance for it.
The only problem is that I don't really live by a CaBi station. They're hoping to expand the Arlington stations out my way by October, but that doesn't really help me now. So, I had to multi-modally get to a CaBi station through a combination of walking and busing.
We don't live as close to the Ballston metro as I thought we did. Also, the motorists on Glebe Road aren't consistently the most friendly towards pedestrians. Even a bus driver indicated to us (I was accompanied by the Official Wife) with a raised hand open palm "Stop in the Name of Love"-type motion that we should halt mid-crosswalk even though we had the walk signal so that he could complete his left turn. We did not oblige. This was after a right-turning driver also tried to cut us off. I pointed to the No Turn on Red sign, but that was dumb because he had the green. Luckily, the Official Wife thought that I was pointing to the walk signal, the germane traffic regulator, that still proved our right of way. I know that bicyclists have it bad sometimes, but it's nothing compared to what pedestrians go through. They are just as exposed and can't go as fast. It's rough.
We took the 38B down the R-B Corridor. It was pleasant enough, but it seemed really slow today. I think that the stops are placed too close together. There should be an express bus.
According to Spotcycle, there was one CaBi available at Rhodes and five or six at Pierce. I opted for Pierce because 1) you never know if Spotcycle will be right 2) You don't want someone to snag it before you get there (I was imagining a dramatic race with another passenger from the bus to the bike) and 3) what if the bike is busted?
At Pierce, there was another guy (not from the bus) picking up a CaBi and I thought he was mumbling to me about something, but it turned out he had one of those Bluetooth headsets on. I don't recommend using those while biking either. Before undocking, I applied my to key safety accessories (my helmet, which I brought from home because really how hard is that to do? and sunscreen (SPF One Million because I'm really paranoid about sunburns and skin cancer. If you had "skin cancer" in the "Diseases that Brian Fears Pool" please contact me about picking up your prize). I activated the Spotcycle timer with an alarm at 25 minutes to let me know if I'm going over my time limit. I refuse to pay extra for CaBis, not that I really had a plan about what to do if the alarm went off. The stations are so diffuse where I was heading that I would have pretty much just been screwed. I put my bag in the front basket, bungeed it, undocked the bike and tried to lean it against my leg as I put my phone in my pocket. However, CaBis don't have a top tube, so the bike just fell over, scraping my right leg in the process. I picked the bike up off its side, spun it around and promptly smacked into a bollard. Awesome.
The ride through Rosslyn was fine. The bike handled the not-yet-repaved road quite well and without jarring me in any way. I was able to pick up a good bit of speed going downhill, enough so that I could merge into traffic to get past a turning truck on the left. When I moved back right, I was passed too closely by some guy driving a BMW. Why is it always a BMW?
The CaBi station at Lynn looked super busy and the bridge was full of bicyclists, including two other CaBis heading in the opposite direction. I was on my 30 minute mission, so I had to pass some other bicyclists on the bridge. At the end of the bridge, I timed it in such a way that I could move from the sidewalk to the roadway during a gap in the traffic and this allowed me to really build up some speed on M street, which slopes down slightly. I had an green lights and an unobstructed lane all the way to Wisconsin, where I moved into the crosswalk and then angled my bike to head uphill.
This was going to be the challenging part. From this point, I only had three re-dock opportunities if needed them: Social Safeway, Guy Mason and Macomb (which I would only use in desperation since it would have required me to really go out of my way). I felt like I was making good time so far, so I declined to check my counter.
I was lucky with the light sequencing because I was pretty much able to make all of the key lights. There were no other bicyclists heading in the same direction, but I saw a few heading down Wisconsin, including a guy on a Surly Pacer, one of the less seen Surly models. Was this an omen? Why would it be? Do I even know what an omen is?
The gearing on the CaBi is pretty good for these kinds of slogs and that's good because it's very difficult to ride out of the seat. The ride itself was fairly uneventful. The most interesting part was getting around a landscaping truck that was parked in the right lane of Wisconsin just past Calvert. The driver behind me was fairly obliging. I don't know if this had anything to do with the fact that I was riding a hulking CaBi, but I suspect not. I got across Massachusetts and checked the timer. I was around 18 minutes and I was pretty sure I would make it.
Going downhill on Mass, the CaBi builds up enough speed that there's no sense in pedaling. That's a fun feeling.
I docked at AU at 24:39, keeping my blank slate in tact. I don't know if Bikeshare keeps stats about what rides have been completed in what amount of time, but I think it'd be pretty cool if you got an email from them if you ever broke a dock-to-dock record. Would this encourage racing, competitiveness, and unsafe activity? Yeah, maybe. But it would definitely make my day if I got an email declaring me a "champion" of a certain route. Or if there was some kind of leader board on their website. Would I take lunch time to try to become "champion" of different routes? Maybe.


Ride Home 5/24

I hate the intersection of New Mexico and Cathedral. I think that the road at that point is supposed to be only one lane, but it's wide enough for two. Maybe it's two but it hasn't been repainted in forever. Anyway, the practical impact is that when a driver stops to turn left onto Cathedral, those drivers planning to go straight have sufficient space to maneuver their cars around the car stopped to turn, effectively moving into a pseudo-right lane. This, obviously (to me), creates a potentially huge problem for a bicyclist coming downhill. Are the cars stopped behind the first one going to be turning left? Are they just going to wait until the first car turns? Or, are they going to try to get into the fake right lane to get around? Because who thinks to signal when they're "only" just trying to get around a left-turning car. I don't know the best way to abate this problem, but I thank all motorists who observe extra caution looking for oncoming bicyclists (which is basically just me).
Is there any more terrifying bicyclist than one on a Specialized Allez Compact? I think every person I've ever seen riding on one of these looked like a total maniac.
I need to stop taking R Street. Today, I had to move into the parking lane because the driver of an oncoming SUV moved into my travel lane to get around a bicyclist she was passing. I dropped my left arm to my side and shrugged, with a kind of "seriously?" look. She met my glance with an exasperated look that I read as "First this one biker causes me to have to go slow and now this other one is acting like he owns the road when the only reason I'm in his lane is because one of his biker buddies is blocking mine." Would she have passed the bicyclist if it were an oncoming car instead of me? Doubtful.
Caught the green light at M and then the green light to turn left onto the bridge. That's a pretty rare occurrence and I was pretty happy about it. Little things.
I might need to rethink my route through Rosslyn. I normally take the sidewalk Custis to Nash to Key to Oak to Wilson. This works out ok, but two things that happened today are making me rethink my decision. The first is the lack of respect one gets at the stop light that regulates the traffic on Nash and the Marriott parking lot. Rather than block the trail, I turned into the parking lot and faced my bike in the direction of Nash Street. I backed my bike off the sidewalk/trail so I wouldn't block any bicyclists. About ten passed, seven of which were women. The light turned green and I started to roll forward. The driver in the first car opposing me on Nash decided to turn left across my path. Fine. Then a man on a bike decided to ignore me and and the traffic signal and cross in front of my path on the trail. He got a "Come on, man" without the "Seriously, don't be a dick to a fellow cyclist." Then the second driver turned left across my  path without ever having seen me. He was craning leftward to stare intently at the traffic stopped on Lee Highway. Bike blindness is amazing. The second reason I probably won't go this way any more is because of the new No Turn on Red sign at Oak and Wilson. The roadway isn't wide enough for me to get by on the right side and I'd rather not wait behind the stopped cars. I think from now on, I'll go up Fort Myer to Wilson.
I was behind the most douchiest bicyclist in the world today. I try not to judge some of the subjective decisions of my fellow bicyclists (though I hate headphones, which he was wearing), but there are certain things you should avoid doing. The faux pas he engaged in was angrily barking (too loudly on account of the iPod) "Look out" to a woman who had already exited her car and was about to close the car door. He did this at almost the exact same time that he passed by her too closely, not giving her actual ample warning, and only startling her so much that she threw herself against her car. This was entirely avoidable, needlessly confrontational and thus completely douchey. Not cool.
If you see this painted on the street
and think of this
then you are a big Star Wars dork. Guess what I am?

Ride In 5/24

It rained. Not more than a drizzle, but enough that I was wet and my bike was wet and the roads were somewhat wet. It was also hot and I debated over wearing my jacket or just going without, but eventually decided that the jacket would be the more prudent decision on account of its highly visible yellowishness. Its long sleeves provided unwelcome arm coverage. If only my vanity didn't preclude me from wearing a reflective vest.
Normally on a Tuesday, I like to take a more roundabout way in the morning, but the rain dampened my enthusiasm as it did my outerwear.
It was sort of an auto-pilot ride, which is fine, because it allowed my mind to wander, which inevitably just lead to me thinking about other bikes I could get, various modifications to said bicycles and bike accessories that I would happily add to these new, fantastic bicycles. Cash register noises accompanied the visions and as the running price tally kept going up, my enthusiasm for these improvements waned. Bicycling and the art of being broke is different from bicycling as a means of going broke. But one can dream.
There are some crossing guards that stand in the rain and some that abandon their posts to stand under trees. You know who you are.
Take this survey about bike facilities and help a graduate student. As someone who helps grad students professionally, I can assure you that this is a useful, non-frivolous kind of helping as opposed to the useless, trivial helping that I get paid to do. Just kidding (about the latter)!
BikeDC allowed the Official Wife some time to observe my bell ringing habits and she suggested that I try to ding closer to the people that I'm passing. She felt like maybe I was giving too much time between ding and passing, overestimating the size of my ding envelope and causing pedestrians and fellow cyclists needless anxiety as they wait for me to pass. I've been working on that for the past few days, but it's hard to adjust your timing. I don't really have a methodology with which to approach this project, nor a means of judging the impact in a way that isn't anecdotal, much less double blind,  but I'll keep trying and see if I get "better" results.
Front panniers: Advantages over back panniers? Too much? Questions with no verbs?
A concern I have about any bike facility installed on New Mexico Avenue would be how to deal with the stretch of road in front of the liquor store, where every morning, multiple trucks are parked to unload their wares. Here's a picture (with scofflaw illegally parked car):

View Larger Map
There's (I think) not enough road width to shift the lane leftward to get around the loading zone, but it also seems pointless to run a bike lane on a stretch that's invariably going to be blocked. I guess you could sharrowfy around the road from Macomb past the loading and restart the lane  around Embassy Park, since you're pretty much asking any bicyclist going uphill to take the lane anyway (because trying to stay close to the unloading vans does not make for a safe situation. It gives drivers the distinct impression that there is room enough to pass you safely on the left when there really isn't. Also a "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" sign would be great. I don't think that this is enough to scuttle the whole idea of bike lanes on New Mexico, but it is a concern that I have given some thought to and I think it's a considerable enough problem that it should be addressed in a meaningful way.


Ride Home 5/23

It was a perfect DC spring afternoon, which is to say hot, pollenic, 100% humidity and looming thunderstorms that won't even break the heat or humidity, assuming they ever actually arrive. At least when you're biking, you get some wind in your face. I feel bad for the walkers.
Texting and driving don't mix even when you're a pretty girl driving a black BMW. I thought about saying something, but what's there even to say? It's illegal? You might hit something/someone? Have you considered an unlimited texting plan with a friends and family discount? It's always awkward to scold while biking, if not entirely self-defeating. I mean, if someone actually does something to endanger me, I'll say something, but I'm not going unprovokedly chide. I'll just passively-aggressively blog about it a few hours later.
If there's not room to pass a bicyclist, don't pass a bicyclist. Especially on a curve and uphill. For what it's worth, the driver also passed a car trying to parallel park, so it's not just anti-bike poor road behavior. Victory?
My goal was to get home before the rain. Every once in a while, I would look up at the clouds and try to guess if I could do it. This is a rather useless exercise. What do I know?
34th street was backed up til R. Like bumper to bumper. This creates the usual problems, which are only amplified by the post-storm detritus that litters the bike lane. I'd rather be going slowly, mindful of the various stick crap (official term) on the road then be stuck in a long row of cars. SMUGNESS ALERT (If you're averse to smugness, please skip to the next paragraph): One day when the traffic is moderately bad/bad, I'd like to get a comically large stopwatch and see how much time elapses between when I make it to Prospect and when a car I pass on 34th makes it to Prospect. And then I'd like to fashion a sign that has written on it something like "8 minutes 34 seconds wasted by not bicycling." And then I will swill a soy latte while reading GOOP on my iPhone. I threw in that last sentence for extra smugness and a self-parody.
Where to go after that? Well, I rode the Custis to Veitch. Lightly trafficked, by peds and bikes. I rode behind a guy in one of those reflective vests. I don't know how to feel about those vests. On one hand, they promote visibility, which is a good thing. On the other hand, they look ridiculous. But so do bike helmets and I favor those. So, I'm just going to settle on " reflective vests: they're something people wear because they want to and that's ok with me." I'm basically a libertarian.
Hyper-local issue of unnecessary specificity concerning 13th St N between Highland and Washington: I think that it's wide enough for a bike lane. In fact, there's a crack in the road right where a bike lane would be. Even though Key Boulevard is the marked bike route, I take 13th Street because Key gets hilly and because there's a dog park on 13th and I like looking at dogs playing. It's also lightly trafficked and has a better/more direct connection to Washington. My decision seems eminently reasonable, especially the dog park part, not that anyone was questioning it. Anyway, I ride where the bike lane should be and I've never had a problem with a passing motorist. At least add some sharrows.
I normally try to pass lines of cars stopped at a light on the right side rather than riding between two rows of stopped cars in the middle, but there's sometimes not enough room and today I rode between the cars. If there was something called bike confession, this would be one of the things a biker would say so as to not confess all of his more serious trespasses.
I was close to home and tried to hurry to make it  before the real rain and remain dry (except for the sweat that drenched me), but I made the pointless decision to take a sip of water, bobbled my water bottle and sprayed my face and somehow got my left ankle wet. Smooth move, Ferguson.

Annotated Repost of Another's Tale From the Sharrows

One of the staff members of goDCgo (which is pronounced God-cago and I think might be those people who predicted the Rapture) has made the horrible mistake of reading what I write and decided that riding a bicycle around town seemed reasonable and useful. She wrote up her story here and I encourage you to read it. But, in case you don't want to click through, I'm reposting it below (with commentary in brackets):

Friday [meme alert] was Bike to Work Day, but since it was my compressed work day off and I had some appointments scheduled, I had to make do and turn it into Bike to Wherever Day. I’ve been practicing my cycling skills for two weeks [how she practiced], gradually trying to turn myself into a bike commuter. Some might say that a suburban mom-type becoming a bicycle commuter is as likely as a unicorn! [Some who say that are assholes] I hope this is not the case. I hope I’m one of many and that BTWD, which saw a record number of over 10,000 registrants, will be a catalyst for a whole new crop of bicycle commuters.
I’m not naturally talented on a bike. [That's because bikes are unnatural. If God wanted people to roll through stop signs, he would have, um, something] I hadn’t been on one for about 20 years, and I tend to be a little accident-prone in general. Stairs, for example, can be challenging. Or jogging in place [zombie style] while waiting for the light to change. A situation like that might end with me falling off a curb. So by all means, let’s definitely put a bicycle in the mix and see what happens. I say this, not only to indulge a predilection for self-deprecation, but also as encouragement to anyone out there who thinks they can’t do this.
Here’s the run-down on my magical day on a bike:
7:25am: The daughter and I hop on our bikes to go to school. I was running errands afterward, so I had rummaged around and found her backpack from the 2nd grade to use for toting around purchases. She made the same face that my mom makes when I’m having a bad hair day and politely suggested that perhaps backpack would be more comfortable staying home. I disagreed. By the time we arrived, she had invited me to not come pick her up after school. “Really. I’m fine. I’m sure you’re very busy.” [ouch]
7:30am: Bike to Walgreens to pick up some [sun-dried?] sundries. On my way, elderly man does fist-pump in air and shouts “way to go!” Is it that obvious that I don’t do this every day? [No, WABA pays old people to fist pump at newbie cyclists. It's an open secret] Is it the lack of spandex? Or is it because I can’t seem to commit to riding in a straight line? Anyway, there are no bike racks at Walgreens [boo], and they’re closed. Bike to CVS.  No bike racks there either [double boo]. Lock bike to a tree.[gotta do what you gotta do]
7:45am: Bike around town to kill time before Dr.’s office opens. Find new secret bike path! Get smacked in the face by low-hanging branches.[this is another good reason to wear a helmet]
8:00am: Get to Dr.’s office. They have bike racks! Beg nurse to draw blood now because there’s no way I can wait until the afternoon to eat “because I’m biking today”(!) Just in case she didn’t get the hint from the bike helmet which I’m still wearing so everyone in the waiting room will know that I rode my bike there.[not only have I inspired the riding, I've inspired the self-aggrandizing]  She’s unimpressed [but she secretly is, right?], tells me to go eat and make a morning appointment for lab work.
8:10am: Return home on W &OD trail. Get passed by spandex crew. The lead guy shouts “passing!” Thanks, buddy, I got that. The fact that you’re passing me is what tipped me off. [was he too late in yelling? It's like people who use their turn signals as they're changing lanes and not before] A simple directional “on your left” would have sufficed. Everyone passes me. No need to rub it in. [this isn't a big deal. Do you get upset when a car passes you on the highway? Speed is just speed. It's just a moral judgment]
9:30am: Research bike route to next appointment [clever] and find that it would require a motorcade based on my skill level. [What would a bike-only motorcade be called? Pedalcade?] Decide against bicycling there until I take a Confident City Cycling class.
1:20pm: Off to my Dr.’s appointment! Excited to be back on the bike because it’s putting me in a really good mood. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on the sunshine-endorphin cocktail [second only to appletinis] for so long! Once again, I keep the helmet on for as long as I reasonably can in the office [this will protect you from falling debris, as well], and again, no one is nearly as impressed as I am [it might be because they think you're a weirdo. Carrying the helmet is normally a good enough indicator that you biked there]
2:00: Back home again. I forgot to mention that each time I’ve had to stop to cross the street today, I have trouble getting my feet going on the pedals again. I live in a great bicycling town with lots of paths and sidewalks, and motorists actually stop for bicyclists like it’s totally normal (as it should be!). So thanks to everyone out there who stopped for me and endured the awkwardness of having to witness me slowly and not very gracefully get my bike going again. [I find that it's actually better to take longer to get across the street than to try to rush it. This causes motorists to chill out a little and that's a good thing]
3:20pm: Meet up with the daughter again to escort her home on bike. She’s happy to see me now that I’ve lost the backpack. I keep screaming at her, “Isn’t this fun?!” She agrees, but I don’t think she really gets the fun-ness of it because she’s still a kid and pretty much everything is still fun. [and because you're screaming at her. Little kids don't like that]
So that’s a wrap on my Bike to Wherever Day travels. And now a moment to reflect on everything I’ve learned…As I mentioned, I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now, using my bike to get to the metro and run errands around town. I started doing it because 1)my husband bike commutes around 30 miles a day most days of the week, and it was starting to make me feel like a loser, [I often have similar discussions with my wife. You're not a loser and bike types aren't trying to make you feel bad. I promise] 2) I’m already “car-lite,” but because of gas prices and my increasing anxiety about the environmental impacts of being overly car dependent, I wanted to go “car-liter,” [isn't that the place where you plug in your car phone charger?]  and 3) I just had another birthday and decided it was time to start making some serious changes to my health habits. Pretty good reasons, right? But there are a couple of things that I didn’t anticipate. First, it turns out that biking is a pretty efficient mode of transportation. [I know!] Even as slow as I am (that will change!), I still found that it took roughly the same amount of time to get places as it would have in the car due to the volume of traffic and the time it takes to find parking, etc. [Finding parking is one of the worst things about driving and one that's rarely factored into thinking about car vs. bike. It just sucks when you have to lock your bike to a tree when there are 30 unused parking spaces taking up hundreds of square feet] Second—and this was mind-blowing to me since I have a lifelong aversion to exercise in general—it’s so incredibly fun! [Exercise is kind of lame. But active transportation can combine all of the salubrious elements of exercise with the motivating aspect of having to get somewhere] It’s almost impossible not to smile and feel good when you’re on a bike. I tested this theory out by riding in the rain too. Same thing, felt good. [wow]
Congratulations to everyone who participated in Bike to Work Day! I hope you had a great experience too. Please let us know how it went for you and if you plan to continue biking on a regular basis. We’d love to hear from you!
I think that this is pretty great.

Bike DC and Ride in 5/23

A few disjointed thoughts on yesterday's Bike Arlington DC before I regale you with my usual banalities (Wilson Boulevard! Key Bridge! Blah blah blah!):
  • The Course. A big part of the allure of the event is getting to ride where you can't normally ride, limited access highways. And that was neat. But after a while, it was only so neat. I thought that the course was maybe a bit too hilly (both up GW Parkway and over by the Airforce Memorial) and this created some logjams and potential conflicts between cyclists of differing levels and demeanors. I would have liked to bike in DC more, but so it goes. I found it pretty amusing how many people stopped on the TR Bridge to take a picture. Um, you can bike on that bridge all of the time. 
  • The Rest-Stops. If I don't want to grab and go and would rather mill around and eat my Cool Ranch Doritos (actual rest-stop fare), that's my right. Don't shuffle me along. I'll go at my own pace. Also, I would have appreciated a formal rest-stop at the turnaround at the top of the GW Parkway at one of the scenic overloooks. I also think it's safe to declare the Airforce Memorial rest-stop to be a total disaster. It came at the top of a long hill at the entrance to the Memorial, but participants were told to "keep going" and turn into the Memorial's lot. You know what was there? Nothing. There was no organized turnaround or even any directions as to what to do. So you had people who were looking to continue with nowhere to go except into a big crowd of people who were looking to stop. It was chaotic and pretty unsafe. This was really disorganized and I sort of hoped that the organizers would have done a better job.
  • The Crowd. 4000, which is a lot. And the group was very, very varied in its composition, both in terms of who was riding (little kids! yikes.) and the mentalities of the riders. Here's the perspective of From Wheels to Bikes 
  • Beyond the Key Bridge the bike traffic became quite heavy - the bikes only had one side (two lines) of the divided highway, with bike traffic in each direction confined to one lane (with cones down the middle). Round about now I began to wish for more common sense and more common courtesy from my fellow riders. As we climbed, relatively slow moving (bicycle) traffic filled the entire single outbound lane. Some people riding uphill nonetheless impatiently tried "on the left" when what they meant was, "you're in my way; I want to go faster." Some crossed over into the oncoming lane (for bikes - usually a lane of traffic in the same direction) to pass the entire column, then pull in with the other riders (who would more or less have to let him or her in).

    Some riders barreling down the GW Parkway on the return side presented a more intimidating picture - here there were some people whose cries of "on your LEFT" really sounded like "OUTTA MY WAY or I may run into you."

    Now this sounds like chaos, but probably it was one in 250 or less that was acting in this way, but when you have thousands of riders on a few miles of road, 1-in-250 makes an impression.
    So yeah, you had those people. I think that there's a willful schizophrenia in planning an event like this. The idea is to get as many people out on bikes as possible, so you need to draw your once-a-year recreational cyclists AND you're every weekend superbikers and rather than try to define the event as a "fun ride at a leisurely pace," you avoid classifying it and just let each participant decide for him/herself what BikeDC means. Saying that the event is not a race isn't exactly the same as saying get over yourself and deal with going slower than you normally would.
  • The Official Wife. She rode the whole thing on a 7 speed Cruiser, which I found to be tremendously impressive. She's ridiculously competitive (she's probably trying to beat you in a contest you don't know you're participating in against her right now) and very much held her own. We also rode there and back, so she put in around 35 miles on a bike that's not meant to be taken that far. Major dap.
  • Other Stuff.  There's probably other stuff that I'm not mentioning that I should. I wasn't crazy about the amount of space given to bicyclists on parts of the road. You'd think that splitting a two lane highway down the middle would be sufficient for two directions of bicycle traffic, but it did feel pretty tight in places. I don't think that u-turns are an especially effective way of turning around groups of bicyclists, but I guess the organizers hands were tied given the nature of the course. If you ride a fixie, you have to wear a white t shirt and have a calf tattoo. Overall, a lot of very boring bicycles. I opted to ride the Haul, which is slightly more stylish than you're average hybrid or entry level road bike and I was glad that I did.
  • Would I do it again? Probably, but I can't say for sure. I'm glad that I did it once, but I think I like smaller group rides better. It was a beautiful day and we got to ride on some roads that are normally inaccessible, and that's fun and all, but I'd rather participate in a ride that I could do on a normal day and repeat if I liked it rather than just ride in a big loop on a highway where I can't ride a few hours later. In my opinion, one of the more fun things about traveling by bicycle is the realization that you can actually get somewhere by bicycle! Is this an endorsement for the City Explorer Ride? Probably.
As for today, it was a good day. A perfect Washington spring day, in fact, which means intensely pollenic with 99% humidity. I don't consider myself an overly perspiring person (though how can one judge [in a way that won't get you arrested]?), but I just can't imagine riding any amount of distance on a bicycle in my work clothes and arriving in a way that would be close to presentable or even comfortable.
I saw a guy and four kids on their way to school this morning. Each kid was pushing themselves along on a scooter and the man was dragging all of their backpacks and stuff in a wagon. I thought that was kind of cool, though the four kids on scooters reminded me of a very inchoate motorcycle gang. Menacing.
I thought that the trails and bridge were pretty well peopled with people on bikes, so maybe something from Friday stuck. Or maybe it was just the usual crowd. I think it's hard to tell to what extent a Bike to Work Day has impact in the short-term.
There's a guy who commutes by Segway that I see frequently. I wonder how long it'll be before Courtland Milloy starts railing against Segway lanes.Good thing we shipped Gabe Klein to Chicago.
I saw a bumper sticker on a dump truck that read "You don't know what it's like unless you ride" or something like that, but the exact phrasing escapes me. I wish it didn't because it seems important to accurately represent the statement in all of its nuance, but basically I think the idea is accurately conveyed. I got the impression that it was about motorcycles rather than bicycles (as an enginist, I can't but see the world in terms of an engine/non-engine dichotomy) for some reason, but it seems equally applicable to both. I'm going to skip the part where I give a long-drawn explication on my thoughts surrounding this statement and write instead that yes, empathy is important but it's not the sine qua non of better environment for bicycles, nor anything more than a sufficient condition.
For most of my ride, I experienced the distinct pleasure of not having any cars behind me. I more than recognize (if this is even possible) the need to actually share the road (in a good way) and I'm fairly obliging about moving over to let a motorist pass, but it's still a nice feeling when you can ride your bicycle without thinking a motorist is bearing down on you. This is especially pleasant through Georgetown and Burleith where the streets are shorter (and narrowed) and punctuated with stop signs.
When I got to work, I parked next to the most superlative bike ever. Superlative in the sense that the bike's makers made sure to have descriptions of its greatness all over the bike. For example, here's the top tube:
Is your bike newer? I don't think so. You can see my sad Cross Check in the background, feeling not new. All it has written on it is the name of one of the seven Duffs.
And here's this:
Simply better. I think that the rider of this bike either lacks modesty or is easily persuaded. Or both. Awesome.


Ride Home 5/20

Woo! Bike From Work Day! This, to my mind at least, is way better because at the other end of the bike ride waits the weekend and not another lame day of work. But, whatever- it's all good.
I don't think this is the bike the organizers had in mind.
I guess if you ride something called a Ninja, you probably just assume that it stealthily blends in everywhere. That is not the case.
These are the cats that I've been feeding. Now will you vote for me?
They are rather large and I considered WKS-ing out their faces so as to protect them from potential internet mockery. Since I'm pretty sure that the entire purpose of the internet is to share cat pictures, this will invariably bring more people to the blog than every before. Yay, self-esteem.
Traffic! It sucks, even for bike types. Especially when it's a closed lane on account of road work. When I could, I bailed to the sidewalk, leading to an especially awkward encounter. I was stuck behind a dawdly group of collegians, who just didn't much feel like moving over. I get it, that's cool. And then, oncoming was an older lady who looked sort of mean. She stopped walking, but because it took approximately 37 minutes after realizing I was there for the dawdly group (of 3) to actually move over, by the time they formed a single-file-ish line, they were practically even with the mean lady. The mean lady stopped walking. I passed the dawdly group, but as I passed the lady, she was all "I'm just trying to get by." Yeah, me too. Should have just waited in traffic.
The preponderance of New Jersey license plates on cars backed up on 34th street meant that Georgetown must have had some pre-graduation event. Normally, I don't say that bike lanes do much other than raise awareness that bicyclists may be traveling (this is good enough in my opinion), but sometimes they also help prevent drivers from staggering their vehicles and taking up the entire width of the roadway. Because the bike lane doesn't yet run all the way to Prospect, this was pretty much true- where there was a stripe, I could get by; where there wasn't, it was stagger city and there was barely enough room between parked cars and stopped cars for my bike. Paint is power, I guess.
The very same presumed Georgetown event made crossing the Key Bridge the worst and most frustrating thing ever. There's no way not to seem like a jerk when you're on a bicycle and trying to get past people. I think the best/worst moment was when, after multiple attempts to alert those in front of me that I was trying to get around them by use of my bell, a woman to ask the group behind her, "what's that ding ding? (verbatim)" IT'S ME! I don't like the paradigm of deference to speed- since this basically reinforces car supremacy- and I don't think that because I can go faster is the primary reasons that pedestrians should move slightly over. Rather, it's the belief that taking up the entire path by walking four abreast is not a good thing. Or maybe it's just the general obliviousness that gets to me- it's hard when drivers don't acknowledge your presence, but pedestrians! You guys are supposed to be on our team! Oh well.
It's cool to change lanes to overtake a car on the left. It's less cool when the car is clearly having engine troubles and the driver has indicated as much by going 5 mph and turning his flashers on.
Stopped at the store on the way home and picked up way too much stuff. Bike was a bit wobbly even. Just couldn't say no to the heavy stuff. If Bike Hubris isn't a blog/twitter name, I should probably reserve it now.
Legs kinda hurt through some of the hills on Wilson. I suppose it's been a long week. It's Bike DC on Sunday, assuming there's no rapture. I'm pretty excited about it (it'll be our first time. Official wife is riding too!) and it's not too late to register if you already haven't.

Ride In 5/20

Happy Bike to Work Day! Many of you are already familiar with the origins of Bike to Work Day, but I assume that some of you don't know that it was started by George Washington in 1776 and it was the biggest holiday is America for approximately 6 weeks until they signed the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July and ever since then it's been struggling to retake its rightful place as the most patriotic of all national holidays. This story, like all good holiday stories, is mostly apocryphal, which is to say that it's completely bogus.
When I passed the Ballston BTWD pit stop, I gave a quintuple ding and in return I got quintuple WTF looks from the people standing in line at some tent. I was just trying to spread joy, as is my wont.
Fair or foul: biking side by side, one bicyclist in the bike lane and one bicyclist in the travel lane? I'm not asking about it's legality (it's legal), but rather about the etiquette.
I decided to stay off the Custis. I expected it to be preposterously crowded, as it was on last year's BTWD. I doubt it was much fun for anyone walking on it this morning. I think that new cyclists are great (and you're only new for just a little), but I've seen a lot of instances of poor judgment when it comes to their interacting with pedestrians. I've also seen a lot of instances of poor judgment from experienced cyclists. I've also seen a lot of instances of poor judgment from pedestrians. Basically, there's a lot of poor judgment out there (you're reading this blog, right?) and I prefer to ride in places where somebody's poor judgment is less likely to affect me as much as it might on a crowded 12 foot wide shared-use path.
That's why I ride in the streets, where the tour bus drivers like to make it interesting by pulling over in totally unexpected places, through the bike lane, with little signaling and careless disregard for those around them. In a case like this, you want to be aware of the slowing speed of the tour bus, but you also need to look out for any cars behind you and the drivers that might try to overtake the pulling-over bus at the same time you do. I recommend the standard dramatic head-swivel and maybe even sticking out your left arm at about a 45 degree angle, exposing your open palm and wide-stretched fingers. My  upside-down "bicycles may use full lane" palm tattoo hurt like hell, but it's totally worth it in these situations. Worse comes to worst and there's no space to move over, you might as well just wait patiently behind the bus until the travel lane clears.
The Rosslyn Pit Stop was pretty great. Tons of people, a lot of familiar faces. Introduced myself  to Paul DeMaio, bike-sharing guru and blogger. There was a bike stunt performer there, performing bike stunts of the leaping variety. There was Bike Arlington swag. There were bagels. There were just a ton of people and their bikes, including this guy:

Y-foils are pretty rare. And a Y-Foil with a kiddie trailer? Wow.
It was the fairly standard assemblage of NoVa cycling types, more inclined to Lycra than not. I don't know how many were daily commuters happy for the free bagels and how many were irregular commuters happy for the free bagels, but I'm sure WABA will tell us, along with the overall number of registered participants (my guess 11,542) how many of them were new to biking to work.
Since the point of Bike to Work day is eventually to get to work, I had to pull myself away and finish my ride. Fewer people on bikes than I expected, but I was riding in later than usual and everyone had probably already made it downtown.
When a motorist and a bicyclist arrive at a four-way stop at approximately the same time and they both want to roll through the stop sign, it seems unsporting for the motorist to flip off the cyclist who crosses his path before he could cross hers. Plus, she couldn't even see your gesture. As a general principle, I don't get upset about hypocrisy (people act in their best interest in any given situation- why let that bother you?), but it's amusing to watch someone get so upset about a bicyclist blowing a stop sign because it prevented him from doing the exact same (illegal) thing.
It's always nice to see a bicyclist that you recognize from one part of your trip (Jamis Aurora dad on New Mexico) in a completely different location (by Duke Ellington School). It's like reverse engineering their commute. Wasn't there a bad Ben Affleck movie about that?
When I got to work, a fellow bike commuter (whose bike I recognized, but not her) told me to head over to the table of food/giveaways that my employer had set up for Bike to Work Day. I asked the guy at the table if "a lot" of people had been over. He said "not a lot, but a decent number," but he seemed disappointed. I got free a poster (thanks Kaiser Permanente!) that has some platitudinous offering about bikes and health and some delicious Cranberry Apple Raspberry juice. I thought that this was nice of my employer to do, though I didn't notice any more bikes locked up at the rack than normal. I guess people aren't as motivated by posters and juice as I am.
I'm wearing my Bike to Work Day shirt now in honor of my own deep sense of smugness. It's very purple.


Ride Home 5/19

One of those days when I just wanted to get out of work as quickly as possible. I thought that since I was planning on going fast, I might as well Strava myself to see my lightning quick time. Five minutes in, I remember that I cat cuty duty and I had to ride back through Glover Park. Thereabouts, I saw some colleagues walking on the sidewalk and they said have a nice weekend. Um, Bike to Work day by definition means work, right?
Glover Park has some nice short little ups and downs that make for interesting riding. I'm pretty sure there's a way to avoid the bigger ones and take a flatter route, but I'm not really sure. 
Secret motorcycle parking? Secret motorcycle parking. 
The cats were fine and I was in and out pretty quickly. I reset my Strava, because that seemed like a useful thing to do, and I set about around 40th, W, Huidekoper and Manor. Local historians: is the street named after this Huidekoper? Local Dutch people: is it pronounced HEED-uh-cooper? Local Dutch-American Dutch-American historians: do you find your heritage an asset or a liability in researching the history of the Dutch in America?
When an ambulances is coming, I think that bicyclists should behave the way motorists are supposed to behave and just stop moving and pull over to the side of the road. 
I love fenders, as I've made abundantly clear any number of times. But one of the strange drawbacks of fenders is that sometimes when I try to make sharp turns at slow speeds, when I pedal forward, my foot knocks into my front fender. So awkward! I almost fell down trying to get around a bus at the intersection of Prospect and 34th. You keep me dry, but you almost made me fall. Sure, it sounds like a Taylor Swift lyric, but it's how I feel. 
Behind this guy on the bridge:

It's hard to see, because I am terrible at taking pictures, but he was an older gentleman and he wore older gentleman black sneakers. He had his trousers (because he wears trousers, not pants) tucked into his white socks and he had a crate on the back of his bike, in which was his canteen. He traveled at an older gentleman pace and did not alert pedestrians to his presence prior to passing them too closely. At one point, I tried to ding my bell so as to keep him in my foreward ding envelope, but this coincided too closely with his passing a woman and she jumped all like "WHAA?" and then I just felt dumb. He stopped mid-bridge suddenly, maybe to take a picture, maybe to cough. 
I like the pedestrian countdowns on walk signs because it makes every green light seem like a space shuttle launch. 
New turn restrictions at Oak and Wilson. 

This might or not might apply to bicyclists, but I didn't want to chance it on account of the police car right in front of me. Didn't want to tempt fate. It got me thinking about vehicular cycling and my newly minted bizarro world bicycular driving. Motorists almost always complain about cyclists breaking the law (running stop signs being the most common), so I figure why not give drivers the opportunity to adopt bicycular driving. You can Idaho Stop, but you only get a sliver of the roadway and you can never go more than 15 miles per hour.  Also, you have to read every week a new, but strangely repetitive, article in the newspaper about how your preferred mode of transportation ruins the lives of everyone else. Anyone drivers want in?

Ride In 5/19

Before leaving, I put some air in my tires, hoping this would maybe shake some of my lethargy. It's hard to get on the bike when the weather isn't very nice. It wasn't even raining, but greyness is just hanging over everything lately and there's perpetually a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Though I guess it's not bike-specific. I doubt car (or pogo) commuters have any greater desire to leave the house on such a crummy day.
So, how to combat this weather induced ennui? Well, referring to it as ennui doesn't help. I try to take different route to work from normal. This at least gives you something different to look at. Today, I got to look at a fellow bike commuter that didn't use his seat. Like ever. He might as well have been on an Elliptigo. I think to think of biking as having of all the freedom and pleasure of walking, but accompanied by the pure joy of getting to sit. Why you'd forsake that boggles me.
I think that drivers sometimes forget that car windows are transparent. In that, I can see what you're doing inside. Secret texting? Not secret. Checking out that girl in the short skirt? I see the head swivel. Applying makeup? Yup. They're like moving dioramas.
I took Wilson and Clarendon and then went down 15th to connect to Fairfax Drive and come up on the Iwo side of Rosslyn. Along 15th, I felt like I was being run down by some maniac driving a jeep. I'm used to riding pretty close to cars, so I have a good sense when I'm being followed and when I'm being followed too closely. Speaking jeeps, I forgot to mention that yesterday I saw one with MATTHRN on a "Friends of Tibet"  license plate. I don't think he knows his mountains very well.
I wonder if any Chinese cars have "Friends of Hawaii" license plates.
Transitioning from the Key Bridge sidewalk to M street is a bit tricky. Normally I ride the sidewalk until the Ukrainian Embassy and then cut over into the road. This doesn't work when there's a bus stopped. I got stuck on the sidewalk for another block and I'm sure I was very annoying.
I took Wisconsin today and that was fun, though the people watching wasn't that interesting. The folks outside of the Apple Store just looked sad. Does the iPad sop up your tears of loneliness?
On Wisconsin, I saw a girl with a non-traditional "fashion" bike helmet. I told her that I liked her helmet and she said thanks. I brighten people's days.
The stretch of road by the social Safeway isn't very fun. Just a lot of places where cars be turning. And buses be stopping. And taxis be taxi-ing.


Ride Home 5/18

I left work at 2 today, which was nice. However, bike commuting at non-rush hour times is always a little weird. Mid afternoon is the time of delivery trucks and tradesmen- plumbers, carpenters, I even saw an air duct repairman- and these vehicles tend to have irregular parking arrangements. Drivers also tend to be a bit more cavalier- there's something about rush hour that causes everyone to be a bit more on their game. So while there tends to be fewer cars on the road, the streetscape is different and frequently less friendly to bicyclists.
I rode home in jeans and that was basically miserable. It's just too humid here. I did enjoy not having to change before leaving, though I'm thinking that the double cuff is an absurd look. I apologize to any fashionistas who were offended.
I love catching green lights. I think it's even more fulfilling on a bicycle than it is when you're driving. You actually have to work for it, but it's way satisfying to make it.
I saw a guy on a CaBi in Rosslyn pulled off to the side of the sidewalk looking intently at his phone. I wonder if he was looking for a station. Maybe I should have stopped- I did participate in that scavenger hunt. He was the only other bicyclist I saw other than the man on the mountain bike I rode behind on the Custis Trail. This man, I think, was going on something of a recreational ride, on account of his not having anything with him. I'm just skeptical of anyone riding a bike without carrying at least a backpack. He had what I call "the stripe of shame" up the back of his shirt. No fenders means that muddy puddle water sprays off the rear wheel and cascades in a striped pattern on the back of the rider. It's so sad. But, I'm a fender fanatic. That's like the Philly Phanatic, but not in any way associated with Major League Baseball and with considerably marginally less green fur.
I stopped for a growler on the way home. DC Brau Pale Ale, which is quite good. As usual, I got the cheese monger level of service, meaning that the tap somehow didn't work and he needed to fill the growler "the traditional way," namely by pouring from a pitcher. Here's a picture of that:
Spy cam. 

There was a lot of foam in the growler and he asked if I wanted to wait while the foam dissipated. What does one do in a Whole Foods while waiting for your beer foam to dissipate? I went with the perambulation, culminating in pricing broccolli ($2.99/lb) and avocados (2/$5. This is highway robbery). By the time I got back to the beer station, the growler was filled and I was allowed to leave.
I've gotten reasonably good at carrying beer in a backpack. Is this a useful skill? I guess it depends on your social set.

Ride In 5/18

I intended to take a different bridge into work each day this week. This for some reason would prove something important about the versatility of bike commuting, though I suppose one could just as easily drive, walk or pogo over a different bridge each day and make the same point about their preferred mode of travel. In any case, I slipped into auo-pilot this morning and before I even realized it, I was on Fairfax Drive pedaling behind a guy in slingback mandals with long 80s rocker hair, bleached from the sun and replete with split ends. I know I've seen him before; I can't recall if I've ever mentioned him in the blog. I forget most of the stuff I plan to write about and frequently have to resort to making things up going over my ride in my head until I can recall something noteworthy.
The County has installed the (second) bike signal at the intersection of the Custis Trail and Oak Street. When I got there, it was red, so I patiently waited. I was trying to exhort some social pressure on my fellow cyclists, not out of any desire to see them stop, but just from a general curiosity about my own ability to exhort others. I'm the Svengali of bike commuting. Or not so much, since riders coming in the opposite direction saw no need to stop and wait for the light to change. No one rode up from behind me while I waited, so I don't know if my social pressure/blocking their way would have resulted in their waiting for the light to change. If the goal of the signals is increased compliance, I think it's going to take some time to happen, if it ever happens. The streets that intersect the Custis aren't the busiest ones so it's not like cyclists were especially habituated to stopping and waiting for traffic prior to the installation. But, we'll see.
I don't think it's the explicit marking of Bike to Work week, but I have noticed a lot more people riding around the city in the past couple of days. Perhaps this is because I'm riding with my eyes open rather than shut as I used to do. I made the mistake of wearing sunglasses this morning, so everything looked like it was a from a Zack Snyder movie, minus the burly shirtless men. So moody.
I've been meaning to ride to work in my normal clothes, but the potential for rain has really dissuaded me from trying it. This seems like a rather self-evident reason for biking in non-work clothes. And when it's not the rain, it's the overall mugginess. Do what you want, but is it so hard to have some clothes for biking (I ride to work in a tuxedo most days. James Bond effect) and some other clothes you can change into when you get to the office?
Parent drop-off is just a mess and it's tough for a bicyclist to negotiate who's stopping, who's parking, who's leaving a spot without signaling, who's making some weird u-turn and who is just idling in the middle of the street because their kid can't  get their stuff together to get out of the damn car. It's one thing in a suburban setting (though still bad), but it's much worse on the narrow blocks of Burleith. They need two cops (I think they're cops, but if not, they're at least trained professionals)to direct the morning traffic! Couldn't these resources be better used elsewhere?
Glover Park bike commuters are finally out in force. Where've you been? Waiting for the Chipotle to open?
I tried to "race" the N8 up the hill today and that went well for the first hundred feet or so. Actually, for even farther than that, I managed to be ahead of the bus. Of course, this was on account of the bus picking up some passengers and once they had paid their fares, the bus easily managed to tut on by. You have to make your own fun. I don't recommend racing buses or racing anything really. At least if you're not going to win. 


Ride Home 5/17

Sometimes fixed isn't really fixed and that's especially the case when I'm both doing the fixing and determining whether the fixing has been sufficient. This long lead up is one way of saying that my front derailer was still inoperable when I left work. The effects of such weren't especially impactful, though it did make my going downhill a bit slower, but perhaps for the better. It was a tripartite trip home (Werboczy what up), that both saw me stopping to feed an out-of-town colleague's cats and at the bike store for some "routine" maintenance.
The cats are quite large, but otherwise unremarkable. Maybe I'll take some pictures and post them for those of you who love looking at cat pictures. Maybe then you'll vote for me at some random bike blog contest. Bikes! Cats! It's Tails From the Sharrows!
I stopped at Revolution Cycles, where I had previously "successfully completed" a bicycle and repair course. I figured I would check in with the ol' teach and measure my amateur diagnosis of problem (which consisted mainly of me pointing at my bike helplessly saying "problem") against his professional assessment. I'm pretty sure he said that it was ok for us to do this, though he might have meant it for circumstances beyond the very most basic repairs that a successful completion might indicate I could handle on my own.
I introduced myself with the caveat "I don't know if you remember me, but..." and he said that he did. I guess you never forget the first student that you compromise your standards for in order to pass them. I explain my thinking about the problem "The cable is loose. Is it a problem with the shifters or is it because the cable 'slipped'?". He lifted the cable and pulled the shifter and the cable pulled taut
"Not the shifter. It's just the pinch bolt."
Pinch bolt! That's definitely the name of a thing on my bike. In fact, it's definitely the thing that holds the derailer cable taut. At this point, I had a multi-tool in my hand, though I was cradling it a bit secretively, like one would a shiv. My using it would probably be the same as shanking my bike. The mechanic instead would casually to his allen wrenches, loosened the pinch bolt, pulled the cable and tightened it. I asked if there's any reason that it might have slipped. Maybe because of the weather? (This is a highly self-serving question, meant to highlight that I, unlike others, ride my bike in the rain and whatnot). No, it's not the weather. It's just something that happens sometimes and I should keep an eye on it. Oh.
I once again had access to my large front chain ring. However, the cable was pulled incredibly tight and shifting to the larger ring required considerable effort. Like a really old, first-generation submarine. Small price to pay, I guess.
This is what the traffic around the Key Bridge looks like at evening rush hour:
Everyone had a red light
Like you probably, I exclusively use Red Top Cabs for my taxi use in Arlington County. This is in part because Blue Top Cabs (boo!) employs at least one driver who was a total jerk to me at cut me off to turn right from the middle lane across the bike lane. He even had fares inside, which seemed doubly irresponsible. I didn't really feel like flipping him off, in part because of the fares and in part because it was just so predictable that he was going to do it, so I gave him something of a papal wave instead, where I raised my hand and shook it gently in his direction, tsking him with my knuckles. I don't think there's a braze-on for a crosier.
My wife apparently saw me when I was riding past the Clarendon metro. I guess I looked earnest, which I suppose is a good thing.
The Gitane was once again locked outside of the George Mason Law School. I got a picture this time.

No rain for the entire ride, so I feel pretty lucky. Another bike to work day tomorrow and I hope that I see as many people on the road as I have the past few days.

Ride In 5/17

Have you voted yet (or again) for Tales From the Sharrows as the best bike commuter blog in this contest? You can vote once daily, so I encourage you to keep voting every day from every computer you own, especially if you own many, many computers. We've made tremendous progress so far in that Tales is now a listed choice (at least on my computer)!
Duh. Winning.
As we all know, internet popularity is the truest measure of quality. That's why Hungary almost had a Stephen Colbert bridge. I thank you in advance for your continued support and dubious ability to separate quality blogs from tripe.
Some cyclists are so dedicated to never stopping (and unclipping) that they'll ride in small circles in the crosswalk in front of stopped cars. They look like idiots. What's so hard about putting your foot down and just waiting like a normal person? Riding a bike in a small circle is something that monkeys do in the circus.
Some math: Mercedes + Texas license plate = aggressive driver. Surprise < 0.
I rode Wilson and Clarendon today on account of this tweet from Bike Arlington. I had recently bitched blogged about the road markings and I was curious to see what changes had been made. My suggestion hadn't been taken into account (not a big deal) and there's still a fully striped lane in front of the parking garage entrance/exit rather than dashes and there's no sideways bicycle men to alert exiting drivers. Moreover, the lane wasn't turned into a sharroad (new term for road with sharrows? Or can words only be portmanteau-ed so many times before they become meaningless?), but kept laney from Courhouse to 16th Street, which is the same as it's been. From 16th Street to Rhodes, the bike lane continued, whereas it had previously disappeared. Did it feel less dangerous? Meh. I'd still be worried about cars crossing the bike lane in order to turn right onto Rhodes. So be careful. Also be careful because there's construction on Clarendon and the giant sign indicating as much manages to block the entirety of the bike lane.
The primary "drama" of this ride came on the Georgetown side of the Key Bridge, where I rode up my usual wrong way sidewalk on cobbled  35th street. Between the wet red bricks and the wet tree droppings (I don't know what they are- they're not leaves, but they're compact, ball-like bits that fall from the overhanging tress every time it rains), it was a thoroughly slippery and unsafe-seeming ride. I tried to stay balanced by keeping my weight directly over the bike and by pedaling as evenly as possible and I managed to stay upright (success!) while minimal feelings of impending doom. I attribute this to good luck more than any particular skill on my part and I think in the future I'm not going to take this kind of needless challenge.
Immediately after my pointless victory (and yes, I am describing not falling over as a victory), I tried to shift back to my large front chain ring. Nothing. I tried again. It still didn't work. I thought that this was curious because typically my bikes works as expected. I have bar-end shifters, so each time I shift, I feel like I'm pulling down a giant lever in an old submarine. Please keep in mind that I'm wildly unfamiliar with the technological trappings of old submarines and I'm only assuming that large levers are required to blow the ballasts.
My first thought was that I should do something, like stop and see what's wrong. I soon realized, though, that my further examination of the problem could only lead to disaster. I essentially have negative mechanical aptitude and I try not to touch my bike with a tool unless it's totally necessary and the brakes worked fine, so as far as bike function goes, I felt like I was doing ok. I was riding along fine on the small front ring and why would I want to muck that up? I could deal with the problem when I get to work or at least not deal with it somewhere inside rather than on the side of the road. Nonetheless, I was curious about what could be wrong, so I spent a good amount of time looking down at the derailer. Didn't seem broken, so that was good. It was after about 5 minutes of looking down at the derailer when I thought the problem might actually be with the cable (what connects the shifter to the derailer. No, I'm not proud that it took me 5 minutes to figure this out). The cable was dangling rather loosely and this slack was the reason I couldn't shift. Thanks, Tool Academy!
When I got to work, I flipped the bike upside-down for some reason. Yup, that's the underside of a bike. Then I startled fiddling with the cables. I don't exactly know what happened, but the cable tautened and I pedaled the wheels forward using my hands and when I shifted, everything seems to work again. Apparently, I fixed it. We'll see what happens during the ride home, but I pass at least four bike shops, so my situation isn't especially dire.