Jon is the man behind manfredmacx.com, the site that I used to host the online sale of buttons to raise money to repay WABA for my "extreme biking" through the plate glass window at their HQ. Without his help and technical support, I wouldn't have been able to sell buttons online and been forced to set up a booth at farmer's market between to the squash and the homemade soaps, or perhaps even worse, would have had to resort to using Paypal, which I understand takes a somewhat hefty chunk. On top of allowing me to use his site, Jon also bought buttons AND an I BLOG YOUR RIDE, making him one of #bikeDC's most generous/foolhardy people.
Unlike the other I BLOG YOUR RIDE participants, I had actually met Jon before, though when I met him, he had a large, bushy beard which he has since shaved. I don't know if he did this to increase my degree of difficulty, but I doubt it. And also unlike the other I BLOG YOUR RIDE participants, Jon lives in DC (aka Washington aka the District aka almost on my normal route to work), so this ride would be a "city" ride (whatever that means) from roughly 14th and Harvard to roughly L'Enfant Plaza. Doubly roughly due to the road conditions, but more on that later. So my ride to Jon's was my normal ride and my ride from Jon's was the reverse of my normal ride and my ride back to work was my normal ride but a bit later and after having done it and its reverse already. It was like a movie called The Return of Deja Vu: Part II, the Sequel: Deja Vu Strikes Back Again. (This movie would be universally panned, re-released and panned again)
Jon was riding, and I regret not taking the what I thought was obligatory photo, a road bike, but with lights and fenders and he had a Chrome messenger backpack for his important work papers and probably a change of clothes, but I didn't like inspect it or anything because that would be rude and nosy and well outside the bounds of politeness. We turned from Harvard to 14th and then the fun started.
I'm not especially familiar with the parts of town north of where the letter streets stop, especially in the parts of the city where it retains its more urban character. It was a surprise to me that bike lanes on 14th stopped at U (or started if you're coming the other way) rather than continued up the hill to reconnect to the lanes again at Columbia Road. That's about a seven block gap in a network that would otherwise run from Thomas Circle to the former Walter Reed Medical Center. According to Jon, and apparently disclosed at that meeting I went to, this is on DDOT's list for the planned improvements in 2012. This would be exceptional use of white paint and I'm very much looking forward to this kind of "gap closing." Jon said that he does too, as does his wife, who frequently CaBis (CaBi as verb, sure, why not?) up and down 14th.
The lane itself, however, isn't strictly needed, at least when riding downhill, as we were at enough speed to merge with traffic. Jon says that he daily takes the lane and there's normally no problem. I don't know if it was me (probably) but today some guy honked at us. It was sort of stupid.
14th remained trafficky past U, but when the bike lane appeared, we had relatively fret-free access. There was at least one instance where a parallel parking car forced us from the bike lane, but again, not a big deal. But then the buses came and this is where things got complicated. I mean, complicated insofar as buses pulling towards and away from bus stops separated Jon and me. He was able to ride past the first bus after it pulled out and I got stuck behind the second bus as it pulled towards the stop. And by pulling towards the stop, I mean, the driver just pointed the nose (is that what you'd call it?) of the bus vaguely in the direction of the sidewalk and blocked right and center lanes. And the bike lane. This was by Thomas Circle, which itself is a bit of cluster for cyclists. Jon said that it's the only red on his route that he'll typically consider jumping, mostly on account of not wanting to deal right-turning drivers cutting their turns short and careening through the bike lanes, which hug the sidewalk the whole way around the circle. This is the kind of roadway design that haunts a Dutch traffic engineer's nightmares. I waited, along with another cyclists (she was wearing what I think was a velour skirt with some sequins on it), the bus situation to resolve itself, but then decided I could squeak by between the bus and curb and did as much and caught up with Jon by the light changed. The circle itself was mostly fine, but this was probably thanks to the two buses impeding car traffic.
We stayed on 14th, but it wasn't long before I managed to fall behind Jon again, this time thanks to a FedEx truck blocking the right lane or maybe something else, like a turning car or something. Anyway, I was pretty certain that I had lost him for good this time and I'd have to make up the rest of the blog post and maybe even refund his charitable donation. I didn't know whether he had turned at K or kept going straight and I lifted my bike onto the sidewalk in order to give myself the option of turning back if I didn't see him in front of the truck. But he was there and I caught up with him a block or so later and I didn't have to give him back his money, so I'd say things worked out, except for being out of sequence with the lights on 14th street, which caused me pull up in front of one of those Loudon County Connector buses, the driver of which kept the nose (this doesn't sound right) of his bus rather close to my rear wheel upon my slow start once the light turned green. Rather than make the left onto Pennsylvania, we looped right and put ourselves in the bike lane facing the Capitol and this was when I got to see how the "other half" commutes, the other half not being tho super-wealthy 1% who get to work by pogo stick or dirigible, but rather those that take Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol in the morning rather than away for it. And my heading east during the morning caused no small degree of consternation on the twitters (There was a tweet from the Dalai Lama that read "@sharrowsDC AM EASTBOUND? NOOOOOOOOO!" but I guess he deleted it).
We took Penn to 4th (rather than 7th, where Jon usually turns) and rode 4th through the road construction quagmire that is Urbanrenewalistan and under the train tracks to 4th and E. As is becoming habit (dare I say, feature) of these rides, Jon and I took a coffee in the Cafe Phillips and settled in for a conversation about bicycling (pro), beer (very much pro) and sundry other topics of mutual interest. Jon, like my other ride bloggers, has young ones and bikes them through the city for transportation and for leisure. Three makes a trend, right? Jon's been commuting by bike for about a year and, like I do, remains gobsmacked by how easy and convenient the whole thing is.
We set off from the coffee shop and I left him at 4th and E rather than ride with him to the door of his office. (I'm sorry if this somehow invalidates this blog post. I imagine some reader closing the browser window in disgust and pique and composing an angry letter to my editor, who is me) I thank Jon for everything that he's done to make the charity drive a success and I also thank him for letting me ride with him on (mostly) his morning commute. I had a really good time (we rode almost exclusively downhill) and wish him the best of well wishes (not just regular well wishes, but the best) in his bike commuting and beyond.