3/30/12

Ride Home 3/30: Arrows by any other name would smell as sweet

Friday afternoon on the penultimate day of March, but I just wasn't feeling it. Ride homes lately haven't been nearly as fun as rides in, which is thoroughly odd. I think that I just prefer the morning traffic (bikes, pedestrians, cars) to the evening traffic, even though it's pretty much the same people or at least I presume it is. It also takes longer and the ride seems clumpier, to use a word that might not actually describe anything, or at least accurately, but only vagues expresses the sentiment of a lack of smoothness, which is very much the feeling brought about by the predictable punctuation of the same stop lights on my southeasterly route. Still better than getting stuck in traffic, I guess, though that's part of the ride home too.
I think I'm going to vote for Peter Shapiro.
Sometimes jerks drive Audis or at least one jerk does. I don't think there's much in the way of prescription to stop aggressive and speeding driving (tickets only go so far), but I guess the best idea would just be to try to convince more people to sometimes ride bicycles to be able to feel what it's like when you're passed too closely by a speeding car. Maybe?
I rode behind a guy on a Nishiki who I rode behind this morning and roughly along the pretty much same exact stretch on the ride in and ride home. He had a shoulder bag and looked like maybe he works in graphic design or is Danish or both.
When the L street cycle track is installed, I might start taking that because it'll at least be something different. Plus, I really want to buy the T shirt at the giftshop at the end that says I SURVIVED THE MIXING ZONES, like you might do if you're in eighth grade and took a summer trip to an amusement park with a roller coaster named after either an terrifying jungle animal or a disruptive weather event.  As you might be able to glean, I'm not crazy about the design. Can't we just have some real protected, separated bicycle infrastructure like real bike cities have? Please?
If I were in charge of DC Parks & Recreation, I'd hold a 5k where people just run around Logan Circle and I'd call it Logan's Run and the prize would be- well, there's no prize for first place, but trust me, you wouldn't want to be last.
I was behind another bicyclist on 11th and I didn't cross following my usual pattern and instead waited at the red light rather than cross when the crosswalk turns green (there's a pedestrian phase for crossing L and Massachusetts, but the red for drivers) since that's what he did. It turned out not to be the end of the world. Later on 11th, two other bicyclists, in a bout of stupidity that's far too common, anticipated a green light that didn't come because the other direction had a left-turn-green and they rode into the street and almost got hit. That was dumb. Don't assume stuff.
On Pennsylvania, a guy in a mustard shirt passed me on the right, but while moving, after the light turned green, but he passed a little close for my liking. I was piqued. But then at the next red, he turned around and pointed out that the lights seemed out of sequence. Oh mustard shirt, I can't stay mad at you! Anyone who knows and care about light sequences is a friend of mine.
You know all those cyclists who just "came out of nowhere" and then got hit by cars? Yeah, I've been watching Doctor Who lately and I'm pretty sure I've figured out how it's happening. Yeah, I'd ride a Specialized TARDIS. Vertically stiff, space-temporally compliant.
I'm going to stop writing now because today is Ellie the Poodle's birthday. She's 4 now, which means that she no longer needs a fake ID to go out to bars. And that's definitely really cool for octogenarian Mrs. Mabel Peterson of Kissimmee St. Cloud, Florida, who can get her drivers license back. We're not going to do a lot of celebrating tonight, but I'm not going to promise that there won't be cake tomorrow. I mean, people cake for us, not poodle cake for her. So, that'll be nice. Have a great weekend.

Ride In 3/30: tollo, tollere

If today's ride were a fruit, it'd be a tomato. Sometimes I think maybe the blog should just be pictures of the piece of fruit it most resembled. It wouldn't certainly save me time, though I imagine that not everyone wants to just look at pictures of food on the internet, as if it's some sort of amazing bit of creative self-expression. Oh, nevermind. I think I'll stick to the current format, namely using words instead of pictures since that was what catapulted me into the upper echelon the DC literary scene. It hasn't been easy adjusting to my new, famous lifestyle, but I'm doing my best. I think people expect a certain hauteur from their celebrities and I've tried to act accordingly. I've hired a valet for some reason. And I've been trying to duck the paparazzi, because that's been a huge problem for the past 24 hours or so- so many people trying to take pictures of me when I'm riding past the White House and Capitol. I'm still waiting for my gold bicycle to arrive and all my shirts are the tailor and will soon be embroidered "Best Local Bike Blogger" on one pocket and the same in reverse on the other pocket so I'll be able to read it when looking in the mirror, which is something I do a lot now. I've also asked the tailor to add extra pockets to make room for all of the embroidery. But in all seriousness (which is a first), I'd like to thank everyone for all of the kind words that has been left in the comments and spray painted on the side of my home. You're all exceedingly kind.
The first thing I can tell you about the ride in was that my fingers were cold and didn't really warm up over the course of the trip. I might have even wanted to wear gloves, but once you decide glove season is over, it's hard to go back. We lose more baseball players to cricket that way than anything else. Cold fingers (aside from being the worst James Bond villain ever) really sap my enthusiasm for bicycling riding and shiatsu massage, but mostly the bicycling riding.
This week has been oddly lacking in traffic, with low car and bike volume throughout, at least east of downtown. Not that I'm complaining. Thougn, bike traffic, for what it is tends to clump up the closer you get to the Capitol and today there were three of us riding through the patio/parking lot at about the same time. The other two got stuck behind a landscaping van, which I deftly avoided by taking a different path. Take that, the less deft! Actually, there wasn't really much they could do about it. I thought that the truck driver would yield to them as they were nearly on the path and he was turning onto a route clearly designated by pedestrians and bicyclists, but he didn't. I really don't like all of the motorized traffic on the Capitol grounds. Between the black SUVS, the landscaping crews, the state security apparatus,  the other cars that have permission to pass through the perimeter, and the complete lack of visual cues about whether space is meant to be parking or road or both or neither, biking through it can be pretty harrowing. If I had my druthers (which I believe is a kind of old person candy), I'd pedestrianize the whole space. But I don't think Congress is that interested.
Along Pennsylvania, I noticed a familiar bike (it's always the bike you notice first) and then realized that a familiar person was on the familiar bike and I biked alongside of John and said hello. He was on the way to coffee and since we were heading the same place, it was really rude when I said "See ya sucker!," threw tacks in front of his tires, cackled and pedaled away. Ok, I didn't actually do that and opted for the much more social bike alongside and talk approach, which was considerably less maniacal. We rode on E Street, in front of (behind?) the White House and on the sidewalk and then up to Swing's, where we locked the bikes, went inside and ordered coffee, drank the coffee, conversed with others, and left. That's a rather truncated version of events.
You need to follow @ZombiesDC if you like zombie antics and, frankly, who doesn't?
I feel like my post-coffee rides are always the same and the descriptions of them tend to repeat. They're a bit rote, perhaps because I wrote them already. I always remark on how there are more cyclists out then I expect. Lately, I've mentioned that it's been colder than I wanted it to be, which is the same as what I've mentioned before that. How there are only a few crosstown cyclists, even though there's a bunch heading south. How barely anything happened on my ride up Massachusetts. So instead of rehashing all that again today, I'm just going to describe it thusly:

I think the primary occupation undertaken at the Naval Observatory is naval gazing.
I haven't seen any funny bumper stickers in a long time. Last night, I saw one that read "Chive," like the smallest edible onion. I think that the signal of the decline in American automotive culture is directly related to the lack of creativity in bumper stickers. Did bumper sticker makers get a bail out, too? I don't think so.

3/29/12

Ride Home 3/29: NBA Playoff Predictions

Since I've become famous, I've had to make a lot of adjustments in my life. For example, I can no longer use generic brand toothpaste. What would the tabloids say? But the one thing I haven't quite gotten around to in the nine hours since my meteoric ride to fame and fortune is hiring a publicist- something, I'm told, perhaps by publicists themselves, that is vital for all celebrities. That means that when it comes to managing my publicity and/or dealing with the media, I still have to do it myself, like some common hobo. And I had cause to deal with the media this very afternoon, when I wanted to send a "gift basket" (put anything in quotes and it sounds mischievous/threatening) to the person that made me famous through her vast influence and couple of inches of newsprint, Alex Baca of the Washington City Paper.  She's the one who undertook the rigorous surveying and longitudinal studies and overall number-crunching (NOM NOM NOM) that determined that this here very bicycle blog is the "best" and I wanted to thank her for her complete lack of taste and judgment. So, I sent her a series of increasing cryptic and threatening emails whereby I arranged to meet her at her workplace and give her one (1) official Tales From the Sharrows button, in a sort of reverse bribery situation. Maybe that's called I kickback. I don't know- I'm not an expert or a council member or anything. So, off I rode, down Massachusetts and Garfield and Cleveland, reversing the route I undertook this morning, except that my lack of patience/fear of running late led me to take the sidewalk for a little on Garfield before crossing the street midblock and merging in front of some cars to get to the bike lane. On Cleveland, according to the speed cam, I hit 32, which I believe under the Gray administration would equal a fine of roughly $17 gazillion dollars had I license plate visible so they'd know where to send the ticket 3 weeks later. Calvert proved mostly ok, but I really don't like the intersection with Connecticut Avenue, which is ironic since I was born and raised in Connecticut and also because I don't know what irony is. The intersection with Columbia Road is kind of a pain, so I just rode to the south side of Columbia and waited for the other light to change rather than try to make a left from Adams Mill. Often times it's easier to cross the street and rotate your bike 90 degrees than it is to wait to make left turn. And by easier I mean, easier if you don't like waiting.
I'd never been to Washington City Paper HQ. The outside of the building looks like this:
Not Helvetica
I called Alex and while I waited, I got to see the "best of" in print for the first time. It looked like this:
Smudgy
I wanted to take a couple of the copies of the paper for like signing autographs and putting on eBay and stuff (HAHAHAHAHAHA!), but I could only fit one copy in my trunk bag. Maybe I'll pick up some more tomorrow. I was happy to see it wedged between "Best long-running neighborhood feud" and "best neighborhood email list" aka PRIME REAL ESTATE. 
Now commences the I BLOG YOUR WALK HOME portion of the blog. Alex doesn't live too far away from her workplace and not always far enough to bike, unless she's going somewhere else after work and sometimes that thing happens where it takes longer to bike (with the locking and the unlocking) than just walking. Conversation was easy and flowing, which is rare for me since I have the social graces of a scofflaw ocelot. We walked down Champlain and then Florida and W and that was pretty much it. We spoke for a while on topics of mutual interest (bikes, blogs, beer, bridges) and somehow while standing there my chain managed to somehow fall off, which takes my mechanical ineptitude to all sorts of new places. And then I took a picture of Alex and her new TFTS button and might have insulted her thereafter, perhaps by using the word "addled," so I'm pretty sorry about that and pretty sure that I'm not "winning" this again next year. A million thanks to WCP!
The Fourth Estate
Alex happens to live near the 15th street cycle track, so upon my exit I salmoned for a block (sorry!) before riding the track the remainder of the way. It was crowded and everyone was riding in the other direction. And many of those riding in the other direction were attempting to pass many of the others who were riding in the other direction, giving me no small degree of concern as the bike lane isn't especially wide and I'm not especially indestructible. As with all things bike-related, I encourage patience and not crashing into things. Heading southbound, it's all stops at each light until H and then it was crowds by the White House and even more bicyclists on the other side where the cycle track picks up again. 
I love the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track and I know that drivers love it too because they ALWAYS DRIVE IN IT. Today, the box-blocking traffic on 14th causes a few eastbound drivers to pull directly into the bike lanes, you know, rather than not doing that and was quite unsafe and illegal, but it's the unsafe part that I like the least. And then, at 11th, there was a taxi driver who had pulled his taxi right into the bike lanes and put on his left turn. I rode around him and looked back. I said "what happened?" in the way that I talk to Ellie the Poodle when she takes a tissue out of the trash can and rips it up and then looks all innocent and stuff. He sort of pointed to 11th, so as to indicate that he planned on turning. Note: there's a left-turn lane immediately to the right of the bike lane and I'm not really sure why he wasn't in it. So, then I was all like "I gotcha. It's cool," even though I didn't really get him and it sort of wasn't cool. And then the left turn arrow turned green. And the car in the left-turn lane turned left in front of me, since I wasn't going anywhere. And then the taxi driver honked! I thought about taking a picture, so as to provide some visual evidence to this ridiculousness, but I thought that that might seem threatening and I felt like I'd just let it go since I was the only bicyclist affected. Oh, taxi drivers. You so crazy. 
Didn't get passed or shoaled on Penn and then it was a quick trip up the hill (The Hill). It's starting to get really crowded. There was a grandma in a sari taking pictures of her grandkids (I'm presuming this relationship based on ages. I didn't stop to ask) posing all funny-like with the dome in the background. It was pretty funny. 
The cavalcade of seeing people I know continued when I passed D. along the sidewalk along East Capitol. It's very neighborly in my neighborhood. He and his wife were taking the dog out for a walk and we talked for a while about houses and the purchasing thereof and when I finish this post, I plan to send him the contact information for our real estate agent and mortgage guy. I'm really a full service local bike blogger. 
Friday coffee tomorrow, since it's Friday. You should come. 

Ride In 3/29: A Rebuttal

The Washington City Paper has mistakenly declared me the "best local bike blogger" and I meet this award with gratitude and skepticism and more gratitude. I'm glad that the recognition made proper mention of Ellie the Poodle, sandwiches and my rambling, which I'll take as a compliment whether or not it was intended to be one. It's always been a goal of mine to be "local alt weekly" famous, which is the equivalent of being able to dunk on a 6 foot hoop. In either case, that hasn't stopped me from blasting Tina Turner all morning and strutting about the office like a proud peacock. It helps that I have a large assemblage of peacock feathers, glue, ample free time and no shame.
I'm also glad that I was able to accomplish this feat without having to take any money orders from Jeff Thompson, though I don't know if they made their way to Alex Baca through my "shadow campaign," about which I will deny everything until subpoenaed. All I'm saying is that if Sulaimon Brown's bike commuter blog didn't spend so much time trashing WashCycle maybe things don't turn out this way.
Writing this blog gives me great pleasure and that others (you, presumably) might enjoy reading it makes it that much better. Thank you all. One thing that I was really glad to have mentioned was button campaign. If, let's say, buttons were to become available again (same bat price, same bat channel) and the proceeds were to be once again directed to WABA, would anyone be interested?
$5?
Today's weather was much like yesterday's, except maybe it was windier. It was a terrible day for "Wear Trash Bags to Work Day," so it's good that that's not a real thing. Otherwise, it was sunny and temperate and a great day for bike commuting. Spring won't last as long as we want and soon it will be summer and riding will go from "comfortable chore" to "better than sitting on a hot Metro car, but only a little," so, if you're inclined to commute by bike, I suggest giving it a go in the coming weeks rather than holding off. Though, presumably, if you're reading this, you might already commute by bike which makes this advice seem redundant. Or maybe you just like bike commuting vicariously and are playing in a Bike Commuter Fantasy League and you're reading this blog to determine my "stats" for your upcoming draft. (I don't play fantasy bike commuting  any more. It's just gotten too commercial.)
At the base of the Capitol, I saw Adam, friend of the blog and sometimes commenter (and BikeSnob ride ride marshal). He was riding to work, which is somewhere near Judiciary Square and perhaps even related to judiciary things. I rarely see people I know on the way to work, more frequently seeing them, which isn't especially frequent, on the ride home. I'm sure my conversation skills perfectly mirrored the two cups of coffee I had to that point imbibed, which is to stay stilted. I take my coffee stilted and with two sugars.
I didn't want to take the same as always today, so at 15th and R, I didn't turn left. I rode up to Florida and the up the hill past Meridian Park. (Tip: just stay to the left when the cycle track stops.) I spent much of the ride up the hill dreading the idea that someone might be salmoning down the hill. I even practiced cursing out this fictitious person ahead of time, just so I'd be ready- it's always a good idea to have your invective ready to go. otherwise you say things like "jackhole." I don't normally ride to work this way because of the unpleasantness of riding up that hill, which is the first of three "climbs" so to speak on this etape way to work. It turned out to be too unpleasant, mostly because I resigned myself to going slowly. Wearing normal people clothes helped me in that. In bike clothes, it's far to easy to convince yourself that exertion is enjoyable.
To be straightforward about it, getting around Columbia Heights on bicycle confuses me more than it should. Euclid and 15th is two ways, but it won't take me west after 16th. I don't know anything about Fuller Street. Maybe it has a haunted mansion or an old shoe factory? Who knows? Not me, so I didn't take it, which I think is wrong. And then there are a bunch of other streets, which I thought at the time would all take me east, which would only work if there was a bizarro me with a bizzaro job and bizzaro office at Catholic. I figured that I'd just turn on Columbia Road and that would be fine, which is was. There's even sharrows and a bike lane on it, which are new features that are pretty great, though not totally contiguous. The sharrows-lane-sharrows configuration one isn't something I'm totally crazy about, but I guess that's what we've got and beggars can't really be choosers. It's sort of like if a road went from gravel to pavement to gravel over the course of a mile. Sure, you could still drive on it, but maybe it's not optimal.
Adams Mill and Calvert have bike lanes, Cleveland, my second biggish climb, doesn't, but easily could. Garfield, the first part of my final ascent, does, but then they stop. It's not exactly a connected network, though it's completely bikeable the whole way. I think I only a few other people on bikes after Columbia. One guy was leaning forward with his road bike at a red light, as if to say "Look at me, I'm leaning" and one guy had a really, almost unnaturally, squeaky bike and then there was a guy who, if I'm not mistaken, was carrying a suit, on a hanger, with the hanger tucked into the rear neck (?) of his sleeveless shirt. At that point maybe it'd just be easier to wear the suit

3/28/12

Ride Home 3/28: Left alone with just a memory

In case you haven't seen it, Greater Greater Greater Greater Greater Greater Washington published the preliminary (65% completed) designs for the impending L Street cycle track. Thanks to the twitteratti, I got to suss out some thoughts on the project and hear (read: read) some others' opinions. I'm excited to see it installed, but I'm really concerned about how one turns out of the cycle track. I also question whether it passes my "out-of-town visitor" test, namely whether the behavior dictated in the cycle track would be understood by someone who doesn't live here but is biking here. I don't know. I also don't know if it's NACTO approved (or kid tested), but I'm not a traffic engineer so please take all of my opinions with a grain of salt.
It rained, but before I left. I rode on wet roads, but it was sunny, but it still rained a little. I noticed the droplets on my shirt, but I didn't really feel them. Maybe that's a metaphor for something.
I came this close (I'm making a gesture with my fingers whereby they are very close to each other. Ok, I'm not really since my fingers are otherwise occupied typing, but I totally would were this not a blog but instead a friendly conversation between some guy who is way oversharing the details of his bike commute and another guy who never should have agreed to split a strawberry milkshake with him) to asking a guy why he shoaled me. Not out dickishness, but curiosity. But there's really no way to confront someone on the street and then grasp for the mantle of "curiosity." I believe the mantle of curiosity is also something you can get in D & D. (That's Dungeons and Dragons, in case you didn't know. Fun fact: I've never actually played D&D.) Anyway, the guy was fine, but travelled a bit slower than I would have preferred and I was unable to pass him thanks to car traffic. And to make matters worse, he took out his phone and was still looking at it when the light turned green! (That ! might be a bit misplaced, but allow me the liberty.) That was enough for me and I violated my "no pass while the person in front of you is stopped" for the second time today. I'm going to forgive myself this one, if for no other reason than I've already signed up the bike valet and I'm not sure if there are other penitential opportunities available to me. ("Penitential opportunities available. Inquire within" was one of the most popular signs on the outside of monasteries in the 1230s. Trust me. I'm a credentialed medievalist.)
I saw a bike commuter wearing scrubs. I presume he works in medicine and not that cycle chic has taken some weird antiseptic turn. Or that hipsterism went back to school for a nursing degree.
Did I audibly groan when a bus cut me off by turning right on red directly in front of me? Yeah.
I'm going to leave out the part about the ninjas and my whooping them.  I did help some kids get a ball that got flung over a fence, so I'll mention that bit of heroism. They seemed thankful. Otherwise, let me cut this one short. I'm attending the cinema this evening, some art film about the perils of childhood in a society with significant income inequality. I'll be traveling by Bikeshare, but I probably won't blog that ride. Unless the movie is boring, but that seems rude.

Ride In 3/28: Blackberry ringing in the dead of night

In some ways, blogging your bike commute is like eating an empanada. In other ways, it's completely different.
It was brisk this morning, but ultimately a pleasant ride. It could have been less windy, but unfortunately, the Mayor has yet to install the much needed wind cameras and start issuing tickets to the Anemoi. Some people say that this is just a cash grab, but I'm pretty certain that less windy streets would be safer for everyone, especially if they have structurally unsound umbrellas or if they're wearing billowy pirate pants. How many times must our pirates and M.C. Hammer impersonators have to struggle through the wind before someone does something about it?
Today, I created my own wind (no, like that. that's gross) through my half-hearted attempts at whistling some Dusty Springfield. Much of my bike commutes are spent with pursed lips, which when you write it down, sounds a lot weirder than it is, unless, it's really weird to whistle in public, which it might be. Anyway, you see some weird guy on a bike whose face mirrors that of a guppy, it might be me. Some people breathe heavily when they bicycle, as they exert the effort needed to get into the RED ZONE or whatever and since my goal is never to do that on a commute, I find whistling to be a rather effective inhibitor. Cheaper than speed cameras.
On East Capitol, by the Supreme Court, there was a traffic cone in the middle of the bike lane. The traffic cone had another, smaller cone perched atop it. I don't know what that means.
Saw one of my favorite bike commuters today, the woman on the blue Canondale. I don't know why I like her so much. Maybe just because she's a regular. I rode behind her for much of Penn, but I don't know how exactly we split along 15th. Maybe it had something to do with my turning onto the street and her making it to the cycletrack. Oh well. I've never quite been able to figure out how to talk to other fellow bike commuters without being awkward about it, but that problem isn't reserved to only bike commuters. Plus, what's there to say? "Notice you ride your bike to work at roughly the same time I do the same thing. Are we friends now?" Like I said, awkward.
I forgot to mention this yesterday, but I saw a driver pull an awesome u-turn at a red light, through a crosswalk and from the far right lane, across three lanes of stopped traffic. It was impressive. Silver BMW. I drive a good bit (on weekends mostly) and I rarely feel compelled to make u-turns, but I see drivers do it a lot. I've always thought that the risk far outweighed the reward, but maybe that's not the case. I don't really know.
[Fourth wall alert: YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME/JUST BE CLOSE AT HAND.]
This happened:

That's the no-left turn sign at 4th and Pennsylvania that some local do-gooders had previously noticed has been installed incorrectly and subsequently did good in correcting it when it fell down. Well, it's now been adjusted further by the proper authorities, maybe, and it rests on the lower pole rather than below the "Obey this signal" sign. Did it stop the guy from making a left turn? Naw, but it's only a sign, so it can't really do more than advise anyway.
15th was crowded. All sorts of bicyclists out. Almost seemed like too many, given the relative cold. I need to readjust my expectations. Bike commuting is here in a big way. And so is my hypocrisy. I passed the guy in front of me at 15th and P as he was slowing to stop at a turning-red light. And I passed him on the right. I've become everything I hate. But here's my lame excuse: I was following the bike lane, where it sort of bulges out and he was stopping in the middle of the lane. And here's my other lame excuse: he didn't signal his turn. But I recognize that these are both lame excuses and you may throw lettuce at me the next time you see me. I don't know what would make for appropriate contrition. Maybe volunteering at the bike valet for Lumen8 Anacostia. In fact, depending on your creed and belief system and there guilt associated therewith, maybe you can receive absolution for your bike scofflawism by doing good deeds for WABA. Sign up here.
There's been construction around Sheriden Circle forever (or maybe for the past month) and today it resulted in a road closure and my having to ride on the sidewalk past a bunch of embassies and their driveways. That stinks. Driveways cutting across sidewalks aren't fun for anyone. Then it was off the sidewalk for a bit and then back on the sidewalk until Wisconsin and then off the sidewalk again. I wish I had the temerity to take the lane, but I just don't, at least not when I'm riding considerably below the speed of car traffic, which is considerably above the posted speed limit.

3/27/12

Ride Home 3/27: Like a limestone cowboy

So, I was stopped at a light behind a red pickup truck. He had a novelty license plate in the rear window of the cab that had written on it "Beach Boy's SURFS UP" and his real license plate holder read "I'd rather be fishin' with Opie and Andy," an allusion to Leave it to Beaver, which I believe was a television show in olden times, like the 80s when Nick at Nite aired it. Anyway, this guy loves stuff from a half century ago and he loves water-based activities, I thought, and I wondered what I would talk to him about, like if he ever had to talk. I never quite did come up with an answer.
I wanted to stage a "race" of  a sort to see if I would make it down from the top of a hill to the bottom of a hill at the same down as a driver, but it didn't quite fruit (fru-it) for reasons that I don't wholly remember. Maybe I just didn't make it down to the bottom first and subsequently decided that I would be a sore loser about the whole thing. I don't think that's it, since I'm normally not like that, but who knows? Memory, as we've all learned from reading the postmoderns, is a foreign country, or something, and that's why we need a past-port to visit there. I might have even beaten the car down the hill but that doesn't really prove anything either. Sometimes cars go faster than bikes, other times bikes go faster than cars and other times cars and bikes go faster than ocelots and other times ocelots steal your bike, throw it in the back of their car and leave you stranded on the side of the road. I wouldn't be surprised if I beat the car downhill, or at least arrived there at the same time, since stop lights do a fairly good job regulating the flow of traffic.
I've ridden my bike while dressed in all kinds of attire (regular people clothes, bike clothes, specialized pogo-specific "tech" wear) and I believe that with a certain degree of certitude I can conclude that some drivers give you room and some drivers don't and it has nothing to do with me. Bicyclists, as a class (they fall somewhere between the proletariat and bourgeoisie, I think), tend to give themselves a little bit too much credit/blame for the things that happen around them. Today I rode in a green sweater (which people at work found remarkable for some reason and remarked upon it, as if one is only permitted to wear green on St. Patrick's Day) and an untucked white shirt and some unremarkable black pants and I'm fairly certain that I looked like a normal people and I'm fairly certain that nothing different would have happened to me or around me had I been dressed a different way.
After Sheriden Circle, there was a line of cars and buses stopped at the red light at 23rd (UPDATE: I mean 22nd. See comment below). I started to filter past the buses on the right side, but then the light turned green and one of the buses started pulling forward. I stopped, picked my bike up and lifted it onto the sidewalk. Don't pass on the right if you're not going to get to the front of the queue before the light changes. At least, I don't.
Traffic (car traffic) seemed rather terrible from Dupont Circle to about 13th street and that slowed me down considerably, in no small part due to the number of drivers who couldn't quite keep their cars out of the bike lane. I tweeted something facetious about this, but upon further reflection, I think that any kind of bike infrastructure that is so meek and ineffectual as to allow drivers to transgress against it is the kind of bike infrastructure that forces drivers to drive in it. Basically, that's a case for separated bike facilities (maybe on the other side of the parked cars), like they have in real counties. Then drivers wouldn't actually be able to drive in it and I think that everyone, cyclists and snarky cyclists alike, would be much better off for it.
I saw a car from Georgia transporting a Jazzy Power Chair on 11th, the Jazzy placed on some rear-mounted Jazzy holder. There appear to be many models of Jazzy, but I don't know if this was a road one or a mountain one.
Can everyone, bicyclists and drivers and pogoists alike, please learn to stop at red lights before turning right? Like, please? I worry about drivers right hooking me and I worry about bicyclists cutting me off and I wouldn't appreciate either of those activities. I also got frontended (is this a term?) by the taxi driver turning right from New York Avenue and almost ran into the back of a bicyclist doing the same thing. In either case, their stopping would've been cool.
There was a large sign outside the Capitol that was something about foreskin. I kid you not. I think it said "my foreskin is not a birth defect." Ladies and gentleman, Washington, DC.
I rode up the Capitol for a little while behind a woman on a CaBi, but she turned rather mysteriously to, I think, accommodate my passing her. Totally unnecessary. My advice to other bicyclists is never do anything to accommodate the cyclist behind you. Maybe that's wrong, but that's how I feel. If people wants to ride faster than you, let them. But also make them.
Supreme Court was still there. In case you were wondering.
I really enjoy the last mile of my bike commute. Sometimes I wish it was the only mile. A one mile bike commute would be pretty nifty. The blog might suffer ("Ride In 4/3: Rode East Capitol. It was fine.") but, overall, it'd be great. Anyone out there commute a mile by bike? Is it awesome?

3/26/12

Guest Post: Froggie is Bike Commuting While He Still Can (Though He Might Do It More When He Moves, or at least hopes to)

Here's a special bonus guest post from longtime friend of the blog, Froggie, that he has kindly allowed me to crosspost here.Whereas I'm pretty much a sot and a wastrel, Froggie has been working at the Pentagon doing important things, sometimes overnight during the overnight shift. Here's a synopsis, an a quantitatively exacting one at that, of his past couple of weeks (which unfortunately will be his last couple of weeks in DC) of bike commuting. 10 billion thank yous in his general direction. 

It's been a busy month. Between college classes, my temporary duty at the Pentagon, and my impending transfer to Norfolk, I haven't had much time for blogging.

But one thing I have been able to do is bike commute, especially over the last two weeks. 7 out of 10 commutes during those two weeks were bike commutes. I was also able to get a few bike commutes in during the previous weeks. And my schedule enabled me to make a few Friday Coffee Club gatherings with the BikeDC crowd.

This week, however, is my last week at the Pentagon. Which means it's my last week for easy bike commuting.

There have definitely been some advantages to the bike commute. First and foremost, it's exercise (all important to the active duty military member). Second, the cost is practically zero...always a plus with gas prices near $4/gallon and a peak-of-the-peak Metrorail fare of $3.05. Commuting time is comparable to the 9A bus (without having to deal with a 30-minute headway) or the off-peak Metrorail commute (my apartment's Metro shuutle doesn't run off-peak). And I was also able to park the bike closer to the office than both the Metro station and car parking.

Between roadtrips and the Suitland commute, I normally average about 2,000 miles a month on my car. Over this past month, though, I've barely put 300 miles on. While the lack of roadtrips accounts for some of that, at least 500 miles of the difference can be attributed to not using the car for commuting.

One thing I've noticed with my bike commuting is an increase in appetite. Unfortunately, instead of holding my food intake steady, I started eating more. So I haven't really lost any weight.

The overall experience is such that, when I transfer to Norfolk in 2 months, I'm going to look for a place to live that gives me the opportunity to bike into the Navy base. Until then, I have 2 more bike commutes to look forward to this week.

Ride In 3/26: No Mad Men Spoilers Here

Not even a glancing Mad Men reference. I promise. And why should there be? This is a bike commuter blog, putatively about bike commuting, not my tv recap blog Tales From My Couch, in which I daily document all of the television I watch and "irreverently observe" commercials or whatever. That blog is yet to launch because with all the bike commuting and the bike commuting blogging and the tv watching, I don't think I could make time for the tv watching blogging, unless I quit my job, but then I'd have too much free time since I wouldn't bike commute anywhere and then wouldn't have the opportunity blog my bike commute.
Roads seemed empty today. Is it spring break? Have people vacated the city for reasons that might or might not be related to imminent Balrog attack or maybe a high pollen count? There were even extra bikes in the Bikeshare stations I passed, meaning that everyone didn't give up their cars for bicycles, or at least not CaBis. There was also a downtick (is that a thing?) of bicyclists on their own, non-Bikeshare bikes along my normal route, so I guess that's not it either. Maybe everyone just took public transportation today, perhaps to stand in line outside of the Supreme Court. Nothing prepares oneself for standing in line like standing in line waiting for a bus.
Characteristically terrible picture. 
As we all know, today the Supreme Court is doing something related to courting, perhaps supremely. It also involves OBAMACARE, which I believe is an acronym, like SCUBA or SPECTRE. I don't know what each constitutuent letter stands for, but according to some AOL email forward I got, collectively, they all stand for SOCIALIZM, with a Z. The Z is extra terrifying for reasons that are obvious. Honestly, I thought that traffic would be much worse around there and maybe even media vans parking in the bike lanes, but it really wasn't bad at all, thus denying me a chance to get all huffy at some cable news hacks. Oh well. Next time.
I try to be conscientious and not ride too close to the bicyclist in front of me. No story there, just sharing. Sometimes it's hard to know how close is too close, but not really. If you can touch the person in front of you, you are too close. If your front wheel is next to his or her real wheel, it's too close. If he turns around and says "STOP SMOTHERING ME!" you're too close and he might have some mommy issues. The new book by Bike Snob has a section dedicated to annoying cyclist-to-cyclist behavior and this is one of things he mentions. The technical slang term is "wheelsucking." So, don't do that.
I did wind up riding behind a guy who maybe wasn't going as fast as I would've liked to ride but also was going too fast for it not to be awkward for me to ride around him because in so doing, I wouldn't have really created enough "separation" so I'd then just be riding in front of him by about 10 feet, which seems sort of passive-aggressive. "Yeah, I'm going to make this effort to pass you, but then I'm just going to ride 10 feet in front of you," would be a thing that someone who did that kind of thing would say, if they were forced to say anything about it, which presumably they wouldn't be.
I rode up 11th and passed a guy walking around his white van. When I rode past him, he made the requisite "whoa" noise, the noise made by someone who isn't looking and would never expect that a bicyclist might also be on the street. He sounded a big indignant as well. If I were passed at the same speed and with the same distance between us by a driver, I wouldn't be so much indignant as forever grateful for their care and concern. But it's a perceptive thing I guess.
11th is a light climb. I never remember that. Lots of cyclists coming in the other direction, both on the bike lane parts and the non-bike lane parts.
Rode behind a guy on R who's bike sounded like squeaky bed springs. I don't think that's a good sign. And then I rode behind some other people, none of whom were wearing clown makeup, which is great because that'd be petrifying. No CaBis on R, though I did see a rebalancing van. I also didn't notice any special enforcement efforts. The scourge of cycling scofflawism will apparently remain in our midst. You can feel about that however you wish.
Yellow bike, leopard print yellow and black bartape on his fixie, all-black converse and green canvas backpack that looked like it came from a military surplus store and he was in front of me for the entire climb up Massachusetts from the Islamic Cultural Center to Wisconsin Avenue. His pace was plodding and deliberate, not slow but could've been improved with the addition of other gears. In sympathy, I rode behind and I didn't change gears and we mashed together and I don't think we even stopped until Garfield. I can't say I terribly enjoyed it.
I screwed up around Ward Circle and wound up riding around the circle instead of across it. Stupid circles (yeah, I'm going to blame the street layout and not my own poor decision making. That's cool, right?)

3/23/12

Posting Delays Delay Posting

I think I'm going to combine last night's ride home, today's (brief) ride in and tonight's ride home into one "epic" post that I'll either write tonight, write tomorrow during the Chelsea game, write tomorrow after the game or write on Sunday, perhaps while drinking a mojito. So, for those of you in habit of using these posts to fritter away the lunch or post-lunch hour, I suggest you fritter the time away another away, perhaps with fritters themselves, as fritters are delicious. You may heckle my lack of posting in the comments. Or you may praise my lack of posting, in the hope that so doing will convince me to finally stop blogging about my bike commute and dedicate myself more fully to my "true" talent, namely dressing toy poodles in vintage clothes and staging them to recreate my favorite scenes from Mad Men.

3/22/12

Ride Home 3/22 will be posted tomorrow, if I remember or have time

In lieu of that, you can read about my trip to through the Cherry Blossoms last year.

Ride In 3/22: How many pints in a bushel?

The highlight of the spring season in Washington, DC, America is looking at trees, specifically the cherry trees that George Washington didn't chop down after we beat the Japanese in World War II. My history might be a bit fuzzy on that, but it doesn't change the fact that this time of year makes all Districtians (the collective name for those of us who live in the District of Columbia, I think) exorbitantly arborphilic and angry at outsiders who dare come into our territory with the same affliction. So, rather than head to the nearest Chili's, I took in my preferred awesome blossoms, by bicycling southwesterly through the Capitol Hill/Eastern Market/Capitol Hill region via South Carolina Avenue, which was fine, but a bit bumpy. Perhaps as an homage to its namesake state's overall anachronism and backwardness, SC Avenue is not paved with asphalt, but have an old school brick finish, which as I just wrote, makes for a bumpy bike commute. Glad today wasn't "Bike Your Faberge Egg to Work Day," and I'm equally glad that's not a real thing.
South Carolina left me on E Street SE and then I ended up at a park and staircase that I mounted took my to New Jersey Avenue. Perhaps there's a more ADA compliant way to reach NJ Avenue, but I didn't bother looking for it. On NJ Avenue, I saw some police and their bomb sniffing dogs sniffing (the dogs, not the police officers) around some parked tour buses, presumably for bombs, but maybe also for random chicken bones left on the ground. At least that's what Ellie the Poodle tends to sniff for, and abscond with, when given the opportunity. But then again, Ellie the Poodle is not a trained K-9 unit dog and that decal that I've stuck to my car indicating as much is wildly inappropriate and maybe even fraudulent. 
While there are other ways to cross the blossoms from chez nous (namely along M Street to Water to Maine), I wanted to take New Jersey to I to check out the new bike lanes. I parallels M and both would arrive me (is arrive transitive?) at the Waterfront, where I coulda been a contender, but instead would just be a bike commuter. 
The I Street bike lanes are perfectly serviceable or at least would be were they not so blatantly ignored. First blocked by construction and then blocked by some parked construction vehicles and then blocked by parent drop off at a school, they aren't exactly "respected," assuming one can actually respect the space between two white stripes. To add insult to insult (for there was no injury), my coffee mug flew out of its holder after I hit a bump on the west side of South Capitol, careened a bit, landed in a puddle, and emptied most of its contents (coffee) into the puddle (brackish water). I worried that the mug was broken, but upon later inspection, it appears not to be. A little scratched around the surface and a little dinged, but otherwise ok. Stopping to pick up my mug allowed me to notice that the I Street bike lane stops for about 20 feet on the west side of S. Capitol before picking up again. I don't know why, but it might have to do with the width or the road. 
7th to Water Street to past the fish market. I would've taken a picture of the Fish Market, but elected not. Any picture of the Fish Market would look like it's been put through the Instragram filter for "dingy." Oh well, that's some local character. A few bicyclists heading along the path and a few joggers, but the volume of people didn't pick up until the other side of 14th street, where the blossomage begins. 
Kids, don't try this at home, most because your home doesn't have cherry blossoms to film while biking past. No idiots trying to take video with their phones were injured during this taping.
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Fun fact: soundtrack to first cherry blossom video includes my half-whistling Ke$ha! (This makes me a terrible human being!) 
Now you don't have to come here. Also, if you want to see what the Memorial Bridge looks like in the morning fog, here's a picture:

After the blossoms, it was a quick trip up the Rock Creek trail, past the Kennedy Center and over to K Street. K Street to Wisconsin and then uphill. Man, I love that Wisconsin climb. It's rare that this happens to me on a commute, but I got into one of those rhythms where my legs just felt really good and I was just churning through the climb and didn't feel tired or sluggish and wasn't really thinking about anything except how good my legs felt as I worked my way uphill. This is why I bike. This isn't:
A line of  stopped cars
It's just not fun to get stuck in car traffic. For anyone, really. 
At Wisconsin and Mass, I saw a campaign worker holding a Shapiro sign, trying to get drivers to honk. No one honked. So, I think that means Biddle, huh. 
I don't think I'll be posting tonight, though I will be riding home. I've got a meeting at which I (amongst others) aim to foil a plot by a corrupt politician and evil billionaire from destroying our neighborhood. It's very epic and whatnot. It also involves a offensively named sports team and an Armory, presumably in which is stored armor. More info here, if you care to know. Otherwise, see you all tomorrow. I mean, in a way. 

3/21/12

Ride Home 3/21: This won't be long

I rode home tonight via the BicycleSpace Bikesnob Ride of Mayhem and this took me through downtown and past the White House and Lincoln Memorial and up to the top of a parking garage next to Nationals Park and the whole thing was a little surreal, since I'm normally not commuting surrounded by a pack of 100 other bicyclists. It was a good time and I saw some people that I know from the #bikeDC twitter and some other people I know from real life and met at least one person that I hadn't met before, so that was good. I also did talk to the Bikesnob and the one thing I said was both lame and factually inaccurate. So, that was my brush with a famous bike blogger. Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Hugs and kisses,
#TFTS
(Remember when I did this those other times? Yeah, it's still awkward.)

Ride In 3/21: Unlimited Toppings for $9.99

My commute this morning left my misty eyed, not so much from wellsprings of emotion, but from the mist, which was abundant, getting in my eyes, which were open. I couldn't tell if it was actually raining or just very muggy (both, I think) and in any case, I wasn't wearing a jacket and didn't have my lights on, didn't bring coffee, and even forgot my helmet. The time change, even though it's been around for a while, is still reeking wreaking havoc on my morning preparedness and I could barely leave even ten minutes later than usual in a manner that even came close to resembling coordinated and thought out. At least I remembered my bike. My advice to would-be bike commuters includes: remember your bike, but also remember your other stuff, like a change of clothes if you need them or a lock. I think if I got to work and forgot to bring my lock with me, I'd turn around and go home. Some things aren't meant to be.
I rode behind some sportier looking bicyclists today, she in blue and he in a bright yellow and lycra shorts, but with beat-up gray sneakers in place of beat-up bike shoes, which is what I would've expected. We stuck together most of the way down Penn, before she turned and then it was just me and bright yellow shirt guy. Most of his bright yellow shirt was obscured from view by a large backpack, to which was affixed his lock and a cord and a bunch of lights. I always like to notice how people transport their locks (note: I'm lame). I tend to throw mine inside of a bag, but some people stow them underneath seats and others allow them to dangle from handlebars, which scares the crap out of me. Some suggest that you store leave your lock at work, so as to avoid having to carry it around, but that precludes stopping somewhere on the way home and I frequently make trips to the store/bar/ostrich farm and I need to be able to lock up my bike to shop/drink/look at ostriches, so that doesn't really work for me. Easy, impromptu stopping is one of the best things about bike commuting.
Witnessed a curious interaction/altercation at the intersection of H street and Madison Place, at the White House security bollards. I was riding north, past the security guardhouse and through the metal bollards and two cyclists were riding through the bollards in the opposite direction. Another guy, riding on the sidewalk and not through the bollards, shouts over "But you didn't answer my question. I want to know if this is an authorized vehicle or not." His tone sounded a bit angry, so I feel like he was trying to prove some sort of snarky point, but maybe it was just because he was yelling and it sounded a lot meaner than it actually was meant to be. The conversation was prompted no doubt by the sign on the H Street side of the security bollards that says something like "Authorized Vehicles Only," which in all likelihood probably doesn't mean bicycles. But, so what? My general opinion about bicycling through places is 1) try to follow the law concerning the directions of traffic flow (as in don't bike the wrong way dow a one way street) and 2) assume you can bike somewhere until someone actually tells you that you can't. If the guards didn't want people biking through there, they'd say something or put up caution tape, like they used to. But in the absence of that, unless they tell you otherwise, just assume that biking there is fine. At least that's what I do.
More bikes on 15th than I would've expected. Getting a little congested. Bike congestion is a problem like too many puppy snuggles is a problem.
I think I saw a homemade bakfiets, outside of the Ross Elementary School on Q. The basket was a big rubbermaid tub and it was in the back of the bike rather than the front. I'm not sure if children were supposed to go in the tub or maybe it was for storing sporting equipment or something. I've noticed more bikes outside of the school lately, which I think is a great thing because maybe it means the likelihood of my getting clipped by a careless parent driver during kid dropoff time is slightly diminished. I'm sure I've written this previously, but I suspect that the greatest violations of bike lanes come during parent drop-off or pick-up time. Or maybe during National Ignore the Bike Lane Day, which is a really stupid holiday that we ought to abandon. Next year I'm so not gonna get a AAA calendar.
I like the spring time because it means more drivers have their windows open and I can listen to what they're listening to on the radio. I also don't like the spring time for the same reason. It's rare that I'll sing along or dance, mostly because of those things would make me seem crazy/like I'm having a seizure, but I would encourage the more talented/whimsical of you all to try it and let me know how it goes. If it goes well, we can call it the Kelly Clarkson Effect and I'm sure we could get the whole velosphere writing about how drivers treat you better if you treat every ride like it's an American Idol audition. It'd at least be good for a few posts here.
Some guy might have tried to race me up Massachusetts, but he did it from the other side of the street, so I can't say for sure. I've noticed more bike traffic on Mass coming from the direction of Ward Circle to Wisconsin, including a bunch of people on CaBis and a number of other commuter types. I haven't noticed any additional bike traffic along Nebraska, but this is fairly unsurprising, since the part of Nebraska I ride parallels a big parking lot.

3/20/12

Ride Home 3/20: Hex Nuts in my Bridge Mix

Another night, another dream, but always you. That's not a related in any way to bike commuting, but instead it's a lyric from German eurodance hitmakers of the early 90s, the Real McCoy. I'm tempted to end this post now and just walk away, self-revoking my blogging privileges forever.
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But I'm not actually going to do that. We must press on, sort of like those guys in World War I, who went over the top of the trenches, knowing full well that they would be gunned down by machine gun fire or mustard gas or ravenous attack squirrels or maybe only the first couple of those things. I don't know in this analogy whether I'm the machine gunner and you, the nine readers, are the cannon fodder or whether it's the other way around, but what I do know is that once this was a bike commuter blog and I've drifted rather far away from that in these opening paragraphs and asterisks.
I saw a license plate on a jeep that read IMCUJO, as in "I'm Cujo," as in Cujo. I didn't know he knew how to drive. It is far too easy to get a driver's license in this country. First Cujo starts driving and then Cujo starts getting "confused" about red top meters. It's a slippery slope and if you're anything like me, you'd rather not have an evil ass nightmare dog slipping down this slope in your general direction.
Speaking of slopes, I'm inclined (get it?) to mention my ride down Mass, which saw me, briefly, riding behind another bicyclist for the first time in a long time. He seemed ok about the whole thing, except when we got towards the bottom of the hill, he veered into the right-turn only lane and seemed confused as to what to do next. I took that opportunity to decide to ride around him, then found myself on the sidewalk and then found myself trying to get off the sidewalk, then found myself back on the road and then found myself cut off by a minivan. I guess I found myself a lot of places, but I hadn't realized that I had been so lost, especially considering it's the same ride I always make. Another night, another dream, or something like that.
Profusion of bicyclists out. I tend to notice them more when they're about to inch out into my path. There's nothing, in my opinion, wrong with a bicyclist making his way to the front of a queue (of traffic, not like, at Wendy's or something) in order to be more visible and maybe get a jump on traffic. All within reason. It sometimes becomes precarious when the "jump" on traffic is the same as the "jump" into the approach of other oncoming traffic, so I don't like that part very much. Exhibit good judgment.
I ended up behind one of those guys that people "know" that they're faster than and choose to shoal, but I shoaled not, lest I be shoaled, like it says in the Bible maybe. Speaking of the Bible, I'm pretty sure if Saul were driving on the road to Damascus, he probably would've just thought it was sun glare. Anyway, I, rode behind this guy for a block because there wasn't enough room between cars to move out of the bike lane to pass him and it turned out that it was completely fine because it added roughly no time to my actual commute and I'll never understand for the life of me why people do rude things like shoaling and passing people within the bike lane. Seriously. Get a stop watch and time it. The amount of time you "gain" will ne negligible, if it exists at all. Empiricism. (I believe Empirical waists are really big in experimental fashion. I'm not an expert.)
Some problem on 11th. Many police cars and an ambulance. Only one automobile, which makes me think there was a pedestrian involved. The road was blocked to cars, but I rode through in the bike lane and no one seemed to mind.
Gather around everyone and hear the tale of the epic battle of superbiker vs. breakaway sweat pants. Gather in a metaphorical sense, whatever that means. Superbiker first passed me between 9th and 7th. I dawdled, since I don't like to pedal whenever I see a red light. The color red makes me lethargic. For example, I've never been able to eat a bag of Skittles without falling asleep. Not only was this guy clad in superbiker attire, it was team superbiker attire and he must've been on his way somewhere or nowhere because really, I never know these things. People don't give me their bike itineraries before they go places because bike commuters are not like small aircraft and I'm not the FAA. Not yet at least. Anyway, after the light turns green at 7th, I slowly push down on the pedals, superbiker already out front a good ways, before a guy, from this point forward known as "breakaway sweat pants," on account of, you guessed it, his shirt breakaway sweat pants, passes me and moves to pass the superbiker. On the right. Superbiker keeps pace, obviously, for he is super, but then drops behind the guy as he has to leave the opposite direction bike lane in which he was riding for some reason. So, sweat pants is in the lead, and it's one of those race-but-not-a-race-but-really-a-race sorts of things and he's stays in the lead through 3rd street, before a red light stops them both. Between 3rd and the Capitol, superbiker catches up and he's back in front going into the circle in front of the Capitol. You can tell that this "race" wasn't especially fast since I was able to keep pace, but still. Superbiker takes the path, breakaway sweat pants takes the road, but superbiker starts to open up some distance, even though he's slowed by the pedestrians and tourists and emu. And superbiker makes it to the top of the hill and defends the honor of superbikers everywhere and breakaway sweat pants guy goes I'm not sure where because he never reappeared on East Capitol, which is where the superbiker and I were headed. I saw the superbiker pass a woman on a Segway (not a tourist) and then I don't know where he went. With that story, I've managed to, once again, lower the bar for epic.
Speaking of bars, I'm wondering what the most appropriate post-bike commute beer is. Not the best beer, which we all know isn't a beer at all, but Tonic & Soda, a curiously non-alcoholic beverage that tastes terrible, but the one most appropriate to consumption after a bike commute, a bike commute being a physical, but relatively mundane, task that you do every day that isn't exactly super special, but requires some deal of minor exertion. So, not the beer that you would drink after a Century or a long ride, but the workaday beer of midweek, job-well-done-but-not-a-big-deal-but-still-good-for-you-for-doing-it tasks. I guess this beer could also taste good or be quenching in some way.
I went to the store, as is my wont, and bought a bunch of vegetables and some vanilla yogurt. Onion smoothies for dinner! Or not really. I should be good for blogging tomorrow morning, but I might be taking the evening off on account of Bikesnob ride at BicycleSpace. If you're attending, I look forward to seeing you there. If you're not attending, I look forward to seeing you through my palantir. Or maybe some other time.

Ride In 3/20: Mountain Due Diligence

I was on the street outside of my house, not having set off yet, when I was flagged down by a passing motorist. Fluent in semaphore (that's a flag joke, for those playing at home), I opted not to ignore her and hear whatever it is that she had to say to me, which in turned out, was an interrogative concerning parking at a nearby high school. All things considered, which is a phrase that's also a radio program, I was a terrible target for this question, since I've never parked at that high school and have little idea about the car parking thereabouts. But I'm a friendly guy and I'm that stranger upon whose kindness one should always rely, so I offered, somewhat authoritatively, my theory that there was a way to access the parking lot via 19th street, which I know runs north and passes the high school. The driver, who told me it was her first time in DC (mazel tov!) said that someone at the school told her over the phone that parking was available behind the school. Knowing where the school is, I felt that taking my prescribed route would get her behind it and perhaps she'd be able to figure it out from there. And then she asked me if it was "safe" and something I didn't say was "Well, I personally haven't been murdered" because that might have unnerved her, so I just opted with "yeah," because that's really the honest answer. Unless of course you're worried about the dangers of having one of your feet run over by one of those really large strollers that parents and nannies push around because that does constitute a significant danger in my neighborhood, at least for the toes of the hapless. I mean that, and the sometimes street robberies and car vandalism, but that's hardly a big deal. She proceeded to make a three point u-turn (if that's possible) at the end of the block and I wonder if she ever made it to the parking lot.
It rained this morning, but before my commute time, so the roads were wet with sky water but the skies weren't. Maybe we should call it road water. The rain seemed to have the effect of dampening both the ground and the enthusiasm of some bike commuters and there were plenty of bikes available at the first Bikeshare station I passed. Prior to passing that Bikeshare station, I passed a man unfolding his Dahon on the sidewalk in front of his house and I saw him again on the other side of the park, after I took the on-street route around it and he passed through it. As I made my turn, he deferred to me, allowing me to ride in the bike lane as he rode in the travel lane and then fell in behind me, saying something like " you can go." I said "thanks" and he said "yeah, you'd smoke me anyway," which I took to mean that he thought that I looked like I was planning to ride fast and/or set hickory planks afire underneath him. For whatever reason, I took his "smoke" comment with a certain degree of seriousness and set upon trying to "smoke" him as best I could. Two red lights later and him still right behind me, I felt like I would never achieve his expectation of smokiness and thereby, through some attenuated logic, completely waste his goodwill toward me under the impression that I was planning to ride my bicycle faster than he his. I made upon one more push, determined to achieve some degree of separation and meet his however misguided impression of me, and I did it, mostly by running (safely) a just-turning-red light.
Sometimes a bus stops in the middle of the street to let off passengers. Pass on the left of those buses, lest you collide with an exiting passenger. I had completely forgotten that tourists start touring early in the morning and leaving the house at 8 isn't really early enough to avoid them completely. Not that I necessarily want to avoid them. They're fun.(You may decide if I'm writing that sarcastically or not. It's "Choose Your Own Emotional Valence," which was a less popular series of kids books.)
Very empty bike lanes in town this morning, though I think that those of us who leave later weren't dramatically impacted or dissuaded by the rain that no longer was falling. The air was cool, but not cold enough to warrant a jacket. Bejacketedness (not even close to a word, but I think you know what I mean) in a post-rain environment isn't really necessary. It probably would've also made you really sweaty. It was sort of muggy this morning.
Another northbound commuter today. And plenty of southbound ones. Not that many westbound ones. And I couldn't even tell you about eastbound ones. And that's proof, if nothing else, that I know the cardinal directions. Other cardinal directions include how to elect a pope and formerly, overcomplicated baseball managing.
A bikequaintance is someone you see on you daily commute, but don't really acknowledge, except with maybe a nod or smile or look. I have a few bikequaintances, one of whom is an older gentleman with a van dyke. I seem him daily on Massachusetts, mostly in morning, but sometimes in the evening. He has something of a stern face and looks rather serious, rebuffing my respectful nods with a complete lack of acknowledgement. I don't think we're ever going to progress past bikequaintanceship to "commuter buddy" status, which aside from being something I just made up, is someone that you see every day and with whom you are actually friendly and perhaps even converse (Chuck Taylor?).
There has been no attempt to clean the Kegasus graffitti. Maybe that's for the best. The question is still apt.
Some final words on fenders: please put fenders on your commuter bike. You will not regret it. I will not regret it, especially if I'm riding behind you. Others may or may not regret it. If you'd like any assistance in selecting the right fender for you, please let me know and I'll gladly assist. Together we can beat this, this being your not having fenders on your bike.

3/19/12

Guest Post: Jon's Wheel of Misfortune

On Monday night's, I work my second job as sommelier at Chuck E. Cheese, so I can't rush home and write up my blog post, even though I would much rather do that than serve overpriced blushes to a parents hoping a little too hard that little Kevin gets lost in the ball pit. Accordingly, I turn to my coterie of dedicated readers and #bikeDC compatriots to fill the gap, which they do wonderfully. Jon, of www.manfredmacx.com, the go-to site for ebook publishing and charity fundraising, was kind enough to supply this guest post weeks ago and I've been keeping it in my back pocket (literally. I printed it out, folded it and put it in my pocket, only to retype it all) until tonight. Enjoy and many thanks to Jon!

As you may have heard, I had a little bike trouble on the way home from work this afternoon. I'm lucky enough to have a flexible schedule at work so I can go home and pick up the kids from daycare/school and hang out with them until my wife gets home, and then I finish my day.

It was this afternoon ride home up the 15th Street cycletracks where I ran into the problem. As I was crossing through the intersection at S Street, there was a horrible noise from behind me, and then I heard the rush of air leaving my rear tire. I pulled over to find that my rear fender had exploded, and there was a nail all the way through tire, tube, and rim.

That'll ruin your ride home

I had to walk the bike up the hill, carefully raising the back wheel just in case the tire or rim could be saved.

After my wife got home, I strapped the wheel onto my back and headed to 14th and Harvard to pick up a CaBi.

2012-02-27_17-12-27_624

My handy Spotcycle application told me there were three bikes left, which was fine. As I waited to cross 14th, there was some sort of verbal altercation in front of the apartment building to my left. A large group of women were yelling at each other next to a car that was parked in the bus zone. I couldn't really make out what they were yelling about, but they were definitely angry, and they were definitely in a traffic lane.

A man on a CaBi was waiting to cross with me. He wondered aloud to the person next to him if he should call the police. He said he lived four blocks from there (I live less than one, for what that's worth).

"I love my neighborhood!", he announced with some amount of sarcasm. For the record, I DO love our neighborhood. It has some problems here and there, but overall it's a wonderful place to live.

The light turned, and we crossed the street. He docked his bike, and I undocked mine. This is where I tell you how a CaBi membership is a good idea even if you have your own bike. The ride down 14th was uneventful. The lights are timed differently in the evening, I think. Or maybe it's just that I'm slower on CaBi. Or both. Regardless, I missed lights I normally make in the morning. There was a car that I thought was going to buzz me as I took the lane down the hill, as I am legally entitled to do, and as most cyclists do there. But it didn't. Thanks, car.

I docked the bike at 14th and R (trip time: 7:57) and walked to The Bike Rack. I know many readers and bloggers of this blog are big fans of Bicycle Space, but I've never been there, and The Bike Rack is on my way to work. And it's also a really good bike shop. I highly recommend it. The only thing I've bought for my bike that I didn't get there are my tires. I wish they stocked Specialized so I didn't have to ride to Georgetown.

One of the mechanics looked at my wheel and pronounced it dead. I feared as much. The tire and tube were toast, too. I probably could have kept using the tire for a bit with a patch, but I still have the tires the bike came with, and I brought one of them along. I left the old wheel and the tire at the shop. My new wheel will be on their shipment Wednesday, and they'll put the cassette and whatnot from the old wheel on the new wheel, and then soon I'll get around to getting another Armadillo Elite tire to replace the one that died. For the record, that's the first puncture on those tires, and I don't fault the tire for this one. Good tires.

I then continued on to Whole Foods, where I picked up vegetables that my wife is roasting right now [Ed. note: right now means a couple weeks ago] , and milk for my younger daughter. I grabbed another CaBi from the newly moved and slightly expanded station at 15th and P and returned home (trip time: 8:26 (uphill!)). I got passed in the cycletracks by a guy with the quietest "on your left" I've ever heard. On the big huge hill I tried to catch a man on a good commuter with nice panniers, and I gained on him for a while, but then I stopped gaining and remembered why I like my bike better than the big heavy (but still awesome) CaBis.

There were a lot of cyclists out when I came home. A good number of them even had lights. Especially the guy who came up Harvard St as I was walking home. He had a helmet light and two big lights blinking up front, and a blinkie or two in the back. I almost yelled, "Nice lights!" but then I didn't.

And that's it. It remains to be seen whether I will CaBi or Metro to work tomorrow and Wednesday. Since my work clothes for the two days are already in my locker at work, meaning I have to change regardless, I'm currently leaning towards CaBi.

Today reminded me of how great the local cycling community here is. People I know only online or barely in person offered me tubes (which I had). They offered me wheels, and they offered me encouragement. People spread the word on Twitter about the nail danger at the intersection, though I think this was an isolated nail. Maybe we should have a new slogan for the city: DC - Where people you barely know will offer you free bike tubes when you run over a nail. It could catch on.

Anyone need a nail (used, good condition)?

Ride In 3/19: St. Joseph's Day tends to have less green beer

[Insert paean to wonderful weather]
[Insert exhortation to those of you who enjoy nice weather to commute by bicycle, so as to get to spend more time outside in nice weather]
[Insert apology for using brackets in a way that is neither appropriate, descriptive, evocative or appropriately, descriptively evocative.]
(How do you like the post so far? Fill out this survey for your chance to win, um, a couple extra seconds of distraction from whatever you should be doing right now but aren't because you're reading this.)
Some fast commuters out there this morning. A guy on a Salsa zipped by me around the Capitol and prior to that I was passed by a woman with a green windbreaker who seems to be riding rather intently. I first saw her at Lincoln Park, and she got ahead of my on East Capitol, but we came back together at the start of Pennsylvania. Salsa guy eluded us for a while, but the stop light at 13th stopped him first and then stopped us. Every so often, I'll ride as fast as the person in front of me, even if it's faster than I would ride otherwise, just for something to do. Though, I'm not really sure that riding too fast along Penn is such a good idea, considering the willingness with which people will walk into the middle of the bike lanes without looking for bicyclists. Here's my controversial idea about jaywalking: I don't really too much of a problem with it in and of itself. Like, I'm not a "law and order" person (did you just hear this too?) and I don't find jaywalking, as a crime, to be especially irksome. I sort of feel its incumbent upon the operator of a vehicle, car or bicycle or pogo stick, to maintain control of that vehicle and not hit people, no matter what they do. Can it be really annoying when someone walks out in your way? Sure. Will it slow you down? Almost invariably? Are these rhetorical questions? I don't technically know. Sometimes people make dumb choices and do dumb stuff like walk out from curbs without looking (or looking through you), but I'm not really sure what I can do about that. Not crash into them, I guess. Anyway, I'd rather have a city where people jaywalk than one where they don't walk at all. And yes, there are like a million shades of gray on this issue and it's not so simple as jaywalking: always good or always bad? (that'd be a totally different survey and it took me a surprisingly long time to make the last one.)
At 15th, I saw Kyle and I saw a lot of other bicyclists. Some rode CaBis, others were fully kitted out on road bikes. There is a surprising variety in the attire and disposition of the bicycle commuter. Maybe it's not surprising, but just noticeable. I'd suspect that much of differentiation is determined by distance, with those traveling from farther more likely to dress bikerly and those taking shorter trips more inclined to wear normal people clothes. Maybe people are changing clothes to ride two miles, but I doubt it. The extent to which bikerly attire is wholly necessary isn't really for me to judge. As always, wear what you want.
I had the strange experience of being followed while riding north up 15th, something that has happened to me maybe only a few times before. I also had the equally strange experience of passing a bicyclist riding in the same direction. That both of these occurred on the same day means that either I've really lowered the bar for describing things as strange experience or that the number of bicyclists in town is increasing to the point where "reverse commutes" by bike are becoming more common.
For the second time in the past week, I've seen a fixie on the front of a bus that was heading uphill. Bus fare is a kind of "hill tax" that some riders are willing to pay for choosing an impractical bike. For those of you on singlespeeds who would never deign to put your bike on the front of a bus, I salute you.
Didn't get shoaled today. So, that's something. Maybe I looked extra fast or something. I didn't feel extra fast and I'm pretty sure I didn't resemble fast in any way, but I felt pretty good on the bike this morning and much better than I would've expected considering that we had friends over for an evening of Taco Bell and wine pairing. (This is an actual thing we did. Conclusion: wines do not have much impact on the taste and savoriness of Doritos Locos.) It should also be a nice ride home, albeit later in the evening.

3/16/12

Ride Home 3/16: Flannery O'Connors Love Connection

It was lightly raining and I wasn't happy about it. Not because the rain proved much of an inconvenience but mostly because I was upset that I didn't have a jacket with me. It's little things, like being slightly unprepared for a forecasted light rain, that cheese me off. Big things, like being unprepared for an asteroid strike, don't so much bother me. I do wear a helmet, so there's that. I decided to document my feelings during this moderately wet ride through a series of photographs, found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I didn't use Instragram because I don't think it has a filter for "piqued." Also, there's a reason why this blog is a written, rather than pictorial, representation of my rides. Some people take really excellent #bikeDC pictures. I am not one of them.
Very rare is the close call on Massachusetts, but today I was treated to some totally irresponsible driver making a left turn across my path at about 45 miles per hour. This would have been an utterly stupid way to grievously harm me. I can't say for certain that he was driving a black BMW, but it was definitely some kind of black sports cars. I cursed at him. I don't think he heard. The driver of the station wagon that pulled up next to me turned his head back to look at the driver or maybe me and maybe appreciated the complete stupidity of the entire situation. Not all reckless behavior is created equal. Sometimes I feel like the bicyclists are the mortals and the drivers are the Greek gods and each commute is the Iliad and bicyclists have agency, but really we're at the mercy of feckless, powerful beings with little empathy and many jealousies and strange motivations. This is also why I recommend you commute inside of a giant wooden horse.
The traffic situation at Dupont Circle is abysmal for bicyclists. And the traffic situation on Q street, which is a block north of Dupont Circle, but near the only open Dupont Circle metro entrance isn't much better. There's a bus stop that's on a bike lane. So, when the bus is there, it's not really a bike lane anymore. It's just some white paint that has a bus on it. Until DDOT approves of my patented "bike lanes protected by giant spikes" design, I guess we'll all just have to deal.
Very few bicyclists out. I guess the rain kept them indoors or maybe led many of them to take other means home, which I suppose means that they're not bicyclists any more. Great riddles of bike commuting! (Though this does highlight my longtime contention that bike commuters are just regular people, you know, like other regular people that get to work by other means. Like, if they don't have bikes, voila- they're just like everyone else. So maybe you shouldn't harass them for no reason?
At 11th and Rhode Island, I saw a Bikeshare rebalancing van. Also, a taxi came from I don't know nowhere to cut across some lanes of traffic and its driver sort off tried to shoo me out of the way so he could pull into the Diamond Cab HQ. I shooed.
I've been screwing up my left turn from 11th to Penn lately and end up in the right travel lane on Penn instead of in the bike lane. Then, when all of the cars are stopped at the red light, I walk in front of them to get back into the bike lane. There's nothing unsafe about it, but it just seems to lack grace and suavity and I don't much care for that.
I haven't seen a lot of Obama 2012 bumper stickers. Some, but not a lot. I mean, I'm not worried about his carrying DC, but I wonder if this means anything. As far as local politics is concerned, can someone please tell me whether I should support Shapiro or Biddle against Orange (in the April 3 democratic primary for the at-large DC council seat)? Here's what I know about the race so far: Shapiro has red signs and Biddle has blue signs. Shapiro used to be a council member in Prince George's County. Biddle was, briefly, on the DC Council, but got there is a sort of shady way and then lost to Vincent Orange. Biddle has a bikeshare membership. And that's pretty much all I know. If anyone is particular informed about these matters or feels passionately one way or another or if one of the candidates would desperately like the endorsement of the 37th most popular bike commute blogger in DC, let me know. I can then parlay this endorsement into becoming their representative on the DCBAC and then parlay that into something else and then launch my bid for mayor since I'll have not much else to do with all of my parlays and such. Except maybe go to Gamblers Anonymous. Do casinos take money orders?
Down Penn and up by the Capitol and down the regular streets at the regular pace (slow) and then home. Not a bad ride, but not the greatest either. But good enough! Anyway, have a great weekend, keep it real, and peace out.