Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The temperature is 99 degrees, but the heat index is "Melt Your Face Off"

What a scorcher of a week it was! At one point the heat index was ridiculous, like 108 degrees ridiculous. That means that (unfortunately) I don't have a lot of bike-related photos to share with you all. I did get some biking in, but it was mostly of the commuting and work-related variety, rather than the fun and games variety.

I did want to share my thoughts on aggressive cyclists. As more and more people are cycling on city streets (and sidewalks), it seems they are taking their poor habits/ignorance with them. Let me share with you the following scenario: (I'm represented by the red cycle, and the "bike shoaler" is green).

As you can see, I'm stopped at the intersection at the red light on the right side of the lane. To my left is a vehicle, also patiently waiting at the light. It's one lane, so we're a comfortable distance apart, but still sharing the same lane. Mind you, I'm riding my cruiser so its a bit wider than a road or hybrid bike.

I'm day-dreaming, awaiting the light to turn green, when all of a sudden a cyclist squeezes past me, nearly running over my foot and knocking off the passenger mirror of the motor vehicle in the process. She then proceeds to pass both of us, pass the stop line and noses into the intersection, where she executed a poor trackstand attempting to beat the light while waiting for oncoming traffic to slow.

Did she beat the light? No. It turned green while she was still partially in the intersection ahead of us, causing traffic to have to move around her, and she didn't save herself any additional time.

Besides the blatant recklessness of her act, there was never a single "excuse me", "on your left" or bell-ring to be heard. I was completely startled when she passed me. Like one of those tiny field mice that squeeze through pin-holes to get into your house, I never would have considered a cyclist slipping past me on my left in a single lane with a motor vehicle. If I had just leaned ever so slightly to the left, we would have collided. A simple heads-up would have saved both of us a lot of potential woes.

CYCLISTS: Bells/noise-makers are your friend. So is your voice. Use them!

This is not a rare occurrence. I counted no less than 3 times this week when I was nearly wiped-out by passing cyclists who couldn't spare a simple "on your left",  and passed within inches of me. For those of you not familiar with riding in bike lanes, or any city street for that matter, there is often debris on the side of the road. Whether its glass from car break-ins, trash, or in the case of this past weekend, the storm debris from the freak thunderstorm we had, it always ends up in the bike lane.  This means that I may have to swerve to avoid it, and that means I might swerve into you if you don't let me know you are attempting to pass me! (I have the right-of-way, so it's your responsibility to signal!) Or you could actually switch lanes to pass, ya know. You don't have to stay in the bike lane. Either way, if you wouldn't want a motor vehicle to do it to you, don't do it to another cyclist!

That's enough of the rantings, I think. On to more positive things.

I had another opportunity to try out the new Penn Ave. bike lanes, and I still really like them, despite one flaw. The pedestrians. Since this is the season of the "touron", many of them like to stand in the crosswalk islands and gawk at the magnificence that is the view along Pennsylvania Avenue downtown.  Unfortunately, this is directly in the path of the bike lanes. Luckily, I have my trusty bell to warn them before I run them over, but on a crowded day this could be a problem. Still, it's a nice view, and even during rush hour I had minimum difficulty navigating traffic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the layout of the new bike lanes, this link kinda-sorta explains it.

I'm not 100% sure, but I do believe I spied new bike lanes being painted on 14th Street, NW (specifically between the 2900-3300 blocks). I couldn't tell whether it was a a parking lane/curb lane marker, or a bike lane because the "cyclist" icon hadn't been painted in yet. But it definitely looks like it might be a bike lane! (I forgot my camera, so I don't have photographic evidence yet). This makes me insanely happy. For more than a year, I've had to change my commute path because of the ridiculous construction that made it virtually impossible to bike on 14th St. NW between Harvard St. and Newton St. I tried a few times, and after nearly getting squashed by metro-buses, cars & construction equipment, or falling into gaping holes in the street, I just avoided it altogether. It seemed like it was never going to end. Well, the end is in sight! And it includes a bike lane! (I hope).

According to my trusty psychic Sparky, (and the folks at weather underground), it looks as though the upcoming week's temperatures will be much milder, so hopefully I can get some more bike photos in. Last weekend, I attended a wedding at Mt. Vernon and I was gazing longingly at the bike path that runs along the potomac from DC to Mt. Vernon. One of these days, when the weather is not so oppressive, I'll be on that path.

Ride safe everyone!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You really should wear a helmet..

Tonight on my way home from work I passed by a car that was parked along the side of the road. As I came nearer, I noticed the car was occupied by two people (one in the driver seat, one in the passenger seat), and not empty as I had presumed. As I got closer, I realized the driver was simply waiting for me to pass so she could open her door without hitting me (which I thank her for, because many other motorists would have ignored me rather than wait a few seconds). As I went by the open window to the car, I heard a voice call out; not too loudly, but loud enough that I could hear; "you really should wear a helmet" in a snide, sarcastic tone.

When I heard this, I looked back and observed the driver open the door to get out.

I presume the driver was a little miffed that she had to wait 3.5 seconds for me to pass before opening the door to exit her car, hence the snide remark.

No, I wasn't wearing a helmet at the time. I usually do, but due to the heatwave I've gone without it the last few days.  It's not required by law that I don one. I agree that it's safer for me to wear one, but it is still my choice.

Now I can't say for sure that her remark was spurred by her inability to exit her car without injuring me. Maybe she was simply concerned for my well-being. In which case, I appreciate her concern, but its none of her business. I want to believe that this remark, along with other "helpful" suggestions that motorists feel compelled to express to cyclists (i.e. get on the sidewalk, get off the street, get out of my way, etc) are simple expressions of empathy & concern.

I doubt it was concern, however,  because whether a cyclist wears a helmet seems to be the deciding factor in whether they "deserved" to be hit/run-over/killed, even though helmets in no way whatsoever prevent accidents. They might mitigate the injuries, but they do not prevent accidents. This also seems to be the fall-back response whenever someone has done something to endanger a cyclist and they know they are wrong. Much like a toddler with an attitude problem, motorists & pedestrians cross their arms, pout their lips and whine "yeah, well you should be wearing a helmet!", as if that proves that their actions were harmless. Sometimes I wonder if it makes me "fair game" to a motorist if I'm not wearing a helmet.

I also wonder if this is some latent anger in motorists due to the fact that they are required by law to wear seat belts (another unnecessary law, in my opinion). Seat belts are the vehicle equivalent of bicycle helmets. From the drivers I observe on a daily basis, they tend to use their seat belts as often as I wear a helmet. Yet I've never felt the urge to shout at a driver to "wear a seatbelt, asshole!"

I'm a big advocate of helmets. In my last accident (in which I was doored, ironically), I only had time for one thought because it happened so fast. And the thought that flitted through my brain when I felt my skull smack the pavement was "Gee, I really wish I had worn my helmet tonight"! Thankfully, I didn't suffer any head injuries (just an arm injury). But I know that I was extremely lucky, and that it wasn't due to anything I did. The accident occurred so fast that I had no time to react or try to protect myself. I could easily have cracked my skull wide open. Just luck, that's all.

No, helmets don't prevent accidents. Careful & skilled riding does that. But accidents happen. You could be the most skilled, safest person on the road. By default, that means everyone around you is NOT. It only takes 1 second to crack your skull. Is it guaranteed that a helmet will save your life? No. Is it guaranteed that it will prevent a head injury? No. But could it mean the difference between living and dying? Yes, it could. And that's enough for me.

I wear a helmet because I want to, not because I have to.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MapMyRide Map of my route downtown today.

Slowing it down...

Riding a big, heavy cruiser bike really forces you to slow down. Much like a hapless tourists tends to bring the flow at the metal detector to a molasses-like pace emptying his pockets of change, gum wrappers, maps, pens, Chuck. E. Cheese tokens and other odds and ends,  Betty tends to go at her own slow roll. I can't zip in and out of traffic as easily as I did on a lighter bike, and the bike can be a bit tricky to maneuver in tight spaces. This means I've really been forced to take my time as I ride. I stop at every red light because I don't have the speed to avoid any oncoming traffic. I don't take chances trying to squeeze past cars and their side-view mirrors. Basically, I follow the same rules as drivers. And I haven't spontaneously combusted yet, which is apparently what some cyclists believe will happen if they have to follow the law like everyone else (myself, included).

I agree that traffic signals and signage is primarily designed for motor traffic, and often times it is not effective for cyclists. However, it rarely hurts cyclists either....unless you are in the middle of a heat wave and stuck behind a metrobus. Then I very well could spontaneously combust. Still, I've discovered that sitting for 2 minutes at a traffic light really isn't that big of a deal.

More important than traffic regulations, however, is simple common sense. This past week I had more close-calls with fellow cyclists than I did with motorists. Either cyclists traveling the wrong way (on both one way and two way roads), riding aggressively (passing me and cars when there is barely enough room), or riding stupidly (i.e. 2-3 people on a bike, feet on the handlebars, etc). No amount of legal regulation will ever rid the world of Stupid People. They just are.

Tomorrow I'm taking Betty downtown for an appointment in the morning. This will be her first rush-hour trip, and it should be an interesting one. Typically, morning rush hour is when motorists are at their most aggressive. Afternoon rush hour is slightly less hellish since most people are leaving work, rather than going to work. Even on my speedier bikes, it's an interesting experience. And by interesting, I mean harrowing.  If you don't hear from me for awhile, I've probably been run-over by a diplomat.

Speaking of diplomats, the last week was a little crazy, weather-wise. (No, diplomats don't really have anything to do with the weather, but I needed a convenient segue). First, the heat-wave continues unabated. Then we had an EARTHQUAKE!! (which I slept through) Then we've had summer thunder storms that have sounded like the world was coming to an end. This has put a slight damper on my riding, but not completely. I did manage to make it out a few times without getting struck by lightning, swallowed by an earthquake or drowning in an downpour. Hopefully, next week will be calmer.

I am proud of The Boy. Sort of. He decided to go out on a ride on his own (which he never does) to the monuments. In the middle of the afternoon. On a heat-wave day. The Boy and The Heat do not get along, at all. About an hour after he returned and cooled off with a shower, he started shivering, cramping & dry-heaving; all symptoms of heat exhaustion. We took his temperature and it was normal, so we knew that it wasn't heat stroke. It took the rest of the evening for him to feel normal again though. Silly Boy.

Some pictures from the last week (sorry there are so few):

Rain droplets on the window:

I have no idea where I photographed this.

Adams Morgan late night. I rarely venture over here on Friday and Saturday nights because it is Insanity. It's flooded with all sorts nonsense. But I was hungry for Croque and Dagger, so 18th Street it was. Any other night of the week, it's a pretty decent place late at night. But Friday and Saturday nights it is horrible...

Jeggings? WTF?

Another cruiser bike!

A view of U Street late night.

1966 Schwinn!

The original registration stickers.

Even the original bell!

Yes, a Yul Bryner Burrito. Yum.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Night Ride

Tonight, a cab driver pulled up next to me to tell me how much he admired my bike. Apparently he is some sort of environmental scientist that drives cabs part time (I guess environmental scientists don't get paid that much, but you'd think they'd be rolling in the dough consulting on that whole BP oil spill thing....). Anyway, it was nice, in an unsolicited compliment sort of way.

Then the light turned green and he promptly pulled ahead of me, only to block the bike lane while he discharged his passenger.

Thanks, guy!

Tonite was a pretty good summer night. Not too humid, not too hot, not too much traffic. I didn't go very far though. I had responsibilities at home (i.e. a very drunk boyfriend) to tend to.

Some pictures:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Map My Ride map of Bike DC 2010

As you can see, they chopped a good portion of the route this year. We skipped the upper northwest portion in G-town almost entirely. The good part is this eliminated most of the hills. The bad part is that it skipped Embassy Row, which is always pretty. In fact, very little of Bike DC this year was in DC proper. Most of it was actually in VA. On highways. It's neat being able to ride on something that is normally reserved for cars only, but the novelty wears off after an hour or so. Three hours of it is boring!

Another difference was the reduction in rest-stops. Last year there were quite a few rest-stops with food/drink provided. This was drastically reduced this year, which was not good for me because I was planning on refueling at these. If I had known they were so few and far between, I would have brought snacks of my own. I think there were 2, maybe 3. And no food at the start of the ride either (most places provide bagels, bananas, coffee, etc.). I was a starvin' girl by the time I hit the half-way mark and the first rest-stop.

Also, I lost about 3 miles on this map because the app stopped working for a bit before I realized it had stopped. So it was more like 18-19 miles. According to my brother's cyclometer it was about 19, I think.

This year, I did bike home rather than take the metro. I used the Mt. Vernon trail for the first time. It's really nice. Some afternoon, I'm gonna ride more of it. Once my brother and I got back into DC, we decided to see a movie before biking home. By the time we reached my front door, we had done just about 30 miles. In just one morning!

Wow. I think I totally forgot I even had this blog!

It's ok, its not like I have any readers anyway, HA! So, to update you from my last entry, I am still riding a bike everyday, and still an ex-smoker.

Here's some photos from some bike-related things since last year.

Bike DC 2010!

I hate blogger's web editor. It posts all my pictures in the wrong order. Anyway, here's the finish line. Look, I'm dry AND warm!!

Saw this cute little guy (the doggie, not the zebra-spandexed ass) on the ride.

I chose to use Jamie this year since it was a nice spring day.

Did I mention that this event happened to fall on my birthday this year? And my brother even came to visit and ride with me!

The DC Bike Ambassador.

A Penny-Farthing Bicycle in the Traveling Bicycle Museum.

Bike DC was so much better this year. Last year I was freezing and wet and miserable. They had enough sense this year to move it to the Spring rather than Fall, so the chances of the weather cooperating were better. Even if it rained, at least it would be warm! I had fun, and can't wait to do it again next year. It was a pretty darn good birthday.

This is Betty. She's one of my new additions. I lub her :)

This is me biking on my way to Bike Prom. The theme was "Beyond the Velodrome" (post-apocalyptic).

My work-horse bike, chillin' in the metro station.

Betty, in front of the white house. I don't know who the Asian dude is. He got in my shot. There were a bunch of annoying tourists around, and I couldn't get any of them out of my way.

Betty and the Washington Monument. Not one of my favorites.

Meridian Hill Park, the pretty side of it.

The Lincoln Memorial. I think this is one of my favorite places late at night. The tourists are gone, the city is quiet and this place is so beautiful. It's just peaceful.

So, there's only a few of my biking adventures. I promise to TRY and keep this thing updated from now on.