Category Archives: Commute Reflections

Not a historic photo. Yet

“Bikes” All The Go: From 1904 to 2014

Two weeks ago, I attended “Pedaling Through History: A Look at Cycling Collections Across the Library of Congress,” a one-day exhibit at the Library of Congress. I learned about it via Rambling Rider so hat tip to her and all those fancy things people say.

Lady Cyclers

“Pedaling Through History” was a compact display full of ye olde treasure. Photos, illustrations, books, letters, sheet music, newspaper articles, trade publications, maps featuring bicycle-friendly routes, and movie clips  were some of the items shown.

As I walked by each area, I thought about how things in bicycling have changed over time. The debate between the safety bicycle and the high wheeler are over. Bicycle-specific maps and routes now exist for many parts of the United States and continue to evolve.

No longer is there a proper way for a lady to ride and gone are many of the articles about how important it is for a woman to dress and dismount a certain way on her bike.

Pedaling through history 1

Of course, now we have articles that still offer fashion tips for the fashion-conscious, but these are less about “what a proper lady should do” and more about functional fashion on the bike, or practical clothing choices that aren’t lycra or kit.

Other parts of the cycling world have not changed much over time– or maybe they’ve come full circle. I skimmed a book from 1885, titled Amateur Bicycle Repairing, Or, Every Rider His Own Repairer, about (you guessed it) bike repair and maintenance.

Any book where repair techniques include the use of spirit lamps and fire is one I want to read.

When I initially posted this photo from Amateur Bicycle Repairing, some wondered if the man was holding a flask or a horn. Both are handy when doing your own repairing, certainly, but I believe it is a horn.

Pedaling through History

The exhibit featured a letter from one of the Wright brothers to his sister (I think) that was essentially a ride report. He even included some basic drawings to illustrate the ride’s hills. Perhaps the Wrights would have maintained a blog of their adventures if they had lived in 2014.

Wright Brothers letter

The item that most struck me by its similarity to today was a article in The Minneapolis Journal from April, 1904. Below is an excerpt from it:

That a bicycle is a convenience none can deny.

For instance, you can take a man who lives forty or fifty blocks from his work, if he is fortunate enough to catch a car right away, it will take at least thirty minutes to get home on a car, and the cances are that he will be obliged to stand up and hang on to a strap, or if he is lucky enough to get a seat, he is walked over and crowded to death, and has to pay for these privileges besides.

For instance, you can take a man who lives forty or fifty blocks from his work, if he is fortunate enough to catch a car right away, it will take at least thirty minutes to get home on a car, and the cances are that he will be obliged to stand up and hang on to a strap, or if he is lucky enough to get a seat, he is walked over and crowded to death, and has to pay for these privileges besides.

With a wheel it is no trouble at all to cover forty of fifty blocks in twenty minutes and have plenty of fresh air and the outdoor exercise which is very essential, especially if he works in an office bent over a desk all day. These are the very things that have set the people to thinking.

–“Bicycles Are to Be in Popular Favor This Year.” The Minneapolis Journal. April 9, 1904

If this article ran today, no doubt there would be comparisons to cars in addition to, or perhaps instead of, commuting by train. It even includes a paragraph about the importance of bike infrastructure and the number of bicycle paths in the city. In many ways, it is quite similar to a piece that would be written today.

Bikes are practical and pleasant to ride.

Bicycles are here to stay.

Bike-friendly infrastructure is still important.

Bike commuting combines transportation with exercise.

Bicycling is good for you.

Bicycles help create healthier cities.

Bicycles make for good stories.

I’m grateful to the Library of Congress for hosting this event. It opened my eyes to our rich bicycling history and reminded me of the ways cars changed our country’s perceptions and use of bicycles, as well as our infrastructure.

Bicycle Built for Two

“Pedaling Through History” also surprised me in the ways that our conversations have come back around about bicycling. It only took a century.

Not a historic photo. Yet
Not a historic photo. Yet

Like the Col. Horace Park of Amateur Bicycle Repairing wrote in 1885:

Bicycle riding as a pastime, as well as a physical exercise, combining business with pleasure, is here to stay.

Well said, sir.

Tikit - Private No Parking

Washington, D.C. Bike Commute Scrapbook

Morning ride to American University. Many nice plants here.
Morning ride to American University. Many nice plants here.

What a week. Four sparkling summer days, top notch training, and a ride along with a friend on a couple of days, too. I celebrated the end of my Bike Friday Tikit field trips to Northwest D.C. with a photo safari on today’s ride home, in part to stretch out my time in the afternoon sun and also to remind me why I should travel this way again soon.

Graffiti near the Russian Embassy on Tunlaw
Graffiti near the Russian Embassy on Tunlaw
Is this on R? I don't recall. I liked the symmetry here, and the pop of pink from the flowers in the planters.
Is this on R? I don’t recall. I liked the symmetry here, and the pop of pink from the flowers in the planters.
Cobbles near Georgetown! I cannot get enough of these. I don't want to ride on them every day, but they have a great aesthetic.
Cobbles near Georgetown! I cannot get enough of these. I don’t want to ride on them every day, but they have a great aesthetic.
This staircase kept catching my eye as I passed it this week. Finally, I could not resist pausing for a photo.
This staircase kept catching my eye as I passed it this week. Finally, I paused for a photo.
Small-wheeled bike at the Big Wheel Bikes mural. An irresistible photo op.
Small-wheeled bike at the Big Wheel Bikes mural. An irresistible photo op.
I can only find Blues Alley when I'm not looking for it. This alley is a known, yet off the main path, spot. I could hear people playing music, and when someone opened the door the odor of cigar smoke wafted out along with the music.
I can only find Blues Alley when I’m not looking for it. This alley is a known, yet off the main path, spot. I could hear people playing, and when someone opened the door the odor of cigar smoke wafted out along with the music.
This is also part of Blues Alley. The textures here compelled me to stop for a shot with the Tikit.
This is also part of Blues Alley. The textures here compelled me to stop for a shot with the Tikit.
Private-No Parking. The Tikit takes a risk.
Private-No Parking. The Tikit takes a risk.
Looking down the Potomac toward the Kennedy Center.
Looking down the Potomac toward the Kennedy Center.
Kennedy Center close up. And, not visible, SO MANY CARS on Rock Creek.
Kennedy Center close up. And, not visible, SO MANY CARS on Rock Creek.
The Tikit wants its picture taken with the Lincoln Memorial. This is as close as we got today.
The Tikit wants its picture taken with the Lincoln Memorial. This is as close as we got today.
The Memorial Bridge is so striking. It looks even better in the warm morning light.
The Memorial Bridge is so striking. It looks even better in the warm morning light. Sorry for the debris, but the Potomac washes up some ugly stuff.
Hey, there's a new sign near the Jefferson. It means get off the sidewalk and onto the road or you will fall down the steps on the other side of the footbridge.
Hey, there’s a new sign near the Jefferson. It means get off the sidewalk and onto the road or you will fall down the steps on the other side of the footbridge.
Do you know what this is? It is the second hairpin on the double hairpin after the Francis Case Bridge. Another day, another victory on this segment.
Do you know what this is? It is the second hairpin on the double hairpin after the Francis Case Bridge. Another day, another victory on this segment.

Sometimes the city is not so bad.

 

 

Tikit n me by Felkerino

@SharrowsDC Ride Along in #BikeDC

Photo by Felkerino
Photo by Felkerino

As a child, I spent part of my summer days taking swimming lessons. My sister and I would walk with Jeff, the neighbor boy, to the bus that would take us to our swimming lessons in the town seven miles down the road.

I did not like swimming lessons, but I enjoyed the walk to and from the bus. Jeff, Middle Gersemalina, and I would chat about the things little kids do and there was no hurry to get home, except that nagging hunger that often comes post-swimming.

The past two days Brian, aka @sharrowsDC, and I have commuted home together because I happen to be spending a few days in his neck of the work woods. Our rides reminded me of those walks home after swimming lessons. Relaxed and easy, a time to unwind after hours of doing something more structured.

Brian @sharrowsDC

It’s also interesting to compare our commuting ways. On a surface level, Brian is riding a Surly Ogre with 700C tires more than two inches wide, while I’m currently commuting on a small-wheeled folder, my Bike Friday Tikit.

We’re both carrying luggage, but we don’t haul anything on our backs. He uses an Ortlieb pannier, and I have my Carradice trunk bag.

Brian is very attuned to bike lanes and infrastructure, more so than I. I’m aware of these things, but I don’t always feel like I’m paying enough attention to them. Maybe I should? I don’t know. The bottom line is we both seek out quiet roads, whether or not they have sharrows or a bike lane.

We also have identified some of the same headache spots. We notice similar issues about the Rock Creek Trail as we pass by the Kennedy Center. Lots of people, both cyclists and runners, and bumpy, too.

We talk about the crosswalks along the National Mall, and how some of the buttons one has to push to make the lights change are not located in a spot convenient to pedestrians or cyclists. One of them is behind a fence. Not helpful.

@sharrowsDC leads the way to Rock Creek
@sharrowsDC leads the way to Rock Creek

Like yesterday, we hit the double hairpin on the eastern side of the Francis Case Bridge. Both of us repeat our descents through both hairpins without putting a foot down. That makes it a true skill and not a fluke. Victory!

As I ride with Brian, or anyone who commutes regularly for that matter, I notice we all have our preferred ways for getting places. Both ways are good, but I like mine best. Why? Because they are what I’m used to, I suppose. I’ve memorized every blind corner, bend, stoplight, and pothole. It feels comfortable.

I told Brian today that riding back into downtown D.C. with him the past two days has been a simple pleasure. Yes, our bicycling is a result of our transportation choices and needs, but it’s been wonderful to combine my transportation time with a bike ride and some miles around town with a good #bikeDC friend.

Four Years of Chasing Mailboxes

2014 D.C. Randonneurs 600K, photo by Bill Beck
2014 D.C. Randonneurs 600K, photo by Bill Beck

In the middle of a love affair with bicycling and Washington, D.C., I wrote my first post for Chasing Mailboxes. Four years later, this blog is still going. The love affair has hit some sticky wickets over time, but most days it continues, too.

In the initial year, posts read more like postcards than letters. More reserved with my topics and content, I often wrote from the outside in, contemplating what the blog’s audience would think while I composed each post.

Over time, that changed and this space became a place for greater reflection. Continue reading

Bike to Work Day is Every Day

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Soaked at Swings. Photo by Felkerino

Today, many places are celebrating Bike to Work Day in an effort to inspire more people to ride bikes. Unfortunately for those who may have planned to try out bike commuting and enjoy one of the many pit stops scattered throughout the city, today was a true commuter test. It poured cats and dogs all through the morning commute.

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Our House, In the Middle of Our Street

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Whenever we hop on our bikes, we not only expose ourselves to all sorts of elements, but we also come face to face with other bike riders.

Despite that, riders do not tend to talk to one another. We share space, but generally our only apparent common goal is coming and going each day from home to work and back home again.

Continue reading