The fleeting pink and white blossoms cover the city. Sun shines and spring breezes blow. Families and field trips congregate on our sidewalks. And hey, how about those tour buses! Yes, it’s cherry blossompalooza in Washington, D.C.
In previous years I dreaded this scenario. But thanks to my regular midday runs that have exposed me to this sudden, yet annual, increase in activity I figured out a system to keep me moving (mostly) calmly.
Do you ever have commutes where you feel like you are in the middle of an urban obstacle course? Dodge this! Veer around that! Watch out for the crazy driver! No one is following the rules!
As I rode through the post-work milieu today, a particularly gorgeous early summer day in the city, I realized that over the years I have learned to anticipate many of the actions of those around me. That anticipation helps me en route to my destination, especially on days like today when tons of people are out and moving in every direction.
Bike parking in the city can be a tricky business. Many parts of the city (at least the ones I visit in the District) do not have enough racks to accommodate all the bikes of those who want to park in the area.
Bikes get crowded onto racks or, if those are not available, we seek out other alternatives such as locking to a parking sign pole or other pieces of metal that look sturdy and theft-proof.
Lately I’ve been on a mission to ride all of my bikes more often. This is partially due to needing to clean the Surly LHT as well as change out a tube, but also because if I’m going to own multiple bikes I feel should make the effort to ride them all.
The past couple weeks, I’ve commuted almost exclusively on my Velo Orange Mixte, built up from a frame set I purchased over two years ago.
The Velo Orange is a great town bike. Reasonably priced and built up primarily with existing parts in the Dining Room Bike Shop (most of them coming off of my old commuter, a Novara Randonnee), I’m happy to be riding it again.
With the influx of riders taking to the streets this spring (oh how I’ve dreamed of using the word influx in a post), I thought I’d feature the advice BikeDC peeps have shared about cycling in the city.
The BikeDC Speaks interview series featured eight D.C.-area cyclists– six women and two men– and their perspectives on various commuting topics. I’ve since taken the interviews and divided them into topics, like the one discussed today.
Cycling in the city has its ups and downs. It’s more up than down most days, but it’s still much different than a meander on a quiet country road.
If you read this blog, it’s quite likely you are an urban cyclist too, so please chime in with your own thoughts.
Back in the fall, I put together a series that explored D.C.-area cyclists’ views and experiences about riding in the city.
#BikeDC Speaks featured 8 local cyclists– six women and two men. Some contributors began commuting regularly within the last year or two while others have commuted for several years. Thanks again to all the people who made this series come to life!
I initially featured each post by contributor. I am now presenting the series to highlight some of the questions and ideas shared.
This time I’m also asking you, dear readers and fellow riders, what are your answers to these questions?
OK, first question:
What is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given you about bicycling?
I recently began a new job, and my lovely setup of parking my bike in my office is no more. I now work in a cube and have no space to park a bike. I could use my Tikit or Dahon folder, but I have not put the time in to make either of them what I would consider “commute ready.”
Instead, I continue to ride my Surly LHT and park my bike in one of two places at my building:
The underground parking garage that has inverted U-shaped racks to accommodate about 20 bikes.
A prison bar-style outdoor bike rack that is mostly covered (depending on what direction the wind blows), and can theoretically fit 50 bikes, but from my point of view is basically worthless for those of us that use fenders and a U-lock with the exception of the end spaces.
During the winter months, I have made regular use of the garage. It reduces the time I need to spend in the cold locking and unlocking my bike and it keeps my bike decently warm so my hands do not immediately turn to ice when I put them on the handlebars.
However, I will still occasionally park outside and lock to what I consider the substandard prison bar-style rack.
Through commuting regularly to my job in this shared parking environment, I have begun to notice funny things about us bike commuters.
Seldom does a commute not involve some kind of trade-off. Bike commuters are often dealing with compromises, and my sense of safety is often one of those.
Take yesterday, for example. I had to run an errand out in Bethesda. The first half of it had to be via car (Booooo. That’s a compromise already!). However, the second half of the errand I was able to use my bike. So bike I did.
I had two route options for my return trip back into the District of Columbia from Bethesda, Maryland.
1. Take Capital Crescent Trail to the trail by the Kennedy Center (almost ten miles car-free!) and home; or
2. Ride Massachusetts Avenue (a main road in D.C.) back to Adams Morgan and home.
At first, it seems like a no-brainer. Take the Capital Crescent Trail!
Not so fast. I began my return trip at 8:30 at night. That changes things.
Most days, riding my bike is one of the most pleasurable activities of my day. Fresh air, exercise, breeze on my face, and pride in my mode of transport abound.
Every once in a while, though, something happens to disrupt these moments of reverie. Like yesterday, for example, when I was riding to dinner with a couple of friends. We approached a stoplight and a driver rolled down the window of his car to yell out, “Get on the sidewalk!”
Upon hearing these words, righteous indignation coursed through my body. It enraged me to hear a driver advise me to “Get on the sidewalk!” when we have just as much right to be on the road as he does.
Today I’m talking commute basics, as somebody recently asked me what to keep in mind when making the transition to bike commuting. It took me back to when I dusted off my old Ross mountain bike and said to myself, “Metro no more. I’m going to make this bike commute thing happen.” Happily, it wasn’t a tough transition to make, but it was a change to my personal transportation system that took time to refine and become routine.
Now that I’ve adjusted, it’s hard to imagine a time when I relied on metro or car more than my bicycle as my primary form of transportation.
For those considering bike commuting, this post discusses the the basic gear I purchased and the adaptations I made to bike commute. Everyone develops their own systems over time, and this is my basic rundown.
If you ride in the D.C. area and do any blog reading or tweeting, you have probably heard of Girl on a Bike, aka Kate. A regular commuter and excellent blogger, Kate regularly participates in a lot of local #BikeDC events. I’m thrilled that she agreed to guest post for #BikeDC Speaks. Thank you, Girl on a Bike!
I’d also like to thank everyone who participated in this series of posts. #BikeDC Speaks featured 8 local cyclists, six women and two men. Some contributors began commuting regularly within the last year or two and others have commuted for several years.
I hope to do a little aggregation of the themes discussed by each contributor and share these in later posts down the road. In the meantime, please enjoy Kate’s post. I know that I did!
After several weeks of #BikeDC Speaks posts from the women of the #BikeDC community, we are back this week with a guy’s point of view on riding in the D.C. area.
Chris is another familiar face from #FridayCoffeeClub and, if you ride along MacArthur Avenue, you may spot him there as well. During his years of commuting in the area, Chris has observed and learned a lot about cycling in the city. AND as a new parent who hopes to have his daughter accompany him on rides, I thought he would make a great guest contributor.
Without further ado, here is Chris’s take on riding in D.C.
Leslie T., superhero transportation cyclist, and I go way back to the days I first began riding with the D.C. Randonneurs. If there is a way to get there by bike, Leslie will figure out it. When work requires her to travel, she takes a bike along. Vacation? It usually involves a bike. Getting around town? Bike, of course.
You may have seen Leslie out and about. She volunteers with WABA, partakes in the occasional touring and group ride, and regularly attends #FridayCoffeeClub. Here is what Leslie had to say about cycling in the Washington, D.C. area.
Time for another edition of #BikeDC Speaks. This week’s post is brought to us by D.C. bike commuter and transportation cyclist Laura M., also known as @grafxnerd on the Twitterverse. Twitter and the magical #BikeDC hashtag is how I first “met” her!
Laura has a keen eye for detail which is not only apparent in the beautiful bikes she has built up, but also in the observations she makes about the positives and negatives of riding in the Washington, D.C., area. Read on and see for yourself.