Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bike To Work, Errands, and Everywhere Else Week


Bike to Work


Plan B

Friday is Bike to Work Day, and, coincidentally, a day on which the Washington, D.C. region is expecting to receive an incredibly large amount of rain.  A biblical deluge amount.  So much rain that you may want to invest in an arc and assemble your post-flood species.  If you cannot ride that day, I have worked out a deal with the karma cops.  You will be given a flood waiver if you agree to bike every single other day of the year that you can.

Sticking with Plan A

Want some tips on how to plan your commute?  Plan ahead, ride slow, and bring a u-lock.  There.  You are ready.

Are you hesitating to ride because of vanity?  Cycling burns 540 calories an hour.  That should feed your vanity quite nicely.

If you are going to use the bike lanes, you might want to learn the rules and etiquette.  It's less "the salad fork is on the outside," and more, "don't bump other cyclists or throw a rock at the box truck in the lane."

And you should not worry about where to dock your bike share bike on the big day.  Friday, Capital Bikeshare will have a temporary docking coral at the Reagan Building at Pennsylvania and D Streets NW.  It will hold so many bikes that it will look like a train station outside Amsterdam at 9:15 a.m. on a Tuesday.

You can stop at all the WABA pit stops on game day and meet some really cool volunteers and fellow cyclists.  You can even graze the pit stop snacks or coffee, like those chiselers that eat the Costco food samples in lieu of actually paying for lunch.  Or you can stop at every one of the 79 pit stops around the region.   Like those people in the gym who stand around talking instead of lifting weights, you'll probably have fun but you won't get quite as much exercise.  DCist reports a map of pitstops.

Other fun events

A tour billed as "Bicycle inspiration, vegan food, and pop up bookstore traveling the Eastern Seaboard in June 2014," is planned by cycle blogging goddess Elly Blue, with Joshua Ploeg and Joe Biel.  The three have published their tentative calendar of stops along the way.  I will lobby the group to make a stop near the Capitol dome since it would be a fitting metaphor.  (Though I confess to not being vegan since the ancient Frenchwomen in me would not allow it.)

Policy and Advocacy

This is not a debate about guns, but about public health.  Over 12,000 people died in gun violence in America in 2013.  In 2012, 34,080 people died in traffic accidents, and 33,561 in 2013.  In 2012, just over 700 cyclists died, mostly in accidents with cars, and in 2013, it was 677.  Sadly, 150 people died from injuries sustained when a coconut dropped on their heads.  If they had worn helmets, the numbers would have been lower.  Public health would favor the guy on two wheels who is not pausing under a coconut tree without a helmet.

Bike commuting in DC has more than doubled in the last decade, or it has increased 60%, depending upon how you like your statistics cooked.  Or you could say cycling is the fasted growing form of commuting around.  Cycling numbers in DC could be larger than these census numbers report.  Let's keep the momentum.

While more Americans are biking to work, their numbers are still small compared to drivers according the census. And it is hard to bike on the east coast because of a lack of infrastructure.  This is indeed the fly in the sustainable soup.  But planners can make it better by creating changes in space usage that encourage non motorized transit.  Right now, for each car there are three parking spaces planned in western cities.  Removal of parking minimums could spark changes.

Meanwhile, the European Union appears to be moving toward some kind of European Master plan for bike safety.  If they can agree to a shared currency, a court, a single official ID, and a human rights commission, surely they can set some standards for cycling safety in the interest of kicking the oil habit.  On the other hand, they do like their coffee breaks and reasonably short work days.  Hopefully they can use their time sipping cafe au lait to set biking standards as a model for later U.S. policy.


While the style police of your city (and certainly of mine) may not like the idea, parking stoppers can be used to make cheap potted bike lanes.  I get it.  It's like using a string to hold up your pants.  But it is an option.

Did you know that Charleston, South Carolina is adding bike lanes, fighting about bike lanes, and otherwise creeping forward from the whole Confederate stronghold thing?  Nice.

In Washington, more and more people like to bike, but distracted drivers remain a problem.  What would help?  This article does not answer that question, perhaps because it is overly existential.  One option would be sever punishment for drivers who drive distracted.  I'm not suggesting a lethal injection, but a hefty fine might make the point.


Arlington's Intersection of Doom continues to be the situs of car on bike accidents.  Bikes have to use a crosswalk to get across the street and cars are unaccustomed to seeing faster moving bikes in that crosswalk.  Last week I linked to an article on how intersections could be designed to increase cycling safety.  This intersection at Lee Highway and Lynn Street in Rosslyn seems a good candidate for experimenting with this plan.  It also seems like a huge sign instructing cars to look for cyclists in the crosswalk might help.  In the meantime, if you are a cyclist, know the rules, know your rights, and document everything.

As you may have suspected, self-driving cars are safer for cyclists than those manned by texting, eating, or sleeping drivers.

WTOP reports that a man was found stabbed to death on the Metropolitan Branch Trail this week.  This is the same trail where a father of three was savaged by a gang of 'tweens roaming Lord of the Flies-like two years ago.  It's never a mistake to ride in pairs on a trail that is not well-patrolled by MPD, but remember that even patrols are intermittent.

Should cyclists be allowed to roll through stop signs? Maybe, but the newbies who ride the lanes in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington should not.  Often the new riders don't realize that cars are given a green light to turn left.  I am against blowing lights there not just for safety's sake, but because cyclists on Penn are on display.  They are showing drivers what cyclists are like.  At 14th Street and Penn, cars will turn left from behind a light-running cyclist.  The results could be terrible and have been.  Otherwise, this Vox piece argues, cyclists should be given some latitude to blow lights and signs.  In many places that makes sense.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, truck drivers took a class on how to deal safely with cyclists.  As part of the exercise, the drivers had to get on bikes.  I would love to see the Teamsters' Union get behind this (ironic subtext) but doubt it will happen in 2014.


There have been more incidences of cyclists assaulting drivers in the U.K., this time for loud horns.  I am against this.  If you were to hit every idiot you met, you would do nothing but hit people many days.  If I may refer to an Elmo video I saw on Youtube, belly breath.  Don't hit.

And the ever-irascible Alec Baldwin is at it again.  He was cuffed after berating an NYPD cop who ticketed him for going the wrong way on the street on a bicycle.  It's hard to understand the emotional complexities of a man who blows his cool so easily, yet has one of the most refined and nuanced appreciations of classical music in modern times plus a talent for character acting that is delicious.  To be clear, don't do this.  It will not advance the cause.

Random Notes

Bike fix-it stands are appearing in Arlington, GGW's Dan Malouff reports.  This is a terrific development.  When they take the place of gas stations, as occurred in the Netherlands, I will throw the party.  In the meantime, it would be nice to be able to get a tube patched at the Metro.

Think it's all hipsters and hobbyists riding bikes?  Low income Americans bike and walk the most.

If you are a woman at risk of osteoporosis, you may want to add a weekly weight lifting work-out to your routine.  While cycling will help your heart and lungs, weight-bearing exercise will help stave off bone density loss according to a recent study.

How to prevent your bike seat from being stolen?  There's nothing worse than coming back to your bike to find your seat missing.  Okay maybe pestilence and famine are worse, but I thing you get the point.  This article talks about how to lock your seat.

Greatergreaterwashington reports that a pickup truck driver hit a cyclist, then threw the bicycle in the back of his truck.  Later the police ticketed the cyclists (what?) but the cyclist was wearing a helmet cam.  Bam!

Thanks to Chuck Harney, the owner of Washington bike shop The Bike Rack who helped +Ben Folsom and some other nice people with a bike maintenance clinic at their office.  His mechanics also assembled my Pashley Princess when it arrived from the U.K.  And he offers clinics every nearly every week to cyclists for free.  A great member of our community.  May he live long and prosper.

If I see you in the bike lanes, and I will see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

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