Sunday, July 31, 2011

This is Right

This is a remedial post. We've been here before, we'll be back here again, but we could all use a refresher. It's simply a reminder to USE YOUR SIGNAL.

We bikers are an easy target. I'm talking online, print, TV, media. For some reason we are up there with the flag, abortion, gay marriage... People like to raise their opinionated voices about sharing the road (or not as the case often is).

Lately I keep hearing the one about how I'm not allowed to pass on the right. I understand the theory, but don't you pass on the right? If you are driving down Connecticut Avenue on a three lane road are you saying the right lane never passes any car. Not a slow one in the middle trying to straddle the skinny artery? The jam in the left trying to turn across 3 opposing lanes? The smart one who knows there's about 8 traffic cameras in a row right in front of the police sub station?

How about on 14th, same scenario? You've never rolled up on a left turning car and spilled over into the bike lane to pass on the right? It's just not unreasonable to pass on the right is all I'm saying. It often makes good sense. I don't particularly care for when you steal the bike lane to pass when I'm already in it, but look at me sharing the road!

But here's my issue. You push me over as far as the law legally allows, which is shitty. It is. The shoulder is filled with gravel and debris, glass from discarded bottles, remnants of distracted drivers...It's covered in dangerous wet leaves, dirt, mud, banks of plowed snow. The potholes aren't fixed, the grates precariously placed, and drop offs unpredictable.

We ride in the dangerous door zone. Often. The bike lane is painted in it! Pedestrians walk out in front of us ALL the time. Texting, walking, not paying attention. Okay, now let's retouch on signals...

What I'm hearing lately is that we are supposed to act like cars. We aren't allowed to actually ride in the right traffic lane and take it, but we have to respect it? If a car is in front of us we are not supposed to pass it? You would prefer I pass on the left? Really? A line of cars is sitting at a red light and I can't continue on in the lane that I am pedaling in to approach the light? I have to stay 8 car lengths back and risk not making the light because they are timed for cars not me? Come on!

Here is what I do....I consult the blinking lights on the cars in front of me and proceed accordingly. IF a car has a right turn signal on, I don't pass it. It is after all, about to turn right. I respect that. But if a car is going straight, as indicated by not employing a turn signal, why wouldn't I just keep pedaling right along side it?

WHY? Because drivers 'forget?' to use turn signals. Deem them unnecessary? Can't possibly lift their arm to yank the stick on the steering column? Think bikers shouldn't be there anyway! I'm not sure what it is, but it's somewhere between 6.5 out of 10 drivers who actually use them. No one ever admits it, but I see them out there all the time. They cut me off, brush me, honk at me for getting in their way.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chalk on Asphalt

I used to have a drawerful of letters. Now I have email. I used to have binders of photos. Click flickr. Checkbook, online. File cabinet of documents, USB stick. Books, e-readers. Address book with birthdays, facebook ate that archive.

Gone are the days of piles of papers, books of stamps, need for pens. Amen. As long as you have a computer you're all set. As long as you don't bump your head, forget your password, or lose an account. God forbid.

But get over it. You'll get a virus, lose a file. Reset your audio library. Outlive your USB stick. Your contacts will go in the drink, the backup will fail, your credit card account will be frozen. And you will survive.

Find the plus side. I could have dropped 75mil on this classic Picasso piece, but instead I joined the finite fanbase. I put a cool $5 into a buckful of chalk and drew it myself. Femme ala Fleur, 2011 Chalk on Asphalt, Yvillo collection. Limited showing...pending rain.

If you have a phobia of losing stuff, this isn't your century. We get it, upgrade it, lose it, break it, simply get tired of it. We don't hold on to much these day. Well, some of us. Others are still hoarding a Betamax in the basement, 8tracks in a drawer, 35mm film. I know bell bottoms came back and old school tunes line the beat in new rap tracks but your parachute pants ain't coming back. Let it go....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Sun Will Come Out...

No disrespect to Sassafras but has anyone seen my local brick and mortar? With all this talk about debt ceilings, unemployment, and the economy I couldn't help but notice an empty building down the street.

When did American Business go out of business? Come to think of it, when did NW DC become Detroit?? I might have noticed sooner but I was, uh, working, ironically. What I did notice tonight was the only one business left in the block long building in Cleveland Park...Daddy Starbucks of course.

And unlike Sassafras, no sign will coax my shops back. The signs left on the storefront read "After 57 years..." FIFTY SEVEN YEARS?!?!....Are you serious? Okay, okay, stand down, Sullivans is still here. It's just around the corner and bigger and better than ever. I am serious.

And let's be real. Sassafras is a Beagle! A beagle. Not your lazy Snoopy variety beagle, but a full blown bloodhounded beagle. She'll find her way home. She will, when she's good and ready. It takes a long time to sniff everything at a dog park. Imagine sniffing everything from Cleveland to Takoma Park!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Midnight Snax

Oh I could have doctored the photo a bit more so you could actually see what I'm talking about....but you see what I'm talking about?!

Preslicely Dear Watson: there in the dark of night is a sliver of road missing. Right there where the bike goes. Someone call Shel Silverstein.

Good thing they put that big metal plate there to protect people from falling in the big gigantic hole in the street. Good thing I saw it there a few nights ago. D.A.Y.S. ago (again with that). What's that? Timmy's in the...Well Holy Hole Bikeman!

So the road is eating tires as midnight snacks? Rolleos. Nice. Right there on Wisconsin Avenue. NOW can you give me three feet?

"It was missing a piece.
And it was not happy.
So it set off in search
of its missing piece.
And as it rolled
it sang this song - "Oh I'm lookin' for my missin' piece
I'm lookin' for my missin' piece
Hi-dee-ho, here I go,
Lookin' for my missin' piece."
— Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Squeaky's Wheel

Did you see? They removed the STOP signs from Little Falls. DAYS ago. D.A.Y.S.... Not that anywheel noticed.

Not true, someone just noted it on the listserv. That's it, just noted it. No back and forth. No high fiving. Not even bitching and moaning (I know!). No citing the laws and the codes and the Bible for Christ sake.

Yes, per Code 2.45 Section 5.3b, you won. If you interpret 'vehicle' to mean.... I know, I know, someone has to hold them accountable. Hell, a Master Plan is just a book full of pretty bike drawings and rack dreams if you don't wave it in developers' faces...not that it still does much good.

And it's only an island free of stop signs, so keep squeaking Wheel. They haven't straightened out the crosswalk yet, but who knows they might. If you keep whining maybe they'll pick the damn thing up, give it a good shake, and lay it back down straight across the road. They might.

But I gotta tell you today I rode the road not the trail and it's a lot going on. I'm not sure where to look. There's a sign over there and another over here and two more right there! Oops, was that a crosswalk I just blew through?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Most Important Meal of Your Life

Did you hear about the woman who was hit in the parking lot of IHOP? This is no joke. She was on her bike and someone backed over her and stopped. Workers inside along with patrons ran out to her rescue and lifted the truck off her as she was turning purple. LIFTED the TRUCK off her.

That being said...IHOP to save a life? Eat a Stack, Save a Rack? Breakfast of Lifesavers...oh, maybe not that one...I'm seeing eggs and cherry flavored candy. IXNAY.

But seriously, Dennys, your Lumberjack special, please? Get your morning energy from an IHOP panniercake. Meals for Wheels? Breakfast, good enough for dinner.

And New Jersey? (That's where it happened.) You need to kill the Jersey Shore; you're being misrepresented. Our Stacks Move Macks? Here it is....IHOP 4 LIFE....oh yeah, that's your new slogan.

Who's up for IHOP?...I'm thinking we should drive.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Hub Bub

Maybe, just maybe, it's not always about the bike. I have to admit sometimes we sound a bit whiny. But then again, it's often really not about the bike and it should be.

This is about the recent CCT crossing changes. Yes, folks, there has been more than one reconstructuring as of late. And I still consider the one on Connecticut egregious against us.

Little Falls? The jury is still out. I believe it was constructed as a deterrent to cyclists. I don't consider this all bad. However, the cyclists in need of slowing...are not slowing.

This makes the new trail dangerous. They are flying around a blind corner cutting people off. I hear the crossing is slick and it isn't even fall yet. And the stop signs are a bit much.

But the bitching? Suck it up. Slow it down. Perhaps this once, we the cyclists, need to do our parts. It can't all be about motorists making changes. Share the Change. The cars are mostly polite and stopping allowing bikes to pass...even though they may be stuck at this intersection for an entire weekend if the weather is right.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still on your side. Really, have you seen the intersection just down the way? I still don't get the added curb. Again, it makes the cyclists look bad because we are spilling out all over the road. If you stay in the crosswalk that's one hell of a tight right angle turn to head to the trail.

That says, get the hell off your bike and walk through this section. Forget slow. And it doesn't slow either direction entering traffic. It's not that kind of crossing.

The change was a surprise. No sign, no notice, no listserv rantings. But am I really surprised this unpaved section of CCT gets no nods while the often plowed section gets all the whinelight? No, not really.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wish I Had a V8

Back to that car buying discussion...

I got to thinking about the differences between purchasing a car and purchasing a bike. It's misleading, unfair, and a rip off!

Take a car. Most sites let you "build your_________" And like Timbuk2 you get to 'put together' the car of your dreams. Actually it's just like Timbuk2. You pick your colors and fabric and presto you have a, uh car?

Let's take a Honda Civic. You've got your DX, LX, EX, and EX-L. Those are your options, you get to pick the letter that comes between Civic and X. Oh, there's plenty involved in that. AC, USBs, MP3 jacks, Bluetooth, Moonroof... I'm not sure what any of that has to do with the car's performance but whatever....

You can pick leather and grey, but that's about it. The rest comes with the letterX you choose. In full disclosure, the Civic EX comes with rear disc brakes and alloy wheels. Okay, that's something. But you ain't getting a manny tranny with that.

But I'm used to a bike. And they don't actually let you build a bike (even though you easily could, without dismantling the frame and ripping out the interior). But they do come in models, like a Civic. So I decided to compare a Trek.

And here's me with egg on my face. I picked a road racer Trek. And well, the better model came with better wheels and brakes. That's about it. Sounds like a Civic. Must be a Trek EX.

So I checked Orbea and Fuji. Yeah, okay, so here's the deal... Again you don't build your bike (although again I point out you could), but there are models to choose from. And the biggest differences are your components, the drive train, the chain, the brakes, wheels...the things that make a bike a bike. Shimano 2300, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace. Besides your engine, these are the things that make the bike GO.

From base to ace you're looking at a $6,000 difference. What you get is performance. Less weight, better roll, more compatible meshy parts. With a Civic you're also looking at a $6,000 difference. What you get is speakers, an arm rest, phone controls...essentially what I would call accessories.

Accessories are add ons that cost money. Like a kickstand, water cage, bag, odometer. You don't need them and shouldn't be forced to buy them. Okay, you got me, the autogiants throw in a 'free' odometer (something about the law).

Bumping up a model should get you a better car. Bigger engine, better pistons, HD rearview mirror, Vtech Performance Oil, Titanium spark plugs... I don't know, something that creates a better car. Not a radio and a cup holder.

In fairness, the Toyota build does offer notable accessories, but I again question the semantics of this word. You can choose a performance clutch, front strut brace, torque biasing differential, and an oil cap for an added cost. Oil cap? It's fancy.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The AutoBike

My dentist is always accusing me of grinding my teeth. I deny it, but today's trip up Newcastle clearly said different. I think I may have dropped two teeth. Damn autobike.

A recent discussion at work about car purchases brought about a lukewarm debate about manual transmissions. I like to control my car. I like to control my bike. I'm not a fan of automuch (think hamburger button).

And the AutoNazis always jump in your shift about choosing a manual transmission. They demand to know WHY? Snow? Here? Where it snows 3.5 days a year? Yes. Yes, I like to shift. I choose to shift. I shift on hills, at stop signs, around corners, to pass.

But you can shift an automatic. And what about traffic? I can't stand to shift in traffic, they say. Why, yes, I agree...this is why I ride a bike. And really? Are you really shifting your automatic car, like ever?

But a recent revolution on an old bike brought about a, well, a revolution. While I enjoy the control of a 5-speed manual tranmission, my bike of choice is a single speed. In a world where consumers need 21+ speeds, I prefer just one.

Don't get me wrong when I've got the 24 speeds I'm using about 14 of them, but you really only need about 2 or 3. Let me ask you, Mr. Needs-a-9-Speed-Triple-and-an-Automatic-Car, how many gears are you engaging on your overpriced Trek? About as many as you personally are shifting on your automatic car I bet.