Biking in Washington

Frequent readers know I detest most Washington bicyclists. I had hoped by now that the WMATA buses that double as KITT from Knight Rider would have forcibly removed from the road all of the bad bikers. I was wrong.

Now I’m not hoping for deaths here, but as a driver and a pedestrian, I don’t automatically buy into the whole “Metro Sucks” because a bicyclist is dead/hurt. I know for a fact that many bicyclists ignore the law — that is, they do not act like cars — which is the law they have to follow.

So, if you can’t beat them, join them. I decided to join them. I figured I could infiltrate their ranks and bring change from within. We’ll see if I am successful.

I bought a garish fixed speed bicycle from Walmart for $99, and had it shipped to my house for $.97. It has red and yellow tires. After I bought it,  I thought “nobody will steal this. It’s so ugly!” That is until some person on the train this morning said “nice Redskins bike.” Uh oh.

I figure I can use politeness, ability to follow the law (read: normal traffic law), and sarcastic heckling to make the D.C. biking world a better place.

The main reason for the purchase is that biking to softball will make life easier, so there’s that.

One thing I did not know as I took the bike, which I’ve named “Albert Haynesworth,” on Metro was that people who carry bicycles on the train are required at all stations to use the elevators. I would, at least, oblige by keeping my bike at the end of the cars (the middle has those “no bike” stickers), and I did make sure I was the last one from the train to go up the escalator.

No big deal, I thought, until a station manager kindly scolded me and told me the policy, which makes sense. I offered to go back to the elevator on the opposite end of the platform, but he told me that was counter-intuitive and he’d let it slide this time. In an incidence of global karma, I fell while trying to carry the bike up the escalator at Farragut West. I got chain oil on my pants.

I biked roughly 3 blocks up 17th street to work and avoided the much ballyhooed “death by bus.” I locked up my bike and went to work. Riding down the street is scary, though. It reminded me of that Family Guy episode where the Firetrucks sneak up on me and take me down.

Then, softball time came around. I changed and got ready. Did you know that Google Maps has biking directions? They are actually quite helpful if you don’t know where you are going, but if you do know the area it’s not terribly interesting.

I pedaled out of the garage on 17th street and down to the mall, stopping at the market for “softball provisions” if you catch my drift. Back on my way, I coasted down the bicycle lanes on 15th street, stopping for the pedestrians, as is the law. Of course, I was the only one to do so.

Bicyclists and skateboarders (seriously) barreled down the street with no regard for the peds, even though the signs on the street and and on the poles notify cyclists they are obligated to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Which, of course, is the same as the law for cars.

Stopping though, irritated some bicyclists. One even muttered “Jesus!” under his breath. Presumably at me. If there weren’t kids nearby, I’d of told him to go fly a kite. Safety first, I always say. Maybe I should have jammed on the brakes and blocked all egress to let the peds pass.

I arrive at softball and my provisions aren’t the only ones we have, thankfully. Last week there was a National Park Service crackdown on the mall on softballers sampling libations. Because, apparently, they don’t want us to fund whatever D.C. and federal sin taxes fund? Who knows.  My team, the Editorioles was playing “I’d Hit That” and they were very polite and cool opponents.

My friend and former coworker Tait was fascinated by the fixie and gave it a ride. Then it started raining. Forrest Gump would have described this as “sideways rain.” We huddled under the tree, red cups in hand, until we called it.

And before you criticize, the National Mall is the worst area to be in a thunderstorm — because at night pretty much every building is closed. We were near the White House and the Washington Monument. A tree was all we had.

Now, when I coached, I was all about refusing to call games because the rain would stop. People thought I was a fanatic. After we called it and I biked home, it stopped raining, but to coach Clayton’s credit, we would be racing the daylight to finish the game and we were in between two other teams that periodically hit into us. It would have been slippery, too.

On my way to Archives Navy Memorial, I abided by the rules and took the elevator both times. Another cyclist joined me, and had a considerably more expensive fixed speed bike. I wanted to brag mine probably cost 1/6 the cost of his, but I didn’t. Nobody likes a Walmart humblebrag.

As I was waiting for the Yellow Line, an obese older white lady with stringy white hair paced past me a few times, talking to herself. Then it hit me: This is Elizabeth Warren in 10 years if she lets herself go — in the physical sense. Politically, she’s already a side of stuffing short of a Indian/Pilgrim Thanksgiving dinner — with recipes courtesy of the New York Times. That was entertaining.

When I got off at Huntington, I went to the elevator, and the other cyclist beat me to the elevator. It’s not a big elevator, but both of us could fit. A couple in their fifties, looking a tad sickly crowded into the elevator in front of me. I only say “looking” because they coughed — they were no means severely disabled. I waited for the next elevator. As I biked to 7/11, I saw them putzing down Huntington Avenue, dual cigarettes in hand.

Which is of course, why we have the ADA — to ensure that smokers don’t have to take the escalator. Things have gotten that bad where lazy Americans are unable to take moving stairs and instead opt for the elevator. I am sure Richard Pimentel would be proud of these two.

I biked down to 7/11 and got a sixer of beer to enjoy after the game, biked home, and that was that. Day one of biking in the city accomplished.

I didn’t die, I didn’t cause any accidents (though we witnessed a hilarious one on Constitution Avenue), and best of all, I got in a good workout and saved some money.

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