Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cycling San Francisco: Lombard Street By Bike [HD VIDEO]

This bright clear day around the bay gave me a great excuse to test out the new GoPro. Here's a video of San Francisco's Lombard Street by bicycle.

Fake Cable Cars Behaving Badly
On the way there, I witnessed a fake cable car picking up passengers in the bike lane. In the time it took for me to chronicle this, two cyclist's had to take the lane. Not a biggie for the seasoned cyclist but it is still how accidents happen.

And I keep hearing how the lack of infrastructure is a dealbreaker for many would-be cyclists. Given that, it is a bummer to continually see existing infrastructure poached by motor vehicles with plenty of alternative places to park.

Hill Training With Extreme Prejudice
I love downtown San Francisco for outrageous hills to climb. Today was no Seven Hills of Hell but it had some tasty climbs.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cycling Washington D.C.: By Night

At the end of Day 2 of the National Bike Summit, the Bicycle Space bike shop hosted a ride for BikeSnobNYC to help launch his new book. The clear, balmy, weather promised to make this a memorable ride through a number of D.C. landmarks at night.

The ride started off across from Bicycle Space just before dusk. It was a good turnout with a nice array of bikes and bicyclists.

Love Bike Demographic: Everybody
Group activities of all kinds are great for building a sense of community but too many attract the same demographic. To really build a true community, you've got to attract young and old, rich and poor, right and left, etc. I saw all that on this ride and see it on many rides I do elsewhere. Love that.

Bike Style On Display
A number of folks were showing off their cool bikes and attire. At one point the folding bikes had a fold-off: that's an amusing thing to watch.

I especially liked the "dress casual" the cargo bike ride rider was sporting. A button down shirt, slacks, and dress shoes are not commonly found on cargo bike riders. Presumably, because they are gonna sweat a lot on that thing but tonight's ride was easy and he looked cool either way.

I also enjoyed the houndstooth bike. Unfortunately, I never got around to finding out where the owner got that but it was super cool.

Police Blockage: Really?
The ride got off to a bizarre start just a few blocks in when a Metro Police car rushed ahead and blocked the seemingly innocuous street in front of us, with extreme prejudice I might add. There was nothing obviously sensitive on that street and it was literally one block that was off limits. That snarled the ride for a few seconds but no biggie.

White House At Sunset
A few minutes later we passed the White House. The setting sun cast a long shadow of the cyclists on the stone panels in front of the White House. It was so gorgeous I wanted to spend the whole evening taking pictures there but I am glad I didn't because of all the good stuff I found ahead.

Noone Knows Your Name But You Feel Like They Do
I just love how relaxed I feel on these group rides no matter where in the world I am on one. I've rarely had so many warm encounters with people I didn't know. Noone knows your name but you feel like they do.

Great Swaths Of Carlessness
Once passed the White House, it was on to the Lincoln Memorial. Like the White House, it has a great wide swath of carless pavement in front.

Lots More Bike Lanes To Go
If only these great swaths were all connected. Too often they are not. Instead, you find an inconsistent mix of plain car-dominated street, narrow bicycle lane, or wide but pedestrian-filled sidewalk. Nevertheless, the traffic jams from the blooming cherry blossoms did a great job of calming traffic in the area so even the streets weren't that bad (for cyclists).

Police Escort: Really?
After cruising down by the Potomac riverfront a bit, a strange site appeared. It was yet another Metro Police car but, this time, it was helping cyclists. It pulled in front of the cars instead of us, then held the traffic at bay until we all got through. What a pleasant surprise.

Nationals Park Garage
As we rode past the Nationals Park baseball stadium, the ride leaders took a counter-intuitive turn into the adjacent parking garage. The garage did have its very own bicycle parking area on the first floor which is very cool. However, there was no way we'd all fit.

No worries. The ride leaders were just adding a bit of drama to the ride by taking us up to the roof for a spectacular sunset view of the stadium and surrounding area.

Bicycle Space made the whole experience even better with excellent tunes and with free popsicles for everyone. These guys are obviously professionals.

Once down from the roof, real darkness had set in but the light show was just beginning. We cruised down to the neighboring Yards Park.

Yards Park
At Yards Park, an elegant new foot bridge gleamed in the night. I was told the whole area there was only recently constructed so there weren't any restaurants open yet. It is already a great place to languish.

Capitol Finale
After Yards Park, it was time for the finale: the back of the Capitol. The front was a moving site in broad daylight during the Ride On Washington but approaching it at night was really spectacular. Again, the balmy temperature was perfect. You didn't care that it was getting late.

Once there, folks started circling in front of it. The collection of bicycle lights under the capitol created a dream-like vision. It truly beautiful and hopeful to see people spending their evenings this way instead of behind a bar, TV, or steering wheel. It was what Spaulding Gray might call a perfect moment. I was so happy to be a part of it.

After that, it was time to head home. Didn't find a bike lane on this road but it was all smiles on the way, nevertheless.

More D.C. photos: 
More ride photos:

P.S. Special thanks to Lisa, whom I met on this ride. You were a wealth of information about cycling and D.C.  It was a real pleasure to meet you. Thanks.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cycling Washington D.C.: Ride On Washington

First order of business while in D.C. for the National Bike Summit was to participate in the finale of Tim Johnson's Ride On WashingtonThis is a 500 mile journey from Boston to Washington D.C. to raise funds for Bikes Belong. Tim Johnson invites all comers to ride with him for the finale into Washington D.C. on the first day of the National Bike Summit. 

People Power
Last year, the "Occupy" demonstrations reignited, in many, a long lost passion for fundamental change to our economy and society.  The movement grabbed international attention just by forming stationary groups in points of political interest.

Bike Power
Since then, many have realized what many cyclists already knew: that cycling is a great instrument for affecting economic and social change. Even before any stimulus,  legislation, or demonstration, a single cyclist immediately diverts money spent on financing, maintaining and fueling a car to something more stimulating, economically or otherwise. Whenever many cyclists do this, people see dramatic improvements to health, community, and economy.

Powers Combined
Tim Johnson's Ride On Washington is a unique chance to illustrate both the power of assembly and the power of cycling, and do it right in front of national legislators. What better way to begin the National Bike Summit?

Starting the Finale
First though, I had to get to the start of the finale ride. It began 18 miles out in the D.C. suburb of College Park, MD. That should have been a piece of cake. Google Maps showed me a bicycle-friendly way to Proteus Bicycles: the shop hosting the start. I had 90 minutes to get there. No problem.

Bike Trouble
Unfortunately, my reassembly of my folding bike had my derailleur missing 12 out of 20 gears. Ugh!!!!  My 90 minutes was going fast.

Devlin and Jimmy at Rollin Cycles
Persevering, I tapped Google Maps once again for nearby bike shops. Thankfully, one was 2 blocks away. Many thanks to Jimmy and Devlin at Rollin Bicycles for fixing my derailleur in seconds, at no charge. Thanks to them, I was able to make it out in time for the finale. I wound up taking the metro out to Greenbelt but I made it. 

Proteus Bicycles
Proteus Cycles: start of the finale
When I got to College Park, I found the utterly charming Proteus bicycle shop. This place is a fabulous combination of cement floors, folksy signage, and old wall hangings that reflect many years focused on the fun of cycling. 

Proteus Bicycles: Ride On Washington
Today was no different. Proteus was throwing a party in Tim's honor and contributed lots of support for the ride. Many thanks to them for their part in making it a truly pleasant experience.

Cycling Group Grows As We Hit Town

The finale ride meandered pleasantly through the suburbs of D.C. picking up more cyclists along the way. I especially dug one rider's 2 foot high head dress. It makes me wonder how helmet laws reconcile helmets with religious head dress.

Cycling Pennsylvania Avenue
Capitol View
The real highlight for me was the experience of cycling down Pennsylvania avenue with the capital building in the background. It was truly a dream come true. What a sight: the capitol, the bike lane smack dab in the middle of the street, and all these cyclists showing their support for more lanes. It fills one with pride and excitement.

D.C. Police Support?
D.C's Finest?
That said, there were a few surprises on this ride. The first was the lack of police support. It is not uncommon for rides of this type to get a police escort to secure intersections until the entire group has passed. Instead, police were found parked in the middle of a separated bike lane, forcing our group to ride in the gutter, literally.

Where Was Everybody?
A Typical SF Critical Mass Turnout
Seeing a thousand cyclists congregate peacefully is a relatively common site these days. Casual "fun rides" often get great turnouts. Given:

  • the recent turnouts elsewhere 
  • the fact that Tim Johnson just knocked himself out for 500 miles to support cycling
  • the fact that 800+ passionate cycling advocates had just hit town
I had visions of a sea of cyclists filling the streets of D.C. so completely that even the most distracted government representative would have to take notice. 

Nevertheless, by last count, we had 100+. Granted, it was a Tuesday but it is still too bad that so many local cyclists and visiting advocates missed a great opportunity to show support for cycling on a national stage. They also missed a really fun ride.

Great Finish
Regardless, the ride had a great finish. Tim Blumenthal, President of Bikes Belong, and many others joined the ride using bikes from Capital Bikeshare no less. The weather couldn't have been much better. It was a great day and a great ride. I am very grateful to Tim and all the others who made it happen.

More D.C. photos: