Posts Tagged 'cycling'

Possibilites of Cycling

Not right now for me, since my bike is still stuck on my balcony.  It will be unstuck soon- has to be, I’m moving in a month- and I’ll be riding it.  There have been many new cycling developments in the last few weeks.  For instance, Biking Person, my new landlord, has already shown me (threatened me with) the best cycling route to our current workplace.  This was aided by Google maps, which now has a filter to show you the best biking path from place to place.  It’s not right as often as driving directions and I find that “bikable path” is a highly subjective term so grain of salt and double-check.  I’d die on the path he showed me though.  I’m terrible at cycling on real streets.  I don’t know what to look or listen for, and I’m constantly nervous.  But he also pointed me to a free class by the Washington Area Bicycle Association, on exactly that- beginner and intermediate cycling on real streets.  The next one is Saturday at 1, and then again April 15th at 6.

Great idea, hunh?  And I’m finding out just in time.  But DC is trying to make it easier for cyclists in the city by opening larger bike lanes soon, on some major thoroughfares.  Check it- the link gives you maps and some renderings. The first one down Pennsylvania Ave.’s median should be done in May.

Biggest news, though- the Secretary of Transportation announced last week that walking and biking are just as important kinds of transportation as driving a car, and that his department will treat them as such, from now on.

Take a minute to consider that.  Some people just live too far from their destinations to have the option of foot or bike transport.  But most of the time, it’s just not safe to get on the roads where cars have all the power and space, even if the grocery or work aren’t that far away.

According to that Wired article, it means that federally funded projects- with stimulus money, that’s lots- have to include many modes of transportation.  That’s bike access and crossing points, safe spaces for pedestrians, new bikeways…

Where would you not drive if you could walk or bike safely and conveniently? I’d like to be able to bike to the metro.  Right now it involves several rough intersections, crossing under a highway, and no bike lanes on any available road.  It’s much easier (though with the bike path assaults, not safer) to bike to the metro 40 minutes away than the one that should be 10 minutes away.

All these changes aren’t getting my bike off the balcony, though.  Dah.

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How To Start Biking To Work

This isn’t going to work for everybody, but if you live within biking distance (and in the vein of Stephen Wright, anywhere’s biking distance, if you’ve got the time) and have a place to de-sweat at or near your work, you can bike to work.  Here’s what you need to get started.

1) A good map of bike-friendly routes in the area.  Alexandria’s is here.  The rest of the Greater DC region can be found here.  If you don’t have a safe bike trail or wide streets or a dedicated bike lane, you can substitute nerves of steel and ride on regular streets.

2) Know your traffic safety laws for bikes.  Here are Virginia’s.

3) Get a few pieces of gear.  You need, minimum, a bike, a lock, and a helmet.  Check out used bike shops and Craigslist.

For safety reasons, you’ll also want to have reflectors, a headlight (white LED light), a blinking taillight (red LEDs), a tire pressure gauge and tire pump, and a basic set of tools for changing tires (patches, those wedge doohickies you pull off the tire and tube with).  This stuff can generally be found at a big box place, but you’ll get good (if rabid) advice from a local bike shop.  Things will be more expensive there, of course, so weigh your wallet vs. the benefits of supporting local shops.

Second-tier useful bike stuff: a car bike rack, in case you need to be picked up sometime.  A basket or under-seat baggie or panniers for carrying your bags around.  A padded seat cover, self-explanatory after a bumpy ride.

4) FInd a helpful cyclist.  Maybe someone at your work rides in, or one of your friends is handy with bikes.  Talk to them, get their advice, and maybe even take them gear shopping with you.

Not sure if you know a cyclist?  Do you know anyone with really well-developed thighs?  Do you know anyone who’s oddly comfortable with spandex?  How about helmet hair?  Look for clues like these.

It’s a pretty simple program, and it works for me. Any other tips, cyclists?


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