Friday, October 29, 2010

Out of the box

photos © Bill Crandall

I love the idea of DC's first and only bike traffic lights at 16th and U Streets. The whole north and southbound configuration of contraflow lanes, the stopping point sensors, the signals themselves, the bike boxes - all very forward thinking and welcome.

It's also a disappointment, so far.

Of course I say this because I care, not to snark. The experience of using this setup, as I've done in all earnestness on a few occasions, can be confounding, unsettling, unpredictable, and devoid of that reassuring feeling I'm sure it could and should provide bikers. Occasionally the stars align and it works ok, but kind of by the skin of your teeth.

It's very important that it be improved. Failure or underachievement could be pointed to as a reason not to try it elsewhere in the District.

The contraflow lanes on New Hampshire Avenue coming from both directions are the best part. No real issues there. It's actually getting across the street by following the rules that is the problem.

Northbound, the sign explaining things to cyclists is pretty wordy and only slightly more accessible and sexy than an Ikea how-to manual.

If you position yourself dutifully at the stopping point, the bike traffic light itself is hard to see, across the street and somewhat obstructed. The timing is incredibly short, you need to be poised and ready. Once I missed it, then it didn't go green at all for three light cycles, even though I was right over the center of the sensors.

When it does change, and you don't miss a beat, you will often be greeted with this as you approach the bike box.

Ok, so I made it across (which required some shouting to make sure the bus driver saw me, he kept creeping up), now to try southbound. Signage is much cleaner, though a few bikers waited in vain well off to the side of the sensors, before eventually bailing out and going their own way.

First try across, hello Mr. Driver, whoopsie.

Second time all worked ok. So a reasonably happy ending.
Though it's sad how few cyclists seem to use all this as instructed. Who can blame them? When I did this experiment, I often felt like the sucker, getting nowhere. Unfortunately it seems simply easier, safer, and faster to improvise and use the normal signals and crosswalks.

DDOT, any 2.0 upgrades planned soon? I made my observations on a weekend, anyone know how things fare during normal rush hour?


update - response from Jim Sebastian, DDOT's Bicycle Program Manager:

Yes, we are aware of some of the shortcomings of the 16th and U intersection. We may make some short term changes, but there are 2 things going on this:

1) This is part of an approved experiment and we don't want to change too much before we do the evaluation.
2) The street, including this intersection will be reconstructed soon. We hope to incorporate what we've learned into that.

The data collection is ongoing, and the results should be available in the spring.

- Jim

James R. Sebastian
Supervisory Transportation Planner
Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Transportation Demand Management Programs
Policy and Planning and Sustainability Administration
District Department of Transportation

Thursday, October 28, 2010

CaBi update

From a Capital Bikeshare blast today:

The last day for the introductory price of $50 for an annual membership is October 31st. After October 31st, the price will be $75.

Capital Bikeshare, which launched in mid-September is already a huge success. Within a month of launching:

•  membership has grown to more than 3,500
•  100 stations have been installed
•  averaging more than 1,000 rides per day

Sure I'll promote them. It's basically city-sponsored citizen cycling!

photo © Bill Crandall

Connecticut Ave and Calvert St

I always wonder who keeps ol' Marilyn touched up over the years. The mural hovering demurely over Woodley Park has been there as long as I can remember.

photo © Bill Crandall

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

Cycling cities, that is. London and New York. Interesting read, by a guy who writes about biking for the Guardian.

Breezer Citizen

Today's City Zen Cyclist is Larry, proudly displaying his wheels (a Breezer Citizen, available locally) next to the Petworth bikeshare station in front of Sweet Mango Cafe. He said he commutes everyday from Petworth to Georgetown and all over downtown. Likes the upright riding, chainguard etc. His friend in the middle was saying, I like those Dutch frames.

photos © Bill Crandall

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

18th St and Columbia Rd

Slow and easy does it. She had a nice air of coexistence in her ride, if that makes sense. Going with the flow, fitting into the city.

photo © Bill Crandall

We're number six!

Found this good recent BBC article, which focuses on Washington DC:

Jim Sebastian, head of Washington DC's bicycle and pedestrian programme, says his goal is to make the nation's capital "one of the most bike friendly cities in the country".

"This is something that's clean, healthy, efficient," he said. "People are demanding it. It's going to bring people to the city and keep people in the city."

Great to see the explicit link between cycling and the vitality of the city itself.

According to a sidebar stat in the article, the US census bureau ranks Washington DC sixth in the country in terms of number of cycling commuters, at 2.3 percent. Seems like a pitiful number compared to the likes of Copenhagen, where upwards of 30 percent bike to work. But not hopelessly far behind Portland OR (5.9 percent) in the top spot, and well above the US average of .5 percent.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Number one with a Bullitt

I think it's the first Bullitt-style cargo bike I've seen in DC.

photo © Bill Crandall

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bike of the Day - Electra Amsterdam

A few years ago, the Electra Amsterdam is what got me back on a bicycle after, I don't know, 25 years off. I knew the Dutch formula suited me - chainguard/fenders/rear skirt, upright not hunched over - and the Electra was (and still is) one of the few Dutch-style bikes that you can go out and buy in the DC area.

I bought mine at Big Wheel Bikes in Bethesda and rode it home to Petworth via the somewhat rough Bethesda-Silver Spring stretch of the Capital Crescent Trail. Hot day and first day back on a bike in a long time, so that was kind of a fun mistake... but I made it ok. You don't forget how to ride a bike, but you do sort of forget the exhilaration of it.

The Amsterdam is definitely elegance over speed, and very comfortable, but frankly sucks on major uphills (or maybe I suck on major uphills... anyway, I don't mind walking it whenever). But their so-called 'flat foot' design means the seat is shifted slightly back and lower so you're closer to the ground. Which is nice, I felt perched pretty high on the first few bikes I tried.

If you get the Classic 3i (shown, they also have an 8-speed), you'll want to add a front handbrake, it comes with coaster brake only. They also make a step-through women's version, here's an interesting review by a local citizen cyclist.

Here's mine parked in Adams Morgan when I was shooting for this blog one evening.

photo © Bill Crandall

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 DC Tweed Ride

This year's DC Tweed Ride is on for Sunday, November 14th. Hop on your retro bike, don some tweed, and join the Dandies and Quaintrelles for their annual ride. If you need inspiration for proper attire, here are portraits of some of last year's riders. A Washington Post recap of the 2009 ride is here.

Strangely, I don't see info anywhere about exactly where and when to meet, or about the route (I know last year it started on H Street NE and finished with rousing drinks and hobnobbing at Marvin at 14th and U). Maybe I'm missing something, or there's an element of mystery at play here. How Victorian! (Edwardian?)

For a warmup, the D's and Q's also have a retro bike event happening this Friday night as part of ZestFest, 2nd and L Street in the NOMA area.

I have to say, normally I'm not into retro for retro's sake, but I just watched the video and it looks like an awesome time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

16th and U St

16th and U has DC's first bike traffic signal, making it kind of a bike crossroads for commuters. More on that in a future post. This one's as much about the nice architecture as the citizen cyclist. Just as urban biking is as much about the city itself.

photo © Bill Crandall

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


So simple and quaint. I'd love to see one of these bike lifts on Porter or Tilden St, coming up out of Rock Creek Park. Or 15th Street northbound next to Meridian Hill Park. Others?

I know, dreaming (and half-kidding), but can't hurt... It's like one of those motorized rails that carry elderly people up stairs in their wheelchairs. Ok, wrong PR image for bikers.

Does something like this exist anywhere else in the world?

The color of envy

Mapping Your NYC Bike Commute from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

The trademark green of some NYC bike lanes, that is.

Wow, just when you thought DC was doing well with bike lanes etc, New York comes along at full steam and makes DC look kind of lacking. I was in NY recently and noticed a lot of bikes in Manhattan. They are doing amazing, innovative things, even in the boroughs, to get bikers feeling safe even on longer commutes. Tons of protected lanes. And ridership is booming as a result. Build it and they will come, indeed. Check out the above really well-done video by Streetfilms. (Um, yes, found on Copenhagenize... as usual...)


While on the subject of cargo bikes, A Parisian Cyclist blog has a couple of nice posts with recent pics of 'porteur' bikes around the city. Titled in Dutch, interestingly. So this is an American blog reposting French blog posts with Dutch titles. Just to get it straight.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bike of the Day - Globe cargo bike

Today's bike of the day is a cool Globe bike I passed by recently. What stood out was the giant cargo-style front rack, plus the chainguard, fenders, and overall tasteful styling. Slight wrap-back handlebars let you be somewhat more upright. It had a City Bikes sticker on it and sure enough they do sell this model.

photos © Bill Crandall

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bikeshare map

I posted a cool map in the sidebar, showing real-time bikeshare usage in DC. You can also compare to a number of other cities' systems.

Friday, October 15, 2010

14th and Irving St

She may have been biking in a skirt and heels, but she was really motoring down Irving Street. A brief but eloquent pause. Then just like that, she was long gone.

photos © Bill Crandall

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'Lycra is killing urban cycling'

Usually I wouldn't scavenge from the same source twice in a day (or even week), but this on Copenhagenize was too good, about getting more Aussies to bike.

Some of my best friends wear lycra. Of course I get why it makes sense for a certain style of riding. But here are few key bits that get to the core of the citizen cycling concept:

"[...] the actions of some people riding bicycles were sometimes seen as negative, and the lycra-clad image of cyclists put some people off because they didn't identify with it or thought it a turn-off."

"A more mainstream image of everyday cycling might appeal to non-riders who can't see themselves wearing lycra or being fit enough to be a cycling athlete."


"Cycling, and especially cycling for transport, is not yet seen as a mainstream activity in Sydney. Encouraging more people to ride bicycles for short trips wearing regular clothes, without the need for specialised clothing or equipment, will improve and normalise the image of cycling."

14th and U St

Evening reflection, outside Marvin restaurant.

photo © Bill Crandall

Sydney can be saved

Good summary on Copenhagenize about a Portland bike advocate speaking in Sydney. So it's a Dane writing about an American's vision for citizen cycling in Australia. Nicely cosmopolitan.

The man responsible for transforming Portland in the United States into a bike-friendly city says the same can be done for Sydney [...]

Vancouver can-do


How do we make our car-oriented cities friendlier to cyclists? Look north. Over the past few years, Vancouver has been steadily reclaiming space on its busy streets for bikes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On street bike parking

Last week, for the first time, the city created on-street bicycle parking. 23 high-demand spots around town got protected bike racks.

Glad and impressed to see 11th St and Park Rd in Columbia Heights was included, actually getting the new parking on two opposite corners. The new businesses there (as well as a bit further down the street) have really brought that strip alive in the last few years. It's become a destination in the evenings, and increased biking means all those patrons won't have to displace residents' parking.

photos © Bill Crandall

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bikes on board

From Prince of Petworth - a new bus service between U Street DC and Brooklyn NY (via Penn Station) advertises onboard bike storage, allowing you to bring your bike with you to New York.

TheKnowIt Express launches October 22nd.

Bike of the Day - Schwinn 2010 World NX7

Great to see even old Schwinn getting on the citizen cycling bandwagon.

The chainguard revolution is on!

I would assume this one is fairly easy to find locally, as opposed to some of the Euro-brand eye candy I've been posting so far. How is the Schwinn quality these days?

Vincent Gray and DC bike lanes

What does presumed mayor-to-be Vincent Gray think about bike lanes?

At his first town hall meeting recently he was asked about transportation-related issues. According to the Greater Greater Washington website:

He said we need more bike lanes, but that they should be planned in concert with affected residents. The [pro-Gray] crowd hardly reacted to Gray's transportation plans, but it erupted in applause when he said that people shouldn't wake up to find parking spaces on their street replaced by a bike lane without prior knowledge. [full article here]

Hard to know what to make of this loaded comment. Will every bike lane require a community meeting? Does 'prior knowledge' mean notification, or community approval block-by-block? Are 'affected residents' just those who live along a proposed lane? How about those affected positively by using it? And I can't imagine bike lanes somehow replacing neighborhood parking, so I have to assume that was just an applause line, hitting what is obviously a raw nerve in people who feel ignored in the city's hard push for progressive changes. But if that's Gray's idea of a crowd-pleaser, I'm a little worried. Or maybe he only means the community will get some say in certain cases, like if their parking is to be infringed? (In that case, it would actually be a shrewdly finessed comment, pleasing his base with a scenario that would never rarely actually happen.)

Gray has also called the new bike lanes down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue "ludicrous".

On the other hand, this article gives some hope (amid mixed signals) that Gray will continue at least some of the new urbanism progress of his predecessor.

The jury is still out, but personally I really do want to give the guy a chance, and bike lanes are hardly the most important issue facing the city. But as it reflects his broader sensibility, all of this makes me (and plenty of others) a little nervous about losing momentum on the livable city front.

I've been hearing that Gray is a good guy - sensible, intelligent, and actually progressive in many ways (he's no Marion Barry to be sure). I have a hard time believing Gray wants to go backwards, or could even if he wanted to.

Probably he's decided that you can't (and shouldn't, in his view) continue the District's recent changes indefinitely if the majority population feels, rightly or wrongly, like 'progress' is being rammed down their throats.

Perhaps a more diplomatic, inclusive touch means you can get 90 percent of the same things done, but without the backlash. That's what I'm guessing, hope I'm right. That could be a good thing, everybody on board. Or it could mean slowdown-by-consensus in a city that - despite its world-class aspirations - still has provincial tendencies at times.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Girl About Town

Plenty of citizen cyclists out and about on this warm fall Sunday. But I only had eyes for one - my daughter, cruising through a late day shaft of light (and somehow knowing to toss me a little smile at the right moment).

This morning in the car, she had insisted on hearing The Jam's Boy About Town over and over. She got some of the lyrics down pat, but of course changed it to girl about town. I guess that set the tone, we were out using the city all day...

photo © Bill Crandall

Bike of the Day - Batavus Old Dutch Step Through

Available at Adeline Adeline in New York. From their website:

An authentic Dutch bicycle, straight from the source: a century-old, environmentally-conscious company in the Netherlands.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

More 18th Street, Adams Morgan

AKA, There and Back Again Lane. Walking it northbound, past Tryst coffeehouse. Same girl, cruising southbound a few minutes later.

photos © Bill Crandall

If it's how you roll...

... DCC is now on Twitter, @dcitizencycling. Sorry if I don't do all the Twitter stuff right, just getting into it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

18th Street, Adams Morgan

So cool, he had such a stately bearing. Talk about ride-as-you-are. But wish I had gotten more of his hat.

photo © Bill Crandall

Bike of the day - Velorbis Dannebrog

This type of classic bicycle is called everything from a sit-up-and-beg bicycle, a vintage bicycle and a retro style bicycle, to an 'Omafiets' - (Granny bike in Dutch). In some countries the most common term is a commuter bike, utility bike or an upright bike. The most popular European term is the 'Dutch Bike´ or 'Dutch style bicycle'; a generic term used to describe typically a two-wheeled, utilitarian bicycle, with mudguards or fenders, a rear carrier or rack, relaxed loop frame or geometry, an upright seating position and generally an ‘old-time’ look reminiscent of the early 20th century. It is a style of bike you will find all over Northern Europe, from bicycle friendly cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, to Hamburg, Stockholm and Oslo.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Even the Nordics have to fight for their bike lanes

From the website of Vancouver-based Jorg&Olif:

Artists in Helsinki have come up with an ingenious way to get more cycle lanes into the city; they created their own. The art collective Länsiväylä turned Helsinki’s longest street, Hämeentie, into both a work of art and a powerful campaign.




The whole Flickr set is here. Check out Jorg&Olif's Dutch-style bikes here.

14th St and Florida Ave

This guy's got the idea. Dutch/upright bike, check. Riding in his regular clothes, check. Helmet, no problem with that. Using the bike lane, check.

Waiting patiently for the traffic light to change, sweet.

photo © Bill Crandall

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On helmets (or off)

Many people (riders or not) in the US have a zero-sum kind of attitude towards bike helmets - helmet good, no helmet stupid. I think the reality for slow, urban riding is far more complex and frankly there's a fine case for going without.

In case you missed it (as I did), here's an articulate post on the topic by James Schwartz over on The Urban Country.

To which I would only add:  yeah, what he said. I personally don't wear a helmet, and James does a great job explaining the rationale. If you wear a helmet, that's great if that suits you, power on.

More on CaBi

Another nice thing about the CaBi system is how it's not ugly. Personally I find the Vélib' bikes attractive, but boy some of the other cities' fleets are surprisingly tacky. DC was smart to make the color scheme match that of the public transit (well, the Circulator buses at least), so that it feels like part of the transportation network. And no ads, thank god!

Positive press starting to come over the wire.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sharing is caring

DC's great new Capital Bikeshare system seems to be doing well. Perhaps still an intriguing yet puzzling concept to some. Personally I think it fits well into the citizen cycling model, get-on-and-go.

photos © Bill Crandall

Monday, October 4, 2010

Watch the furniture, though

Good item today over on Copenhagenize, about a campaign by that city's health department. Good way to address the reflexive fear some people have about getting on a bike.

As noted in the post - "Appropriate message in a city saturated with cycling. In Emerging Bicycle Cultures, it is always better to highlight the basic facts that appeal to homo sapiens, like A2Bism and quicker transport through our cities. With all that said, this is an important poster in that finally SOMEONE is countering all the negative branding that cycling is suffering..."

I'd say Washington DC is an Emerging Bicycle Culture. Or rather, there is an existing old-guard bike culture dominated by pant straps, helmets, toe-clips, spandex, courier-types, off-roaders, etc. All the stuff that has its own logic but can be off-putting to those considering biking as a practical, elegant, everyday means of getting around.

Within that are tender shoots of citizen cycling, cycle chic (or whatever you want to call it) visible here and there, that just need a little care and watering.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Warriors! Come out to play-ay!

Though the upsurge in adult cyclists in the U.S. began in the 1980s, neither the road designs nor the culture have fully adjusted to that fact. "It's a huge contrast to Europe, where drivers most frequently wave, and where I've never seen the behavior I see here," said one Annapolis cyclist.

Astute bit from a Washington Post article today (actually about helpful new bike laws in Maryland) which I won't even link to, because it's too damn depressing. The usual grim cyclists battling for space among DC's marauding road-ragers. Oh yeah, that'll get new butts in bike seats...

Sure, I know it's at least part of the reality, but not the reality we're singing about here. Find that somewhere else and wallow in it.

Citizen Cycling is about a better model of what could and should be - and occasionally even is. While the physical landscape slowly catches up, Citizen Cycling as a different, holistic approach to riding can actually cure many of the woes of the North American urban bike-warrior.

I'm just saying, it doesn't have to be all fear and loathing for the sake of speed. There's another way.

[Ed. note - alright, who gets the reference in the title?]

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bicycle Thievery

In Adams Morgan this evening, ran into old friend Eric Hilton, citizen cyclist - perhaps better known as half of DC's famed electronica duo Thievery Corporation.

photos © Bill Crandall