Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gotta Love a Parade

On Friday after Thanksgiving, several of our bike committee members met up to ride in the annual Christmas parade welcoming Santa to our Town Center. Fortunately, we didn't have to be there until 10:30 -- enough time for the world to warm up. Even so, I dressed in a bunch of layers!

Since our community is getting a new subway stop in 2014 (was supposed to here already, but that's another story), the theme was "Destination Reston."  Our Homeowners Assn built a float with a metro car on it, pulled by one of the HOA trucks. In addition, we had pedestrians and 4.5 bicyclists.  Craig was the "tourist" on his recumbent bike. Burton was the "businessman" commuting on his foldable bike.  Amber and her daughter were the "parent and child" bike riders (her daughter on the tagalong being the .5)
 and I was the "lady who shops."  I used my older bike and filled the baskets with plastic bags for a (lightweight) base. On top of that I had a poinsettia plant, a loaf of bread, and a bottle (empty) of sparkling cider. On the other side I had a yoga mat and a stuffed dog.  The kids loved the dog.  I filled my front basket with bike maps that I gave away along the route. It was a lot of fun. Several women asked me where to get those baskets -- so I think the point was made! You CAN shop by bike!

Yes, we are OFFICIALLY a bronze level "Bicycle Friendly Community"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Ride

Having carefully prepared a timing plan that had jobs for everyone in the house, I left this morning at 8:15 to go lead a Reston Thanksgiving Family Bike Ride. The ride converges on our Town Center from four areas of Reston.

We were to meet up at the Dunkin' Donuts at the Hunters Woods Shopping Center between 8:45 and 9. From there we would ride up to the Reston Town Center, about 3 miles.

I left early because it was really cold (28 degrees) and I wanted to make sure I was able to get the creaking bones moving!  Not really - I was worried about ice. Sure enough, there was ice on each of the bridges across our paved paths, but I just went slow and straight through. There was one place on the path, though, that I got off the bike and walked on the side because I could see the black ice glistening across the entire way. I was on my road bike with skinny tires, so that could have been treacherous.

I waited at Dunkin Donuts, HEROICALLY resisting going inside, until 9:10.  Since no one showed, I returned home just in time to resume my 'chief cook' duties and stick the turkey in the oven. I think my husband was a little bit sad to no longer be indispensable to the meal...but he relinquished the oven mitts graciously. He's happy to just do clean-up ... you know, cleaning the food off the plate in front of him?  (Seriously though, he pulls the turkey out, carves, and does actual clean-up, so he's more important than he thinks).

So, here's a terrible photo of me (a selfie) at Dunkin Donuts.  The sun was in my eyes, and I was in about 4 layers, but proof that I EARNED my turkey and pumpkin pie this year.

I will say that the turkey and everything turned out to be great.  The only bad thing was the gravy.  I don't seem to be able to master gravy -- but since I'm the only one in the family who likes it, it isn't a huge loss. It sure is a lot of trouble for just me, but I hate failing at something so "simple"...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Unrecorded Saddle Time

This was an interesting week to ride! I led a ride on Tuesday with a new friend, Vanessa.  She came from the West, another from the East, and I from the South and we met at one of my favorite places, Green Lizard Bike & Coffee Shop.  After dosing ourselves with the hot caffeinated stuff, we headed east on the W&OD.  We went as far as the I-495 bride since I wanted the new friend to see how far she could get via the trail! This was on my road bike.

Then we headed back and oh, my, goodness.  HEADWINDS.  We fought our way back to Vienna where Susan peeled off. I stayed with Vanessa back to the Reston Town Center, and then she headed on up the trail home.

Felt very wind-whipped when I got home, and had ridden about 38 miles at about 13 mph.

On Thursday I met up with a friend to bike and cache.  We found Stage 1 of a multi-stage.  We were stymied by Stage 2 and decided to get warm and coffee'd instead!  Since I was carrying my caching gear, I took my Bianchi that day. It was fun but I was glad we didn't go too far.

Friday I went to pick up college girl and today I've been working on Exchange student stuff.  The temps are dropping and the winds are high, so it's a good day to NOT ride!

Bought a bread maker and have been indulging all of us with fresh loaves.  Ymmm. I'm trying to not think about all the cooking I'll be doing next Thursday...maybe if I shape some bread like a turkey they'll let me off the hook?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Sad Story Gets Sadder

In April 2013, a world-class athlete was commuting to work by bicycle in King George County, Virginia. Following all the riding rules, he had a helmet, was visible, and was keeping to the right. Nonetheless, a woman driving a Crown Victoria hit him.

Because this athlete was in superb physical condition, he survived the accident. However, since that day he has been in a coma and has been moved to long term care.

Last week, the woman who nearly killed him faced the traffic court judge.  Despite the police officer's very able testimony and photos, and despite the testimony of a witness, the woman who ruined the athlete's life received 10 days in jail (suspended), and $250 fine.

The officer testified that at the scene she admitted she hit him. Yet, she pled "not guilty".  Further, the officer testified that he asked for her cell phone and verified that at the time of the accident she had sent a text.

Here's where it gets really disheartening.

The prosecutor subpoenaed the cell phone records.  The records for April were erased. The prosecutor did not follow through to subpoena those records from the woman's service provider, which would have corroborated the police officer's testimony, and made it possible to pursue a more serious charge.

My friend, who was a teammate of this athlete in Adventure Racing, was at the hearing and reported that at best, the prosecutor seemed unprepared. As a former prosecutor, I listened to the description and thought "incompetent." The athlete's parents came down from Buffalo, NY to observe this travesty of justice. The woman who nearly killed their son, and might as well have done so, never spoke to them, never expressed any sadness or remorse. She just paid her fine and left.

So, world class athlete Scott Pleban lies in the twilight of life for however long his body continues. Ironically, at the time he was hit by this selfish, incompetent, texting driver, he was a cover story for Orienteering North America (May/June 2013), skiing for the US at the World Championships in Kazakhstan.

When will local jurisdictions -- from police officers, to prosecutors, to judges, take injury to bicyclists seriously and prosecute as if it matters?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why The Rage?

On my way home from church today, I started down a hill near my house. The speed limit here is 30 and near the base of the hill is a crosswalk that goes from a largely subsidized housing development across to the only 7-11 in the area. This route also happens to lead from the high school towards my house so I travel it often and know that pedestrians entering this crosswalk are often unpredictable.  Sure enough, I saw pedestrians approaching the crosswalk, so I stopped to allow them to cross safely.

Oh my goodness. You would have thought, from the guy in the car behind me, that I had committed a federal crime in stopping to wait for a more vulnerable user of the traffic infrastructure. This guy behind me actually honked his horn, furious that I had stopped.

It doesn't end there.

After the pedestrians crossed safely, I resumed travel. This guy (am I allowed to say he was in a silver Mercedes?) roared around me up the hill -- crossing a double yellow line on a two-lane road, aggression and hostility pouring out all over the asphalt. I know this road well and know there are often people crossing near the top -- out of view of the drivers coming up the hill (and where there's no crosswalk).  There are bike lanes on this hill, but a right turn lane emerges at the top. If a pedestrian had been crossing up there, or if a cyclist had been in the bike lane as the right turn lane opened up, I think there would have been a tragedy. When he reached the top of the hill (about 5 seconds before me), he flew right at the 4 way stop without stopping.

I don't know what causes this kind of anger. I do know it is very dangerous when someone is driving 2 tons of steel. He wasn't angry at me as a cyclist (although I did have the bike rack on the car, so who knows what was going through his mind?)

But here's the point. I know he was exceptional. This kind of driving behavior does NOT happen in my neighborhood often. So unlike those who express outrage at the cycling community for the affronts (perceived and actual) committed by a few, I will see this for what it is -- a jerk that happened to be having a bad day.

I will not ascribe to "every other motorist" the same poor behavior choices this driver made. I will not call for a ban on traffic lanes through this stretch since this one driver chose to be a jerk. I will not say things like "no driver has a right to take away my peaceful ride/walk/drive." I'll chalk it up to a guy who needs an anger management class.

And I'll keep my eyes open for this particular silver Mercedes traveling around my normal riding zones.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lotsa Saddle Time

Yesterday I met up with a new rider with Babes on Bike and we headed west on the W&OD. The weather was perfect -- just cool enough. Just west of Leesburg we left the trail and headed through the countryside on 2 lane roads.  Fortunately, Vanessa was familiar with them. Unfortunately, one of them had a KILLER hill.  Oh my goodness. There were other hills which I managed, but that one was a bear. And here I thought I was in shape.

We rejoined the trail and headed back east. By the time I got back to where I had left my car (I had come from a meeting), I had ridden 38 miles. This is the elevation change:

We rode from Mile 24 to about 38, then did major hills, came back to the trail at 41 and then headed east. You see that arrow that says "highest elevation Clark's Gap" -- the road we were riding on was Clarke's Gap Road.  Yeah...I pretty much came home and collapsed.

This was our route if you want to see it:

Today I rode my older bike 5.7 miles to Herndon where I helped with a Boy Scout geocaching outing. It was fun and an easy ride after yesterday! The boys meet at a nearby Episcopal church. It is one of the most beautifully, and natural-looking landscaped church properties I've been on.

Can you believe this tree STILL has these beautiful leaves?
On the grounds of a church, so perhaps someone is praying for them to last...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Confident City Cycling - the Extreme Version

Our regional advocacy group offers a course called, "Confident City Cycling."  I took it earlier this year and it was informative, but I didn't think riding in the city was all that challenging . . .

Okay, I was wrong!

Yesterday I decided to meet up and take a ride with some friends I'd "met" through a Women & Bicycles group on Facebook. We are all somehow connected through the Washington, DC area, and mostly through the aforementioned regional advocacy group, WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association).

We wanted to ride the entire "Metropolitan Branch Trail." Sounded good to me, to ride a new trail? What I didn't realize is that very little of it is ACTUALLY a trail.

I drove from my house to the nearest Metro stop. (I actually backed out of the driveway before I realized I'd forgotten the bike!). I parked near the trail in that town, and then jumped on my bike to head towards the city. I had cleaned out my car earlier in the weekend so instead of the cycling jacket I thought I'd find, I had only a heavy winter coat. Since it was about 47 degrees, I wore the coat.

At the 5 mile point I realized I needed to get on the Metro so I rode into a station and hopped on. Fortunately, it was a holiday schedule so bikes were allowed on the train during rush hours. Unfortunately, some of the people going to work didn't realize that and were a little bit grumpy about sharing the space with me. Kind of like sharing the road...

Finally got to Silver Spring station and hopped out to meet Liz and Ursula. Jessica soon joined us and off we went. Thank goodness Ursula knew where she was going!

There was one part of the trail that had an awesome view of the Capitol, although this is not my photo it is what I saw:

At Fort Totten (one of the original forts around DC that were placed to protect the Federal City during the Civil War), we picked up Andrea, one of the bright idea women who had suggested the ride.

We stopped to look at the trail info -- it will eventually be a dedicated use trail according to this board -- but who knows when that will happen?

Andrea, Liz, Ursula, and Jessica

We continued down to the Union Station area where the trail terminates and went to Ebenezer's Coffeehouse-- Coffee with a Cause.

Jessica, Andrea, Liz, Me, and Ursula

After laughing and talking WAY TOO long, everyone realized they needed to get moving. We all went different ways except for Liz and me as she led me a merry chase across DC.  We had to get from Union Station, EAST of the Capitol to Key Bridge, Northwest of the same. It was "up and over"...and this is when the extreme City Cycling came in. Liz kept asking me if I was okay, and I was. As long as she was confident, I was. The biggest challenge was in Georgetown where the traffic was backed up. But, it's hard for a car to kill you when they're only going about 8 miles per hour when they're even moving.

It was a big relief to get back to Virginia and start riding. I rode about 5 miles and then hopped the Metro back to Vienna. Then hopped the bike to where my car was parked, and then pretty much collapsed into my car for the drive home.

Tired last night but happy. Very happy. I LOVE to try new rides, as long as I'm with someone else so at least one of us can call 911 if necessary!

How did you spend Veteran's Day?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Not Wanting to Admit This

I rode 38 miles today - about 24 of that was with the Babes on Bikes. It was a perfect biking day, weather-wise. But tonight, I am tired. DOG tired. In fact, at 6:30 after we finished eating dinner I looked at the clock and WILLED it to be later because it was too early to collapse in my bed yet.

On the other hand, I am so grateful. I got to ride on a perfect bike day along the Potomac River, viewing the monuments and memorials, as if they were ordinary. Some people save for years for the chance to come see the city of Washington, to walk in the footsteps of people they admire. I can take it all in stride as local color.

So, thank you God for my husband's job, for our home, for good schools for our kids, for my bike and for my health.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy so I can justify staying inside and recovering!

Now it's almost 8, so I can power down.  Whew.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Can We Talk About Something Else?

Yesterday was our Bike Summit. It was very well attended and there were a lot of good conversations. Yes, we were largely preaching to the choir, as everyone there was already involved in bicycling in some fashion. The gain was that now the members of the choir have gotten to know each other and perhaps are beginning to sing in harmony.

Now, (to belabor a metaphor), can we discuss the conductors of the bicycle advocacy choir?

Please, let's STOP talking about how much better off we would be in this country if we would just adopt the Netherlands or Copenhagen as our standard for cycling.

Folks, it aint.gonna.happen.

We are NOT Denmark or the Netherlands. Our population needs and demographics are different and we should not apologize for that or try to conform our differences into their conformity! We are bold, vivacious and out there. While we can look to them for good ideas, ultimately, American cycling is going to be something different that works for us. Heck, it will be different in New York City than it will be in Savannah, Georgia, or Houston, Texas, or Berkeley, California. We are a big dukin' country with a lot of variety.

Everytime I've gotten together with cycling advocates in the last year there's been a lot of talk about embracing one another. You know, the whole "you don't have to wear spandex," or "mountain biking is good, too" or "we love bike commuting." Kum-by-yah and all that.

In working with local schools to encourage kids biking to school, I've come to understand that each school has its own culture. It starts with the draw of the kids -- the sociological demographics that feed into that school. It is massaged by the parents' level of involvement, and finally, it lives or dies by the attitude of the principal. What works at a school that has 80% bussed kids won't work at a school that 85% walkers and vice versa. But each school, if it is lucky, gets one or two parents who are passionate about kids walking and biking, and with a little magic and a lot of determination, the school culture can evolve.

So why do we beat ourselves up that we're "not like Amsterdam or Copenhagen?"  We AREN'T either one of those places with the demographics of their populations. And it's okay for us to develop a culture that works for us, whether it's in Washington, DC, Montgomery County, Arlington or Fairfax. We all bike, we all support biking, and we should all support each other.

I'm finished now. I'll leave you with one of the reasons I bike. I took this today and could get this shot, stopped on top of the dam, because I was on my bike. I couldn't have stopped if I'd been in my car
-- there's no place to do so.