Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Drip Dry Mode: After Irene and the Earthquake

Ok, now that we've dealt with an earthquake and a hurricane (and we're still tracking power outages and restoration efforts at work in the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center) I can get back to some bike-centric stuff.

I managed to squeeze in a bike ride on the Capital Crescent Trail yesterday morning, and it was beautiful. But just north (or is it northwest?) of the trail's mile marker 9, cyclists ran into a tree across the trail. What struck me was how cyclists just quietly ported their bikes over the tree, often helping out the guy behind them. I think had this been the situation on the Beltway, we would have seen dashboard-pounding and heard horns honking. Maybe it's because when you're on a bike, you do have more control, so people don't immediately default to nutty, cranky behavior. But it was nice.

That is not to say I don't see plenty of problem behaviors by cyclists on the trail. There are still too many folks who come way too close to your tail before either calling out 'on your left' or ringing a bell to signal the same. And too many folks intent on passing at all costs--failing to leave enough room between the cyclist or pedestrian ahead of them and any oncoming 'traffic'. I see it all the time. And sadly, it's putting people off. Just recently, a friend of mine who'd like to augment her running asked me about biking on the trail but expressed the fear that she'd be flattened--not by traffic on streets getting to the trail, but on the trail, by the type of cyclist I can only refer to as "Mr. Angry-Lycra-Pants". 

To be fair, I have had inconsiderate female riders cut me off-- once so sharply that I ended up having to brake so hard I skidded and went down while she sailed off without a single backward glance--but guys, I hate to say it, it's often a "Mr." wearing the title "Angry-Lycra-Pants". Look, I hate being stuck in a  pack of slow riders. I don't like it when people hog the whole trail walking or riding side by side. And I'm no fan of the folks who walk along oblivious while yapping into a cell phone. (To me trail time is alone-time). 

I like an early morning ride on the trail to get a chance to open up a bit and push myself, but 

a) it's a mixed-use trail and 
b) it's a mixed-use trail and oh, 
c) it's a mixed-use trail. 

We're gonna find people out trying to enjoy a quiet walk, we're going to find people out trying to take the edge off that Lab puppy of theirs with a long walk to tire him out, and we're gonna find that there are riders of varying abilities. We need to take care, give way, and expect the unexpected. So sprint when you can (hey, it's fun, I know) but ease up. 

And smile, Mr. Angry Lycra pants. 

You're not stuck not the Beltway. You're on one of the most beautiful trails in creation, enjoying one of the greatest sensations in the world: gliding along under your own power. What could be better than that?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prince George's County: AfterQuake

32 Prince George's County schools remain closed today, Thursday, August 25th. Check WTOP for complete details.

Wednesday, I spent the day waiting for word from the Prince George's County  school system, and tracking the progress of the damage assessments at the schools and at an apartment complex and area condos. 

According to Prince George's County officials, as many as 225 families (judging by units evacuated) had to be relocated. The photos here show Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker as he briefed reporters and the Top of the Hill Apartments on Curtis Drive, where anxious families waited to see if they would have to head out to friends' homes or to a shelter for a second night in a row. 

Note the cracks in the seam along the top windows on the Top of the Hill Apartments. Residents described the force of the quake as terrifying. One woman said she the first sign of the quake was the shaking of the racks in her closet that made the clothing sway.

Post-Quake Biking and WTOP

I've often said--only half-jokingly--that should the unthinkable happen, and we need to attempt a mass evacuation from DC, that the one guy who'll get you out of here is our Dean of Traffic, Bob Marbourg. Bob was the guy, who, during the hostage crisis at Discovery Channel, steered me calmly into the closest possible parking space. No kidding, the guy could close his eyes and map by heart all the landmarks-- alleys, parking lots, you name it. Thanks to Bob, I got to the staging area ahead of just about everyone. I'm telling you, the guy has a gift.

So, despite the likelihood of a mass evacuation having any success at all (you've no doubt heard the analysis on WTOP and seen it in other news outlets)  I stand by that claim. But I was not surprised to see how many people who relied on bikes--their own or the Capital Bikeshare bikes--found the going much easier than it was for those who rely on transit or driving. The City Paper's Martin Austermuhle had an interesting take on the after-quake's afternoon commute.

And now, permit me to brag about my amazing colleagues at WTOP.

Friday, August 19, 2011

DC on a Roll: Bikes Making Headlines

I have so many good intentions for this blog, and then my tendencies to act like an overactive puppy kick in. Which is to day I'm easily--very easily--distracted.

So I'm a day late and a dollar short on this, but if you didn't catch them, check these pieces out: from the City Paper's Alex Baca and the Washington Post's Mike DeBonis.

Mike talks about the way he uses a bike, and I like his approach. It's a tool. It gets him where he's going. It's handy. When he tucks that pant-leg (pants-leg?) into his sock, he's not trying to save the world. He's trying to get where he's going. And like the rest of us who hop on a bike to get somewhere, I'm sure he'd like to get there without getting flattened.

A digression. (I did mention the distracted thing, right?)

I like biking because I hate waiting. And it's fun. I don't bike because I'm a fitness freak. I need the exercise. I don't ride a bike because it benefits the environment. The whole green thing is just one more side benefit. So please drivers, when you see me riding, I'm not trying to insult you. I'm not trying to accuse you of single-handedly destroying life for tiny woodland creatures and all the birds of the skies. I mean, I'm a former minivan driver, and I loved that thing. (It made a great bike storage unit.)

In the City Paper, Alex details some of the conflicts that surround the growth of bike infrastructure in DC. And she shows how some of the frictions are being eased. And she does it beautifully.

I confess I find the universe of bike-related issues endlessly fascinating because it's really all human nature. We all have such strongly held views on everything from helmet use to whether you should ever do the sidewalk-survival maneuver, what's really safe, what statistics say, what experience says, etc.

I will say this, unlike Mike, I love me the Tweed Riders. And the Sock-Tuckers and the Lycra-wearing Tour de France-following bike geeks and the I-Just-Got-A-Bike-And-I'm-Still-Wobbly-But-Psyched riders.  To my mind, the more the merrier because I'm pretty sure to get--and keep--better bike infrastructure, it will be because the demand hasn't let up.

Not that I don't think cyclists couldn't use some improvement. We do have plenty of clueless, selfish, foolish people in the ranks of bike riders. But then again, there's no shortage of motorists pulling boneheaded, downright dangerous moves. Like the guy who cut me off in traffic after passing me on the right on I-270 today. That was special. (For the record, I was not on my bike. They're not allowed on I-270. I was on assignment, in my WTOP-issued car.)

So, while I admit I love having the Capital Crescent Trail all to myself (winter riding is great!) I welcome all bicyclists to the roads and trails. Because I'm old enough to remember when NYC first installed bike lanes. And I remember when they took 'em out. It was one case where 'Build it and they will come' didn't work.

(The photo shows my fabulous Gazelle, the WTOP Glass Enclosed Nerve Center --from the outside--and the grand experiment known as WTWP--The Washington Post on the air)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cyclist Profile: WTOP Staffer Rolls on Two Wheels

I can't get on the air without the aid of the WTOP staffers in "Ops"--"Operations". These folks make sure the audio that reporters file from the field gets processed and ready for the anchors in the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center to play for you.

Their job is no big deal. If you consider juggling chainsaws no big deal.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What They Forgot to Tell Me...

 When I interviewed Alexandria Firefighters Dennis Short and Jason Wehmeyer, they talked racing, safety, recreation, and about their hopes for the upcoming World Police and Fire Games in NYC.

What they didn't tell me was that just a few weeks ago, Jason Wehmeyer did something extraordinary in a mountain bike race. No, he didn't win.

I won't tell the story, I'll let Dr. Alex Wurm, an interventional radiologist from Rockville tell you. He did a great job all by himself. By the way, that's him in the photo behind the leader of the race, Jason Wehmeyer (#334)

The Tough Break

The Tough Break by KateRyanWTOP
The Tough Break, a photo by KateRyanWTOP on Flickr.

Get the whole story on @WTOP and WTOP.com

A #feelgood Story About a Tough Break

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hear Tell: Racing to Fires, Racing to Beat the Clock...

(Dennis Short, President CRFPC and Jason Wehmeyer, VP CRFPC and yes, they always wear helmets when training. They went without them here so I could get a photo where they could be recognized.)

First responders from all over the world will compete in events ranging from mountain biking to stair racing (yes, as in racing up stairs) at the World Police and Fire Games in NYC starting August 26th. Among the 18,000 competing, the Alexandria City Fire Department's Dennis Short and Jason Wehmeyer. They're President and Vice President of the Capital Region Fire and Police Cycling team. Find out more about them by going to their website . You can even sponsor them as they go for the gold in NYC.

You can even go for a training ride with them--they promise they'll go easy on you. But be forewarned, if Short's daughter Ella (pictured above) is along for the ride, she may tell you " Get on the bike and just do it already!"

Hear Short and Wehmeyer on everything from training, to road riding to helmet use.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hear Tell: BlackWomenBikeDC...

 ...it's not just the name of a local cycling group, it's a statement. Veronica O. Davis, a DC resident, businesswoman and avid cyclist, was finding that she was a rarity: a black woman on a bike. She says it was made clear to her when a little girl called out to her mother to "Look at the black lady on the bike!" The name is meant as a bit of a playful commentary, that no, cycling in the city isn't just for white hipsters and yes, black women do bike.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spanning the Globe by Bike!

Well, in a way.

See, I just checked the stats available on where in the world the readers of this blog happen to be. And get a load of this: people from China, Latvia, Australia, Germany, France, Russia, Belgium, Canada and Finland have checked in. Wow!

If you are checking in from outside of the Washington, DC area, tell me about it! What are you looking for, what caught your interest, what is your experience with biking in your corner of the world?

Oh, and stay tuned...you will get more on a fun and informative day at a bike shop that included talk of inspiration, perspiration, and exhilaration.