Saturday, November 14, 2015

Car Crash (NOT involving me ~) on Bike Commute Route Home

Washington Post short story about this crash.

"A person is dead after a fiery crash near the U.S. Holocaust Museum in the District." - the story is dated 11/10. The accident happened some time between Monday the 9th and Tuesday the 10th - oddly the story fails to provide any time or date at all. I just know that I came upon the crash site when I rode to work Tuesday morning (the 10th). "The driver lost control and hit a large tree, according to the U.S. Park Police. The car then caught fire." The Park Police are involved because the tree the driver ended up crashing into is on Park Service land. "The driver ... was headed south on Raoul Wallenberg Place near Maine Avenue in Southwest Washington." Yes, the driver was on Raoul Wallenberg, but crashed at least 50 fifty after the turn onto Maine, so the accident took place on Maine. I would assume the vehicle made the turn from Wallenberg at very high speed cutting through the intersection but nevertheless failed to negotiate the turn properly, jumped the curb, demolished some bollards, then hit the tree.

Car crash site near Tidal Basin
Looking down Maine Avenue (to left) and Ohio Drive (to the right) - Ohio Drive continues past the Jefferson Memorial as well as access to the 14th Street bridge to Virginia

Car crash site near Tidal Basin
Here you can deduce more easily what must have happened, with the scorch marks and demolished bollards

Riding by this, the scorch marks made a considerable impression on me - generally I think of cars crashing and bursting into flames as something that happens in movies made in the 1960s-70s, not something that happens, but apparently it did here. I was reminded of the quote, "If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk!" (A quote from where? I don't know. Bad librarian.) This is a part of my ride in - typically I ride inbound on this sidewalk because the alternative on-the-street route is circuitous and involves a stop light that I can otherwise avoid. But I am always alert even up on the sidewalk to what the cars are doing, because people here do drive fast and often do dumb things trying to cut across lanes, so I am not so sure I feel all that safe just because I am up on the sidewalk.

Thursday, after the Veterans Day holiday, I was surprised to see the tree draped in ribbons and balloons and a bottle of champagne at the foot of the tree, an apparently memorial to the driver who died. The Park Service was not, it seems, interested in that since by my ride home it was all gone, along with the yellow incident tape.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Optimism & Bicycle Parking and an XO-1

Reasonably rare 1993 Bridgestone XO-1 parked on the street

I work on Capitol Hill. I have an older 1982 Bridgestone road bike, but it is so old that it misses the period when some Bridgestone bikes were sold in the U.S. that then became legendary, such as the XO-1 above.

The XO-1 attracted a lot of attention for its odd "moustache" handlebars (which are not shown too well in my photograph) but it's failure to fit into well understood bicycle categories of the 20-plus years ago seemed to be the biggest problem, and perhaps surprisingly for a bike not made in mass numbers, this was the subject of discussion even decades later - see this 2013 blog post for example. Sheldon Brown's site of information about older bicycles includes the relevant pages from a digitized 1993 Bridgestone catalog that show the bike more clearly and describe its features, as well as its price then (ranging from $1,115 to $1,175) and that only 1,000 were being made. Only 1,000!

My main surprise is that anyone would park a gem like this on the street. Yes, it has a U-lock and also a cable lock, but . . .

Monday, November 2, 2015

1884 Bicycle Down Capitol Steps

"Perilous Ride"
"A Perilous Ride" - riding a bike down the U.S. Capitol Steps in 1884

From the Library of Congress:

Title: A perilous ride / Platt Brothers, artist and photographer, 1116 12th St., N.W., Washington, D.C.
Date Created/Published: [Washington, D.C.] : [Platt Brothers] [1884]
Medium: 1 photograph : albumen print on card mount ; mount 17 x 11 cm (cabinet photograph format)
Summary: Photograph shows a man riding a bicycle down the steps of the U.S. Capitol as another man with a bicycle waits at the top.

Earlier the only image available online was a digitized B&W copy negative - that is, someone made a copy of the printed photograph and then digitized the negative. This is a reasonably high resolution image produced directly from the print. You can make out more details. (Click on the photograph above and you go to Flickr and you can zoom in from there.)

There are several unusual aspects to this bicycle. Unlike the usual "penny farthing" of the time, the smaller wheel was in front, not in back. Also, it did not rely on pedals attached to the center of the wheel but used a treadle system. As it happens, Wikipedia has an article about this model of bicycle, the "American Star Bicycle" and uses this very photograph in the article - but the older, B&W one.

The Library of Congress believes the photo dates from 1884 (which is why 1884 is in brackets; it wasn't printed on the photograph, apparently or it would be without brackets) but the Wikipedia article says 1885. Well, close enough.

A possible rationale for this photo is that even for an experience rider, this stunt would have been impossible I think on a penny farthing, which would have plunged forward over the large front wheel. So this is demonstrating that attribute of this book.

I'm pretty sure the Capitol Police would not allow you to ride a bike up and down the Capitol steps now. . .