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. . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Per Arlington VA Police, Cyclist=Scofflaw but Motorists are OK

Cyclists need to obey those darn laws

Motorists? They just need to be careful

This is of course absurd. It makes sense only if cyclists are presumed to be scofflaws and motorists are law abiding folks who probably would be well advised to be careful of those scofflaw cyclists. In fact there is no evidence at all that cyclists are more (or less) law abiding than people driving cars. There is considerable evidence of course that when cyclists or motorists do dumb things and have accidents involving cyclists and cars, the cyclist suffers much greater consequences.

This is particularly ironic given the location, which is right where a major bike trail crosses a busy street. Under VA law, if the cyclist is required at this location to walk his bike and not ride in the crosswalk then this needs to be specifically posted, otherwise the cyclist is free to cross the street on his bicycle in the crosswalk. The obvious for accidents with the bike trail+crosswalk across Walter Reed is with left-hook and right-hook turn accidents from cars turning from S Four Mile Run Drive where the driver doesn't see the cyclist in the crosswalk because the motorist failed to exercise due care.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lanterne Rouge: the Last Man in the Tour de France (Book Review)

Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de FranceLanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France by Max Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recommended this to a colleague who I know occasionally reads books about professional cycling, who surprised I had read it given that I had announced I had not watched any of the current Tour de France or read much about it.

Oh well. Some things don't necessarily make sense.

I have read at least a dozen different books on the TdF, some that are like this that coverage the entire history of the event and others that focus on a particular race or individual or team. Thanks I guess to doping and the present evolution of the bicycles themselves in directions that seem less and less like a bicycle I might ever have anything to do with my interest in the TdF races of the 21st century seem to have disappeared, but I can still enjoy reading about races of the 20th century.

The trick is to find a book that has some new or interesting angle, and with its focus on the "lanterne rouge," that is, the official last-place finisher of each of the Tour races. This theme makes it possible for the author to recount different anecdotes than those that have often appeared in more than one previous book.

I also came away feeling I had learned a few things about the TdF - for example, that the race at times officially recognized the last place finisher in some way but generally has preferred not to, and in some cases changed the official rules to discourage riders from attempting to place last. (At certain points the "lanterne rouge" rider would be invited to criterium races after the TdF that were much more lucrative than anything that might be offered to riders who places say next to last.) And I gained some additional understanding why some riders finish towards the end, such as sprinters and domestiques.

It was a good and easy read. If some of the material about the early (or late) races is not so interesting, the generally chronological organization makes it easy to skip over such things.

This is a small thing, but I am puzzled by the lack of any effort to edit books like this published by English authors for the U.S. market other than having a computer go through and replace "colour" with "color" and the like. Oh well.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gironimo! Book Review

Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of ItalyGironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I got half way through this and put it down and didn't pick it up again. That was enough.

This is a sort of travel/cycling/cycling history book. The author, who has written a book of this sort before, was inspired by the terrible-horrible-very bad Giro of 1914 to attempt to recreate that race today with his own individual grand tour attempt. The somewhat unusual touch was to do this using a period-correct (mostly) bicycle that he purchased and rebuilt for this purpose.

Much of the first third of the book focuses on acquisition of the right (which turns out to be wrong) bicycle for the trip and getting it into condition to be ridden. This part was amusing even if a little silly sometimes and I enjoyed it. The author does have this shtick of putting himself down that gets a little tiring.

Once the book transitioned to the actual trip, I gradually became less and less interested. For this genre an author will move back and forth from describing his present travels to some historical anecdotes that somehow relate. The way that this was executed in this book didn't hold my interest.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Cycling in Moscow

I spent the last week in Moscow (for work). Moscow how has a bike share system now and I saw bikes from the system being used, but I did not attempt to take pictures of people riding around, mostly because of my reliance on my phone for photography for this trip.

Moscow bike share station on Tverskaia

Generally in the center of the city where we were we did not see that many cyclists given the density of population, but we did see some. They were usually riding on the sidewalk at a modest rate of speed, not in the street. A few arguably crazy people did ride in the streets, but it didn't seem for the most part like a good idea.

Bike to work day poster Moscow 2015
A "bike to work day" poster in a Moscow Metro station

For whatever reason, some events and products are advertised in English, so "На работу на велосипеде" is described on a site named

На работу на велосипеде! — 21 мая, Москва from Let's bike it! on Vimeo.

The 2015 Bike to Work Moscow video

There were occasional green bike lanes, both around the Sadovaia ring road and up near Moscow State University, and they got some use, although of course we saw one police car on several occasions that regarded the bike lane as its parking area. Out near Moscow State University we saw a fair number of riders who seemed to be out enjoying the weather. There is a path along much of the Moscow river that was also a popular cycling venue.

Moscow State University
Note the green painted bike lanes

Sunday morning on the way to the airport there was a lycra-clad fellow working away on a road bike, riding on the ten lane (or whatever it is) road. It seemed completely crazy to me but apparently legal enough - it isn't a highway in the usual sense but cars are mostly traveling at a pretty good clip.

Helmet use was fairly infrequent. Their Moscow bike share bikes had steady headlights rather than blinking ones, which for winter when it is pretty dark much of the time would seem important. (I guess they run the system through the winter?).

A typical Moscow cyclist in most respects - not riding on the road (this is a pedestrian-only street) but atypical in wearing a helmet

Away from the center of Moscow on a work day, we would see the occasional person riding, again generally on the sidewalks - but on the main thoroughfares these are pretty generously sized, so there is room. The typical rider was not wearing business type work attire - this isn't the Netherlands by any means.

At least people in Moscow are seeing some cycling going on. What they think of this activity and the cyclists in particular I don't know.