Saturday, December 15, 2012

One Minute, I'm Riding.....

....and the next, I'm being transported in an ambulance. :(

The paramedics found me 6 feet from my bike, laying in the intersection. They said I asked them the same questions over and over, "What happened? Who hit me? Where am I?". I was brought to a hospital less than a mile away, where I spent 4 days....2 days in ICU (due to a concussion and bleeding on the brain) and 2 days in the Trauma Unit. I had some facial abrasions, a broken sinus bone, and a broken right arm (humerus bone). They took an MRI and 3 CT scans. The injuries could have been a lot worse, so I am thankful to be alive and upright (vs. 6 feet under!!)

So, what happened?? I have ridden this route to work the past 10 months. I knew the lights, the traffic patterns, the cracks in the road, the uneven sidewalk portions, etc. In fact, I had just exited a sidewalk (along with a guy bicyclists in front of me), and we looked both ways as we crossed over a church driveway, to then enter the traffic lane. All the traffic was stopped at a light about 30 feet behind me. I could hear it start up as I got into the lane to continue down the road. I have no idea why the driver of the large pick-up truck didn't see me, since I was that far ahead of him. Maybe he was texting...or reading something, or on the phone...? I don't know if the police asked him...but at least the driver stopped. And that he has auto insurance. So that the personal injury lawyer I have retained can contact regarding the driver's negligence.

My aluminum road bike, of course, looks worse than I do, and I was stunned to see it when a friend went with me to pick it up from the police station. Even the cop who brought it out, just stared at it and couldn't believe his eyes, and shook his head. It's a good thing I don't use clipless pedals, because I would have still been connected to the bike when the pick-up truck obviously ran over my bike. The frame is cracked in 2 places (top tube and downtube) and the right handlebars were flattened up against the stem. The right pedal was sheared off, and the derailleur was broken off and dangling on the chain. The rear bicycle rack which held my panniers, was sheared off at the bottom brazen points.

The orthopaedic doc says I have keep my right arm in a sling for 6 weeks. I will start some occupational therapy next week. I may be returning to work in January. I probably won't be able to bike til the Springtime. At least I won't have to deal with biking in the winter's snow and ice and cold.

And family and friends ask if I will go back to biking to work. I am sure they want to hear the word "NO". But I tell them that I think I will, and that I will just take a different route. I love to bike, whether it's commuting or touring....there are so many places to see in this world.....i'm not hanging up my wheels just yet. :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Room to Breathe

On my bike ride home recently, I was waiting at a light, and was looking around and saw this billboard on the side of a building. :)  I went online afterwards to find out some information about this billboard.  Evidently, in June of this year, the DC Dept. of Transportation awarded a grant to the Washington Area Bicyclist Association to depict a visual street space that shows how much space is gained if more people rode bikes or walked, instead of driving.

It's a little difficult to see the images in the graphics, but the left image shows gridlock traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue.  There are bike lanes sandwiched in the middle, with no bicyclists in them.  The image on the right shows the same scene, but with bicyclists in the bike lane, and NO traffic around them.  I guess it shows the way it Pennsylvania Avenue would look if people rode their bikes to work, instead of their cars.  Car traffic = NO FUN.  Bicycle traffic = FUN. :)  If you ever seen or participated in a good-size gathering of bicyclists, you can see they are happy and having FUN.  It's TOTALLY OPPOSITE when you get a good size gathering (i.e., traffic jam!) of cars.  You aren't moving, you are gonna be late, people don't let you in to merge, etc.

With Thanksgiving weekend coming up, I felt the vibe of the traffic change - - people were zooming around, getting gas, running last-minute errands before they headed out of town, etc.  My bicycle commute stayed the same - - nice and easy-going, no need to rush, and in fact, it was even more pleasant because today, the day before Thanksgiving, there were even LESS cars on the road - - it was more quiet.  Cars and traffic make a lot of noise.  So I am thankful for a quiet and peaceful commute.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Into Fall We Go -

Autumn is starting to arrive along my commute, as I saw this bright tree this morning. :)  This is a nice time of year when the leaves show their colors...and pretty soon, they will start shedding their leaves, as the leaves start "snowing" down.  But for now, I'll enjoy the show. :)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Suspicious Package...

As I was in the elevator to leave work yesterday, a co-worker was checking her smartphone and mentioned that there was suspicious package found on street where my office is located and that they had to close down a few blocks to investigate.  This is never a "small affair", especially in Washington, D.C., and especially at Rush Hour!  The elevator doors opened up and we both looked outside to the street and saw things VERY backed up and tight.  It reminded me of 9/11 years ago, and how it threw the city into gridlock.  And, just as on that day, I had bicycled to work, and so this traffic issue was a "non-issue" as I hopped on my bike and wound my way around the cars, etc.  It's a very liberating experience, though I felt badly for those stuck in the traffic jam.  I was on my way to have dinner with out-of-town friends who were staying at a hotel nearby, so it was nice that the traffic incident didn't slow me down at all, and I got to my destination right on time. :) 

Last year, there was an article in the Washington Post, stating that the D.C. area has the worst traffic congestion in the NATION...outdoing even Chicago and Los Angeles!   The friends I met up with both live in the L.A. area, and one of them said that if they lived in D.C., they would definitely get rid of their car (and that's saying A LOT, coming from someone who lives in car-centric L.A.).  The article went on to say that the average D.C. commuter spends 74 hours in yearly commuting, using 37 gallons of gas - idling in traffic, costing $1,495 a year.  Wow.  Of course, those figures fluctuate, due to the weather, traffic incidents, and gas prices. 

As I've said in the past, I feel a lot of Washingtonians COULD try commuting by biking and enjoy the great bike paths the area has to offer that thread right through many of the nearby suburbs they are now driving to.  I think they'd be surprised how much time and money they would save in the long run.  Even if they only were fair-weather riders!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Scraping by....

I was on my way to work this morning, coming along on First Street, near Rhode Island Avenue.  There was a line up of cars at near the light, and as the light changed, the cars slowly started up.  I was riding slowly along between the parked cars and the moving cars, when a silver compact car saw a open parking spot right about the time I was alongside the moving car (near the wheel well).  I saw the car slow a little and head towards the spot.  I hit my brakes, but the car kept going into the spot, while I was almost getting squished - - my left brake handle scraping along the car side!  Ack!!  The driver stopped momentarily and then finished pulling into the parking spot.  The lady driver behind this car pulled alongside me - her passenger window down and she asked if I was okay - she had seen what happened.  I said I was fine (just a little surprised).  The driver of the parked car came out (a Hispanic lady) and I think was as surprised as I was.  She hadn't seen me at all I think - and probably hadn't looked in her rearview mirror either - never expecting to have a bicyclist right next to her.   She asked a couple times if I was okay, and I said yes, and she opened the rear passenger door to get her young baby out to hand to her babysitter, who happened to be sitting on the nearby housesteps, and who had seen what happened too (and was equally surprised what happened). 

I asked if her car was okay because I knew my brake lever had scraped her car.  She shut the rear door and then I saw a VERY LONG scrape along the car....ACK!  Oh no!  I felt bad, and I told her I had tried to stop in time.  She said it was okay, that it wasn't a new car, and it wasn't a problem.  I told her that I hoped she could get it buffed out alright.  She didn't seemed too concerned, but I still felt bad for the damage.  (The picture shown here is not her car - just a photo I found on the internet to represent a scrape).

I know there is the possibility of something like this happening when you ride between parked cars and moving cars - - or of car doors opening unexpectedly.   I guess I could avoid this type of thing happening if I just waited behind the line of cars.  The chances of an empty parking spot and a passing car coming along to park there at the same time you are passing, doesn't happen often.  There's usually enough room for me to pass slowly.  When I see that the passageway is REALLY tight, I get on the sidewalk and ride to the light, and get back into the lane (that's, of course, if the sidewalk isn't crowded at that area.  In this instance, the area may only have one or two pedestrians).  This area doesn't have bike lanes, but having bike lanes doesn't stop drivers from crossing it to get a parking spot.

What would you have done in this instance?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Earlier this month, we had the longest heat wave since 10 years ago.  Friends, family and co-workers wondered how in the world I manage to keep biking to work in the heat.  Well, a few things help.  One is that I put my water bottle in the freezer when I get to work, so that it looks like this picture when I leave.  It's rock-hard and slowly melts on my 45-min. ride, providing nice cold water along the way.  Second is that my commute has a bit of shade, which cuts the temps by 5-10 degrees.  The only time I'm really hot is when I have to stop in the sun at a stoplight, and there's no breeze.  Then it's like being nuked.  ha.  But once I get going again, the combination of the breeze and my sweat keeps things manageable.

I've said this many times to many people...that my commute is usually the BEST part of my day. :)  There were a couple days this month where I had to work through lunch, sitting at my desk constantly, to finish a project.  When I got on my bike to head home, it was SO refreshing -- to have the breeze across my face, moving my body, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds.  It really makes you feel ALIVE and it's invigorating.

On my commute, there is a triangle corner that I pass, where a handful of white bikes are permanently stationed.  Someone in the neighborhood regularly decorates these bikes for various holidays.  Here's the bikes decorated for the July 4th holiday.  Colorful and eye-catching! :)

Friday, June 08, 2012

How Much Are the Doggies....?

Just so that you don't think my bike commute is ALWAYS difficult (referencing my last entry about all the flat tire issues I had), I wanted to put a "fun" entry to make up for it a little. :)

Last winter (around Christmastime) when I was biking to work, and I had seen this lady walking her 5 Yorkies. At first I thought she was a dogwalker. No one would have FIVE dogs, would they? (even though they ARE small!). But when I asked her if they were her dogs, she replied "Yes!". The Yorkies on that day were dressed cute Santa jackets! :) I should have gotten a picture of her then! I didn't see her again until today. This time I definitely wanted to get her picture with her dogs. I told her I remembered talking to her last winter, and I asked if I could get a picture of her and her dogs. So she managed to get all of her 5 Yorkies to stop for a minute while I tried to capture them all in my camera phone screen. (I had to back up a bit to do that!). Afterwards I bent down and gave each of them some love - - they were SO cute! Definitely a 10 on the Cute Factor scale!! :) It made a beautiful morning even better! :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Waves of Flats...

Last Friday night, the DC area was under a severe weather alert, and there were tornado watches issued. I checked the weather before I headed out, and when I got out of the garage with my bike, it was lightly raining, so I decided to go for it.

I got about halfway home, about to pass Catholic University, when I noticed my front tire was a bit soft. I got off to check it, and sure enough, it was a flat. I looked up ahead to some administrative buildings, and saw a covered stairwell that I could take care of it and be out of the rain and any lightning danger, as there were big trees around. To do a quick change, I just put in an inner tube that had been patched previously and ready to go. While I was wrapping things up, the rain came down, so I was glad to miss getting poured on.

I got within a couple miles of my house, and it REALLY started to pour, so I decided to wait it out a little while under a church awning (the building used to be an old theatre, so the "awning" was a marquee). As I waited, I looked at my tire to see how it was holding up. It wasn't - it was going down. :/ Here we go again. I pulled the inner tube out and patched the new hole and when I finished, the rain had diminished (nice little rhyme there! ha!). So I finally got home about a half hour past the normal arrival time.

On Monday, I took off for work, and as I got close to the office, I noticed my tire was going down. I hadn't checked the tire before I left home, and usually, I do check it and add air. So I parked my bike, added some air, and came back in a few hours to check to see if it held. No, it didn't. :/ So I patched the inner tube and put it back in, hoping that would be the end. It did fine in running an errand and getting me home.

This morning, it was flat yet again!! This time, I put a new inner tube in and gave up on the old one. I figured that if the new inner tube had problems, I would probably need a new tire. (The tires are about a year and a half old. I had checked the inside of the tire to see if there were any sharp points and also the rim, just in case you're wondering!). I got a half a block from work and noticed my tire going down again!!

OKAY!! So at lunch, I walked over to a nearby bike shop and bought a new Continental tire and a new inner tube, confident that this would solve it. After I had put air in the tire, I was putting the cap on the valve, but it wasn't going on very well. I realized it was the cap for the old inner tube (even though you'd think it wouldn't make any difference?), so I unscrewed it to put the correct cap on, and when doing that, the valve head came exploding OFF!! There goes a $7 new inner tube! :/ Sigh. So I grabbed the old one, and patched it, and put it in. I will go downstairs in a couple hours to see if everything is alright. I have to meet a friend for her birthday dinner tonight, and I don't have time to be dealing with this problem tonight.

So, in taking a poll of my do you think this saga will end? :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bike To Work Day 2012

It was beautiful weather for Bike To Work Day today. :) I had registered to pick up my ride t-shirt at the pit-stop located at a park a couple blocks from my house. When I got to the park entrance though, I didn't see any banner or sign, showing that there was a Bike To Work Day pit-stop. While I was looking for any signs, I wasn't looking where I was going and my tire rubbed up against the curb and I lost my balance and went down. :/ Fortunately, I was near a standstill at the time, so it was more of a slow-motion easy fall and I wasn't hurt...more embarrassed than anything. :) I was hoping no one had really seen that lovely stunt....however, a lady and her young son (who was on the child seat) came along at that moment, and asked if I was okay, which was nice of them. I mentioned the need for some kind of signs for the Bike To Work event, and she agreed. It was a good thing she showed me where the tables were, because I wouldn't have seen them easily -- they were located behind a building! You would think they would be in front of the building, more visible to both bicyclists and cars. There were only a handful or two of people there and not much of an offering of food, drink, or publications. Since I'm new to the area, I'm not sure if this was a "normal" amount of attendees or not.

Soon after I got there, a guy announced that he would be leading a convoy into DC to go to the main rally location. I decided to join them (only 4 other cyclists). They took a similar route that I took to work, however, they hopped onto the Metropolitan Branch Trail instead of city streets. It's been a while since I've been on this trail, due to a couple of reasons. One main reason is that there have been some incidents in the past (robberies/assaults). I'd rather take my chances with city streets. :) The trail is a little isolated, and not many people ride it, so I guess there is more incentives to attack someone and get away with it. The other reason is that the trail takes me in a direction further from my office instead of closer. So, the time you save in zipping along the trail and not having stoplights/stop signs, you lose in having to come back across town to get to my office (and getting caught in more traffic). So I think I'll stick with my current route.

When we arrived near the location of the main rally, the convoy turned left into a courtyard area at Ronald Reagan International Center. Usually, the rally has been held at Freedom Plaza. But evidently the Occupy Movement group is still occupying that spot. As we made our way through the crosswalk for the rally location, there was a kind of loud, large group of protesters right next to it -- I'm not sure what they were protesting - but it was in another language.

At the rally location, there weren't as many people present as I have seen in the past - - maybe we arrived a little on the later side, or maybe people didn't know about this new location. Or maybe there WERE the same amount of people, but the location was more open, so people had more room to move about. :) There were a couple of short speeches given, and music was being played. There were a handful of booths set up (I think there are usually more?), and food, drink and t-shirts were being given away. As I was munching on my bagel, a lady came up to interview me who said she had some sort of company email newsletter she sent out, and wanted to ask me a few questions about Bike to Work Day. After I talked to her for a few minutes, I turned around and someone called my name - it was a guy I knew from a bike club I used to head up (DC Bike Friday Club), so it was good to see him, as it's been a number of years. :) As I turned to leave to head out to get to my office, I realized that I had a flat in the rear tire! :/ Bummer. I'm wondering if it's glass that I ran over on that trail...? So I quickly put in a new inner tube and was on my way - although a little late to work. At least I didn't have any traffic to hold me up. :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chain, chain, chain.....

Last night when I got off work, I decided to go to the bike shop to have them take a look at my rear derailleur and gears, because my chain was jumping around when I got in the upper gears. It's a handy shop because part of it is a bike shop, and the other part is a hardware store. I needed to pick up some primer for the iron railing on my porch that I am repainting, so it's nice to get two things done at one stop. :) My road bike is just recently back on the road a couple of weeks after I put on a new cassette and chain. Evidently I didn't get the cassette on quite right (I supposedly missed getting the splines correct) and that's why I had the gear problem. So he took it off and fiddled with it and made some adjustments and after paying $5.00 for that along with the primer, I headed out.

Except two blocks from the shop, as I reached the higher gearing, the problem was still there. :( So I turned around and went back to the shop. The guy wasn't real happy to see me back, and he donned his helmet and gloves and took my bike for a test ride. Maybe he thought I was imagining the problem....but he was back in a few minutes and agreed that it wasn't working good. This time he unscrewed the rear derailleur and made some more adjustments. I took it for a quick test run, and it seemed good, and I paid an additional $7.00 for that adjustment.

Okay, now I get about 10 blocks away, and as I pull up to the light, my chain makes a noise and feels like it fell off the chain ring. I look down, and was surprised to see that my chain actually had come APART!! It was all wrapped up in the cassette! In all my years of biking, I have never had a chain break. I have put on new bike chains in the past number of years on my various bikes and never have had this happen. So, I got off and unwound the chain and put it in a side pocket of my bike bag. I knew of another bike store about 7 blocks away that I could get to, and hopefully they would still be open (it was almost 7 p.m. now). I put one leg on the side of the bike and used the bike like a push scooter and pushed my other leg off to get on down the sidewalk.

I got to the bike store and asked if they could put my chain back on. I don't carry a chain tool with me - but maybe it'd be a good thing to have along... The guy put a new master chain link on the chain and installed it, for $17.00. A little expensive, but time is money, I know. Now it was 7:10 p.m., and I didn't have my riding lights with me, and it gets dark about 7:30. I was about 5 blocks from a Metro station, so I rode there to take the subway home before it got dark. It was nice that the train came within a minute after I got to the platform. :) Timing is everything. :)

Regarding chains, I've thought about bikes that have the carbon belts instead of chains. I don't think that carbon belts would break, and I think the maintenance would be a lot less. However, I just checked the price of a carbon belt and was a bit shocked to see it's $54.00!! They say a carbon belt will last about 3 years. I usually put a new chain on my bikes every year or so. I get a good quality chain, that costs about $20. So three chains in 3 years is about the same price as a carbon belt. So I think I'll stick with a regular chain.

Once in a while (like maybe once a year or every other year), I have these long commutes, due to mechanical issues or weather conditions. Some people might think these kinds of delays are a big hassle. But I think that people who drive cars to work or take mass transit encounter MANY more delays than this. Also, car repairs are LOTS more expensive than the $30 I spent on my bike repairs. :) I'm glad to have the bike shops nearby to help and for Metro in getting me home before dark. :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Don't Stop at the Office....

I was heading into work recently and looked up and saw a sign a couple miles from my house. Wow, if I kept on riding and following these signs, I could be in KEY WEST in 1509 miles!! :) :) A number of years ago, I took a bike vacation and rode from Melbourne, FL to Richmond, VA...and that took about a week and a half (it was about 1100 miles). So it would be another week or so to get to Key West. :)

If you look at the very top of the sign, it shows that the route is the East Coast Greenway ( I know they've been working on this route for a number of years - starting back in 1991. Each year they add more on and off-road trail segments. I'll have to follow this sign sometime (not on a workday!) and see where it leads! :)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Reflective Thoughts

I bought this reflective vest at a bicycle show in Philadelphia a couple years ago. It was $30, a little expensive, but I thought it would be worth it. It has LED lights that are battery operated. The lights blink brightly - - 2 in the front and 4 in the back. I thought that was a great idea and it was VERY eye-catching. Since my new commute is all city riding, this vest is excellent. And other bicyclists and pedestrians think so too, because I've had a handful of people comment that they think the vest is really neat. :) When I was taking the picture of the vest, I turned the lights on to see if it might make a better picture. I saw that, unfortunately, a couple of the lights are not working. :/ Not sure if these can be fixed or not - I don't think so. So I went online to see if I could find the same vest or something similar, and I did, so I'll be ordering it soon. The vest isn't the same one I have (and I don't have the manufacturer's name - rats!), but the one I found is probably better, because it has 16(!) lights on it! So I'll look like a Christmas tree! All the better to be seen! :) And the cost of the vest is about $10 less, so that's nice.

The past two nights, I went to someone's apartment in D.C. to look at some furniture I was considering buying. I wasn't sure how long it would take me to bike there, so I decided on the first try, to use the bike rack on the bus option, thinking this would be probably the faster option. I had trouble locating the exact bus stop (I hadn't studied my bus map very well). I finally found it and waited...and waited...and waited. I think the bus doesn't run that often (every 20 min.) and there was a lot of traffic. While I was waiting, bicycle after bicycle went by, as they chugged up the hill next to the bus stop. Shoot, I could have probably ridden faster, I thought.

The next night, when I had to return to that apartment again, I decided I would bicycle there - it's only 3.5 miles - but there are some long hills and lots of traffic, as the route is on a busy commuter street. I was surprised to get to the location about 20 minutes FASTER than the bus. I know this because that certain bus number did not pass me the whole way. :) I think if it had been raining, I would have taken the bus, but since the weather was nice, riding was fine. I got the exercise up the hill, and it saved me the bus fare. :) So it was a good experiment to try. :) Though there was a lot of traffic, I don't get slowed down by it since I can pass all the cars stuck at the lights and in the traffic jams. :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winterless Winter

Here it is, almost February, and it's been nice that we've only had some flurries here and there, just enough to cover the grass. I took this picture of the White House on my way to work...the grass looked as green as it does in the summer! I wonder if we'll get slammed in February? I hope not. It's easy to ride in the winter when there's no precipitation. It's just cold and dry. Piece of cake. :) Plus, we've had the added pleasure of having some daily temps up to 50 or 60, instead of freezing our butts off. :) I'm enjoying it very much!