Transportation in London: Is the Bike Lane Greener?

Despite the short amount of time we were in London (3.5 days), we still managed to get a ton of photos of the transportation scene – of course. As with any new city, there were some notable differences, not the least of which was the fact that traffic seemed *crazy* to us. But also – it was really, really quiet! No honking, no loud motors, extremely few obnoxiously loud motorcycles… even the tourist hop-on/hop-off buses were quiet! We know because we took one. The most notable things were: quiet streets; hi viz everywhere; indecipherable street markings; bikeshare stations *everywhere*; and the ease with which we were able to find and get on every train and bus we took.

Quiet Streets

We were there for Friday morning and evening rush hour and Monday morning rush hour, plus the weekend in between, and were astounded at how quiet it was. Honking was the exception, not the norm. Buses were quiet. Motorcycles were quiet. Nothing at all like New York City! It was so nice, ahh….

Lots of hybrid double decker buses (also, so fun to ride!)

Hi Viz Everywhere!

Everyone wore hi viz, even the cars. Cops, maintenance workers, cyclists, little school kids in museums, people on the sidewalk. Police cars, maintenance trucks, emergency vehicles, and similar – they were also decked out in hi viz. Either the hi viz companies are doing a bang up job at marketing, or the streets really are that crazy. Maybe it’s that hard to see in the London fog?Indecipherable Street Markings

Thank goodness there were instructions at the crosswalks about which direction to look! That opposite direction traffic had us totally turned around, and not in the right way. If the intersections weren’t marked, we had no idea what was going on, and weren’t there long enough to figure it out. Seriously, what do the zigzag white lines mean in the streets?!?

Also really loved that the crosswalks were divided not only by the medians, but were not directly across from each other. Having to turn left or right to walk to the continuation seems like really smart street design to me.Bikeshare Stations Everywhere

We were amazed not only by the sheer number of Santander Cycles (aka “Boris bikes”) bikeshare stations on every corner, but also by the fact that they were all twice the size of the Capital Bikeshare stations here in the DC Metro area. We never tried them, because we were a bit afraid of the traffic and because we didn’t know where we were going. Although, from what we observed, people just biked out in traffic and didn’t seem to be phased by the vehicles around them. And honestly, I know it exists, but we never saw any driver acting aggressively towards or honking at cyclists. Thank you, London drivers, for the positive impression!

Seriously, look at all those stations!

Other notable bike-y things: the bike lanes were really narrow; there were tons of bike boxes; we saw the most bike lanes and cycle super highways in the central City of London part; Bromptons were everywhere; Transport for London had tons of information about how to travel with your folding and non-folding bike on buses and trains; buses and many trucks had stickers on the back corners cautioning cyclists about turns… It seemed like it was just part of everyday life there, not some totally outlandish idea that a crazy minority indulges in. (Ed. note: yes, that’s sarcasm.)

So Easy to Get Around

A system this big must be hard to manage, but The Mechanic and I never waited more than 5 minutes for an Underground train (Or “tube”), even after seeing a show on Saturday night, and only waited about 10 minutes for one of our buses. It was so easy to get around! The bus map I picked up in the airport was super easy to read, finding bus stops was really easy, and with our pre-ordered Visitors Oyster cards, using the Tube and the buses was as easy as using our SmarTrip cards here at home. That was definitely a dream.

I also love that so many Tube stations have shops and kiosks around them.

Is the Transportation Grass Greener?

I have to say, that if I lived in London, the Tube is so easy that I might not be a cyclist. What?!?! Okay, I probably would but I’d definitely need to figure out the streets. But given how easy it was to figure out the Tube and the buses, I might be more than happy to let someone else do the driving for me, rather than fight it out on my own on the streets. But I’m going to have to conclude that I need several more chances to explore all the options in London before I can decide. So, next flight to London?

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Life’s Pendulum Swings

Isn’t it crazy how sometimes our lives can swing so rapidly from one event to a different and totally unrelated event? One day I was on the Hill talking about public policy and transportation, then two days later I was in Pennsylvania surrounded by All Things Bunny. Whaaa…? I know, so random!

My association, the Association for Commuter Transportation, convened in Washington, DC, last week for the annual Public Policy Summit. Policy is not my strong point, so I like to attend, in the hopes that maybe one day I’ll be able to keep up with all the transportation- related policy going on at the federal level. This year, our keynote speaker was The Honorable Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador of Finland to the United States.  It was fascinating listening to all the ways the Finnish government is seeking to integrate technological advances while advancing their transportation system. They have such a different mindset, but then again, it’s also a much (much much) smaller country. I didn’t sign up for meetings with my local representatives (or rather, their staff members), but I did attend some sessions “on the Hill.” We met in Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure room in the Rayburn Building, which was pretty cool. Congress wasn’t in session, so the halls were pretty empty, but I still think it’s fun to wander around and see where it all happens. The following day I had to take Gaston to the vet, where he had a skull x-ray and his bottom molars were trimmed, all under anesthesia. Apparently he has been having mouth pain, which causes him to not eat, which can lead to GI statis, which can be fatal and causes his mom lots of panic. But he’s been busy chewing away at all sorts of hay and straw things since the visit, so the simple (and very expensive) molar trim seems to have helped immensely. Whew!

Funny to see what is under all that fluff!

Then that same day, I jumped into my friend Emily’s car and we drove up to Philadelphia for the first-ever Northeast BunFest! She is the creative owner of HopsalotSnacks on Etsy and is our rabbit whisperer, an expert after having had her bunny, Miss Dolley Hopsalot, for over 15 years. I had volunteered to be her employee at BunFest, where she was a vendor – motivated in part by the opportunity to see so many bunnies!!! And did we see bunnies!

HopsalotSnacks in action!

The event is apparently held annually in the Midwest, where it attracts around a thousand people. This was the first time it was held in the Northeast, and some of the people with whom I spoke had come from as far away as Boston. There were rabbit rescue groups, a hay vendor, a few vendors with beautiful wooden houses and castles for bunnies to hide in and play on, and so many different rabbit themed things for bunny parents. I didn’t buy anything, but enjoyed meeting all the bunnies – some with their vendor parents, some from shelters, and some with their parents looking to spoil them. Many had their rabbits in pet strollers, some in regular carriers, and other brave (or unwise) parents simply carried their bunnies around in their arms.

Because this event was geared towards rabbit rescue organizations, there were a number of rabbits who had clearly experienced traumatic experiences – one whose ears had been apparently cut off, another with a deformed leg that had been abandoned with a broken leg which then healed badly, several with head tilt, and several others with leg deformities. All are now being well cared for and loved, I’m happy to report, but you know there are hundreds and hundreds of other bunnies out there who have not yet met their forever parents. (Rabbit PSA – this is part of the reason why you shouldn’t buy rabbits for children and as Easter presents. Too many end up abandoned and in shelters. They are NOT starter pets.)

It was a fun day, and successful for my friend’s business, plus I got to see parts of Pennsylvania I’d never been to before. We were exhausted and glad to get home, where Gaston was happy to see me. Despite father-bunson bonding time with The Mechanic, Gaston still wanted lots and lots of attention. That’s fine, I missed him too. I felt a bit wiped out, between two days of commuter transportation talk, Gaston’s vet appointment, the mad drive to Philly, a whole day of rabbits, and a long, late evening drive home, so I was quite unproductive on Sunday, even though I really wanted to sew. I even took a nap! I never do that. But I need to rest up because although this week is relatively quiet, this weekend I will be a runway model (!!!) in an Aveda Catwalk for Water fashion show, then it’s my 45th birthday, then The Mechanic and I are headed to London for a long weekend, woo hoo! So hopefully I can keep the pendulum centered and I can stay grounded until the next totally crazy swings.

Oh, I did get this Friends of Rabbits bunny magnet at BunFest, which I added to our apartment door. Shout out to the local rabbit rescue group !

Sorting Out Our New Bike Lives

It’s shocking yet luxurious – not a single bike in our new apartment! Not even the folding bikes! You wouldn’t know, unless you looked closely and spotted my bike helmet in a cubby (or saw all the bike parts in The Mechanic’s work space), that here lives people who bike for transportation and for fun. I feel a bit guilty about not having my beloved Fauntleroy here in the cozy apartment where I can watch over him…. but I confess that most of my free time is spent watching over Gaston the Lionhead instead. Oops. Sorry, Fauntleroy. gastonOur new building has a large and secure bike room, accessible by fob, with required registration for each bike therein. A windowless room with motion-sensor lights, it boasts two long, double-stacked bike racks. It’s well-used, too; several bikes clearly get used frequently. Some, not surprisingly, look like they’ve been abandoned, with flat tires and cobwebs. Poor bikes. There is enough open space that we can store all of our bikes in the bike room, with plenty of open racks still available. Yay! It’s nice to live in a new building that was built to accommodate bikes.

The bike room reminds me of a vault

The bike room reminds me of a vault

However….

It’s not 100% rainbows and unicorns, and highlights some ways in which bicycles are still seen, even in bike-friendly Arlington, VA, as recreation and/or toys, and not understood, let alone taken seriously. And although we have some previously only dreamed about amenities, we have still had to opt for a different set up to accommodate our daily bike life.

The vent over these upper racks makes them fairly unusable for any bike but folders!

The vent over these upper racks makes them fairly unusable for any bike but folders!

The challenges are:

  • The lovely bike room is in the basement parking garage.
  • The only way to get a bicycle in and out of the basement parking garage is the elevator.
  • The only way to get to the elevator is through the building. It’s not far from the main entrance and lobby. Which means walking the bike through the lobby, or, the preferred route, the side door.
  • The side door conveniently has an ADA-accessible door switch, so the door will swing open to more easily allow us to roll our bikes in.
  • The next door does not.
  • Then there is a door from the elevator into the actual garage.
  • Then there is the door to the bike room (trust me, I’m good with this one!), once you wheel your bike past a row of cars to get to the bike room.
  • Once you are in the room, the racks themselves are challenging – too close together to fit handlebars easily; hard to “feed” bikes into the wheel channels; and if The Mechanic and I have a hard time getting our bikes on the top rack, what about your average family that wants to bike for fun? Nope, not gonna happen.

It’s not impossible, clearly, just many barriers and steps. It’s obvious that designers and architects are not people who bike often, and (or) have clearly not thought through the steps it would take to get a bike to and from the bike room. It would be so much more convenient if:

  1. The bike room was accessible directly from the outside of the building. No hallways, no passing the concierge, no squeezing in the elevator with strollers…
  2. If the bike room had been built next to the elevator bank, so at least we didn’t have to walk through cars. You know drivers aren’t looking while they are hunting for their parking spot.
  3. The racks were designed to be more user-friendly to more than just the super-fit elite roadies. Yes, there are children’s bikes and trail-a-bike racks in the bike room. Help out those parents!

Because of these challenges, The Mechanic and I have started leaving our bikes outside. I know, I know – what?!?!? Yes, dear Readers, it’s true. They have become (predominately) outside bikes. So this has meant an upgrade in bike locks for me. I broke down and bought the Abus Bordo folding lock. I’m pretty impressed with it so far. It’s super heavy, and I appreciate that. I like that it fits in its case on my down tube, rather than the top tube, and looks more discrete than my U-lock.

Lock in action! See the case?

Lock in action! See the case?

 

It fits snugly in the case, so snugly that I have to work at it to get it out. But that’s preferable to it being too loose!

And this has nothing to do with adapting to our new bike lives, but I had to share anyway – I finally replaced my reflective Lululemon gloves with this swanky glove/mitten set from illumi-nite. They are lightweight, so not deep winter gloves, but something to wear when the mornings are in the 30s or 40s, and afternoons are in the 50s. And they have conductive tips, so I can once again start my Endomondo without having to take off a glove.

illumi-NITE three-in-One Mitten with Glove Liner

illumi-NITE three-in-One Mitten with Glove Liner

Microdots reflecting!

Microdots reflecting!

So in many ways, it feels like a new bike life – even new gloves! I feel like I’m ready for the new year, and we still have December to go!

Biketown at the Bitter End

I was in Portland, Oregon, one of the bikiest towns in the United States and home to a brand new bikeshare system, for five days before I finally got a chance to ride a bike! I was getting worried that it would never happen. Then, at the bitter end, as the sun began to set, some friends and I jumped on bright orange Biketown bikes and did a quick ride over the Tilikum Bridge, “Bridge of the People,” a bridge newly opened for pedestrians, bike-riders and the streetcar. It was an amazing moment.

Oh what a beautiful car-free bridge...

Oh what a beautiful car-free bridge…

Portland has only had their Nike-sponsored bikeshare system for about two weeks now, but despite it being brand new when we (“we” being almost 500 members of the Association for Commuter Transportation) arrived, it seems like Portlanders have taken to it like, well, Portlanders to bicycles. Everywhere we saw half-empty and empty docks, people out on orange bikes, and occasionally, a Biketown bike locked up to a public rack – because they come with U-locks and can do that. !!!! So great!

So what were the bikes like to ride? The bicycles themselves are Social Bicycles, a bikeshare system that uses both smart bikes and smart docks. They all have computers on the back of them, where you enter your rider code. In my case, I chose a one-trip ride from the kiosk, then was given a code to unlock the bike. If you have an annual membership and the app, I’m sure you have a regular code, but I’m not sure. The bikes have larger, usable baskets, which fit my color-coordinated orange purse perfectly. The bike felt very upright to me, which I like, and the handlebars are much narrower than I’m use to. Although that didn’t bother me, I kept smacking my ankles as I pedaled, something confirmed by a friend. Not sure what that’s about. Smooth shifting, smooth riding, really easy system, although a bit hard to see in the dark where the U-lock needed to go to lock up at the end of my trip!

Given the ability to lock the bike up wherever you are, I can see getting a ton of use out of this system. It’s just a shame I didn’t get to test it out better!

Biketown bikes were not the only cool transportation feature around town. Of course, we all oogled the green lanes and bike boxes everywhere we went. Most of us sighed in envy…

In addition, Portland has streetcars, light rail AND an aerial tram, on top of what seemed to be an extensive bus system. The streetcars had hooks to hang bikes, although you know how much I dislike those. Nevertheless, with huge amounts of people on bikes, they are doing something to be accommodating. I spotted bike lockers in front of a public parking garage, a seat built into a bus sign pole, and signs everywhere declaring the sidewalks for pedestrians only (I suspect that has something to do with the large number of homeless people we saw in the downtown area, though).

I wish I had more time to run around Portland and see the rest of the transportation infrastructure, but it was a really good and really busy conference, so I’m not upset. But I did get to do more than just conference stuff and study transit options – our conference hotel was close to both Voodoo Donuts and Blue Star Donuts, and one of the conference tours included the Portland International Rose Test Garden. I could have stayed there forever – the air was so fragrant!

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Keeping busy with the conference wasn’t the worst thing, of course, but I do look forward to returning someday to really explore the city by Biketown bikeshare. There are indie fabric stores and bike shops everywhere that I never go to, and I didn’t dare step into Powell Books on this trip. I think I need to go back and smell the roses again, too. But I won’t wait so long to jump on a bike next time!Bike Sculpture

Folding Bike Date Night

Last Friday night, The Mechanic and I visited friends for dinner – friends who live in Fairfax County. We examined all the options, and finally decided that we would take Metro to East Falls Church Metro Station and bike the rest of the way. But because we needed to arrive at 7pm, and bikes are not allowed on Metro until after 7pm, we took… the folding bikes!

This turned into a fun and naturally well-photographed trip, and it was so much easier than we expected (thankfully we had no problems with Metro, either). The Mechanic made convenient carrying straps for the bikes in their folded position, so of course now I’m considering making reflective straps, especially one to hold the wheels of my Tern together. The magnets aren’t really strong enough to hold. This was an easy way to carry them and not have to worry about a giant bag once unfolded.

Folded up  and on the Metro platform around 6:30pm.

Folded up and on the Metro platform around 6:30pm.

On our way home, we again biked to the Metro, but since it was after 10pm, didn’t bother to fold the bikes up. We were both thrilled to discover how easily the tiny bikes fit in the Metro elevators! Normally, with a full sized bike, this is a Tetris-like challenge. Folding Bike in ElevatorAnother bonus of the small size of the folding bikes is that they more or less fit on the landing in front of our apartment door. With my commuter bike, I end up with it hanging off the top ledge onto the steps below, angled and still banging into the stair railing and doorway. Big win for this! Folding Bike on StairsAlthough the bikes are larger than we anticipated while folded up, and don’t easily fit into a smaller suitcase, this date night proved that even if we don’t travel with them as we’d planned, we will still get plenty of use out of them. I purchased inexpensive bike lights for mine – I still am not sure I’ll use mine enough to justify expensive lights. But these worked great in the evening on our way home. Folding Bike LIghtsKnowing that we can take the folding bikes on the Metro before 7pm with little hassle opens up a wider range of date night destinations, allowing us to get near a location and bike the rest of the way. I’m all for these sorts of multi-modal adventures!

Mmmmm.... grilled pizza! Our folding bike date night reward (thanks for suburban friends with a huge outdoor grill!)

Mmmmm…. grilled pizza! Our folding bike date night reward (thanks for suburban friends with a huge outdoor grill!)

 

A Bit of Transportation History

The Mechanic and I spent some time with out-of-town guests this past weekend touring museums. The Renwick Gallery exhibit Wonder was really amazing and I can’t wait to go back! Definitely make sure you go before May 8, when they start to take it down.

We also toured the National Museum of American History and the Air and Space Museum. It was fun to find quirky bits of transportation history, not always where you expect it.

Sure, in the “America On the Move” transportation hall, you expect to find transportation history. I hadn’t noticed the really unusual women’s bicycle there before – an 1889 women’s Overman Victoria safety bicycle. I was disappointed that we didn’t see the Wheelwoman with her bicycle.

Check out the unusual curved front fork

Check out the unusual curved front fork!

Also, I love these images from the 1950s – an ad for Greyhound stating “No traffic nerves for us!” as a couple travels inexpensively and without having to drive; and a novel entitled Hot Rod. I love the tag line above the title – “Speed… Danger… DEATH!” Oh my. Greyhound Ad Hot Rod NovelIn the National Air and Space Museum, we encountered a bit of World War I history that made us all scratch our heads. Apparently, towards the end of WWI, the German war machine was running low on supplies, and was encouraging women and girls to donate their hair – which would be used to replace rubber driver belts. Yikes! I can’t imagine that worked well. Of course, we all know how that war ended.

And to round out some transportation history, I discovered that WMATA created a platform shoe SmarTrip card in honor of it’s 40th anniversary! Haha – a trip down transportation AND fashion history lane, all in your pocket for your everyday commute. I wish I had one. Platform Shoe Metro Card

Supporting Bike-Friendly Ballston

Saturday morning, The Mechanic and I forced ourselves out of bed earlier than we would prefer. The reason? Supporting a protected bike lane for a bike-friendly Ballston. WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association) was making the case to the Arlington County Board at the 8:30am Board meeting, and we were going to show support.

The Mechanic and I live close to Quincy Street, and use it on a regular basis. The Mechanic bikes on it to work on a regular basis. We both use it to get to the Ballston Metro station, our favorite restaurants (Kapnos Taverna, yum!), I bike it depending from which direction I return home, not to mention the fact that it’s the street on which the central public library and Washington-Lee High School are located. It’s also the street that offers direct access to the Custis Trail, the multi-use trail that extends between the W&OD Trail and Washington, DC. Quincy Street MapCurrently there is a bike lane painted and faded along most of Quincy. There is a permanent dumpster in the middle of the lane just south of Fairfax Drive, and just south of Wilson Blvd is a new hotel, which means taxis, shuttles and cars of every kind poorly park in the bike lane to pick up or drop off visitors. The bike lane vanishes at Washington Blvd., making for awkward (at best) and uncomfortable traffic mingling. A heavily-used road, drivers along N. Quincy have little patience for anything in their way. Don’t even get me started on pedestrian safety along here! On the BikeArlington Comfort Map, N. Quincy is yellow, or “medium” comfort, with that awkward intersection orange or “difficult.”

Comfort Map Quincy

Snippet from BikeArlington Comfort Map

Comfort Map Suggested Ease

BikeArlington Comfort Map Legend

This stretch is also heavily used by people on bicycles, all kinds of people on bicycles. We’ve seen everything from roadies (well, Freshbikes is located right here) to lower-income people on rickety, beat-up bikes, to families, to an older couple we occasionally see on an odd two-seater tricycle (not a tandem; they sit side by side). These people are headed through Ballston on Quincy to all sorts of destinations: not just the library, but any number of shops and restaurants, Quincy Park for recreation and exercise, the high school for school and events, to visit friends, family, and anything else imaginable to which people travel. It’s a vibrant area, and has the potential to be more so.

Luckily, we aren’t the only ones who think so. The proposal met with positive support, both from the two dozen or so of us who were there, and from the Board members themselves. I’m glad we went – it is nice, for once, to be part of the community building process, and to see something so important to public safety being called a “no-brainer” by County staff. Of course, we’ll be watching to see what happens next. I’m not getting up so early on a Saturday to see my efforts go to waste! If we have to return to another hearing, we will. But for now, I am enjoying the positive vibes.

Bicycle advocacy at work!

Bicycle advocacy at work!

 

An Ode to Bikeshare

I own three bicycles. I love Capital Bikeshare.

Thursday evening, I came home on the Metro, where I found the Capital Bikeshare 2015 #busybike. I don’t normally bike from the Metro station home, because it’s not that far, and I still have to walk from the bikeshare dock to my front door. But how could I not ride the #busybike?! Busy BikeIt’s so easy and freeing! No need to worry about a lock, a helmet*, bike lights, my clear glasses that I wear as protection, nothing – just me and a simple, sturdy red bike. It’s such a lovely feeling to push the bike in the dock, hear the locking beep, and walk away. Grab, bike, return. All things should be this simple. What’s not to love?!

 

 

*I prefer to wear a helmet because it makes me feel safer, but sometimes, I just don’t have one with me. This time I was riding less than a mile through neighborhood streets.

Surviving Snowzilla

The weather forecasters were surprisingly accurate with this past weekend’s blizzard. Multiple meteorologists said the storm would hit the DC area between 1-3pm on Friday, January 22, and just after 1pm, I saw the first snowflakes. By the time we went to bed, there were already several inches on the ground. Saturday, January 23, was a day of relentless snow and wind. Although I enjoyed peeking out the window, it did feel tedious after a while.

I started Snowzilla (as it was named) strong, cutting out fabric, but didn’t actually feel like sewing, so I snuggled up on the couch and read all day, keeping an eye on the snow. Sunday, on the other hand, I was highly productive! The Mechanic had to work, so I accompanied him partway (thank goodness he can walk to work!) to see the results of the blizzard. (All the public transportation was shut down, so lord only knows how those poor people who *had* to work got around.)Snowzilla 3Everything was buried under fluffy white snow! And I mean everything! Once again, I was grateful that I am not car-dependent.

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Rabbit-meteorologist Edgar measured 19" in front of our apartment. Thanks Edgar!

Rabbit-meteorologist Edgar measured 19″ in front of our apartment. Thanks Edgar!

Bathed with some bright winter sun, and warmed up by trudging through the freshly-fallen show, I came home and tackled my sewing. I outdid myself – I made a blouse AND a skirt!

Working with this cheery, summery print made me happy, and long for warm weather! I made use of some of the reflective grosgrain ribbon I purchased ages ago in New York City for the ties, although I think it works better for the back tie than for the neck tie. And I had enough large scraps of the purple reflective fabric to get the cuffs made. Both the fabric and the grosgrain coordinated perfectly! The pattern is New Look 6187, which I plan to make again soon in the lower neckline with long sleeves.

I also tackled the Disaster Dress. I took out the skirt panels and simply created an A-line skirt with the chain mail Spoonflower fabric. I did add some reflective trim to the side seams, and I think I will add some elastic to the waist, even though it doesn’t really need it. I was torn between making it a pencil skirt, or just using the pieces as I had cut them for the dress pattern, and decided the later would work best. It’s pretty flattering, although I couldn’t get a decent photo of me wearing it. So now the Disaster Dress pattern is put away, never to see the light of day again. I just didn’t like the shape. But the skirt is wonderful! Too bad I ended up wasting about a yard of the fabric. Chain Mail Skirt 2 Chain Mail SkirtMonday was a snow day – just about everything was closed, schools, government, etc. I cleaned the house, and walked to “our” park, Lubber Run. It’s not that far away, but with all the snow piles, well, it was a hike. It seems like I have to have at least one snowstorm rant blog post, so here it is – how walk-friendly Arlington is NOT after a snowstorm.

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The streets are plowed. Most of the sidewalks are cleared. But no one has cleared the CROSSWALKS! Glebe Road is a very busy road, not just for cars but for pedestrians. It’s a major bus route (the bus shelters were amazingly clear), and the neighborhood grocery store, Harris Teeter, is located right there. These few blocks are always full of pedestrians, and post-blizzard is no different. So there we all were, forging across walls of snow, because there was no way to get to the crosswalks. Walking through the street behind parents with a baby stroller made me anxious for them, as well as for myself! Although most of the people I saw out were fairly healthy-looking, stable people (Millennials and low income families), I did see some elderly people cautiously picking their way over the snow. And what better argument for making ALL walk signals automatic than seeing how impossible they are to get to, once the snow plows have piled the snow up around them?!

I realize that the DC Metro area does not get this sort of snow on a regular basis, so it’s hard to know how to tackle the snow recovery. That being said, we’ve had enough snow storms to realize that people still need to get around after them, even if it is just walking to the grocery store or park. It seems like instructions on clearing crosswalks would be a good start, and encouraging sidewalk clearing all the way into the streets. Find a way to have those working the smaller, more nimble Bobcats pile the snow in other areas than the street corners. It’s a shame to promote our “car free” communities while not being able to support them year-round.

Okay, rant over. Let’s turn our attention away from the ugly reality of snow removal to the beauty in the park. It really was gorgeous, and fun to see all the kids sledding down whatever hills they could find. It’s nice to have a place to go see the beauty of the season, rather than being bogged down in the increasingly ugly urban snow.

How did you survive Snowzilla? Or do you live somewhere where this sort of thing is a weekly occurrence? If so, how is the recovery managed? Snow Angel

Comfort Biking: Headed to Seven Corners

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Comfort Biking blog post, because I haven’t done much biking beyond back and forth to work. But over the weekend, I needed to run by JoAnn Fabrics, in Seven Corners. The weather was nice and I needed the exercise, so I biked.

It's not far, but it's not comfortable, either

It’s not far, but it’s not comfortable, either

There is an official “bike route” for most of the trip. If The Mechanic hadn’t shown the route to me, I might not have found it. Well, I might have, but not as easily. The route runs parallel-ish to Route 50/Arlington Blvd. Because Route 50 is a major road, the bike route wiggles through the neighborhoods. Parts of it really aren’t all that bad, but the signage is lousy. There are a few awkward/potentially dangerous intersections, two in Arlington and two in Fairfax. And of course, once you arrive in Seven Corners, well, it’s a car-centric retail-haven of too many intersecting roads. Bad, bad, bad pedestrian design.

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Bicycle advocates, bike-friendly urban planners, and savvy government employees talk all the time about getting the “interested but concerned” people out on bikes. I’m pretty sure this bike route is not the way to do that. It’s a shame, because it’s the closest shopping area, with a Target, Petsmart, Safeway, Home Depot, Barnes & Nobles, JoAnn Fabrics, Michael’s Crafts Store, Sears, and more – but they are all trapped in a maze of streets. The Mechanic lived right smack in the middle of this area before we got our current apartment, and he’s spent hours walking through questionably safe intersections to get to Target and Safeway. Try getting someone new to biking through this! Um, probably not. As short of a distance as it is, even I prefer to take the bus sometimes.

I've waited at this light enough times to know that it sucks - these people probably do it every day

I’ve waited at this light enough times to know that it sucks – these people probably do it every day

Arlington County has no control over Route 50, so there isn’t much they can do. However, I think better signage would be a good start. Perhaps Arlington would prefer people *not* go to Seven Corners to shop, since it’s outside of the County – maybe that’s the real reason why it’s uncomfortable to get there by bike!

(Also, I don’t think I’ve ever made it to Seven Corners and back without working up a sweat, regardless of temperature. It seems like it’s truly uphill both ways!)

There is really only one way to sum up biking from Arlington to Seven Corners: Bike Route SignThe bike route is there. It’s just not easy to find.