Biking Jan19: Winter Biking – So Far

I already failed my January goal of biking to work three times a week. I blame the weather. I blame my apparent inability to gauge cold and warm – how cold is it really, and how many layers do I need to wear to stay warm on a four mile bike ride?

The first day wasn’t so bad – not terribly cold, nice to be out on my bike, surprise new bike lanes on the route I normally take (makes me feel legit!).

Now my regular commute is legit!

The second day was colder, so I decided to wear my corduroy culottes with the reflective leg warmers my mother knit for me several years ago. This wasn’t too bad on the way TO work, but on the way home, the temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up. I got blown around on my bike, and the full legs of the culottes blew around my legs, so I wasn’t as warm as I wanted to be. I was certainly reflective though!

Here are my reflective winter touches, from outside, working in:

  • Nutcase helmet (not seen: reflective stickers on side and back)
  • Reflective Rabbit scarf, knit by my mother
  • Old Lands End red puffer coat
  • Vespertine skinny reflective belt
  • Reflective lobster gloves (don’t remember where I got those)
  • Funflector reflector on my very old Basil pannier
  • Reflective leg warmers, knit by my mother
  • Navy corduroy Megan Nielsen Tania culottes with black reflective piping in the side seam, made by me

1. All a-glow, after I got home

2. Unpeeling the layers….

3. Ta da! This is how I looked in the office – respectable and not the least bit “bikey”

Then it got even colder and stayed windy. Although it meant I missed my third day of biking, I was fine with it. And now we’ve had the biggest snowstorm in three years, with 9″ of snow on our back deck alone, so I won’t be biking for a bit. Although Arlington County does a great job at clearing the bike lanes and trails, the same cannot generally be said for the conditions of streets. In years past, my bike route has been blocked by the giant piles of snow pushed aside by snow plows. I just don’t feel like the battle, so I opt not to, especially since the bus is so convenient.

9″ of snow on our back deck this morning, wow! Of the originally predicted 3-6″, I was hoping for 3″, haha!

I discovered something I’d forgotten in a year – after a 25-30 minute bike ride, my back is sweating and my fingers are freezing. So I plan to spend the rest of this month trying to balance out the warmth, and figure out how to keep my fingers warm and my core a bit cooler. I might just break down and make my own bar mitts – reflective, of course!

All Biking, No Sewing

Yes, it’s true – this past weekend I did all biking and no sewing! Well, almost all biking – I walked on Sunday. But I biked errands on Friday and The Mechanic and I had a bike date on Saturday, which is more biking that my usual bike to work routine, so yay! And I really didn’t do any sewing, although I did cut out a pattern. And ordered two new patterns. And keep staring at the fabric swatches I got in the mail last week. And helped explain some pattern directions to a friend. But technically, no sewing.

My daily bike commute leaves me somewhat complacent (and with minimal exercise), so it was good for me to shake off some cobwebs and bike around Arlington. And as always, I experienced and observed some things than I feel could easily improve the experiences of others who wish to bike but are concerned, that 60% “interested but concerned” cyclists that the cycling advocates always focus on.  So here are my takeaways from this weekend:


Imagine my shock when, cruising in a bike lane up to an intersection, I spot a sign way across six lanes of traffic that read “bike lane closed.” Considering the sidewalk was also closed, because the whole block is currently a construction site, there was nowhere to go but the traffic lane. Luckily the driver in the car next to me was considerate and let me in front so I could get across the intersection and back onto the trail safely. Also, there was a jogger taking the lane because again, so sidewalk and no accommodations. For an inexperienced cyclist, this could have been a really stressful situation. My suggestion? Add a “bike lane closed” sign in *advance* of the intersection. I could have made route adjustments and gone down a different street. Seeing the sign at the stop sign was a bit too late. Covered Bike Racks

During Friday’s errands, it unexpectedly started raining. I had my Cleverlite Cleverhood in the bottom of my pannier, so I stayed dry (ish), but my bike did not, even when at a bike rack. As I struggled with pannier, bags, gloves, ‘hood, seat cover, lock, keys and lights, I thought about how this situation prevents those 60%-ers from biking more often. It’s a bit of a hassle, running in and out of shops with wet gear, fumbling for the lock while trying to keep everything as dry as possible. Think then, how nice it would be if more outdoor bike racks were covered! There are a few places in Arlington where the racks are covered, such as by the Clarendon Metro station, but overwhelmingly, most places are lucky to even have a few thought-out staples near popular destinations. Even places like schools would encourage more biking more often if the racks were covered.

Lucky bike commuters get nice large bike rack covers near the Clarendon Metro Station in Arlington, VA

What do we need to do to encourage this trend?

Useful Access Points

This is somewhat a pedestrian issue rather than a bicycle issue, but really, I get so annoyed when sidewalk curb cuts are blocked, be it by snow, cars, or construction bollards. Clearly it’s too hard for people to consider that someone *might* actually need to roll something down off the sidewalk – wheelchair or baby stroller or maybe even bicycle.

I hate this spot in particular, because I think it is too narrow and too angled to be useful to someone in a wheelchair.

If I, as an experienced cyclist, find these things frustrating, imagine what someone who isn’t as experienced or dedicated might react to these. A sudden vanishing bike lane could scare someone off riding a bike again, while rainy weather and no comfortable place to leave a bike could make someone revert back to their car. Blocked curb cuts are enough to make anyone realize that their local government and community doesn’t really care about how they get around by foot or bike, or how they might struggle with a walker, and cause them to relocate elsewhere. It might seem like a small thing, but really, it’s not.

Is it any wonder that I prefer to stay home and sew?! It offers a good refuge from a city that seems to have it out for me, the cyclist. Currently I can’t wait to order some of this Thread International canvas and jersey, made with recycled plastic bottles collected in Haiti. I want to make 1930s-style wide legged trousers and a simple tee shirt and lounge around in them all summer. Guess I’ll need longer pant straps to keep those pants from getting caught in the gears. That’s at least one frustrating thing I can control!

Not bike friendly but awfully cute!

Adding a Series: Comfort Biking

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Forum for Women & Biking, and the conversations surrounding how women don’t feel as safe or comfortable as men do, when it comes to biking, one of the reasons why fewer women bike. So I’ve decided to start a series called “Comfort Biking.”

By “Comfort Biking,” I mostly mean places and spaces that don’t seem to be comfortable enough for that 60% “interested but concerned” group to bike in. I run across them myself, or rather, I don’t – because I chose to go a different route. I think that we can start identifying what people might be insecure about, or unsure of, or nervous or maybe just downright scared. It might be physical but it could end up being about people, groups, dogs, or anything else. Anything that I run across that makes me think, “Oh, I don’t feel comfortable with this, I’ll do something else.”

"Increased Comfort = More Women Biking" - The League of American Bicyclists

“Increased Comfort = More Women Biking” – The League of American Bicyclists

I had a few experiences today that made me think of this. The first experience was this morning, when I was biking to a client location. While I was happily in the bike lane, headed north, I noticed a boy on his bike riding on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. At first I was annoyed that he was doing something clearly incorrect and potentially dangerous, but when I got closer and realized he was a student, I thought, “Well, we need to do a better job at education to make sure kids know to bike in bike lanes!” However… when we got to the intersection, I realized why he was biking where he was – the bike lane I was in ended, and not only that, there was no crosswalk on my side of the very busy and large intersection! If I wasn’t confident enough to bike through the intersection with the vehicular traffic, I would have had to cross in the crosswalk to the left hand corner, then cross on the left side. I didn’t see the boy cross, but I bet that’s what he did. I saw in that moment a true story about how we encourage kids to bike to school, but can’t provide the safe infrastructure to let them do so.

The intersection side without the crosswalk.

The intersection side without the crosswalk (taken from the left/west side of the street, looking east)

The intersection headed north on the west side of the intersection.

The intersection headed north on the west side of the intersection.

On my way home from a different meeting, I opted to bike down a further street towards our apartment, rather than the closer street, because the closer street requires a left-hand turn in the middle of the road with no light, and sometimes I just prefer to not have to do that. Sometimes, like today, I opt to keep going, and turn onto the street with the traffic light. It depends on my mood. Today, I didn’t feel like dealing with the oncoming traffic confused by a bike in the lane, trying to make a turn (it sucks for cars, too, but obviously I’m smaller and more vulnerable).

I think this series will only be once a month, but I think it is important. Surely those nine blog posts won’t change the world, but it will be a step in the right direct of talking about different needs.  finessecomfort


Bike Lanes in Baltimore

The Mechanic and I traveled via Amtrak to Baltimore last Saturday to partake in the Baltimore Zoo’s Brew at the Zoo, which was a weekend event of bands and beers. The bands were okay, but the beers were fun – we tried 18 different ones between the two of us!

Cheers from the Baltimore Zoo!

We also attempted to use our DC SmarTrip cards on the Baltimore system, which didn’t work so well – I single-handedly crashed at least 6 gates trying to use my card! Oops. The kind metro worker let me in, but I bought a one way fare card for the way back to the Amtrak station after we left the zoo.  The Mechanic’s SmarTrip card worked fine on our way, but not on the return, so he bought one too. Bummer! Next time I guess we’ll have to buy Charm Cards.


After our fun at the zoo, we ended up in Little Italy for dinner. Actually, we ended up in Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop, a small Italian place we had stumbled upon in January when we were last in the area. The paninis are unbelievable, and how can you not love a place that offers olives and Asiago cheese as a side?! The line for cookies was too long, or we would have gotten cookies too.

Yum! Paninis from Vaccaro’s

But here is where I have to geek out a bit – there were all these cool bike lanes in Little Italy! Or at least on this one street we were on – a sharrows headed west and on the same street, an east-bound bike lane! On the same street!

Personally, I might have been a bit weirded out to bike towards oncoming traffic, even parked cars, but it’s great that they have this! I didn’t actually see anyone biking on it when we went by (come to think of it, I didn’t see anyone on a bike at all), but I hope that people actually do. It’s in a great location near the harbor, so there should be plenty of cyclists.  I guess I need to look up bicycle riding stats for Baltimore – does anyone know if there is a big bike culture there or not? I know I’ve seen other bike lanes around the harbor, but what about away from there?

There are certainly a ton of fun bike racks all over the harbor area! I hope that means they are well used. If we could get our bikes up to Baltimore on Amtrak (don’t get me started on train laws regarding bicycles around here!), I know we would use the lanes and the racks! Maybe later this summer we will have to check it out….

Crab bike rack