The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Connecticut Avenue, the Next Frontier

Posted by thearrow on July 15, 2010

Getting to work in one hour and a half really started to bug me about a month ago. I looked at the map, saw how convoluted and roundabout my otherwise scenic bike route was, and decided it was time for a radical approach: bike on Connecticut Avenue, a large boulevard about two miles from where I live, going directly into the heart of DC and just a few blocks from where I work. Not on the sidewalk. In traffic. Gulp.

It takes one hour. I ease into it on a winding little street through a park, then deal with crossing a few unpleasant ramps to and from the beltway (where I have to make sure no cars turn right and run me over), then go on the sidewalk while the road is still uphill, and then plunge into traffic. A complete personality transformation takes place, from someone who bikes at relative leisure, to a very tense, alert, and assertive version of me. If you’re not assertive in traffic when you bike, you’re dead. Thankfully, I go straight ahead, I don’t need to switch lanes other than when I pass a parked car, so all I have to pay attention to are the occasional potholes and traffic lights.

It still is very stressful because I know I slow down my lane. The worst is when I’m behind a bus and need to somehow pass it, or when a bus is behind me and I feel like I’m in a race with Goliath. Even without buses my heart just about pops out of my chest and I could bottle the adrenaline gushing out my nose.

But I love it! I think it allows me to express a more aggressive and competitive side of me that otherwise stays relatively subdued. When I’m in traffic I get this “don’t f*** with me” face and I’m ready to freeze the driver behind with a stare. I swing my arm wide to signal a lane change as if I’m a cop directing traffic.

For the most part, drivers are very nice and patient. I do get an occasional “get on the sidewalk” yell, just like, when I’m on the sidewalk, once in a while a pedestrian would chide me that I’m not biking on the street. And my answer to that is, I bike where I feel safe. Some days I’m just not up to being in traffic; I want to take it easy. When I’m on the sidewalk, I always give priority to pedestrians and try not to scare them with my bell.

With Steve as chief bargain shopper, I found some really good deals on winter biking clothes. In the summer, their prices are reduced sometimes by 50%, so, even if I plunked down a significant amount of money on them,  it was worth it since I wear stuff for years on end. I am now the proud owner of a weatherproof jacket, two pairs of weatherproof thermal pants, and a thermal jersey. I’m set to bike year-round, except when the ground is frozen or it’s snowing.

I used to gripe that I live so far from work, but now I’m enjoying my commute so much that I can’t imagine not biking 10-13 miles each way 🙂 I had to take the metro two days this week and I was very unhappy. Couldn’t wait to get back on my bike.

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