It’s July, and there’s a heat wave, so honestly what I’m seeing on my bike rides this week is my own sweat in my eyeballs. It’s brutal, especially going uphill. I’d still rather ride my bike than bake at the bus stop, waiting for another bus that’s going to get trapped in the traffic nightmare that is a sinkhole at Howard and Pratt and street closures for Artscape. Seriously, a bicycle is always the best way to get around.
Sunday was hot, hot, hot, but I was in the mood for a bike ride to no particular destination, so I lathered on the sunscreen, filled up my water bottle, and headed down Barclay Street to see what would happen. The first thing that happened was getting soaked in my own sweat, but that’s just part of the deal, being outside in the summertime. At least I was creating my own breeze. I went south and then east, and then south and east again. I decided to see how far that new east/west protected bike lane goes. Yeah, it stops at Washington, which means it’s really for getting people to Hopkins, and that’s it. I hope the city extends it someday, because I wanted to keep going east, and there’s a lot of east left to go from there. The lane’s great if you live in the central part of the city and stop at Hopkins, but for the rest of us, it’s not enough.
I’m still riding my bike around, because that’s how I get around, but we are entering the hot and humid days of summer when rides get considerably less pleasant. It’s like riding your bike in somebody’s mouth. Or pedaling through hot pea soup. Or something else similarly hot and wet and yuck. But here we are, acclimating to another hot summer in Baltimore, happy to get a ride in most days to get from place to place. I snapped this picture on my way home on Friday. The sky was all layers of cloud and threats that didn’t come true.
Today’s ride was a bit different. It was spitting rain when I left the house at 7am, and then I spent the next three hours at the gym, working out and then staring at my phone in the locker room, willing the heavy rains to pass. And then they did, or close enough for me to ride home and still be able to see through my wet glasses. It’s a lot of weather-related rides these day, sunscreen in my eyes, dreams of a cold seltzer pushing me up the hill. It’s good to have a normal summer.
I had a surprise day out of the office on Wednesday, and oh, what a treat! It was a beautiful day–sunny, cooling breeze, like spring–once these clouds burned off. I spent my free day riding my bike around, first to a new gym for a free trial. If you know me in real life you know that I already belong to all the gyms, but hey, why not try out one with towel service that’s along a bike lane?
I rode all over town today, and a lot of it was in protected cycletracks. I rode down Fallsway to the gym in Harbor East, on the new Center Street cycletrack over to Mount Vernon for some errands, and the Maryland cycletrack home. I can’t believe the difference these tracks make for my safety. I know, drivers see them as the enemy, taking away their territory, causing traffic jams, all for “nobody,” because drivers by and large think nobody uses these lanes. In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen so many people using the cycletracks, on bikes, in wheelchairs, on scooters, on foot. I’m happy to be one of them.
Spring has sprung, which means more days of easy cycling, when choosing to travel by bicycle isn’t physically painful. The bike lanes are filling up with folks on bikes, walking, and on scooters, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have more how-you-doin’ friends. Ok, I might be getting a bit ahead of myself, but I like to write for the weather I want, not the weather I have. Spring’s around the corner, I swear.
What it already means for me is that I’m back to riding every day. Tuesday’s ride took me on the Maryland cycletrack down to the bus/bike lane on Lombard and over to the medical center to avail myself of their plentiful bike racks. I passed a terrible crash at Cathedral and Franklin. A sedan was crushed completely and leaking gas, and an SUV had been pushed onto the sidewalk and into a building, knocking old stones into the street. Traffic was snarled, not helped by the cop who pulled up and blocked Cathedral for all cars. I sneaked through on my bike, glad not to be tied up with a car. I hope everyone’s ok. They looked to be, but injuries can be slow to emerge.
My ride home took me the long way, up Pratt Street and over to Harbor East for a quick stop at the gym, and then back through downtown for the Baltimore Beat happy hour at Ida B.’s. It’s back! I snapped this photo looking down at Pratt Street at the red light on Paca. It’s amazing to me how quickly the skin peels off our streets, and how even when we see how differently things were done just a layer below, we still can’t imagine making radical changes on the layer above. The streets feel natural to us, but they were built–we see the building of them all over as they break down. We could build them differently–fewer lanes for cars, more for bicyclists, scooters, pedestrians. We’ve built before, and we can build again–just look under your feet.
And then the light turned green and I took the lane and pedaled away from work and toward the pleasures of the rest of my day. I’m happy to be on the bike everyday again.
When you ride a bicycle or walk you have to pay really close attention to the surfaces you are traveling on, especially in places like Baltimore where the infrastructure is aging and, in many places, in serious disrepair. When you’re driving you have to do this too–you don’t want to break an axle or whatever dropping into a giant pothole–but cars can handle a lot more than bike wheels and feet. I know my regular surfaces really well–the sinking manhole cover just across 25th Street, the ever-present piles of horse shit on that one curve of Fallsway cycletrack, the rough asphalt where they buzzed out some paint lines on Biddle just west of Broadway.