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.
It has been a whole bunch of gray, rainy days lately–15 days in a row and counting, to be specific. I’m still riding my bike every day, but to be honest, I’m getting pretty tired of riding in the rain. Wednesday’s ride home was a total drag–I was tired, didn’t feel like climbing the hill on a good day, and there it was, more rain, getting my glasses wet, decreasing my braking power, and turning drivers into, well, drivers. I waited it out for 10 minutes or so, staring at the internet, wondering if it was possible to wait it all the way out, and deciding nope, no way out but through, get on the bike and get riding.
I have had an incredibly long and busy week that has left me exhausted, so all I could muster on my Friday was a ride down to the library to picke up a couple of movies and a book before settling in at the coffee shoppe for some browsing and reading. I rode home up Calvert Street and stopped at Preston to snap a picture of the street signs for a friend whose brother’s name is Preston Calvert–awesome. I took this photo of the street there, because it reminded me of home, those New Orleans streets that are pocked up and showing their brick undergarments, loose gravel everywhere, this time from repaving. I can’t wait for this street to be all shiny new asphalt, like Guilford. I have been here for two months, and I’m already thinking a lot about street surfaces. Oh, and keep your eyes open for that surprisingly deep sinkhole on Maryland just, across North Avenue. Get to know your street surfaces! I pedaled slowly home, hoping to get some rest for an actual ride tomorrow.
Many New Orleans streets are paved in only the most technical sense, but I knew my potholes, and I knew to keep my eyes partially on the ground at all times. So far, Baltimore streets seem to be better, but they are also seriously wrecked. Riding as far to the right as practicable puts you in serious pothole territory, and in sinkholes and grooves and weird ripples. I stopped on my ride home from drinks with V. to snap this picture of some patched asphalt with a divot and the spray-painted lines that suggest work will be done here soon, Building a Better Baltimore. We have to pay for our infrastructure, people.
I saw lots of things on my sixteen miles of riding about town today, but the most beautiful thing by far was the new patch job on Baronne right before Jackson. It might not look like much in this picture, but that black square? That’s just the edge of a patch that stretches from the curb to about a foot from the center line. And there’s another on the other side. For as long as I can remember, those two holes have been mounded over with loose gravel, an absolute nightmare for a cyclist. I’ve been slowing down and waiting for my turn to ride the center lane at least three times a week for over a year, at least. I won’t have to do that anymore–I can just pedal up the road, right over this smooth patch, until it cracks or starts falling in on itself at the edges, but let’s not borrow trouble. When you ride a bike you end up developing quite a relationship with road surfaces, and I always enjoy seeing mine get that added jolt from surprises like this one.
It has been too long since a good old fashioned blog about how hard it is to ride a bicycle in New Orleans. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love riding a bicycle here. I do it almost every day, sixty, seventy, eighty miles a week. I ride for exercise and transportation, for fun and for pleasure. Becoming a daily bike rider has been a life-changing experience, and it all happened here in New Orleans. I wouldn’t want it any other way. But these streets suck. Continue reading