Matt Donahue

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bikes Forgotten by NPS on National Mall

A friend sent me this interesting and frustrating piece on the WABA website:

In a nutshell, this draft Environmental Assessment for the Visitor Transportation Study for the National Mall and Surrounding Park Areas failed to take into account the thousands of visitors and commuters that bicycle in the National Mall. But they did include Segway users. That's amazing. Did the company who drafted the assessment actually go to the mall to evaluate anything? Did they do it on a snowy 10 degree day when no bikers are out? (Even on that kind of day, there may actually have been a bike or two out there).

I actually read parts of the Assessment. Bikes are mentioned, but with equal weight to Segways and with no real commitment to the current status quo:

All alternatives would include the following
provisions at a minimum:
  • continued access for pedestrians and
    bicycles on all multimodal trails within
    national park system areas

  • continued access for persons with disabilities
    by Segway® HT and electric
    scooter throughout the National Mall &
    Memorial Parks. This access would not
    be changed under any alternative. All
    other use of Segway® HTs or electric
    scooters within this document is referred
    to as “recreational use.”

  • replacement of bicycle racks in disrepair
    and the installation of additional bicycle
    racks at key locations throughout the National
    Mall & Memorial Parks, specifically
    focusing on the East Coast Greenway.*
    Through the National Mall & Me-
    public transit access to the visitor core
    and improved visitor information about longterm
    parking facilities adjacent to public
    transportation, and encourages tour bus management
    and increased bicycle use (NCPC

  • Bicycles
    Bicycles would continue to be permitted on
    any designated multi-use trail within the
    National Mall & Memorial Parks. Use regulations
    as described above under “Proposed
    Policies” would also apply to all bicycle riders
    in park areas. As previously stated in “Planning
    Considerations and Assumptions,” existing
    bicycle racks would be upgraded and
    additional racks installed, with particular
    focus on the East Coast Greenway route.
    Constitution Avenue NW (west of 15th Street
    NW/SW), Independence Avenue SW, Ohio
    Drive SW, and other select locations throughout
    the National Mall.

    So there is a way to take action on the WABA website. A letter is a available to use as a template to send comments to the NPS. Do what you think is necessary.

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Metro to Raise Fares - Interesting Reactions

    An article in The Washington Post today Some Metro Riders May Reach for Car Keys discussed reactions from Metro riders to the potential plan to raise fares in order to meet Metro's budget shortfall.

    The Post included angry quotes from riders who are upset about the fare increase. While I don't agree that the increases should be as high as proposed, and it is likely that the hike will be lower in the end, it is interesting that some people say they would rather drive into the city than pay more to ride Metro.

    Most interesting, the article didn't include one quote or any other mention of alternate ways to commute. HMMM where am I going with this? Yes, I am disappointed that there is no mention of bike commuting. Nothing.

    OK, for people living in Rockville who need to get to Farragut North, biking is probably not an option (I would do it, but I'm not like the other kids).

    What are the costs for biking to work? The cost of a bike and some bad weather/good weather riding clothes, maybe some maintenance visits to a local shop, a few tubes. Maybe $1000 a year for all of that? Maybe more? Depends on what you buy I guess. Lets say the trip to work riding Metro is $2 each way. So $4 per day is $20 per week multiplied by 49 (52 weeks in a year but you need to account for vacation) $980. Seems like a wash.

    There are some other cost-benefit ideas that are outside of the bike vs. Metro cost analysis. Riding a bike gives you a cardio workout in the AM and PM. This could easily defray the costs of a gym membership. There is also the non monetary benefit of quality of life improvement by riding a bike outside each morning, more exercise and avoiding the stressed out morning crush of humanity in the metro stations. Or the parking lots of cars on regional highways.

    With my blog readership, I am preaching to the choir. But I just had to share these thoughts. It's annoying that the Washington Post did not include cycling as an option anywhere in an article with a headline indicating that cars are the obvious option (which they are, but let's get creative please).

    Here's a great bike commuting resource: Washington Area Bicyclist Association

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    Reston Capitol 'Cross Classic

    What would a 'cross weekend be without having a good evening of drinking before race day?

    Again this happened, again, it paid off.

    A brief recap since the Lower Allen race. I did two other 'cross races, the Richmond Ciclismo 8th out of 20 in the Bs, and a race over the Thanksgiving break up in Sterling, MA, 59th out of 89 in the Bs. The Richmond race consisted of a relatively sparse field, and I felt that it would be a good race to try the Bs in. The course was very mountain bike friendly and with such a small field, it made for a pretty wide open race. The two sets of barriers, plus a super muddy rooty technical section made the race interesting. The lifting and twisting of the bike definitely wrecked my back and in the final two laps the pain sapped any remaining power I had. JB gave me strict instructions to do crunches to help lessen the back pain by balancing out my core strength, it has helped some, but I need to do more.

    The race in Massachusetts hurt, and although I was probably more prepared for that race of all my 'cross races this year, longest warmup, best rest before the race having been off for the whole thanksgiving week prior to the race, it hurt. The race was really hard, the hardest I've done this season. But it was great because I was racing with my buddy JB for the first time in a few years. I passed his sorry ass on lap two, then he crushed me on lap 4. Another big positive was that my whole family came out to watch me suffer- sisters, parents, wife, nieces, brother-in-law and future brother-in-law. Hearing them cheering made my day. Who cares if you get 59th when you have the bigggest cheering section at the finish line!

    JB suffering on a run-up.

    Capitol 'Cross Classic
    Prep for this race included a sweet dinner at Judd and Sonja's place the night before. Solid chili over pasta with a fine selection of beer, Belgian, Anchor Steam Christmas among others. Several beers and some internet motivation sent us down to the basement gym in their condo complex to contemplate setting up the treadmill in this configuration. We did no configuring of the treadmills, power cords and general lack mischievous spirit kept us under control.

    I had already determined that this would be my last C race, regardless of my placing. I had improved enough in 'cross and had two top 5 finishes this season in 4 C races (4th and 2nd). But I didn't want to move up too fast, since I know that I am not quite up to the B class snuff based on the Massachusetts B race results. I picked up Evan and Judd. Late, of course, but since I was the first one racing, it was my warmup that would suffer. We got there, and Evan and Judd, the good friends that they are, got my bike together and set up while I went and picked up my number.

    Pinned and ready, I hopped on the bike and did a 10 minute pavement warmup and then headed out on the course for a lap. It seemed like a long course, not sure if it was the diverse terrain that made me think this. On a positive note, the terrain was favorable for my skill set, on the other side of the lake there was a distinctly mountain-bike-esque section up in the woods. I'll take what I can get, off in the distance you can see the course going up into the woods.

    There's the hill runup.

    I need to give Joe some thanks my success. He saw me heading out on a second lap of the course and was adamant that I should stop and go line up. Something along the lines, of in all the races I have seen you do, you line up too late and spend 3 laps getting up to the front... if you do at all. So I lined up in front.

    It was great chatting on the line with some of the other guys I've been riding with this season. Everyone was psyched for the last local race of the season. Different races were recounted and discussed. Good stuff. Off the start I felt good and was around the top 8 guys. I started passing a few people, and we ran into the 35+ group who started 30 seconds in front of us.

    On second lap, I was able to pass the final rider in my class. It happened up on the top of the woods section where the deep gravel was. Several riders had lined up on the side of the road where the was no deep slow gravel. I looked at how fast those guys were going and opted to power my way through the slow gravel. The move worked, and although I burnt a few matches on the gravel I was able to ride out the downhill and put a gap into the guys who were stuck in the slow side train.

    This photo is from Kevin Dillard- he shoots all of the mid Atlantic races

    I kept my foot on the gas for the rest of the race, pushing as hard as possible racing with the 35+ leaders. I kept looking back to see if anyone was chasing, no one was in sight, only where the course wrapped back in on itself did I see others. I was pretty surprised when someone did catch and pass me with authority, Nick Bax the eventual winner of the B race.

    I won. It was the first individual bike race I've ever won. I was totally stoked and happy with my performance.

    I cooled down and quickly changed into warmer clothes so I could head out on the course and grab some shots of the guys in the Bs.

    'Cross Season

    As usual I have posted far fewer blogs on the 'cross season than I originally hoped. It's been a great first season though.

    At most of the races, I was accompanied by Evan and Judd. Judd and I made our way up through the C's over the season. Evan, in a whole different league, beat up the Bs for the better part of the season.

    Each race had its own highlights, but things really started getting interesting beginning with the Lower Allen Township MAC race up in PA. This was where things started coming together for me.

    Lower Allen MAC

    I spent the night before that race making dinner with my buddy Dozer. My wife and I have finally finished renovation (after 8 months of dirty construction) our kitchen and dining room, so any chance I get to stay home and eat, I do. So Dozer came over we made bean and rice burritos. He specializes in cocktails and made many vodka martinis. So many that I forgot how many. At around 10:45 I realized that I had not prepared anything for PA race. I was also thoroughly souzed. Dozer left and I headed to the basement to mount a new tubular/clincher Tufo tire to my bike, it had to be done as the tire on there was nearly bald. Strangely, this annoyingly hard task was made significantly easier by being wasted. I mainly remember just muscling that tire onto the rim, pumping it up, then smashing it with my fist to get the bead to connect to the rim. Whatever works I guess. I started laying out the water bottles and clothes for the next morning's 7 AM departure but got quickly confused and decided to head to bed. Nice way to prepare for a race.

    There was doubt In my head when the alarm went off as to whether I would make it to Evan's for the rendezvous by 7. But somehow I managed to cram all the necessary items into the car and get out the door in time to make the 15 minute trip. Judd drove the longer 2 hour trip up to Lower Allen. We stopped at a rest stop and visited the stalls, that was number three for me, all before 9 am. I wasn't feeling 'bad' just not great. Then we hit the rolling hills of PA and nausea started settling in. Bad news. I began the mental game of getting mad at myself for drinking too much the night before, while focusing on recovery by looking out the window and not letting myself descend into hangover gloom.

    We arrived at the venue with enough time for two laps around the course. During the second warm-up lap I wiped out solidly on an off-camber turn and began wondering if racing was a good idea. But I began feeling a little better in the stomach.

    Lining up behind the 35+ B men the gun went off to start their race (first time hearing a starting gun for me, cool but slightly shocking given my state). Then 30 seconds later the C men were off. Right away I was 15 places down, that's what you get for starting two rows back. The prologue was a big straight-away which quickly brought us into the slower ranks of the 35+ field. I quickly lost track of who was in my field and what the C-class number series was. In hind sight it would have been smart to have known which numbers I was competing with given the giant mish mash of classes on the course, but I was focusing on more essential things like getting my stomach settled.

    Evan cheered me from the sidelines, shouting the normal advice, "Come on Matt, settle in". Which despite its seemingly obvious simplicity, is advice that does help as a reminder to settle into a fast but sustainable rhythm. The course was twisty, had some quick ups and downs that I did not have to dismount for. I was making my way forward through riders. I didn't know whether these riders were C class? 35+?, but guessed by some cheering from the sidelines that one rider, Rob, just ahead of me, was in my class and riding well. We traded places for a few laps but I was able to power away from him in a straight flat section toward that back of the course. I started wondering how much longer we had to go. My watch said 32 minutes or so. Definitely another lap to go.

    Most of the information I gleaned from the announcer during the race was how popular the sausage booth was at this venue. The announcer kept talking about it but didn't seem that knowledgeable about how many laps were left. Maybe he was confused by the mixed groups on the course, or maybe the Cs just don't warrant in depth commentary.

    Suddenly the race was over. I never saw the lap counter, nor heard the last lap bell. My watch said 37 minutes. I followed a 35+ guy off of the course and was wondering, did I win? I had sudden fears that I had left the course too early, but, didn't think that was possible. However, there were still people on the course. I felt good, wiped, but not sick and not much back pain, which had been a factor in earlier races. My face was salty, no doubt from the copious martini consumption the night before (lots of olive juice in those suckers).

    I cooled down, and Judd joined me. He was upset with his performance, but mostly upset about the same things I was confused by: lap count, no obvious end to the race. I figured I had done well in this race, but was not sure how well, certainly top 5. I ended up in second. My best showing for the season.

    Evan's race soon started and Judd and cheered. He gradually made his way up into a battle for second place. 'Cross is exciting to watch, especially when races get close. I did my share of yelling out "settle in".