Here’s how it works with bikes: first you don’t know how and don’t get those guys who dress like Indy cars with spandex diapers (Yglesias, Matthew, “Bikes,” TheAtlantic.com, 6 November 2007). Then some stupid user taunts you about being fat and lazy (Bloix, “comment,” TheAtlantic.com, 13 April 2008). So you buy a bike (Yglesias, Matthew, “Prepare for Bikeblogging,” TheAtlantic.com, 23 April 2008). A mere ten days later: I’d say that was some pretty effective taunt. Next thing you know you start getting all in the activist mentality and really enjoying it (Yglesias, Matthew, “Segway Boom,” TheAtlantic.com, 16 June 2008).
I turned over 33 years today.
I bought a bike over the weekend because I wanted to spend my birthday riding around town. It was surprising how easy it was to come into a new bike. I guess it shouldn’t have been. The previous bike came pretty easy too: it was left in the apartment by the previous tenant.
Anyway, I decided to ride the Mt. Vernon trail from Georgetown to Old Town Alexandria. People will often tout the Mt. Vernon trail as an aspect of what a livable city Washington, D.C. is. That this is a piece of D.C. livability speaks volumes. The Mt. Vernon trail is really just a sidewalk along the George Washington Parkway — and under the Reagan National Airport landing pattern. At one point, the trail is just a little berm between the Parkway and the airport runway. There are actually blast walls along part of the trail because they have backed up planes along it with their engines idling. It’s 95° out and the trail is a thin strip in the midst of 100 feet of blacktop on either side: one with thousands of cars averaging 80 miles per hour, the other with a jet landing every four minutes. Apparently D.C. people think this is a nice encounter with nature.
But it’s not so much the trail that’s miserable. The misery of the trail is only indicative of the larger problem, which is that D.C. has decided that the best use of the Potomac river is as a natural cut for freeways. On the Virginia side the river is walled off from the city by the George Washington Parkway. On the District side the river is more or less inaccessible all the way from Georgetown University to Anacostia Naval Base. The Mall, rather than ending at the river ends in one of the most confusing and nasty tangles of highway interchange in the country. The river is so cut off as to play no significant role in the life of the city. It may as well not be there. Washington, D.C. doesn’t even feel remotely like a river town.
Anyway, after the ride down, I said fuck it and took the train back into town.