(Me to spatch: "This is ridiculous. If I can read cuneiform, I should be able to read Chinese. I feel incredibly stupid." Rob to me: "You can't call yourself stupid if you're teaching yourself Chinese!")
(Me to spatch: "This is ridiculous. If I can read cuneiform, I should be able to read Chinese. I feel incredibly stupid." Rob to me: "You can't call yourself stupid if you're teaching yourself Chinese!")
I know I didn't kill the eggs because when I looked in very quietly a month later I saw baby birds. But if I wasn't quiet enough the birds would pull back in the nest and hide, so when I didn't see birds for a while I wasn't sure if they had fledged or not.
I have a FLIR IR camera that snaps onto my iPhone. I hadn't used it for a while; it's a bit bulky and clunky and while it's amusing to see the world in false color based on the temperatures of things (and window glass reflects IR like a mirror, which is kind of weird), it's not so fascinating that I want to do it all the time. But Kip pointed out that it would surely work to tell if the nest was really empty or if the baby birds were just hiding. So I pulled it out, charged it up, and snapped it on the phone, and verified that the nest was empty. I put on gloves, because birds nests can host some really bitey insect life, and removed the nest. Carolina wrens nests are lots of twigs and dry grass and dried out Spanish moss and the like--really loosely packed together with a rounded spot in the middle for the eggs.
While I was at it, I used the FLIR to check if there were any babies hiding in the robin's nest in the crook of the downspout by the bathroom window. I don't know why the robins like that particular downspout, but they've built a nest on it three years running. The nest was cold, so I got out my folding ladder, unfolded it to its fullest extension, and took the nest down. Then I took a bowl of water and a scrub brush up the ladder and cleaned the mud off the downspout and the side of the house. Robins nests are like green pottery, if potters also used a lot of grass. They are little horizontal bowls of dried mud with straw embedded in it.
I set the two nests side by side on the grass and took a picture.
With the rest of my day I finished making the shelf for Kip's weights. I put in some nice touches (if I do say so myself) like a cutting a low arch in each of the 2x4s holding up the middle and top shelves, so that there would be a bit more room for Kip to reach in and set his heavier weights in there. My workshop is pretty nicely set up now: the bandsaw was great for cutting the arches, the Shopsmith in Drill press configuration worked for drum sanding the arches and the cut edges of the plywood--I could use a few more of the good bar clamps, but aside from that I'm happy with it.
I have a picture of that also.
I am tired and my back hurts but it is worth it to have all those weights off the rumpus room floor. I have been meaning to do this for at least two years, so it's good to finally have it dealt with.
I saw the news of Manchester yesterday morning. I was in the process of posting about a nearly sixty-year-old movie in which a terrorist bombing figures prominently. It would have been nice for that aspect of the film to have dated as badly as its Cold War politics, but even the Cold War politics have become popular again these days. I don't want to speak for a city that isn't mine: I wish everyone strength and safety. Title of this post from H.D.'s Blitz poem The Walls Do Not Fall (1944).
(I am not pleased that just because the man in the White House does not understand security, privacy, or boundaries, apparently whole swathes of the U.S. intelligence community have decided to follow suit.)
Some things from the internet—
1. It is not true that I had no idea any of these events were actually photographed, which is my problem with clickbait titles in general (seriously, the one with Tesla has been making the rounds of the internet for a decade), but this is nonetheless an incredibly interesting collection of historical photos. The one of a beardless van Gogh is great. The records of the Armenian genocide, the Wounded Knee Massacre, and Hitler in full-color Nazi splendor are instructive. I am way more amused than I should be that thirty-one-year-old Edison really looks like a nineteenth-century tech bro.
2. Courtesy of moon_custafer: "ZEUS NO." I am reminded of one of my favorite pieces of Latin trivia, which I learned from Craig A. Williams' Roman Homosexuality (1999/2010): that Q. Fabius Maximus who was consul in 116 BCE got his cognomen Eburnus because of the ivory fairness of his complexion, but he got his nickname pullus Iovis—"Jupiter's chick," pullus being slang for the younger boyfriend of an older man—after he was hit by lightning in the ass.
3. Courtesy of drinkingcocoa: "James Ivory and the Making of a Historic Gay Love Story." I saw Maurice (1987) for the first time last fall, fifteen years after reading the novel, and loved it. I should write about it. I should write about a lot of movies. I need to sleep more.
4. All of the songs in this post are worth hearing, but I have Mohamed Karzo's "C'est La Vie" on repeat. You can hear him on another track from the same session—covering one of his uncle's songs, his uncle being the major Tuareg musician-activist Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou—here.
5. Well, I want to see all of this woman's movies now. Like, starting immediately: "Sister of the sword: Wu Tsang, the trans artist retelling history with lesbian kung fu."
Many thanks to heron61 for bringing it to my attention.
With your made-up eyes and your grown up gown
And the glitter on your cheek
When the pink balloons come tumbling down
You’ve been waiting for all week…
Dance little girl, dance with delight
Let nobody tell you that it isn’t right.
To a Latin beat, when you twist and sway,
With your body wild and free
Where nobody cares who’s straight or gay
And you’re just where you want to be…
Dance little girl, for the world is good
Let nobody tell you you never should.
With your slicked back hair and your rose tattoo
To the heavy metal beat
And your friends are singing and dancing too
Who you came tonight to meet…
Dance little girl, dance for today
Let nobody tell you that it’s not the way.
So dance, for no one can stop the dance
They may try to make us fear
But for Manchester, for Orlando, France,
We will keep on dancing here…
Dance little girl, we’re all dancing still
It’s right to dance and it’s wrong to kill.
(In an interview in Paris yesterday somebody asked me if I was engagee. I didn’t know what it means. It means “an activist”. I don’t know that I’m an activist, but I’m alive in the world and I’m not a stone, I can’t not have a reaction when things happen, and if I can find a way to process that into art, well, I’m going to.)
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and just love it! Your answers and the community here are both awesome. So thanks. My question is really tough and I’m afraid your answer is going to be “there is no actual compromise possible here.” But I’m going to try.
My husband and I were both raised as extremely religious Catholics. When we were dating (courting??) we both agreed that we wanted to have lots of kids, like a dozen, and homeschool them all. Over eight years of marriage, we’ve both changed a lot. We’re both a lot more liberal and our kids are going to public school. After the third kid, we both agreed that we no longer wanted to have any more kids. But, being Catholic, there are only two allowed solutions: NFP (natural family planning, also known as Vatican Roulette), and total abstinence. We did that for a miserable year and a half and then, predictably, got pregnant with our fourth.
I cannot describe how horrible this has all been to me. Four kids is A LOT OF KIDS, especially given that the oldest is only seven. I loathe being pregnant with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. All of them have been high needs. I haven’t slept well since 2009. My husband is exhausted too; he cried like a baby when he found out we were having the fourth and I believe he is still depressed about it four months after she was born.
And I no longer see any point to this punishingly difficult lifestyle since I am no longer Catholic. Between kid 3 and kid 4, I did a lot of studying and am now entirely agnostic. My husband was really upset by my deconversion and mostly prefers not to talk about it at all. He’s become a lot more skeptical about his faith, but he does think it’s true and it worries him to think I might be going to hell. Meanwhile I now think that birth control is definitely the greatest thing since indoor plumbing.
Our birth control method now, given that NFP so obviously does not work, is abstinence. Every couple of weeks my husband can’t stand it anymore so we have non-PIV sex. Only there is zero communication about this. I think his perspective is that, if he’s got to “sin,” at least he’s not going to make it worse by premeditating it. The problem is that it’s obvious both of us want to take it further and I know from experience how hard it is to think clearly when you’re horny. I am terrified that sooner or later we’re going to get pregnant again. I cannot, CANNOT go through pregnancy again; I get the shakes just thinking about it. Meanwhile our sex life is completely screwed up from the NFP and then the whatever-this-is we’re doing now, so that neither of us is really enjoying it that much and we both kinda feel like roommates. It sucks and the thought of doing this till menopause is awful.
I want to go on birth control. He doesn’t even want to discuss it. He told me some time ago that if I did go on birth control, he’d continue to feel obligated to never have sex again because contracepted sex is a sin. I don’t want to do something unilaterally if it truly would upset him, but on the other hand I feel like his religion will make it impossible for him ever to agree to it, even if he WERE okay with it, because that would implicate him in the “sin.” So I can’t find out how he really feels about it. And then there’s the money issue … we don’t have insurance and all the really effective birth control methods are pretty expensive. With his cooperation we could easily save up the money for it in a couple of months, but since I’m a full-time carer for the kids, I don’t have much in the way of my own separate money. And it’s not like a couple thousand dollars are sitting around in the bank right now for me to just take and use … even if I would feel okay unilaterally spending that amount of money, given that normally all major purchases have to be okayed by both of us. And I have almost no one in my life who isn’t fanatically Catholic, certainly no one I could call on to drive me home from getting my tubes tied.
What, dear Captain, would you do? Can you help me come up with a script for “seriously, we need to actually TALK about what we’re doing and your Catholic guilt and denial are not helping”? I have been quietly waiting for the past two years or so for him to come around, but he hasn’t, and I feel our disastrous fourth pregnancy is my fault for agreeing to rely on the broken fire escape that is NFP instead of going behind his back and somehow getting an IUD. Yet I still hesitate to make such a big decision unilaterally; I’m equally scared to tell him (and face his hurt feelings) or not tell him (and have a big whopping secret looming over my head). And of course there are the practical issues.
Thanks for reading my lengthy novel,
Offred (Just Kidding) (Mostly)
Hi “Offred” (No Joke!):
When spouses don’t agree about birth control…the person with the greatest pregnancy risk gets to use birth control if they want to. If you were my friend and you wanted an IUD and your husband didn’t want you to have an IUD, I’d have you at that appointment today*, so I’m not sure that asking what I would do is the most helpful thing for you. Still, I’m really glad you wrote, so, hi!
This shouldn’t a surprise, but I’m firmly in the “Can the Pope get pregnant? No? Could any of the men who have ever been responsible for deciding and promulgating this doctrine (i.e. the literal Patriarchy) get pregnant? Mostly…not…(though I’m sure a few transgender men were in the historical mix, thanks for nothing, fellas)? Can your husband get pregnant? Really unlikely? Do any of these people live in your body? Then their opinions about this are not the most important opinions” camp.
This doctrine in particular is one of the reasons I personally broke with the church. I respect people’s right to make their own reproductive decisions and their right to factor religious faith into those decisions. I also believe those rights stop at the borders of your own body, so I don’t respect the way this doctrine has made life harder for countless women and people who can get pregnant, and I don’t respect the Church’s political activism around making contraception harder to access. If you wanted a nuanced, neutral, “Well, religious doctrine is super important too, so, tread carefully!” answer, I’m 100% not your lady.
The good news is, enough Catholic families (I’ve seen numbers as high as 98% of sexually active practicing Catholic women have used contraception) are going to church and then also quietly going to the doctor and locking their birth control stuff down that I’d bet *someone* in your community would drive you wherever you needed to go (and/or trade off rides in the future). They’re just being quiet about it the way you are being quiet about it because they don’t want to wake the Patriarchy. The “everyone else does it” argument probably isn’t going to convince your husband, but I think it might help you to remind yourself that facts and precedent are on your side.
You are the only adult in your family who can get pregnant. To me, that makes you the only decider about whether you want to be pregnant and what steps and trade-offs you are willing to make to prevent pregnancy. The teachings of your husband’s church and his worries about sin and his hurt feelings do not outweigh your human right to make this decision for yourself or obligate you to keep gestating an Adorable Gift From The Vatican! every couple of years. You can love your kids without wanting more of them. You can love God without wanting more kids. You can love your husband and still draw a line about this. He can have unsettled feelings about this, but you have a right to bodily autonomy and a right make your own decisions about your own ethics and religious beliefs.
You say that this issue has been on the table for two years while you wait for him to come around. (Not incidentally, that’s two years during which you had an unplanned pregnancy that made you miserable). If you wanted to give him one more chance to “come around,” here’s a possible script:
“Husband, I don’t want to get pregnant again, and I want to be able to have sex with you without that risk, so I am going to get an IUD** as soon as possible. I’ve done some research and the device and insertion will cost $X, so we need to start putting $Y aside from the household budget to pay for it. Until that’s handled, I don’t want to have any penetrative sex. I know you are uncomfortable with this decision, but this is the right decision for me and I need you to be on my team right now.“
He’ll have some stuff to say and maybe some weird feelings about it. You can get the IUD anyway.
Things might get really weird between you for a little while.You can get the IUD anyway.
He may try refuse to help pay for it. You can get the IUD anyway. Planned Parenthood and other organizations offer free or sliding-scale birth control. In searching for “free birth control” I also found this clinic locator. Chicago has this absolute treasure of a sliding-scale women’s health center, maybe there is something like this near you? Incidentally, one partner using finances to control another’s medical decisions or refusing to pay for the other’s medical care is not okay.
Your follow-up script can be “I’ve prayed about it, I’ve thought about it, and I need to do this to take care of myself. If you are uncomfortable, I understand, I’ve really tried to respect that and to give church-approved methods a chance, but it’s not working for me and my mind is made up.”
Warning: He may try (out of guilt, a desire for control, a desire for The Last Word, who knows) to keep having penetrative sex with you while you save up. THAT IS NOT OKAY. It is also the reason that you need the IUD. If you think this might happen, it’s also an argument for unilaterally and quietly taking care of it on your own. It sucks to keep secrets in a marriage and I understand why you don’t want to. I also think that unreasonable people who don’t give you a safe way to tell them the truth don’t get to be outraged if you choose to quietly prioritize your own safety.
Your husband doesn’t really want more children. He also does not want to commit to only non-penetrative sex forever (Exhibit: Baby #4). He doesn’t want to “sin” by using contraception, but he’s not the one who is going to get pregnant. Does he want to be scot-free of this particular “sin” so badly that he’s willing to risk your health, your life, your economic well-being (Four kids under 8 and no health insurance for you?? How did y’all pay for your pregnancy and delivery? None of my business, really, but that sounds REALLY, EPICLY HARD!!!???!!!)? Is he willing to risk the trust and closeness of your marriage to get what he wants?
There is a compromise possible here, it’s called: “You get the medical care you want and need, and he agrees to handle his complicated feelings about that without making them (literally) your problem to carry.”
Look at it this way: You getting an IUD inserted doesn’t obligate him to have sex with you. If penetrative sex with a woman on birth control is really and truly too much of a sin for him to even contemplate, then he has the option of continuing with the non-penetrative kind of sex once you are on birth control so that his conscience will be 100% clear. Does that sound like a deeply unrealistic path for him? YES, OF COURSE IT DOES THAT’S WHY YOU HAVE THIS PROBLEM (AND A FOURTH BABY).
If he can’t be on your team about this, I do not think you are a bad person or a bad wife if you quietly take care of yourself around this and present him with a fait accompli. You don’t need his permission. Family money is your money, too. Ideally spouses would make these kinds of decisions together, but when the chips are down, the person with the pregnancy risk gets to make the final call.
Jennifer Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, Abortion Is Necessary Healthcare, and Planned Parenthood Is A National Treasure Captain Awkward Leigh Peepas
*If you live in or near Chicago, email me?
**Substitute whatever birth control method you and your doctor choose, including tubal ligation.
Moderation Notes: I do not want to moderate a discussion about this today. If the Letter Writer wants community input or to find a local-to-her-ride-to-the-clinic, the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com might be a good place for that discussion.
Let me rewind and explain. Problem: Two children (not the aforementioned monsters, or at least not yet today) who do eat different vegetables at different times but really only reliably both eat broccoli each time. Plus two parents who are growing bored with eating steamed (because they haven’t yet seen the light of crispy roasted broccoli, although they are wrong and we tell them this often) broccoli all the time. Solution: Give it a fine chop (rubble it, if you will) and sauté it in olive oil with a heap of garlic, as many red pepper flakes as we can get away with, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper and then finish it with fresh lemon juice and a fistful of grated pecorino romano (particularly excellent here for its pungent saltiness) for a mixture that’s zinging with enough flavor you’d eat it from a fork with nothing else.
But it’s so good, we prefer to stretch it into dinner as often as possible. We’ve finished it with these pangrattato crumbs and a crispy egg, or when at room temperature, a ball of burrata. (Which is becoming the new #putaneggonit, at least when we find it for a reasonable price.) We’ve tucked it between a piece of toast and slice of provolone for broccoli melts. We’ve put it on top of a slick of garlicky béchamel with torn mozzarella on top for broccoli pizzas. And now there’s this: a farro salad that’s as good warm as it is at room temperature, which means it can be ready for all the weekend picnics and potlucks to come, or for dinner any night of the week. Such as this one.
American University professor Derek Hyra has released a new book, Race, Class,and Politics in the Cappuccino City, which looks at issues over racial, income, and other changes in the Shaw/U Street area as a microcosm of similar changes happening around the city and the nation. We are pleased to present a few excerpts.
Shaw/U Street’s redevelopment has several benefits for longtime residents who are able to stay in the community. The crime rate has dropped as the property values have skyrocketed. New restaurants, grocery stores, and clothing and furniture outlets have opened. Also, community amenities, such as parks and libraries, have been upgraded. However, these improvements have come at a price for the longtime African American residents, as many have experienced political and cultural displacement.
The back-to-the-city movement, gentrification, and mixed-income development literatures have given residential displacement much greater attention than political and cultural displacement. Political displacement occurs when a long-standing racial or ethnic group “become(s) outvoted or outnumbered by new residents,” leading to the loss of decision-making power by the former group. Political displacement might occur in redeveloping areas when low-income people remain but become overpowered by upper-income newcomers.
There are at least four reasons why scholars and policy makers should be concerned with political displacement. First, evidence suggests that longstanding residents withdraw from public participation in gentrifying neighborhoods, and little is known about how and why this occurs. Second, decreased civic engagement among existing residents may make it more difficult for them to form potentially economically beneficial relationships with newcomers. Third, prior studies suggest that long-standing residents sometimes resent new neighborhood amenities, and an investigation of political displacement might help to explain the onset of resentment for amenities that, on the surface, seem to be community improvements.
Fourth, political displacement might relate to cultural displacement. Cultural displacement occurs when the norms, behaviors, and values of the new resident cohort dominate and prevail over the tastes and preferences of the original residents. While there may be points of common ground between old and new residents in redeveloping neighborhoods, often newcomers seek to establish new norms, behaviors, and amenities that align with their desires.
If this occurs, long-term residents may find that their community no longer resembles the place they once knew, and they may no longer identify with their neighborhood. With decreased attachment to place, low- and moderate-income residents might opt to leave economically transitioning neighborhoods, leading to their rapid conversion into homogeneous enclaves instead of integrated, mixed-income neighborhoods.
Black Washingtonians invented go-go music in the 1970s. Go-go combines jazz, funk, R&B, hip-hop, and Caribbean sounds, and is recognizable by its repetitive beat and improvisation. It was once quite popular on U Street as late as the 1990s; however, with the community’s redevelopment and political shifts, many of U Street’s go-go clubs have shut down.
Jim Graham, supported mainly by Shaw/U Street’s new resident population, led the controversial political crusade to close local go-go clubs. Graham recalls, “There were people who said I was anti-go-go, and you know, actually I know nothing about go-go... it’s not about the music, it’s about the people who are attracted and then acted out from being there, it was about people. So we worked very hard... to close... a good half dozen really bad businesses.”
Christine, a White newcomer and president of the U Street Neighborhood Association, says, “I remember one day getting off the Metro and walking down the street, and I saw a flyer... that had a White man hanging by a noose, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, where am I living?’ Until I saw it was about Jim Graham and the go-go [controversy].” Christine, who has been extremely active in local politics, understands that longterm residents were resentful of their diminished political power: “I can understand why people are upset. That you take an area that even though it had been completely depressed, but has a history of being African American, and then all of a sudden all these outsiders are running it.”
With go-go gone, part of Shaw/U Street’s and DC’s Black history and culture has been erased from its streets. Author Natalie Hopkinson, a DC go-go historian, explains, “Go-go may be invisible to much of white Washington, but it’s as much a part of the city as [the] pillars and monument[s] of its federal face... Go-go is Washington.”
Furthermore, Kip Lornell and Charles Stephenson Jr., authors of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C., maintain that “go-go provides a voice for members of D.C.’s often overlooked, much maligned, and disenfranchised African American community.” With the political efforts to rid Shaw/U Street of go-go, aficionados of this musical genre must, for the most part, head to the DC suburbs to attend live performances of this District-conceived, African American form of cultural expression.
Ironically, some middle-income newcomers claim that they chose Shaw/U Street over other DC neighborhoods because of its racial diversity and Black history. Yet several recent arrivals engage in local politics to gain political power and advocate for changes that make it difficult for African American institutions. Dominic Moulden of Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE DC), expresses feelings that some longtime residents have when newcomers remark that their attraction to Shaw/U Street was based on its racial diversity and Black history: “Don’t tell me that you moved to this neighborhood because you wanted diversity. No, you moved here because you realized you got the numbers to change the culture.”
In November 2008, the Shaw/U Street community became the first in DC to have an official off-leash dog park. The fifteen-thousand-square-foot fenced enclosure contains peagravel and smallstone surfaces where dogs can roam freely. It likely cost the city well over a half a million dollars to construct.
Shaw/U Street’s dog park came about after extensive advocacy by newcomers, mainly White middle- and upper-income residents. With political pressures from newly White dominated ANCs and civic associations, the city agreed to build the amenity, one that has become part of the changing landscape in gentrifying areas. The Midcity Dog Park Committee helps provide funding for the park’s upkeep and sets the park’s rules, even though it is a publicly owned city space. On any given evening, the dog park is filled with newcomers. Its arrival has been associated with other subsequent community changes, such as nearby bars and hotels hosting “yappy hours,” where individuals show off their dogs while enjoying a drink.
Very few longtime African American dog owners use the park, and there is a perception that this newcomer amenity has been preferred over other local recreational spaces. The school playground, where the new dog park is located, also contains basketball courts and a soccer field. At the time of the dog park’s construction, no resources were dedicated to other playground amenities, which were in desperate need of upgrading. The soccer goals were askew, and the field was mainly dirt. The basketball courts had not been renovated since at least 1997, when DC’s professional basketball team changed its name from the Bullets, as indicated by the faded Bullets logo on the court’s worn surface.
Yet while soccer fields and basketball courts, which are oftenused by Hispanics and African Americans, are neglected, newcomer amenities are developed and upgraded. The physical juxtaposition of these amenities symbolizes tensions, political power, and cultural shifts occurring in Shaw/U Street.
Alienation, Resentment, and Withdrawal
Some long-term DC residents resent new infrastructure, such as bike lanes, bike-sharing systems, and dog parks. Marshall Brown, a political strategist and father of former DC City Council chair Kwame Brown, states, “They [the new white residents] want doggie parks and bike lanes. The result is a lot of tension. The new people believe more in their dogs than they do in people... This is not the District I knew. There’s no relationship with the black community. They don’t connect at the church, they don’t go to the same cafes, they don’t volunteer in the neighborhood school, and a lot of longtime black residents feel threatened.”
The feeling of being threatened is compounded by a sense of detachment and disillusionment that sets in when people do not feel comfortable in neighborhood spaces. For instance, Gloria Robinson, ONE DC’s affordable housing community organizer who used to live in the area, comments, “I just feel like, and this could be my own paranoia... when I’m walking through there, especially when the street sidewalks are bustling, it’s like folks are looking at me as if I don’t belong there. I’m serious! It may be my paranoia, but... that’s the feeling I get.” This feeling of not belonging anymore can lead to greater civic participation, as in Robinson’s case, but it can also lead to withdrawal.
One of the most noticeable and significant withdrawals from Shaw/U Street’s civic life is Walter Fauntroy. A lifelong resident, former pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church, and former DC congressional representative, Fauntroy did more for Shaw/U Street and the city than any other African American political leader. In speaking about the recent redevelopment that has taken place, Fauntroy declares, “I can’t be caught up in a fight where the cards are stacked against you. [Shaw/U Street] should be a place where... people can all live together, but I gave up, quite frankly.”
When the person who has devoted his life’s work to maintaining and preserving Shaw/U Street says “I gave up,” something is clearly amiss. The political and cultural displacement in the community is severe, and current and former Black leaders as well as some low-income residents resent the changes that have taken place there in the last decade.
This excerpt has been edited for length. Reprinted with permission from Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City by Derek S. Hyra, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2017 Derek Hyra. All rights reserved.
"Low stress maps" that show which streets in an area are easiest to bike on are all the rage these days. Fairfax County is the latest to publish one.
Maps are a good way to find a route between two points, obviously. But for people traveling by bike, the straightest line usually isn't the only concern. Most cyclists want to know not only how to get to where they're going but whether or not they'll be safe on the trip. Roads that are popular for driving rarely make good roads for cycling when there's no dedicated bike infrastructure.
Building a network of bike lanes is a great way to make cycling easier and more appealing, but that can take a long time. That's where the low-stress map comes in; even without protected bikeways or bike lanes, many places do have routes that, if people only knew about them, are nice and easy on cyclists.
The map ranks roads by how comfortable someone might feel while riding a bike on it. "Comfortable" roads, which are roads where anyone could feel at ease riding a bike in the street, are marked in green. Beyond having infrastructure designed for cyclists, a road might be listed as comfortable because of lower speed limits or fewer cars using it.
Beyond those marked comfortable, there are other roads that are still a pretty good option for experienced cyclists. These are marked in blue and yellow as "somewhat comfortable" and "less comfortable." There are also roads that are only recommended for the most intrepid of cyclists, marked in gray as "use caution." These roads are usually places where cars travel at higher speeds.
Trails are marked in purple, with unpaved trails getting a dashed line. The map also points out train stations and bike stops for people looking to add a bicycle route to a transit trip or people who may need to make a pit stop.
Montgomery and Arlington Counties already have low-stress maps for their communities. You can find an interactive version of Fairfax's online, where you can zoom in on your neighborhood and see what options are available. The county also has a print version, which it started giving out before Bike to Work Day last week. You can see a PDF of the back of the map, which includes all kinds of info, from tips for beginners to descriptions of local trails to trail and safety etiquette and beyond, here.
To make Fairfax safe for bicycling, we still have a ways to go
The map does also show the limitations of biking around Fairfax. Almost every major road is functionally off limits to cyclists. Low stress alternatives are not always available and even then it may require long detours which adds time to a cyclists trip for no reason other than some roads are simply too dangerous.
Roads with bike lanes aren't a guarantee for low stress either. Even though bike lanes have been added to many streets in Annandale, none of those roads garnered better than a "somewhat comfortable" rating.
Do you bike in Fairfax? What do you notice about the map? Let us know in the comments.
Top image: Do you feel comfortable riding a bike in your neighborhood? Image by Patrick licensed under Creative Commons.
Of the pieces that make up the Washington region's extensive transit network, the region’s commuter bus networks might be the least known. Over fifty long-haul commuter bus routes spider out into the region, stretching as far as Purcellville and Woodbridge in Virginia, and Hagerstown and Kent Island in Maryland.
Outside of individual route information brochures, these routes are rarely depicted on maps, so it can be difficult to get a sense of their reach and usefulness. For many riders in farther out areas, though, these services might offer a better way into downtown. Here's a map of the routes:
Three state and county governments manage commuter bus routes: the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (or PRTC) operates in Prince William County and Manassas, Loudoun County Transit provides service from Loudoun County via the Dulles Toll Road, and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) oversees a number of routes throughout Maryland (though these lines are managed by private contractors).
These lines shuttle commuters with the flow of rush hour on the weekdays, traveling into the District in the morning and out in the evening. In farther out, more suburban places, there are generally only a few stops, and they primarily serve park and ride lots where riders can drive from their homes to transfer to the bus. Some lines do operate as traditional bus services with standard flag stops.
In the District, the buses follow fixed routes through downtown, serving the majority of the major employment hubs and transit connections.
Between these two points, commuter bus routes converge on major thoroughfares en route to their destination. It is at this point that commuter buses make little to no stops, and can often be faster than auto traffic, using express infrastructure like HOT and HOV lanes without paying a toll, or even running on shoulders to bypass congestion.
Commuter buses are an underappreciated piece of our transit network. If you're looking for a new way to get to work, the bus might be the best option you never considered.
The President's proposed federal budget would reduce transportation spending by 13% overall and place funding for many rail projects, including the Purple Line, in jeopardy. One silver lining: the budget does still include funding for Metro. (Post)
DC will revamp 14th and Irving Streets NW to add an all-way pedestrian crossing, also known as a Barnes Dance, following the model at 7th and H Streets NW in Chinatown. The project is designed to make walking safer at this busy intersection. (Rachel Sadon / DCist)
What's in store for development in downtown Bethesda over the next decade? If the Montgomery County Council approves a planning document this week, new development could come to another 4.2 million square feet downtown. (Bethany Rodgers / Bethesda Beat)
As construction continues on Phase II of the Silver Line to Dulles Airport and Ashburn, Loudoun County officials are planning to adapt local bus routes to complement Metro service. (Max Smith / WTOP)
The proposed federal budget would take advantage of Congressional budgetary oversight of DC and prevent the city from spending its own tax money to implement a recently passed measure that would permit physician-assisted suicide. (Fenit Nirappil / Post)
While Arlington County settles on the site for a new public school, a building under consideration may be tapped for historic designation. The Education Center building is an example of New Formalist design, but giving it historic status could limit the capacity for students. (Chris Teale / ARLNow)
As more jobs and more people flock to the region, commute times are expected to grow longer and delays will jump by 10 minutes on average by 2040. Local leaders do not see a way around longer drive times as long as cars remain the primary method of transportation in the region. (Max Smith / WTOP)
The highest rates of bike commuting in Seattle are seen at workplaces within five blocks of protected bike lanes. The city incentivizes companies to provide bike resources like storage and showers as well. (Adam Russell / Mobility Lab)
I got back to Michigan late on Monday after a wonderful week in France for Les Imaginales.
The festival was amazing. The whole town participates and helps to sponsor Les Imaginales, which felt like a cross between a book fair, convention, and renaissance festival. The town is gorgeous, the food is delicious, and there were dogs everywhere–even in restaurants or sitting under a table in the book tent 🙂
I’ve posted photos from the book fair on Flickr. I’ve got a bunch more to get through and post, but I’m doing them one batch at a time.
The best part, naturally, was getting to hang out with some wonderful author friends from America, and to meet new authors, fans, editors, and fellow geeks from France and elsewhere.
It was fascinating to see the differences between French and American conventions. The panels were very different. Instead of a free-for-all conversation, the moderator asked each author a question, one at a time. There wasn’t much interaction between the authors. It felt a bit more formal, but also made sure everyone got the chance to talk and contribute. You were also expected to talk a fair amount about your book and how it related to the topic. At home, I try to avoid doing that too much, but in France, it’s expected that you’ll talk about your writing and help the audience learn enough to decide whether or not they’re interested.
Which means the best time to be in the book tent is immediately after you’ve done a panel. (I didn’t figure that out for my first panel, and probably missed some sales since I didn’t immediately go to the tent afterward. D’oh!)
My thanks to everyone at the festival for inviting me, for their hard work organizing the event, and for making this such a delightful week.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.