Archive for the ‘city dwellers’ Category
It’s been a little quiet on the blog lately, as I’ve been working a lot, traveling a bit, and planning for the summer. I’m doing a second read-through of Swann’s Way, then it’s onto the other books in In Search of Lost Time (resolution #1). The cold has been keeping me from doing longer bike rides, but I’m trying to make running a habit and finding that it’s more pleasant to run outdoors than in place on a treadmill. Winter weather does give you some perspective, though – now I’m excited when I find that a day is going to be above freezing.
Neighborhoods are ever-evolving, and even in a few years’ time you can track how your city is changing. Here are a few photos from this morning around Shaw, LeDroit Park, and Bloomingdale, neighborhoods that are experiencing the growth of new large-scale development alongside smaller residential projects, restaurants, and more.
“Progression Place” is a mixed-use development that is currently going up next to the Shaw-Howard Metro station at 7th and S Street NW. It’ll consist of the United Negro College Fund’s national offices, additional office spaces, (probably higher-end) residences, and retail.
Pictured above is the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, which despite its name is located at 2nd and Rhode Island Ave NW in the LeDroit Park neighborhood.
Bistro Bohem is a Czech restaurant in Shaw, close to the edge of the U Street corridor, that opened in March 2012. I haven’t tried it, but they serve pierogies, brats, goulash, and unique cocktails (including one with absinthe). Next door is a condominium.
Still don’t have a proper camera to replace the one that was stolen, so these are just snapshots from my phone. I probably will wait to buy another DSLR, but if anyone has recommendations for a decent point-and-shoot camera that is also lightweight, I’d love to hear them!
The 99% Invisible podcast recorded an episode about the Kowloon Walled City, a fascinating example of a city block that reached unrestrained levels of density. From the 1940s to 1980s, Kowloon Walled City (KWC) was largely ungoverned, “autonomous from both China and Britain,” run mainly by various criminal groups. People built upwards as well as into any open spaces – the chances of daylight reaching into the lower levels grew slimmer as more people moved in. At its peak, over 30,000 inhabitants lived in an area the size of a single city block. Without regulation, KWC continued to grow ever more complex and interwoven as residents flooded in. It was known as the ”City of Darkness”. Trash was discarded out of the windows, electricity was pirated from the grid, and any business could set up without intervention from authorities. KWC was a massive city within a single block.
In the early 1990s, the Chinese and British governments agreed that it had to be torn down and the Hong Kong government began evicting residents. By 1994, Kowloon Walled City was demolished. Today there lies a neatly maintained park.
The 99% Invisible podcast episode on Kowloon Walled City is worth the listen, a good summary in only 15 minutes.
Further reading and more background available online:
What a day.
This is a tough one to write, because most of the ride went well but a friend in pain overwhelms other emotions. I’m still a little shaken by what happened towards the end of the ride but I’ll get to that.
A couple of weeks ago, I met a small group of friends outside of the DC Brau brewery who announced that it was their last stop on a ride to all three of the city’s breweries. I sent a message to a couple fellow riders on Twitter suggesting that we do the same sometime. They were interested enough, so I decided to pick a date and make it happen. After putting the word out to friends via email and sharing the plan on Twitter and Facebook, I put together a route that made a counter-clockwise 15-mile loop from Chocolate City to DC Brau to 3 Stars Brewing. I attempted to take quieter streets where it didn’t bring us off course, but inevitably there were a couple dicey roads with faster traffic.
Around seven this morning, I rode through the route to check it against what I had mapped out in Google Maps. (Geographers might refer to this as ground truthing.) I’m glad I did, because I was expecting to have at least 15 people on the ride and didn’t want to get lost leading the group, but also because, for instance, you don’t always realize which streets suddenly turn into one-ways. So, on this run I familiarized myself with the route and marked some changes to the cue sheet before heading back.
For the ride, we gathered for a 12:15 start at Big Bear Cafe. Adam, Brian, Veronica, and I were the earliest ones there, making time to grab bagels or coffee before the “official” meeting time of noon. I say “official” because this was the first ride I put together that reached outside my immediate circle of friends, and really the first time leading more than eight people on a bike ride. It was nice to see familiar faces from around town, including Kevin, Ted, Michael, and Ed and Mary (who unfortunately could only join for the coffee part). As we chatted and folks began arriving, I realized I had underestimated the attraction of riding to three breweries on a beautiful autumn day. People had brought friends, told others, heard the word and bravely decided to join without knowing what to expect, even sent people in place of themselves if they couldn’t make it. The sidewalk outside Big Bear quickly became crowded – must have been at least 30 riders there, ready to try some local brews.
We hit the road at 12:15, which gave us time to get to Chocolate City brewery at the start of their growler hours (12:30-4:30pm every Saturday). Chocolate City is the closest to my house of the local breweries, so we come often to fill our growlers. It’s a short ride up the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which I like for its street art and totem poles. As we arrived, we spotted John and Kate, who were there to join for awhile. I think Chocolate City’s setup lends itself well to a group visit – it’s a small building with one open wall that makes it easy to drift around and socialize. They had a food truck stationed outside, but their offerings looked a little too heavy for a bike ride bite. I took this time to try to meet everyone on the ride, a challenge in itself!
Got the group back on the road promptly since we had two more breweries to visit in a short time window. The next stop, DC Brau, always seems to have a crowd inside, redeeming their generous number of free tasting tickets or walking around touring the facilities. I sat in the sun chatting to friends awhile before going inside to get a sample of DC Brau’s Ghoul’s Night Out (a Belgian-style Quadrupel; like a Tripel but stronger). I’ve had it before, though, so guess it can’t be considered a sample. We arrived at the brewery right when they started a tour, so a large part of our group joined that. Leaving the brewery, we tried to sweep everyone out but accidentally left a friend behind. Realized our mistake ten minutes later, so waited a bit while she caught up with us on the Anacostia/NW Branch Trail.
Though we were able to take to the trails for part of this stretch, we had to take some bigger roads with faster traffic closer to 3 Stars Brewing. Managed that without too much of a hitch, then we started up one of the last hills towards the brewery.
That’s when I heard someone call out “man down” and realized people were stopped at the base of the hill. I rode back down and saw a friend lying in the street, his face bloody -and others had already lept into action, holding cloths to his forehead and nose to stop the bleeding, another rider on the phone with 911. We arranged for a friend of a friend to have his bike taken back while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. His scarf had gotten caught in his front wheel and the bike threw him over the handlebars onto the ground headfirst. A woman who didn’t know him was holding his hand, another trying to talk him through his shock. Neighbors even came out to see if we needed help. It was a moment that made me realize that people do come together most strongly in times of need. A mutual friend ended up riding with him to the hospital once the ambulance arrived, and I led people back to our starting point, too shaken by it all to feel like going to another brewery.
An accident like this is a reminder that even on a quiet road with no cars, things can happen. Going quickly or slowly, things can happen. I’m relieved to say that he’s okay and recovering, and glad it wasn’t worse.
Thank you to everyone for coming, for your patience, and for demonstrating that community really is defined by the great people that make it.
What is “coffeeneuring”? It’s an act of combining two great loves of many Washington, DC residents: coffee and bicycling. Mary has a write-up of the official rules here: 2nd Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge. Essentially you write up your weekend coffee bike ride experiences to share with the community. The true reward is exploration and caffeine! Last year, twelve people completed the challenge of 7 different coffee shops in 6 weekends, and I’m willing to bet that even more people participate this year. It’s a creative, seasonal idea. Excuse the poor photos – most were taken on my phone.
Here’s my entry in this year’s coffeeneuring challenge:
1. SOVA Espresso & Wine at 1359 H St NE on October 8th
Took a Capital Bikeshare bike from Eastern Market to SOVA on H Street. The ride was brisk and fast, waking me up from my commuting haze even before ordering a coffee. It sure gets dark early on these fall nights. SOVA is a combination coffee bar and wine bar that I had only ever been to for live music before. The downstairs cafe area is cute, with good service, good tunes, and (huge mugs of) good coffee. Stopped by in the evening and got a cup of their drip coffee (Intelligentsia), but would like to try their espresso drinks soon. Bike ride home was uneventful – took Florida Ave as I often do, but being on a Bikeshare made it harder to keep up with traffic.
Distance: 3.3 miles
Drink: Medium-roast drip coffee, black
2. Kafe Bohem at 600 Florida Ave NW on October 13th
Rode to Kafe Bohem, the cafe connected to Bistro Bohem, early on a Saturday morning to get the day started before heading over to the unveiling of the St. Elizabeth’s East Gateway Pavilion. The staff was pulling shots of espresso for customers and baking strudels in the back. Kafe Bohem is only a short ride from our place, yet this was our first visit to this new coffeehouse in Shaw. I ordered a cappuccino, Adam had an Americano, and we split a tasty onion, cheese, and tomato strudel. The interior is cozy, with European touches here and there, and drink presentation is refined. One of these Bohemian spa wafers are included with your drink, and are available to purchase if one isn’t enough. Staff was very welcoming – joked around with us and even brought glasses of water over to our table without being asked for any. Other customers seemed as comfortable there as the staff: some reading, others settling in to work on their laptops. Kafe Bohem is a much-needed neighborhood spot, helping to revitalize this little corner of Shaw.
Distance: 11.0 miles
3. Baked and Wired at 1052 Thomas Jefferson Street NW on October 20th
Located in Georgetown near K Street, Baked and Wired is a great place to meet up with friends before any ride that starts off on the Capital Crescent Trail or the C & O Canal Towpath. John chose this as the launch point for his Hoppy 100 ride, and then three of us decided to meet here before getting onto the C & O. I tried the “dirty chai” which adds espresso to a chai latte (effectively both coffee and tea?) and had a slice of spinach and feta quiche to fuel the ride. Friends had coffee, a slice of ham quiche, and a scone. They only have two outdoor tables, but we snagged one of them by getting there early.
Distance: 63.2 miles
Drink: Dirty chai
4. Big Bear Cafe at 1700 1st Street NW on October 21st
Big Bear is also in my neighborhood, but I don’t spend a lot of time here. It’s usually just a quick stop when I’m at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market. I like the interior because it’s cozy and welcoming, and the exterior is cute with the bear painted on the side and the vines crawling over the building. We stopped by on our ride home from Harper’s Ferry – one metric century from there to here – and grabbed some hot chocolate and coffee. Nice to take a moment to relax after spending a whole day riding.
Distance: 65.1 miles
Drink: Hot chocolate
5. Pound the Hill at 621 Pennsylvania Ave SE on October 28th
Everyone is preparing for Hurricane Sandy! After going to the Farmers Market, where all vendors had signs saying something to the effect of “Stock up for Sandy!” I rode over to Pound the Hill – appropriately named for its location on Capitol Hill. It was quite a windy ride. More seats than I expected at the cafe, with ample room to find a place to plug in the laptop and work for a little while. The drinks are good and the food looks good, but I wish the music was a bit less ‘smooth jazz’. Missed John who stopped by, but he did recognize my bike outside. Coffeeneuring takes the city by storm!
Distance: 5.3 miles
Drink: Soy chai latte
6. Qualia Coffee at 3917 Georgia Avenue NW on November 3rd
A very cozy coffeehouse with friendly, talkative staff. This is the kind of place you go to meet up with friends or read a book or magazine. They discourage laptop-sitting, which is refreshing since there are already so many other cafes in DC overrun with people soaking up wifi. Qualia is the sort of place where you’re probably a local, and if not, you happily share that it’s your first time stopping in. They seem to know their coffee and also offer pastries and bagels. We grabbed mugs of drip coffee, a salted caramel bar, and a honey sticky bun, and read a few magazines. It was a welcome reprieve from the chill outside.
Distance: 16.3 miles
Drink: Drip coffee, black
7. Lot 38 Espresso Bar at 1001 2nd Street SE on November 4th
Lot 38 has a pretty simple design – downstairs is a narrow espresso bar where they take drink and food orders, upstairs is a single room with tables and chairs. The tables near the windows are the best, because you can overlook the street below. The clientele included families with young children, couples reading the paper together, and a few people working on laptops. I noticed that everyone in the vicinity seemed to have the dog. Perhaps it’s just the demographic that’s moving into the Navy Yard area. Navy Yard (maybe it has a hip new neighborhood name I’m not aware of) seems to be developing rapidly. It already looks completely different from a couple years ago, and from Lot 38 you can look out onto the construction across the street. The cafe serves up illy coffee, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, smoothies, and pastries. This would be a good place to work because it’s pretty quiet. Lot 38 definitely looks like it serves a need where there is growing demand – and it’s a better option than the Starbucks down the street.
Distance: 25.1 miles
Drink: Chai latte
That’s it for this year’s run at the Coffeeneuring Challenge. It was a tasty way to explore more of DC’s coffee options and discover some neat new places. Out of these 7 coffeehouses, only 2 were ones I had been to before.
All in all, Washington DC wasn’t hit too hard during Hurricane Sandy. A few hundred thousand without power for a day or two, some felled trees but mostly small branches, and minor flooding of low-lying areas. The fact that the Bloomingdale neighborhood didn’t flood was a story in itself (on DCist).
Can’t say the same for New York City and surrounding areas. There it’s clear that Sandy’s effects were disastrous. Last I heard, there were around forty storm-related deaths recorded. The east coast saw around 8 million without power. People are working around the clock to pump out floodwater and restore service to get their lives back to normal. We were lucky here, but many weren’t.
I went to Union Market this morning, taking a few photos and stocking up on milk while most vendors were still setting up. This is the grand opening weekend for Union Market, a hopeful revival of the market area that recently had been mostly a space for wholesale merchants. The new Union Market is a bright, clean space with plenty of room for vendors and lots of tables for customers.
There was a variety of food available, from fruits and vegetables and olive oils to seafood and fresh bread. You can also stop for a cup of coffee at Peregrine Espresso or grab some Rappahannock oysters.
Other businesses marked their places but hadn’t yet arrived.
For more background on Union Market, see this write-up at DCmud: DC’s Union Market to Open Saturday.
Union Market is located between 5th and 6th St NE on Neal Place, past several wholesale buildings. Currently there are no bike racks but there are plans for them to be installed soon. There are also a limited number of car parking spaces out front and a few places to park on adjacent streets. Easy access via the 90, 92, 93, or X3 buses, or a short walk from the NoMa Metro on the Red line.
Fridays, 11am to 8pm
Saturday, 8am to 8pm
Sunday, 8am to 8pm
As part of the “Season of Discovery“, the historic 183-acre St. Elizabeth’s East was opened to the community to explore this past Saturday. This beautiful former mental hospital in Anacostia was constructed in the 1850s as the “Government Hospital for the Insane” but has since fallen out of use. Both the east and west campuses are now slated for development into the new unified headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and a variety of additional office, residential, retail, and civic spaces are proposed for the east campus. The first of the DHS projects is the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters currently under construction.
We visited St. Elizabeth’s east campus on Saturday to take some photos, which continue under the cut.
A few links to interesting transportation and urbanism news from the past couple of days:
- Greater Greater Washington, “Plan your next bike trip with BikePlanner.org.”
Big news for those in Washington, DC who get around by bicycle – BikePlanner.org, just launched, is a great new tool from OpenPlans and BikeArlington that will help you plan your journey, whether you’re using your own bike or a Capital Bikeshare bike. You can choose whether flatness, speed, or safety (bike-friendliness) are your primary concerns when routing your trip by moving the crosshairs within the triangle at the bottom-left.
- Digital Urban, “Using Oyster Card journeys to understand how, why and where we travel in London.”
The versatile Oyster Card is a public transportation card with an RFID that allows users to travel using the London Underground, public buses, river buses, trams, and other rail services. As detailed in the linked video, the Oyster Card dataset has allowed researchers to analyze travel patterns within London.
- TheWashCycle, “Making the Anacostia Metro more bike friendly.”
It’s always great to hear more plans for the bicycle network in Anacostia. Anacostia, though quite hilly in places, has a growing cyclist community. These proposed ideas will help grow the number of multi-modal trips people make in the area. (On that note, having a Bikeshare membership has greatly increased the number of Metro to bike journeys I make.)
I’m proud of how much of my city I’ve covered by bike so far this year.
Check out Jonathan O’Keeffe’s Strava Multiple Ride Mapper to create your own map of bike rides you’ve mapped in Strava. It uses the Strava API and Google Maps to overlay all your rides in a selected date range. This is a simple tool for cyclists and map/data geeks who want to see where they go by bicycle.