Errandonnee: The Biking Flaneur

Biking to the Lincoln Memorial
The best time to visit the monuments? At night. The best way to get there? By bike.

The Errandonnee Challenge changed my life. My bike-life, that is. The challenge is to take 12 errands by bike over 12 days. There are a lots of categories and rules but the gist of the contest is to use your bike for everyday errands.

Doing it last year changed my approach to biking in Washington, DC. Before then, I was a weekend cyclist. I didn’t ride during the week because I thought it was too much of a hassle. But the experience of running simple errands by bike taught me that biking was by far the easiest, fastest and most fun way to get around the city. The Errandonnee Challenge turned me in to an everyday cyclist, one who rode in all kinds of weather, even when it was 16 degrees.

Bike outside Garden District
A cool bike outside Garden District, a local beer garden.

One of the requirements of Errandonnee is to share what you learned during the challenge.

This year, I learned that there’s nothing I like more than drinking coffee and biking – if only there was a challenge for that! Oh, wait, there is.

#errandonnee 2 - coffee and book edition #igdc
Bikes, books and coffee – that’s pretty much my lifestyle.

My bike trips around the city tend to be more rambling than functional. I look for good excuses to bike around town (which is why Errandonee is perfect for me). DC is compact, so the distances are small. But you always see interesting things.

For example, every morning I bike one mile to the Metro. Most of the trip is up the 15th protected bike lane – the best piece of bike infrastructure in the city. It’s a neverending stream of people heading downtown, from women in heels on red Bikeshare bikes to power commuters on road bikes.

This little five-minute trip is the best part of the day. It’s like people-watching but done at ten-miles an hour.

#errandonnee 5 - biked up the 15th St protected bike lane to the U St Metro
What my morning commute looks like. This is the 15th Street protected bike lane.

A flâneur is a French word meaning “urban explorer.” A term with literary pretensions, it’s defined as a lounger, a stroller or, even better, a boulevardier. As a Gen Xer, I might call this person a slacker.

Wandering around the city is exactly what I do,  except that I’m doing it by bike. Tracking miles and setting personal records doesn’t appeal to me. Instead, I want to bike around Washington and look at stuff.

Errandonnee has taught me that I am a biking flâneur. I will embrace it. Here’s to more urban rambles by bike!

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is the author of The Swamp, a funny new novel that mocks the city America has come to hate.

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