Your blogger was a bit under the weather for most of the week because of the excessive tree pollen combined with the yo-yo temperatures. But I did fight through it to write a couple of letters to the mayor and council. And, if you have a real concern about issues of bike safety, pedestrian safety or any mix of the two. this is a good time to get involved with your own letters.
First, in a letter dated January 31 of this year, and hand-delivered on February 6, a group of prominent businesspersons in Dupont Circle sent a letter petitioning the Mayor and Council Chair to ban sidewalk bicycling throughout DC. If I can get more adept at linking, I might be able to reproduce this letter in its entirety. But basically the business persons stated their and their customers experience with almost daily close calls with sidewalk bicyclists and then listed seven reasons for a ban, along with explanations supporting same. I will only list the reasons here:
1. From their beginning the purpose of sidewalks has been to allow persons to walk safely beside streets and not be threatened by any vehicular traffic until they must cross a roadway.
2. Last year’s Gold “Walk Friendly” designation DC received from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center did not consider the effect on pedestrians of bicyclists riding on the sidewalks, a fact confirmed by a Center rep, who was surprised the question was even asked since “generally, cities do not allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks.”
3. Current DC law , which prohibits sidewalk bicycling in only one small area of the city, known as the Central Business District (see prior post: A Few Words about Your Blogger and DC Law), is over 30 years old, and does not consider all the changes in the city since then.
4. Current DC rules are also outdated and depend on judgment calls making enforcement virtually impossible. If you want to check this out for yourself, search DC rules 18 DCMR 1201.8-1201.12 and see how safe you would feel even if a policeman were around at the time of an incident.
5. Serious cyclists know that bicycling on the sidewalks is actually more dangerous for the cyclist too than riding in the roadway and following traffic rules there.
6. this is an important quality of life issue. The number of incidents, many of which are not reported because the bicyclist hits and runs and the injuries are minor, has steadily increased in recent years. This issue has been brought up at numerous ANC meetings by the public.
7. Finally, the businesspersons ask: If pedestrians cannot walk safely on the sidewalk, where can they walk safely?
My thought is that the more people who write letters referencing this letter and indicating their agreement with it, the more heat will be put on the politicians to do something. And so I wrote a letter indicating my agreement this week.
Cheh-Wells Proposed Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013
Early in February, after the businesspersons letter was sent, Council Members Cheh and Wells proposed the above amendment to the existing traffic law. While their action is unrelated to the business petition, I think it is a good opportunity to open up the entire discussion about how outdated our traffic laws are relating to bicyclists and to the sidewalk bicycle issue. And so I wrote encouraging them to work on a more comprehensive amendment that addresses the issues that have arisen in recent years with the rise of the bike culture as well as the increasingly vibrant neighborhoods throughout the city where there is substantial pedestrian traffic. (I will write more in another post, but it’s been a long week with a head that has felt for most of the week like a marshmallow)
so I’ll end here with
another Citizen Action thought: Look up the Cheh-Wells bill, see what you think of it and what could be added; and find out what, if anything your ANC is doing. I know that the ANC 2F, which I believe covers Logan Circle, is working on a resolution offering amendments including at least expansion of the zone in which sidewalk bicycling is prohibited. Your ANC may not see a problem if you don’t tell them. So let them know.
So, two letters, and hopefully a recovery weekend. And then, more next week.