Dr. Gridlock and the amazing places bikes are allowed to ride in DC

25 Apr

Hello, again. I was traveling for a few days last week and missed out on most of the “fun” of dodging bicyclists on the sidewalk. But in one journey with members of my German class to the Bavarian Inn in WV we drove back along a route I knew well and I thought to myself of all the times I’d come back into town and used the GW Parkway and then over the Key Bridge into Georgetown on my way home. Thanks to our driver, I learned the virtues of the Whitehurst Freeway and vowed to take that little right turn at the north end of the bridge on to it instead of going through Georgetown on my way home to 16th Street.

I tell you all of the above, not only because I’m sure some of you have made the same trip, but because on Tuesday I picked up the Express and found in the DC Rider section a couple of answers from Dr. Gridlock to questions posed by a pedestrian under the title “Where are Bicycles Allowed?” Dr. Gridlock is very knowledgeable and has been doing this for many years so I’ll take his word for the following bit of information about the Central Business District. The questioner asked first what the laws were regarding riding bicycles in the Central Business District. He’d been hit from behind by a cyclist riding on a sidewalk on the east side of 15th Street. (as with many people he may not know exactly where the so-called Central Business District begins and ends. I recently found out even the police don’t know.) But here is Dr. Gridlock’s answer:

“Cyclists are barred from the sidewalks in the Central Business District. But I’ve never seen a warning sign on a downtown sidewalk. Things aren’t as bad as they were in the heyday of bicycle messengers, but there still are plenty of cyclists who ignore the law or are ignorant of it.”

And I say, all the more reason to ban sidewalk bicycling entirely so no one has to guess, including the police who have to enforce. Next week I’ll tell you a great horror story or two from the past about bicyclists riding the sidewalks of the Central Business District.

But, today, I want to get on to the second question to Dr. Gridlock, because it shows yet another serious problem of which I have not been previously aware–sidewalk bicyclists crossing the bridges. The questioner asked what the bike laws were for places like the Key Bridge adding that it was very hard to walk when bikes are whizzing by on the sidewalk. I agree with the questioner, especially since I had just seen the Key Bridge and had driven over it many times. So I have a very clear picture in my mind and there is barely enough room for two pedestrians walking together let alone a bicycle riding. Plus the sidewalk looks to me to be crumbling a bit. A person would have to be insane to ride a bike on that! Dr. Gridlock’s answer, which might have been edited from an original Post article said:

“Cyclists are allowed to use the Key Bridge sidewalk. My cross-bridge experience is that regular commuter cyclists tend to travel reasonably and are aware of pedestrians. Unfortunately, that’s not universally true. The bridges are places where travelers need to share.”

As a long time bicyclist myself I would repeat my earlier statement: A person would have to be INSANE to ride a bike on that sidewalk. The Key Bridge is not the Brooklyn Bridge, which has plenty of room for walkers and bicyclists.

This doesn’t mean that I would ride in the street over the bridge either. That would be insane as well. What I would do and have done with bridges in the past, is just dismount and walk my bike across. But that is one thing that only rarely occurs to DC cyclists.

Next week I hope to have some good news on the Business petition to ban sidewalk bicycling. So stay tuned and stay alert.

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2 Responses to “Dr. Gridlock and the amazing places bikes are allowed to ride in DC”

  1. Harriet April 30, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    Thanks for trying to make a difference by alerting people to the serious issue of bicycle safety and etiquette.

  2. jeannemallett2013 April 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Thank you, Harriet. And a special prize, my undying gratitude, for being my first commenter. please feel free to visit again, especially if you have an incident to relate.

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