Archive | May, 2013

Diary Entry: May 30: A beautiful day in the neighborhood

30 May

Good Morning! I know it’s hot and humid and getting hotter. But so far it’s been a beautiful day in my Dupont Circle neighborhood and I just had to write about it. Why, you ask?

Well, because it was predicted to be really hot and humid later, I chose to do the errands I had at the post office and Rite Aid before heading to work, which meant I was out in time to see a lot of my friends from my old building on their way to work as well as to see the school crossing guard near my work still at his post and give him cards I had promised (more about him later).

My early start also meant I was also walking on the sidewalks when it was still rush hour,and only the commuter bicyclists were riding. While there were plenty of bicyclists, none was riding on the sidewalk. They were all in the street, using the Q and R bike lanes where provided, but also riding on streets like 16th, which has no bike lane. And everyone I saw today stopped at red lights as well. I remember from other times I have done this, that, except for occasionally running red lights, commuter bicyclists time is always like this. In fact, I made a note to myself to go out early more often because, amazingly, it’s safer on the sidewalk.

Last Friday, I was having a conversation with the friendly school crossing guard( see above) about the sidewalk bicycling issue, which he sees on a daily basis, when a person we were both acquainted with came by and joined the conversation. However, this person is a sidewalk bicyclist apologist, perhaps because he does it himself (for “convenience”, he says). When I mentioned the commuter bicyclists approvingly, he responded “Well, they’ve got it down to a science.” And I thought to myself: “Shouldn’t everyone?” Auto drivers have to have their driving down to a science, or they will get ticketed. The only difference between auto drivers and bicyclists, who are riding a vehicle as well is that the bicyclist who wants to evade all traffic laws has only to ride on the sidewalk, which is still legal, and he can go against the flow of traffic, drive the wrong way on a one way street, and speed along the sidewalk endangering pedestrians as he goes.

BTW I noticed something else that my fellow pedestrians might find interesting: One of those new Pedestrian Walk buttons and signal has been installed at Florida and 20th. That is certainly welcome. Don’t get put off by the informational sign, which gives way too much info for me (but then these signals aren’t new to me, having lived in and visited many other places where these have been installed for years.). BUT DO REMEMBER even when you push the button and wait for your signal to walk, be sure to look both ways to make certain that not only the auto traffic has stopped but bicycle traffic as well. STAY ALERT AND YOU’LL STAY SAFE.

DC Laws: Proposed Action in Logan Circle

28 May

I no sooner got back from my trip last week than I attended the ANC 2F Crime and Public Safety Committee Meeting last Wednesday. One of the purposes of the meeting, and the reason I was invited, although I live in Dupont Circle, is that this ANC is proposing a resolution, to be considered by the full ANC on June 5 to improve the situation of both bicyclists and pedestrians. The step regarding elimination of sidewalk bicycling is only a “baby step” but it is important because it is action moving in the right direction. The resolution proposes among other things a study “to expand the area in which riding bicycles on sidewalks is prohibited to those streets where population density or infrastructure limitations make it unsafe for pedestrians as well as direct MPD and DDOT to enforce existing law.”

To read the entire proposed resolution for yourself, check out

http://www.anc2f.org/

and look for the agenda for the May 22 Crime and Public Safety meeting of May 22. It should be right at the top or close to it. the full draft resolution can be downloaded by clicking on CPSC Agenda 20130522.

Although the night was hot and humid, I made it a point to walk from home on 16th and Q to the Washington Plaza Hotel at Thomas Circle, where the meeting was held. And, although it was still the end of rush hour, which meant plenty of responsible bicyclists were cycling in the streets on the way home (at least 20 by my count), after I hit Whole Foods’ block there were 5 separate sidewalk bicyclists I saw. One came up silently behind me, but I am now practically clutching the buildings to protect myself after being clipped a couple of weeks ago. So he didn’t get me. Then I saw one coming toward me. And I saw an older woman with a cane coming out of a shop and limping unsteadily unto the main sidewalk. But luckily an entire family came out from the shop just in front and the biker was forced to slow down and make a wide unsteady circle around them all. Needless to say, by the time I got to the meeting, I had plenty of new observations I could give.

Since this was Logan’s meeting I tried to limit my questions and comments. But I was happy to see a lively group of concerned citizens of all ages discussing the resolution and proposing improvements. One highlight for me was the exchange between the WABA rep and a young woman who was for banning sidewalk bicycling. He used the old line that pedestrians do bad things too, like jaywalking. And she responded clearly and correctly that the difference was those things were against the law for pedestrians whereas she can’t even tell a bicyclist to use the bike lane going his direction because it’s not against the law to ride on the sidewalk no matter what improvements have been made for bicyclists already. It’s also not against the law outside of the CBD to ride on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic or at the speeds allowed on the street. I’ll talk more about this in another post but in the meantime:

Logan Circle Residents
You have an opportunity on June 5 to make a difference. Check the ANC2F site for time and place of the full ANC meeting and go and make your voice heard. If I get final word on the meeting, I’ll let you know what I know.

DC Laws: more comparisons with other cities

28 May

Hello, I’m back from my travels and after a long Memorial Day weekend, am ready to post again.  I hope you all had a great holiday weekend as well.

In this post I am just going to provide quick and easy reference links to other cities bike laws some as in San Francisco, which I mentioned in a previous post, are bike organization sites; others are official government sites.   I will discuss them further in other posts and will add to this post when I read and review other laws.  One thing is uniform among the sites listed here, all ban sidewalk bicycling for persons other than children, most for persons over 12-13, some for any one other than “small children”:

NYC  http://www.bicycledefensefund.org/bikelaw.html

San Francisco  http://www.sfbike.org/?sidewalks

Chicago  http://www.chicagobikes.org/bikelaws/

Columbus, OH  http://publicservice.columbus.gov/bike

As I read and understand other cities’ laws I will post them as well.  but for now these are the links I’ve reviewed enough to understand.  If you have cities whose laws you would like to add, please do.

Stayin’ Alive!

13 May

Hi,

I’ll be traveling most of this week beyond the Potomac and even the Blue Ridge Mts. And while I know that I won’t be bothered even in the cities I visit by sidewalk bicyclists, I am putting a note on my smartphone to remind myself to start being alert the minute I get out of the airport and the Metro when I come back home. I’m doing this because of something that happened Saturday early afternoon, which just shows me how easy it is to forget the danger on our sidewalks and how easy it is to get hurt.

I spent Saturday morning in the Central Business District, which you may remember is the one place in DC that bicyclists are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk, although even there the law is not always enforced. Anyway I spent the morning doing one errand after another and, although there was plenty of auto and bicycle traffic, they were all where they were supposed to be, in the street. And all the bicyclists were stopping at red lights, following the proper direction of traffic. So, after a morning there, when I took the bus back to my Dupont neighborhood, I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security because, as usual on a weekend, there was less traffic on 16th and Q and with rain-threatening skies,fewer bikers. What could go wrong?

I decided that, after dropping my briefcase and package off in my apartment, I’d go back out to pick up something at Safeway. When I got to the main 16th Street sidewalk, I remembered to look both ways, and saw only a couple of guys walking together coming my way so I turned left on the main sidewalk toward Corcoran, but not 25 feet into my walk, I saw a car, which looked like it was going to come up the driveway that serves the apartment building there. So I stopped, but then realized the driver was just using that bit of drive to turn his car around to go south on 16th. By then the two guys I had seen walking were almost next to me and I began to move around the car to continue my walk. But I FORGOT TO LOOK BEHIND ME ONCE MORE. In that brief time two sidewalk bicyclists had come up behind us all and, without a word to any of us, raced in the small space between us and nicked me with an elbow (I think, since it happened so fast). They continued up 16th on the sidewalk, rejoining in a side by side formation, which would prevent anyone walking from entering that sidewalk until they were past. One more step and I would’ve been more than nicked. And what if the auto driver had been coming up the driveway instead? At the speeds they were going they never could have stopped.

And yet, I blame myself for getting nicked. I know better. But, for all I write for you and say to myself, I was lulled into a false sense of security. And so, I conclude by saying once again, as stressful as it may be. STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE. and STAY ALIVE.

DC Laws: Comparing with other cities

10 May

I’ve mentioned before (see Post on Proposed Legislation and citizen action) that the Business Petition to Ban Sidewalk Bicycling notes, among other things, that most cities do not allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks. And, having lived in several cities, I know that is true. But how true? At the request of some of you who are interested in doing something, I’ve started more formal research on the subject and will try to post that in the future. But one city I investigated early, simply because in my support letter supporting the business petition, I wanted to use the line : ” from New York to San Francisco, bikes are prohibited from riding on the sidewalks.” I knew NYC law well, having lived there, but not San Francisco. I found the info I needed and more.

And I wanted to share with you an eminently sensible view from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition site. They are advocates for bicyclists but recognize that sidewalks are meant for pedestrians. Now the SF law is that it is against the law for anyone 13 years of age and older to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. But they add:

San Francisco is a bustling, vibrant city with people going in many means of travel: bus, streetcar, foot, bike, skateboard. This inevitably means that some conflicts will occur as we all converge in public space. …Our position is clear that sidewalks are for people to walk. Our advocacy work is largely focused on making our streets safer for bicycling, so that more people choose to bike on the street and fewer people feel the need to sometimes travel on the sidewalk out of fear of using uncomfortable, highly-trafficked streets.

The SF bike coalition even has a fine poster that shows emphasizes San Francisco law entitled : WALK YOUR BIKE ON THE SIDEWALK and showing figures of the reasons why: a man with a cane and a woman with a small child in hand flanking a sensible bicyclist walking his bike.

In DC’s case, of course, the law doesn’t protect people walking on sidewalks like SF’s does. But, if we can get our law changed to this reasonable approach, I for one would be willing to go to bat for more bike lanes and other protections for bicyclists. But FIRST change the law to protect our most vulnerable–pedestrians walking on the sidewalks.

Now I’m going to try something here to see if it works ( I still haven’t mastered Links on WordPress) but I’m going to give you the Internet address so you can see the SF Bike Coalition site for yourself. It’s worth it.

http://www.sfbike.org/?sidewalks

It didn’t turn blue, or anything I’m used to on email. So you may have to type it in yourself on a search. sorry about that.

Have a good weekend and STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE.

DiaryEntries(April 15-May 9) Part II– Nightmare on Q St.

9 May

I have seen a number of rogue bicyclists on 16th St sidewalks, right between R and Q, as well as a close call on a Sunday afternoon when one plowed into a crowd of pedestrians waiting for the light to change where no one was seriously injured only because one of them noticed him coming and all of them parted quickly so that only a brushback or two was the result. And this has given me a recurring nightmare because I know that a lot of pre-school children go out walking with their caretakers from the DCJCC, which is just east of the corner of 16th and Q. My nightmare has been that one day a sidewalk bicyclist will run into them causing the kind of tragedy that might get people to demand action, but at a terrible cost.

Well yesterday my nightmare almost came true. I decided at about 11:30 a.m. to exercise at the DCJCC Fitness Center. When I stopped on the Northwest side of Q and 16th, waiting for my ped light, I made my usual check, looking both ways, street and sidewalk, on Q even though it is a one-way street with a bike lane going east, because you never know. I saw only one sidewalk bicyclist on the SW corner but he was stopped leaning against the PETA house fence. So I thought he might be resting and not be a sidewalk bicyclist at all but returning to the bike lane. When I crossed to his side he also did not move, so my concern lessened. Then I saw two DCJCC counselors with a group of twelve of the cutest little kids you could imagine, all holding on to their rope line like they were supposed to. They moved to the corner to and were going my direction. I figured with them in back of me I was in no danger. So when my light came on I started out immediately.
Then within a second the bicyclist sped up behind me using the same ped crosswalk. Luckily my habit is already to walk to the right of that crosswalk too. As he passed me without a word and sped, not to the bike lane going his direction but up to the Q street sidewalk, I finally looked behind me: How had he managed to get around the kids? And why did he decide to use that moment to start up? Was he waiting for a crowd to terrorize? Or did he just not consider the danger? Little kids, especially the energetic ones can dance out of line, or get pushed playfully, or just decide to sit down suddenly. I asked the counsellor how he had gotten around them and had he given any warning. She said no warning and she didn’t see how he got around them. He had to have gone out into the street and suddenly just as the light changed. He was lucky there was no traffic at the light just waiting to turn right. But once in the street, why not use the bike lane that was right there?
We, I suppose, were lucky that he was just starting up and not already in speed mode.

Q and 16th, which looks pretty peaceful, especially in the middle of the day, is actually quietly dangerous because sidewalk bicyclists come from all directions and if you are crossing at one ped crosswalk, 16th is just broad enough as a street that by the time you get to the other side you may be hit by a sidewalk bicyclist coming from either direction on the other side. That almost happened to me last Friday afternoon around 6 when I had come back from the S2 Bus stop on the DCJCC side of Q and 16th, and stopped briefly when I got to my home side to do a good deed and take down the last remaining political sign. In the minute it took me to do that, a sidewalk bicyclist had come up from the south side of Q and one more step by me would have been disaster. He, of course, gave no warning. And in this case, if I had moved that extra step he wouldn’t have been able to react. His attention was not on the sidewalk because HE WAS TALKING ON HIS CELLPHONE!

And one more Q and 16th St. story, from last fall. Remember the day of Hurricane Sandy when the Mayor closed down the city in case we got a direct hit. Even the buses weren’t running until 2 PM if there hadn’t been a direct hit. But in the morning with ZERO street traffic, after WTOP said that there was wind and rain but we’d missed the brunt of the storm, I decided to venture out ever so slightly just across 16th Street. I noted that there was zero street traffic, or people anywhere around. It was a little Twilight Zone post nuclear bomb ish. But the lights were still working so I waiting for the light to cross. And that was almost my undoing—because, you guessed it—out of nowhere came a sidewalk bicyclist speeding up my 16th sidewalk. Him I did yell at–stating the obvious—“you idiot, there’s ZERO traffic on the street”

That’s all for now. STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE!

Diary entries: April 15-May 9 Part I, Clarifications

9 May

Whenever I think I will have nothing exceptional to enter, something happens as it did yesterday that changes my mind. But first I should clarify a couple of things. FIRST, while I record having said things to particularly reckless sidewalk bicyclists, I generally do not say anything nor do I shout except to another pedestrian to watch out for an oncoming bike. But, sometimes when I’ve had near misses with several rogue bicyclists in just the few minutes it takes for me to walk to work, I do say something, never profane, but reproving.

Interestingly, the two worst reactions I’ve had from these rogues is (1) when I said nothing other than shaking my head and saying quietly “no good.” and (2) a time just last week when I was trying to warn a speeding bicyclist in the street of a danger not just to me but to him and did shout “red light, stop!”
In the first instance I was turning from Corcoran into 16th at midday with briefcase in one hand and small grocery bag in the other. The moment I turned I saw a speeding bicyclist coming way too fast and not paying attention reading a small paper at the same time. I pinned myself against the fence of the apartment building on the corner to prevent his running right in to me. As he passed I just shook my head and said “no good” and went on my way. He must have looked up just at that moment because it was a corner because by the time I got to my apartment building next door, he had stopped the bike, turned around and confronted me, yelling and arguing that what was I upset about, he hadn’t hit me; then he yelled about his “rights”. At that point, knowing I was at my own door, I gave him a lecture on the priority of pedestrians on what are after all SIDE WALKS. Seeing he hadn’t scared me into submission, which appeared to be his intent, he said “oh, shut up.” I responded “you have way too much time on your hands, why don’t you try walking your bike to the corner?” He retreated in disgust. But, sadly, he rode off.

The second instance happened just last week, also in the slower midday time, but at 18th and R. I only mention it because this is another danger that pedestrians face here when a bike culture grows without enforcement of existing laws and a friend of mine suggested I mention such instances too. We all should know that it is against the law for any vehicle to run a red light. But knowing that cars and bikers sometimes take a chance as the light changes, I always wait an extra couple of seconds after I get the ped light and look both ways just to make sure. And 18th at that point is not a major thoroughfare. So after waiting 3 seconds and seeing that all traffic I could see was stopped, I entered into the ped lane and was almost halfway across when, thanks to my good peripheral vision, I saw a bicyclist coming way too fast to be able to stop for me or the light. Still not sure whether he came from behind a car or not. I was about to move back when I saw another bike just a little to the right of him, doing the same thing. So I moved as quickly as I could and yelled my “red light, stop” warning. He clearly took it the wrong way, or maybe just hated people to point out the issue, because he sliced through the ped crossing and past the light yelling “Shut the f___ up! at that point I did yel after thim “You just ran a red light, jackass!” because by then he had. Then he did something even more reckless, for him not for me, he turned his head back to my direction and yelled some other obscenity WHILE STILL RIDING FAST in traffic.

SECOND, while I know there are good responsible male bicyclists, and I am friends with many, I gave my shout out to women not to embarrass men but to recognize that there is sadly a gender difference in bicyclists who ride on sidewalks. And, while I realize that until this city comes to its senses it is technically legal to ride on sidewalks, I get a little tired of hearing that some bicyclists are afraid to ride in the streets. Yet the people you would think by gender stereotype would be afraid to ride in the streets are the women. And yet I see women riders riding in traffic even in rush hour in the streets even where there are no bike lanes. So I just had to recognize such good behavior and to suggest that some of the men who make these excuses take a lesson from the women for once. Sorry, guys, I really love you but you need to give a talking to to the rogues who are spoiling it for all of us.

More in Part II