Archive | July, 2013

A quick update on Columbus, OH and bike laws

29 Jul

Hello again. I didn’t think I’d have any time to post this week, but my friend Bob sent me the link to this article and I just had to share it. Looks like Columbus is launching CoGo Bike Share this week. Yet another similarity with DC. Let’s see how it goes. Meanwhile this article is informative on current bike laws and enforcement. Enjoy!

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/07/27/more-bikes-more-tickets.html

NOTE: For blog followers, since I’m still a rookie blogger, I’m going to publish this and then do a cross-check to see that it’s done what I want it to do. So, as with my occasional revisions, since you get posts automatically,you might end up getting this twice. My apologies in advance.

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Diary Entries–July 14-22 (Spamalot)

25 Jul

Last week a friend told me the good thing for him about the sequester.  No meetings, he said.  Now he could get back to his real work.  And, having seen the great and funny musical “Spamalot” I started singing to him “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”  Well, turns out by the end of the week, I was singing it to myself as we went through the heat wave. 

Because of the really awful weather I decided to get to work earlier every morning.  And I not only beat the heat but didn’t encounter a single rogue bicyclist all week.  I think I’ve mentioned here before that, although there are plenty of bicyclists out around 8 a.m. they’re commuter bicyclists riding in the street and on the bike lanes where they exist and generally obeying the traffic laws.  So, for me, the heat wave was a blessing in disguise (Of course, it helped to have the A/C working both at home and at work!)

So no horror stories this week.  But, to bring you up-to-date on other things, I’ve now submitted a FOIA request to the city to see how the ban on sidewalk bicycling was working in the Central Business District.  My impression on days when I’m there is that it’s working pretty well.  Most people when they know that’s the law try to obey it.  But, of course, consistent enforcement is the key.  So I asked not just for enforcement statistics but for any enforcement plans and directives relating to this law.  I’ve received confirmation that they have it.  And when I get something I’ll post it here. 

And, of course, as I have time, I’ll be studying and posting more reports on how other cities handle this.  Since I won’t know these cities nearly as well as the ones I’ve already profiled, please feel free to add any cities and specifics you know.  If you can add a link to the law, so much the better.  I’m trying to do that whenever I state a fact in this blog or at least to give a cite that you can check. 

Sadly, the Dupont Businesspeople have still not heard from the Mayor, Council Chair or Jack Evans on their letter, except for that verbal promise a couple of months ago to Diego that they’d “do something.”  Nor have I had my support letter or my letter on the Cheh-Wells bill acknowledged.  And that, to me, is a larger problem than their not weighing in on the particular issue.  I’ve worked for elected officials in my life, in Congress and in other cities and I still find it difficult to believe that DC’s officials think so little of the citizens they are to serve that they do not even have a system for a cursory response.  But I can’t take that on too.

I’ll be working with a convention next week so I may not have the time to post.  But I always have time to post your comments, even from my smartphone.  So feel free to comment and STAY ALERT and STAY SAFE.

A Note to all my readers and followers

19 Jul

Last week’s Washington Post article, and the trimmed down version in the Express, was well written and fairly expressed my views. Still I did wish that a bit of my more, for lack of a better word, accommodating views on the subject had been included. And, in fact, I e-mailed Shane Farthing of WABA to say so when the article came out.

While I believe and “vociferously”, as one commenter has pointed out, make the case for a citywide ban on sidewalk bicycling for those over 12 for the reasons I state in this blog and because it works in other cities, that does not mean I am against bike lanes and other improvements in bike infrastructure here. And while I am passionately working on raising awareness of the growing danger to pedestrians of sidewalk bicycling and some bicyclists’ behavior in other ways, that does not mean I have closed my mind to different ways of addressing these issues.

It’s important that we work together whenever we can. The bottom line is safety as well as a feeling of security for both pedestrians and bicyclists. And I am willing, insofar as I am able, to work together with responsible cycling advocates to achieve these goals.

So I encourage comments including not only incident reports but also ideas from bicyclists as well as pedestrians, and auto drivers too, and those who like me do all three. Just remember that your blogger, like you, has a full life outside of this blog. But I’ll do the best I can to facilitate the discussion.

I’ll have more next week on some new things I’ve learned and will be doing as time permits. But this is all I have time for today.

In the meantime STAY ALERT and STAY SAFE. And especially today and tomorrow as we ride out this heat wave, STAY COOL.

DC Laws: Comparison with other cities (NYC)

15 Jul

With a tip of the hat to commenter Ray and to celebrate the NY Mets hosting this year’s All-Star Game on Tuesday, let’s visit the Big Apple and its bike laws. Since I lived there, for a number of years on Staten Island and later for a few years on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and still visit there often, I have more than a passing acquaintance with both walking and cycling there. And I can tell you Ray is right–Manhattan, and, I should add, the other boroughs, do a great job of keeping bicyclists off the sidewalk.

How does NYC do it? And still be a great city for bike and walking? They banned bicycling on the sidewalks many years ago for persons over 13. And the penalties for riding on the sidewalks there are typically NYC, direct and to the point. They don’t rely on tickets alone. The police can confiscate the offending bike! Yet, when I last went up in June, on Amtrak I read a great article in their Arrive magazine, entitled Bicycling NYC, which opened “Move over Amsterdam, Beijing and Copenhagen! New York City has gone bicycle-crazy. Thanks to new lanes and city-sponsored programs exploring Manhattan on two wheels is more pleasurable than ever.” And this spring bike-sharing (CitiBike) came to NYC, and despite some concerns about further limiting already precious sidewalk space, it seems off to a good start, with over 6,000 customers the first week.

But to me, NYC has always been a great place to bike, and walk. It certainly is no place you’d want to drive. Only when I lived on Staten Island did I have a car. Yet Staten Island was also where I bought my first adult bike with multi-speeds and hand brakes. And I rode it often. When I moved to the Upper West Side in the 80’s I had the added advantage the city had just closed Central Park streets on weekends to auto traffic. So, if you wanted fun alone, you could ride the six miles of Central Park roads, provided you followed the rules, such as riding in a counter-clockwise direction and watching out for runners who also had use of the roads.

But I also often rode down Broadway to friends who lived in Chelsea and around NYU in Greenwich Village. Sometimes I rode all the way to Battery Park. And there are, and always have been, many food deliverymen, mostly from Chinese restaurants and pizza places, who do make many trips a day, all by bike–on the streets of Manhattan. Those of you who watched Seinfeld may remember seeing a bike mounted in his apartment. In the ’80s NYC bike messengers gave a bad name to cyclists by weaving in and out of traffic and running red lights. And some bikers still do, or ride at excessive speeds in Central Park. But people who obeyed the laws were always welcome. And even the bike messengers didn’t even THINK of riding on the sidewalks. New York’s finest would have been waiting to take their bikes.

When I was visiting a friend who lives on the East Side last month, on the way to her apartment, I stopped by the neighborhood bike shop. (like Chinese restaurants and pizza places, there seems to be a bike shop on every corner). I wanted to see if they had a good summary of NYC bike laws. Of course they did. But what surprised me was they gave me the NYC 2013 Bike Map. On the top back side of the folded map, where no one could miss them (unlike DC’s bike map, which hides laws and tips on an inside fold) were the key bike laws, in three languages, English, Spanish and Chinese, and in direct and simple language, along with a picture description of each law and a reference to website of NYC’s bikesmart site and a note that the official guide to cycling in NYC could be requested merely by calling 311. How’s that for efficiency? Here are those key rules:

Yield to Pedestrians
/Ride in the direction of traffic
Use a white headlight and red taillight at night
Stop at all red lights and stop signs
Stay off the sidewalk unless you’re under 13

You can go far and safely with those rules alone provided you stay alert and watch where you’re going. And on the first inside fold there are the tips for the ride, which include that reminder to watch the road and to use a bell to signal your presence, which is also required by law.

For a more detailed look at NYC bike laws, with commentary, by the NYC bicycle defense fund, look at this link, which I posted earlier but repeat here for convenience:

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

NYC knows what sidewalks are for but also loves bikes. it can be done.

Thanks to all commenters and a bit of an apology

11 Jul

Hi! As those of you who’ve been reading this blog from its beginning at the end of March this year know, I am new to blogging and am still finding my way. And to those of you who have found the blog through today’s Washington Post article, you might want to read my posts from the beginning. Not all of them are as long as the last one and some contain links to other sites.

But, since I am still finding my way, I’m not sure I’m set up so that all the comments you fine people gave or will give are set up in the proper way when I reply. To me it looks like all my replies are up top and the comments are below. But they’re all there. I’ll see if I can do anything about this in the future.

And, finally, to some of you who wrote comments, I gave no separate reply. But that doesn’t mean I appreciate them any less. I had nothing to say except Thanks!

And your blogger will do her best to up her game as the need arises. Meanwhile STAY ALERT and STAY SAFE.

Diary Entries: June 16-July 6 (Do the Math!)

9 Jul

I decided to give these entries a title because most of them shed serious doubt on things I heard and read during the week of June 16, all of which revolved around numbers and data. So maybe my thoughts ran more that way than usual.

Friday, June 21 Taking advantage of excellent weather, I moved my work outside to my apartment building’s garden, which fronts on 16th Street. For once I wished I didn’t have such good peripheral vision. From 3 pm to 3:30 pm alone, 10 sidewalk bikers going both directions on my side of the street at the same time as mothers were taking their kids in strollers for a ride or bringing them back from day care; others were walking dogs; and one man with a cane was struggling with two shopping bags. Three of the bikers were on their cell phones. None gave any warning as they sped past. I looked out further each time I noticed one and saw at least 7 bicyclists riding in the street with no problem. This included the only Bikeshare bicyclist I saw.

When I work outside around mid-afternoon before rush hour, the above is the norm, not the exception. So when I read the Greater Greater Washington post by Dave Alpert that a friend sent me the same day, it strained credulity to read that he called sidewalk bicyclists “a rude minority” Not in my neighborhood, sir! On any midday or weekend, they’re the majority. DO THE MATH!

Saturday, June 22 A young friend living near National Cathedral mentioned to me that the problem with sidewalk bicycling was getting worse since Capital Bikeshare located a couple of places in the neighborhood. So I started keeping my eyes open because, although I wouldn’t say casual bicyclists should ride on Wisconsin, some of the sidewalks there are not good for riding either. For example the portion of the Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk that runs from Fulton to Garfield on the Temple Micah side. In that single block there is, first, a narrow sidewalk the whole block and there is a parking entrance for the temple and two entrances for pedestrians to enter the temple. And there is greenery that overhangs the sidewalk from a private house.

But, Saturday morning, about 10 a.m., I walked up Garfield to Wisconsin. Just as I turned on to Wisconsin and headed south toward the temple’s pedestrian handicapped ramp entrance, I saw a sidewalk bicyclist (not a Bikeshare bike) riding north toward me. At that point I thought I could make it the 50 feet or so to that entrance since the biker had still to negotiate the parking lot. But the biker was too fast, and too lucky with auto traffic pulling in, and was soon almost upon me. Since the sidewalk was so narrow and the only alternative was for me to step into the muddy ground trim next to the curb, I thought for once I would not yield until I had to. The biker kept coming, looking straight at me, only wobbling a bit but neither dismounting or slowing down. There was no way for it to go to my left because trees and bushes were leaning over the sidewalk at that point. So the biker came straight at me until, with a couple of inches to go, I yielded and stepped into the mud. In that case I did say as the person whizzed by, “You’re supposed to yield to pedestrians” Like that did any good! [ BTW I wouldn’t recommend you try this. I watched all the way and knew I had an escape route. I also still have some of my former tennis player’s quickness.]

Later I decided to actually measure the sidewalk to see if anyone in their right mind would even assume the sidewalk was good for riding. Without considering the overhanging greenery that sidewalk side to side is at max 48 inches across. The handlebars of a Schwinn bike are 25 inches across. With my arms at my sides I’m 20 inches across. If either of us had our arms out at all or were carrying something, we could not both have stayed on the sidewalk without hitting each other with injury. DO THE MATH! A worse thought, what if the biker had been coming up from behind me?

Later the same day I was back in my neighborhood, about 5 pm, coming out of the DCJCC. As I entered the main sidewalk for a quick walk to the corner of 16th and Q, I looked both ways and, seeing no one, stepped forth. But before I got to the corner a sidewalk biker sped by my from behind without giving warning. But since he had to stop at the corner because of the auto traffic and perhaps because of the incident earlier in the day, I called out “Say something when you’re passing, jackass!” In reply, he said–among other things–“I was nowhere near you.” I told him the truth: if I’d moved just a bit to my left or stumbled he would’ve hit me. An older lady, also standing at the corner, joined in with me. She and I ended up crossing together when the light changed, just in time to be almost run over by another biker coming the opposite way, on the other side of the Q St. sidewalk. This one was on his cell phone and whipping around the corner up the 16th St. sidewalk.

The first biker’s comment about his being “nowhere near me” stayed in my head. A couple of days later when I next went that way, I carried my measuring tape. And, if you count only the part of the sidewalk not obstructed by tree plantings or concrete , there would be 22 inches, less than two feet between us max– if we were both going in a straight line at the edge of the unobstructed walk. Nowhere near? Actually, no room for error on either of our parts. DO THE MATH!

Finally, a couple of incidents requiring no math at all, but reminding us to ALWAYS STAY ALERT:

Wednesday, July 3 A little after noon I headed out of Safeway at Corcoran and 17th. In front of me was a blind man being guided by a Safeway employee across the pedestrian crosswalk. Cars in all lanes were stopped waiting for him to cross. I started walking behind him, but immediately stepped back to the curb, when I saw a bicyclist talking on her cell phone speeding down the bike lane. She flew past, not even slowing at the crosswalk where all the cars were stopped. She would have hit anyone in her path because she completely ignored both that crosswalk and the one just south of it.

Friday, July 5 Something happened to my knee this morning that made me walk unsteadily. I even took a cab to Rite Aid at Florida and Connecticut, where I would normally walk. But I thought by being very careful and hugging the buildings, I could make it as far as the post office, which is at the other end of the same block on Florida before taking a cab home. About halfway down the block, a bicyclist raced by me on the sidewalk from behind, without warning. Given my unsteadiness, for the first time I realized what people who always have problems walking, whether because of age or disability, must feel every time they walk on these DC sidewalks. I was really fearful. So once again I say, this time pleading: IT’S A SIDE-WALK!