As I posted my most recent post, I noticed a strange box at the bottom. It appears that Word Press might start putting an add at the bottom of my posts. To make money, of course. But I personally apologize for this and will investigate more when I return from travel.
Hello all. I did not post last week because, with the Washington Navy Yard tragedy at the beginning of the week, I thought that whatever I had to say could wait a week while we all sorted out in our minds how this awful thing happened. And for those of us who had friends and relatives at the Navy Yard or possibly at the Navy Yard, it was an anxious couple of days until we learned of their safety.
But I had learned of new sidewalk bicycling incidents in my neighborhood as early as Sunday of that week that I wanted to report. It seems that a lot of people who actually know me report these incidents directly to me and hope that I will use them but, despite my suggestion, do not take the time to put them on the site themselves because their work and family responsibilities take up all their time. I can understand that. Still to keep this at least some record of particularly outrageous incidents I will report what I was told because I’ve seen similar incidents and I know these people and what they are talking about.
BUT BEFORE I GET TO THOSE INCIDENTS–I WANT TO GIVE A SPECIAL SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU TO A MAN I AM CALLING “The gentleman Bicyclist of 17th Street.” I saw him on my way to work this morning and wanted to run right in here and write about it. But I had to wait for a break. Here was the situation. I walked out of my building this morning with a young couple who had their first child in a baby carriage with them. We turned on to Q from 16th to 17th and there parted company. They went south across Q with the ped light and then waited to cross 17th as I did on the north side. The light changed in our favor and we started crossing, me a little slower because with this knee problem I still have to carry a cane on some days. But that is a long light so I still had 20 seconds. I do as I advise you to do–look both ways even though 17th is one way going south at that point. I saw everyone stopped even the single bicyclist, who I noted was wearing a helmet and safety jacket. But I also kept my eyes out for others as I crossed and, sure enough, I saw a bicyclist coming up behind the stopped bicyclist at a speed that made me think he wasn’t going to stop. I put up my cane as I went the last few steps to the sidewalk because I saw him coming around the other guy who was stopped and heading right toward me. My cane barrier made him wobble a bit and I wasn’t hit. But there was no way he was going to stop UNTIL–
THE OTHER BICYCLIST TOLD HIM TO STOP. “Just put your foot down and stop.” The guy did so, but must’ve asked why in a surly way, because the other bicyclist said to him clearly and firmly “Because that’s a red light. You’re a vehicle. You HAVE TO STOP.”
Already on the sidewalk, I turned around and said “Thank you, sir.” I don’t know if he heard me but I do thank him and all bicyclists who make sure that the others who are giving them a bad name do the right thing, or at least realize they are doing the wrong thing. And I hope the bicyclist who was riding right through the crosswalk and the light took the other’s comments to heart. Because besides helping us pedestrians safely cross the street, The Gentleman Bicyclist of 17th Street could have saved the other guy’s life. SO BRAVO AGAIN TO THE GENTLEMAN BICYCLIST OF 17th ST.
NOW ON TO THE TWO SIDEWALK BICYCLING INCIDENTS AND A Third that happened while one of the other two was being discussed:
For bicyclists these incidents are particularly important because they point out dangers to you as well
1. Sunday Morning, 7:45 a.m., Corcoran St., NW, between 17th and 16th: A friend who works at the DCJCC was leaving McDonald’s on her way to work by the side door, which is on Corcoran. As she opened the door, a sidewalk bicyclist came careening around the corner. She said if she’d opened the door any faster he would’ve run right into it. As it was, he had to quickly move around it, which put him at risk of going over the curb on that slim sidewalk.
The amazing thing about this incident or any incident on Corcoran, on that block or the block between 17th and New Hampshire is that there is virtually NO STREET TRAFFIC. Corcoran is a small side street, with narrow sidewalks and stairs, trees and other obstructions, between Q and R, and it goes one way. So autos are unlikely to take if unless they are actually stopping there or trying to find a parking place. And on Sunday Morning, there is NO street traffic. I walk to the Safeway along Corcoran every Sunday morning around 8 a.m. to get my Sunday papers and breakfast things and only rarely see a moving auto. And, since I am a pedestrian, when I see the McDonalds side door opening I have plenty of time to stop. GIVEN ALL OF THIS, WHY WOULD ANYONE RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK THERE? HE’S ENDANGERING HIMSELF!
2. Saturday Night, Vapiano, 18th and M: A friend had dinner there and as he walked out, he was almost cut down by a sidewalk bicyclist. Being young and athletic, he was able to jump out of the way just in time. But this incident points out two things: first, since this location is within the area where sidewalk bicycling is prohibited, this biker was breaking the law. But, second, bicyclists everywhere, but especially on the sidewalk, have to be constantly alert for unplanned events, like a person innocently walking out of a restaurant.
Also of interest is that, while I was listening to this latter story, at, you guessed it, the corner of Corcoran and 16th at midday on Sunday, a sidewalk bicyclist came speeding down 16th from just north of Corcoran, down the handicap ramp, up the other, with eyes looking straight ahead. My friend said–look at that. 20 miles per hour. I said, and if either of us had moved even slightly on to the 16th Street sidewalk as we finished talking, we would’ve been hit straight on.”
Well, that’s all for now. And I’ll be on travel all next week, so no posts. But feel free to comment. I can approve from my smartphone. Until I write next. FOR BOTH BICYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS: STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE. AND STAY ALIVE.
Well, Summer time came to an end really quickly this year, at least for your blogger. With family coming in and school starting and religious holidays, I also had to pack in the first lecture at the non-profit I work with and the last Nats game for which I had a ticket. Labor Day was truly full of labor. As well as the entire week beyond. But Labor Day week, being a short week, with a lot of people still squeezing in a last vacation and congressional staffs not back yet, the sidewalks were not nearly so full of rogue bicyclists, at least in my Dupont Circle area.
BUT THIS WEEK–another story.
Monday on the way to work, I barely turned the corner at 16th and Q, when a bicyclist whizzed by me without any warning. And I hate to say it but it was a woman bicyclist. As she went further on the north side of Q headed toward 17th, she came up behind a couple and their child who had just come out of out of the Cairo and were also heading toward 17th. She gave them no notice either and swerved around them. And then she was very lucky–because she would have run right into the young businessman walking the other direction if he hadn’t alertly pulled the full bag he was carrying out of the way to his chest and stepped even further to his right. Clearly she didn’t read the part of the law that says “yield to pedestrians.”
While that was the most obviously dangerous event I witnessed this week, there were others I witnessed that I should mention. I had meetings that took me around Dupont Circle itself, both north and south. And the action there reminded me of something I’ve noticed increasingly while going to the Dupont Market on Sunday, or to the Metro entrance on Q Street anytime. And now I know the southern Metro entrance there is even worse.
So what am I talking about?—some bicyclists are so wedded to never getting off their bikes once they are on them that they insist on riding even when any sane person would dismount. If you know Dupont Circle, you know that there are a number of short strips of sidewalk so pedestrians can safely cross around the intersection of Connecticut and other streets that surround the Circle. Sidewalk bikers, however, feel this is their roadway around the Circle. They can’t go very fast, of course, but the ones I’ve seen are intent on not stopping at any point. So, for instance, at the south end of the Circle, as I was walking from the Metro stop at 19th across one strip to the next on my way to Mass Ave, I fell in behind two women with two strollers. We all waited for the light to change. Then, as they started pushing them across the pedestrian crosswalk up the next handicap cut to the next strip of sidewalk, there was a sidewalk bicyclist coming their way. The one woman pushed her stroller behind the other to avoid him. But my only choice was to stay in the street in the crosswalk (to my peril since the light had changed by then) as he picked up speed and barreled down the handicap cut, using it as a speed ramp. Then he went up the next handicap cut to separate more pedestrians on the other sidewalk.
The next day I was also on the south end, going toward the Metro this time when a silent sidewalk bicyclist with a basket on his bike came up behind and brushed me while I was waiting for the light to change so he could speed down the ramp and onto the street at that point. Luckily I wasn’t knocked into the street myself.
My thought about these incidents around the Circle, as well as others I’ve seen, is that if MPD just set up a random enforcement around the Circle, as they have for pedestrians from time to time, they could at least force these guys to yield. Oh, but, wait, what’s the penalty? Nothing! So all they can really do is get them to think about it! This is the kind of thing that really irks me about our law. It really gives the police no incentive to deal with this. Outside of serious injury or death to a famous person or two, it’s only the average citizen’s quality of life that’s damaged. But, for me, that is more than enough because quality of life was one reason I’ve made DC my home. And let’s not call this a pedestrian friendly city, Mr. Mayor, until the city makes it so.
Just before Labor Day I heard a news report that Ralph Nader had written the Mayor about problems with vehicles turning left on to Connecticut from Florida Avenue. And he got an answer! The Mayor said he would get DDOT to look at the issue. This is way more than the Dupont Circle businesspersons have got from their petition on sidewalk bicycling, even though they are all longstanding business owners who contribute to local campaigns and one even has a portion of Q Street named after him. It’s nine months and counting since they sent their letter to Mayor Gray and Phil Mendelsohn, with a courtesy copy to Jack Evans. And Nada. Those of us who wrote letters in support have no answer either. This is democracy?
I didn’t hear or read more about Mr. Nader’s plea so I cannot tell all of the details. But I do know that area since I frequent both the post office a little down the block and the Rite Aid right at the corner. I happened to be going to Rite Aid the next week so I inspected the area a bit and sat down near the guy who always seems to be sitting outside on the raised area in front of the store at Florida. First thing I noticed was that there are big bold can’t miss signs (bigger than normal traffic signs) clearly indicating that left turns are not allowed.) I asked the guy sitting there (who is very friendly and well-spoken, by the way) if he noticed people making illegal left turns. He could not say that it happened often, but he had seen it. I decided to see if any of that activity happened while I was there, allowing about five minutes rest time to watch and talk with him about football and politics. There were no illegal left turns at that point, midday on a Tuesday. But in the five minutes–You guessed it— there were 7 sidewalk bicyclists! Nonetheless, it appears the problem Mr. Nader is pointing out is only an enforcement problem since it is already illegal with penalty. And I do wish Mr. Nader success in getting proper enforcement. If only the sidewalk bicycling problem were that simply solved!
That’s all for now. Have a good rest of the week and weekend. And, REMEMBER, NOW THAT EVERYONE’S BACK AT WORK–STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE.
Hello again. I hadn’t planned on posting this week but I just received an important message that you all should be aware of. DDOT will be resurfacing the 15th St. Cycletrack starting today. According to their press release there will be Temporary Parking Lane Restrictions on 15th St. NW Starting September 6, 2013 They hope to be done by October 11, weather permitting.
The release also advises bicyclists to use alternate routes, and it specifies 14th St. and 16th Street NW. Realistically, this likely means a whole lot more sidewalk bicycling on 14th and 16th NW. My plea to bicyclists: If you choose to use the sidewalks, try walking your bike. It’s better exercise for you and safer too. And if you choose to ride anyway, please tell pedestrians you’re there when you’re coming from behind. A friendly “BIKE COMING ON LEFT” will be greatly appreciated.
And , for pedestrians, especially those of you using 14th and 16th: Realize that there may be many more sidewalk bicyclists during this month. stay to the right; look all ways including behind you, every time you move out of the straight line or when you turn the corner.
and, to all:
Everyone act like the other persons sharing the sidewalks are your neighbors, not some foreign obstruction to your path or to your enjoyment of the trip.
STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE. STAY ALIVE. I want you all back reading this blog next week!