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.