Archive | January, 2014

Ice Follies

28 Jan

Hello again everyone. First I want you to take a look at the comment to the prior post, Baby Steps, because it includes a link to the sidewalk bicycling problem on the Penn State campus and State College PA. I think you’ll find that pedestrians have the same reaction we do. Luckily there is a law against that behavior, which only needs to be enforced. And, speaking of enforcement, I’ve just received some added data from my FOIA request and hope to be able to report on that next week.

But now on to Ice Follies

As we all know it snowed last week and, because it was also cold, the snow began to freeze if it wasn’t removed quickly enough. In Dupont Circle most of the businesses and apartment buildings did a good job and, once I got out of my own building, which had not cleared yet, I was able to walk to work on Wednesday morning by guessing correctly that I should stay off Corcoran and taking the long way around using main streets. But even here, since there are private homes and alleys interspersed, I had to be extra careful. Sometimes even where it was cleared there was only a clear walk for one set of steps. And, because it stayed cold, many of these icy areas remained through the beginning of the weekend.

Clearly, then, the sidewalks were dangerous for everyone, but especially for pedestrians who had to exercise extra care to concentrate to avoid unclear icy spots. AND SADLY–sidewalk bicyclists! Early Wednesday evening, as I was returning to my now cleared apartment building sidewalk, I looked across the street to see how things were going on the East side of 16th and saw that the sidewalk in front of the Church of the Holy City was not yet done nor was it done just south of the Church. But there appeared to be a ribbon of clearing that the pedestrians were using, often waiting for others coming from Corcoran to clear it before starting into it themselves. And THEN there came a sidewalk bicyclist riding like he was preparing for a Winter Olympic event plowing right through that little ribbon. Pedestrians couldn’t scatter as fast as normal and I saw a couple slip as they moved out of his way. Could he not have WALKED his bike at least through the danger zone?

Friday night I was returning from an event at my institute and had gone early to the event so I could spot the danger areas along Q Street where I knew I would have to move to the middle to avoid the ice. I’ll admit sidewalk bicylists did not enter my mind as walked home. But silently from behind came not one but two of them just as I was about to move to the middle to get over the icy alley patch. Luckily I hadn’t made my move yet.

So, just another lesson for all of us who walk. Until we change the law and the culture of bicyclists, we are an endangered species even in the worst weather conditions. So we have to watch in front and behind at all times.

STAY ALERT and STAY SAFE.

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Baby Steps

17 Jan

Well, this week has been a good week for moving forward. After nudging by phone last week, I received part of my FOIA request from DC government. They gave me the police materials, sort of. It appears that, although I foolishly thought that a request to DC government’s FOIA office would cover all agencies and they’d parcel them out, that is not the case. And, the police do not keep the records of their own citations. So I must make a FOIA request to the DMV’s FOIA unit. Wonder how long that will take? But I’ll be doing it today and keeping you updated.

Last night I went to a mayoral candidate meet-and-greet and ran into one of the group that’s working on the project to wean bicyclists off the sidewalks in pilot project. He too put a little pressure on at New Year’s and now it looks like DDOT has assigned someone to do its part.

We are both guessing, and actually hoping, that like crocuses, these pieces will be popping up early in spring.

So in the meantime–STAY ALERT and STAY SAFE.

Welcome to 2014–are you ready?

10 Jan

I hope you all had a fine holiday season and have started off the New Year well. As always I start each new year hopeful. But I follow up with action or the hope means nothing.

I don’t make too many resolutions, but I’ve already accomplished one. I checked on my FOIA request and have been told the file has a couple of responses already, but is not done and I have the name of the person in the FOIA office who is now responsible and will be following up with him at regular intervals. Despite their original response indicating that if it took more than 15 days they would be contacting me, I knew they wouldn’t from prior experience with other local government offices. My friends who are trying to develop the pilot project to lead bikers off the sidewalks have adopted the same approach and, with the New Year, made another stronger appeal to DDOT to do their part and have a reply that their part will be started shortly. So at least for now these two efforts have been moved a bit forward.

Still we have to stay on top of anything involving government so that promises are kept, especially as with the FOIA request, the law requires it. These forays to get something from government reminds once again of a great statement I heard in a speech given by the writer Ingo Schultze, who was born and raised in East Germany and helped in many of the protest marches that helped bring down that regime. When someone who was trying to get him to say bad things about the capitalistic system in the united Germany and the US v. “Socialism” and asked him what he had learned in his years there and in traveling here and in other countries, he said he was not sure that he knew enough about the economic systems to say, but one thing of which he was sure–“Bureaucracy is the enemy of Democracy.”

Think about the truth of that statement and then remember that we have a mayoral election this year. The Democratic Primary, which will most likely decide the election, is April 1 Speak your mind about the things important to you at the candidates’ forums. Listen to their answers. And certainly vote. Then, and this is always the hard part, hold the winner to account early for keeping the promises made.

And, if there is one thing I’d like to see every candidate agree to and then do, it’s answer communications from citizens, whether they agree or not. I still am amazed that the Dupont Businesspersons’ Letter on Sidewalk Bicycling has not received any written response. Even a simple “we’ve received your letter and are considering it” would show that our elected mayor and councilmembers remember that they are working for us. And the people they appoint are also supposed to be working for us. Just a thought with which to start an important year.

Diary Entries

1. Happy New Year, not!If I had any doubt that I needed to continue this fight in the new year, my doubts ended with the stroke of midnight on December 31. We were having a small gathering in my apartment and looked out the window on 16th Street to see if we could see any fireworks. We looked out starting around 11:50 and saw virtually no street traffic, only a cab or two going downtown. We did see a number of lights in the houses across the street indicating other parties. And then, right as midnight came and we saw some small fireworks out in the distance on the Potomac, a bicyclist came into view, riding truly recklessly on the sidewalk on the east sidewalk. He did not ride in a straight line but in a curvy way that took up the entire sidewalk. What if he’d suddenly met up with pedestrians leaving a party on Corcoran. At his speed there would have been a collision, for sure.

2. Watch that Ice, but beware as well Last Sunday when we had early freezing rain, as we do today, I went out to get the Sunday papers and some breakfast items, and walked along Corcoran between 16th and 17th, which has a brick sidewalk most of the way. I had forgotten how brick ices up even when concrete does not and slid a bit. No damage done but I moved more to the middle of the sidewalk to avoid the more icy spots. My reward? Not a minute later a sidewalk biker came without notice from behind me and jostled me as he sped toward the 17th St. corner. Luckily I kept my balance. But it points out again the dangers that any pedestrian has to watch out for, one of which could definitely be ended by changes in the law, coupled with education and enforcement of the new law.

I realize I went on a little longer than planned so I’ll end here and save other notes for the next post. Another resolution: shorter posts.! Meanwhile, STAY ALERT and STAY SAFE<