Archive | July, 2014

I Bike Therefore I Am

24 Jul

This post’s title is the mantra of many bicyclists. There’s even a T-shirt that trumpets it to the world. But, as we’ve learned, there are bicyclists and then there are the others, more properly described as rogues or idiots on bikes.

When I first say a guy wearing this T-shirt, it was shortly after I got the snarky pingback from Urban Scrawler Schneider (see my earlier post, Tips for Pedestrians). The link again is

http://urbanscrawldc.com/2014/06/06/will-the-district-bar-bicycling-on-sidewalks/

And, after all the fuss in the last couple of weeks about bicyclists’ behavior, it seems a good time to discuss the difference between good bicyclists and the rogues and idiots. Saving the best for last, let’s start with the latter.

The Bad and the Ugly

The T-shirt quote sent me back to Descartes’ original saying: “I think therefore I am.” Of course, Descartes, being a great philosopher as well as a mathematician, did not stop there but added: “It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.” As Shakespeare said, “ay, there’s the rub.”

Bikers who don’t use their minds well, like Urban Scrawler Schneider, bike recklessly and try to use high-end
words without fully understanding their meaning. You know that your blogger learned early in life to never guess, but look it up. So, when he threw “crotchety” at me, I looked it up and found it fits him more than me. A “crotchet”, it turns out is “a highly individual and usually eccentric opinion or preference.” And someone who is crotchety is one who is “subject to crotchets, whims or ill temper.

And what is more crotchety than to think that, based on one personal incident when he ran into a pedestrian on a sidewalk, pedestrians are never hurt when hit.?

Or that people who recognize safety and quality of life issues for pedestrians and bicyclists alike when bicyclists ride recklessly on the sidewalk are NOMS (“not on my sidewalk” types), instead of being concerned about all of us? “Everyone is a pedestrian”, as the opening to the DDOT Master Plan Pedestrian section reminds us. Most of us are going to work, pushing our kids in strollers, often with a toddler also in hand, getting groceries and sometimes stopping to have a friendly talk with a neighbor.

Or that pedestrians have to wait until this Urban Scrawler gets a bike lane on every street and no cars in his way before he allows pedestrians to live without fear of being run over by bikers like him?

On the other hand, he did give your blogger a great quote that I’ve already used in correspondence with DDOT and others. After failing Research 101 on biker/pedestrian accidents resulting in serious injury or death, he goes on to say what your blogger and others have said all along:And any one who’s ever ridden on the sidewalk with any frequency has probably run into a pedestrian at some point…” But in Scrawler Schneider’s crotchety fantasy world, the pedestrians are “fine” after being hit. If you check past blog posts here, including links to other sites, you will find ample evidence of injuries, including one to your blogger, and even the death by a hit and run bicyclist that was a major reason for starting this blog.

Finally, the Good

I Googled the bike mantra to see where it came from. That how I found out about the T-shirts. Although I didn’t find the origin, I did find a wonderful post from last summer by a good bicyclist on the Crazytownblog, which is a blog for the NYC artistic community. Here’s the link:

http://www.crazytownblog/crazytown/2013/08/i-bike-therefore-i-am.html

In it an actor, singer and writer named Sam Perwin advises a novice NYC female bicyclists on how and why to bike in Manhattan. He says, although scared at first, it took him only 6 weeks to become confident and happy bicycling in a much tougher bike environment than DC. Although you’ll enjoy reading the whole post, I’ll highlight below his basic points without his added explanation in most cases. I’ve also put a few comments of my own in brackets.

Sam, whom Descartes would love, says:

7 Simple Rules for Biking in NYC and not killing yourself or someone else

1. For God’s sake wear a helmet.
2. Ride in the direction of traffic. Yes, that means in the bike lanes too.
3. And, on that note, use the bike lanes when they’re there.
4. Obey traffic signals…most of the time.
[I disagree with “most of the time”, but here’s Sam’s excerpted comment: “OK, so we’ve all crossed against a light when no cars were coming… But, for the most part, it’s dangerous, and no one likes that guy who’s trying [to] jam his bike through a perpendicular throng of pedestrians[my emphasis added here] Wait for the light.”
5. Buy a lock long enough to get through your frame and your wheel.
6. Choose non-major cross streets. [Sam’s excerpted comment, which is definitely applicable to streets like Corcoran Street in Dupont here]: …Most are tree-lined and even if there’s no bike lane, there’s usually plenty of room.”
7. The West and East Side highways are your friends.[These have dedicated bike lanes, like 15th Street, NW, in DC]

And Sam concludes:
“So take the plunge! Citi Bikes [NYC’s version of Capital Bikeshare] makes it easy for sure, but don’t be one of those drunk idiots riding on the sidewalk. Those people are the reason survival of the fittest exists, and they will be roadkill soon enough. Don’t be like them. Get out, get on a bike, and enjoy the end of summer.”

And, as a former Manhattan bicyclist myself (when there were zero bike lanes), I say–Sam, I couldn’t have said it better. And, to paraphrase the song "New York, New York"–
If you can bike the streets there, you can bike 'em any where!

Back at you next week with a few facts gleaned from the WaPo columns and stories. Meanwhile, STAY ALERT! DON'T GET HURT! DO THAT MOVE DC SURVEY! And, like Sam, I hope you enjoy the end of the summer.

Important Updates and Reflections on Last Week’s Bike Brouhaha

15 Jul

IMPORTANT UPDATES

DDOT has extended the period for completing the movedc survey to July 31.. If you haven’t taken the survey already, see my earlier post: Pedestrians: Let Your Voices be Heard for details and the link to both the plan and the survey. You can also e-mail and write by regular mail. But it’s really important that you let DDOT know your feelings about their plan and how it can be improved.

Logan Signs: The Northwest Current did an excellent article last week on the Logan sign project that you should read. It will show just how much work went into getting this pilot off the ground and why DDOT got involved. The link I have for this is

http://www.currentnewspapers.com/archive.php

You want the July 9, 2014 issue, so click first on Vol. 8, 2014, then on July 9, 2014. The article starts on page 1.

Reflections on Last Week’s Bike Brouhaha

Since I was really busy last week, I took the easy way out by giving you the link to Courtland Milloy’s column, inside of which was a way to click on John Kelly’s column of a day earlier, which concentrated on sidewalk bicycling in DC’s Central Business District. Like those Russian nesting dolls, Kelly’s column was thus hidden, even by me. For that I am sorry, because , for pedestrians trying to reclaim their right to safely walk on the sidewalk, Kelly’s column is more important.

While about 50 bike “victims” , including some WABA “bike ambassadors” pedaled to the Post to protest Millory’s words, which hurt them, with great media publicity, Kelly’s column and his questions to pedestrians and bicyclists elicited over 300 online comments and plenty of e-mails before the Milloy column and the biker backlash hit the fan. And many of these comments, outside of the usual snarky back and forths from people with way too much time on their hands, well illustrate the problem both pedestrians and law abiding bicyclists face. Below are a few of the most cogent, with my comment:

The honor of being first goes to a good bicyclist, rdraj34, who wrote:
As a cyclist, it is embarrassing to see the behavior mentioned in John Kelly’s column since it defames all cyclists. Unfortunately, from casual observation, it does appear the majority of cyclists disobey the laws, including traffic laws. (red lights, stop signs, etc.)
Cyclists cannot receive respect if they don’t respect the laws and extend simple courtesy to others.

My sentiments exactly. A quick illustration from me: Friday morning as I crossed with the light in the crosswalk at 17th and Q, I alertly looked for bicyclists even though all the cars were stopped. First I saw one. He was in the bike lane, but had stopped properly behind the crosswalk. Behind him more than a half block away I saw several more bicyclists coming up behind. I smiled at the stopped bicyclist and said “Thank You,” and continued to complete my crossing. But I couldn’t resist looking back to see what the rest would do since the light was still red and the ped crossing light still in the pedestrian favor. You guessed it, every one of 5 passed around him on both sides to run the light and scare another pedestrian still walking across.

Several commenters raised the issue of limiting law against sidewalk bicycling to the CBD, among them:

jhuenn, who said:It would make a lot of sense to expand the restriction to other areas that are just as congested as downtown.

YES!

scarlet_begonia, who commented about her being it about 10 years ago by a bike courier and then she said:
I get that roads are frequently unsafe for cyclists. But making the sidewalk unsafe for pedestrians isn’t the right response.

YES, Again!

bjm692 provided the most poignant comment:
Don’t you think it’s a bit strange to have to tell a child to “look both ways –a bike might be coming”–before the kid steps onto the sidewalk from his front walk??? This is a MUST in my neighborhood as several kids were nearly mowed down by speeding cyclists who think they have the right of way over a little kid, and who can’t seem to think of the safety needs of others. It really isn’t all about the cyclists, you know.

That’s all for now. I’m on the road again this weel. So I’ll post again when I get back. Meanwhile I’ll say again, for both pedestrians and bicyclists: STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!

Breaking News

10 Jul

Well, I was going to write about the pingback I received a couple of weeks ago, which I encouraged you to read because it represents so well the segment of the bicyclist community that gives cyclists a bad name, the reckless type who breaks who feels entitled to priority on any space he choses to ride on. But we’ll leave most of that for another day because there has been a burst of media coverage this week on the rogue bicyclist issue. Both John Kelly and Courtland Milloy wrote excellent thought-provoking columns in the Post on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Below I’m providing the link to the Milloy column because in the body of that column, he references John Kelly’s column. By clicking on that, you can read the Kelly column as well:

http://wapo.st/1IS6to4

I just tried the above link from my post and you’re going to have to look under Local and then for Milloy: “This city’s bicyclists are bullies”, which is under another local article by Ashley Halsey III on toning down criticism of bicyclists. But look for it, it’s worth it as is the Kelly article.

When I woke up this morning, Milloy’s column was the WTOP radio question of the day, eliciting a number of comments. Most that I heard were positive. The head of a bike organization, Black Women Bike, Veronica Davis, was interviewed and she noted that Milloy made several good points. I have heard her speak before on Kojo’s show and I respect her and her goals. Then I heard that obviously some bicyclists are taking offense to this column and even the raising of the issue that some of them just might be breaking laws on the road and terrorizing pedestrians on the sidewalk too. So some guy is having a protest ride this afternoon at 1 from Dupont Circle, my neighborhood, to the Washington Post headquarters downtown. I’m working today and won’t be there to check on it. Hope they don’t break any laws or ride recklessly on the sidewalks getting there.

More media coverage: Last night Channel 4’s Derrick Ward had a report of which I only caught the end. But it seemed to be about the controversy started by the articles. And after I got to work, I received an email from a friend that this week’s issue of the Northwest Current has an article on the Logan signs.

I’ll try to keep you up to date on these articles and more. But meanwhile, let your voice be heard through comments online, emails, and even letters on the points raised in the columns.

And, as always, STAY ALERT; DON’T GET HURT

Updates to help you celebrate Independence Day

3 Jul

On this eve of July 4, which we should never forget is really the celebration of our country’s declaration of independence and the beginning of a marvelous experiment in building a democratic republic the likes of which the world had never seen, I have only a few updates to offer. But they are encouraging ones in this country where every citizen has a right to be heard and listened to by their elected representatives.
FOIA Update
First, on my FOIA request about enforcement in the CBD, the one place here where bicycling on the sidewalk is illegal: Having failed through normal channels, I finally wrote Chief Lanier and, within two weeks, received an response from the a sergeant in the Traffic Safety Enforcement Branch of the MPD (TSSEB). Not a complete answer, but nonetheless a response. He says the following: TSSSEB has been “conducting quarterly street smart campaigns for pedestrian/bicycle enforcement and education. Officers do target enforcement in the downtown area writing notices of infractions and handing out educational flyers as well as law cards. TSSEB deploy(sic) units to ensure safety and to enforce laws. TSSEB initiated an educational enforcement campaign to support bicycle/pedestrian infrastructures. The campaign was an attempt to decrease the bicycle accidents that are caused by both the bicycles and the vehicles. TSSEB periodically places overtime enforcement initiatives in the areas that have had a specific problem that can be addressed with focused and targeted enforcement. MPD continues to take steps that officers are appropriately investigating bicycle related incidents and following our guidelines as it relates to bicycle enforcement.

He goes on to say they realize the increase in population and are evaluating the issues arising on a daily basis. But sadly he gave no figures or more specifics. I responded with two simple questions: 1. could I use his name and 2. How does he judge the success of the street smart campaigns, i.e. did he have statistics on numbers of notices of infractions or did they have another means of judging? Although I wrote him a day after he emailed me, I have two months later no response. But since he said they were conducting these campaigns quarterly, I will check with him again now that this quarter is ended. At least I have a contact. One step forward.

Thoughts on the responses to the Logan signs

At the end of the post “Pedestrians: Let Your Voices be Heard” I gave you links to the popville site and to a pingback to my blog. My own thoughts:

1. The Prince of Petworth incited a really lively discussion on the popville site by just posting pics of the signs and a sidewalk bicyclist ignoring one of them. All sides were pretty well represented, with some as usual more intelligently expressed than others. Now that I’ve had time to go through all the comments (waiting in airports will do that!) I noticed that 5 pedestrians reported being hit with injuries, luckily none too serious, and 2 close calls. Others also reported the bicyclists yelling at them to get out of the way. (That’s yielding to pedestrians, as the law, even here, requires?) One of the last comments was one of two that mentioned moving here from elsewhere and, because, with one exception, it parallels my experience, I thought I’d repeat it here:

Anonymous: When I first moved to DC, I was shocked when walking and cyclists would come up fast behind me on the sidewalk (ringing or calling out, or not) because of the five cities I’ve lived in, this is the first one I’ve lived in where it is actually legal to bike on the sidewalk. I was surprised when I first read that. I used to yell at the cyclists to ride in the street before that. A perfectly logical assumption, given the laws and/or customs in other cities in this country (including the largest city, and formerly second largest city, where people never ride on the sidewalk). I don’t think it is safe to have bicyclists on the sidewalk.

That said, I rode my bike in those other cities , and I don’t here–I ride only outside the city. I find this city really scary to bike in. And that’s saying a lot, given that I’ve ridden in the largest city, and formerly second largest city, and the smaller city known far and wide to have the worst motorists anywhere in this country (where making a turn from 3 or 5 lanes over to the other side of the road is common). Riding in the street in DC should be made safer for cyclists.

The only part where my experience is different is that I can and have biked in DC, but I’ve always chosen my times and routes judiciously and that has helped. Some other commenters mentioned doing that too and it seems the best way to handle any situation (I do the same when driving or walking). That said, I do think that riding in the street in DC should be made safer for cyclists, but pedestrians shouldn’t have to wait until that is accomplished completely to the satisfaction of cyclists and their WABA lobby before the laws are changed to keep pedestrians safe on the sidewalks.

2. Well, since I see this post is already longer than I intended, I won’t address the pingback from the crotchety biker until next time.

And I’ll close with another step forward for pedestrians. We are one step closer to getting signs for Dupont. Thanks, Nick.

And to all Happy Independence Day and remember: STAY ALERT; DON’T GET HURT.