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Keep Hope Alive, Pedestrians!

30 Jun

First, the bad

Well, I had hoped the Washington City Paper would be at least a little fair in its review of comments on Will Sommer’s rant (see last week’s post).  But no such luck.  Once “newspeople” have in their minds the story they want to tell, nothing will dissuade them.  So only you, dear readers, will know that “the hate[of sidewalk bikers].  The torrents of Biblical, blood-red blistering hate” did not rain down on their heads.

Of course, the editor doing the comments in the Chatter column(which, sorry I can’t find an Internet link to, but you can still pick up the paper version) made it seem so by cherry-picking a few commenters using all-caps and profanity and carrying on their own rants again and again with other ranters.

But I read every one of the 126 comments, as can you, by using the link I provided last week and I found, beyond the three or four people with too much time on their hands to rant at each other, there were a number of reasonable people who commented:  the man who just wanted to walk safely with his kids on the narrow sidewalks of Georgetown, a woman with a cane who had been knocked off balance, a person who suggested that someone listen to the conversations at the senior Center in Friendship Heights.  Plus a goodly number of cyclists who patiently explained why one should not ride on the sidewalk, gave alternate street routes that would minimize even having to be on the sidewalk, and emphasized as we do–if you must be on the sidewalk, WALK YOUR BIKE.

I’ve e-mailed the editor on this.

And some updates on the #Struck DC project

Also, in this week’s Washington City Paper in the District Line, City Desk portion is an article called “Walking Gall”, which gives some suggestions as to how to walk especially at night.  It also mentions that “drivers of vehicles have struck at least 180 pedestrians in DC this year”, but gives no indication how many of the “vehicles” were bicycles.  Sadly, again I could not find a link to the web version of the paper for this article.  But I did find that map has been updated and here’s the link to that:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2015/06/29/struck-in-d-c-an-interview-with-no-249-map/

The interview is with a bicyclist hit by a car.  But, by moving your pointer over each circle (peds are the greater number and in orange) you can tell where the accident took place and when.

I did write this editor to ask how many of the “vehicles” hitting pedestrians were bicyclists.

NOW THE HOPEFUL NEWS

I can’t say it’s truly good news until I see some action, but two weeks ago, I used Mayor Bowser’s request for citizens to give her knowledge of problems in her #Iwishyouknew campaign.  I wrote a letter in which I included the original Dupont businesspersons’ letter and copies of two of my blog posts (the two with pictures because they show briefly citizen action on this issue and at least one example, in the text, of non-enforcement in the CBD).  I pointed out that DC Walk-Friendly award was based on incomplete info because the group giving the award did not realize that, unlike in most cities, bikes were allowed to ride on the sidewalks here.  Then, since I wanted to start small, I asked that she at least make sure there was good signage in the CBD to indicate that biking on the sidewalk was not allowed there and secondly that she ask DDOT to consider, as the Logan Circle ANC2F asked, whether the prohibited zone should be extended into neighborhood that now have plenty of businesses and pedestrians.  Unlike her predecessor and my own council rep, she has already answered!  So her staff will consider this issue and she hopes I will see “a positive change” in the “near future.” I did not expect more at this point.  But I will be watching and I hope you will too and let me know.

I think it would also help as many of us as possible take advantage of the “Iwishyouknew” campaign to let the Mayor know about this issue.  Clearly, she at least has a system to record the info and get staff assigned, which is more than I could say for our prior administration.

Well this has been a little long for a holiday week so I’ll keep other thoughts for later posts and just say STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!  and Happy Fourth!

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Sidewalk Biking Scofflaw Whines and Slurs others

26 Jun

Good Morning! I had planned to use my next post to give the many good DC bicyclists and their advocates info on protected bike lanes to help in their campaign for more here. But that will have to wait because, once again the rogue sidewalk biker apologists have struck. Their new advocate, Will Sommer in the Washington City Paper. If you didn’t read his rant, here’s the link:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2015/06/18/riding-a-bike-on-the-sidewalk-makes-sense-why-the-hate/

I’m happy I didn’t find a City Paper before I left Thursday afternoon to attend a family wedding in Toledo, or I might have had a less peaceful trip there thinking of responses especially since my last sight of DC as I started my journey on Metrobus was of a sidewalk biker speeding down the 16th street sidewalk toward Corcoran and coming within an inch of hitting a baby in a stroller being pushed by its mom who was just coming out of Corcoran to the pedestrian crosswalk across 16th at that point. Luckily the mother did what I tell all my pedestrian friends to do: she looked both ways on the sidewalk before entering the curb cut and, when she saw him barreling toward her, she quickly pulled the stroller and herself back, bumping into other family members who were following close behind. Another pedestrian forced to yield, although the law says the bikers must yield. And, of course, it being 2:00 pm there was little traffic on the street.

With that incident still in mind, softened by my wonderful trip, seeing family, and where I didn’t have to worry about rogue bikers on sidewalks, when I got a City Paper Tuesday after work and read Sommer’s lead article, I was more shocked than usual but tried to draft a response that had some chance of being read and excerpted. I couldn’t cover all the misstatements and incendiary slurs on good people (I might do that in a future post), but here’s my reply:

I didn’t read this misanthropic anti-pedestrian rant until last night when I returned from a trip to attend a wedding in the Real World. In the Real World, which is most every place outside of DC borders, they know the meaning of “sideWALK’. In the US, from NYC to San Francisco, and most everywhere in between, adult bicyclists are NEVER ALLOWED to ride on sidewalks except in rare well marked instances of real danger for cycling on the street.

But here in Wonderland DC, everything is backwards and upside down. And so, only the politicians and lobbyists in the Central Business District, an over 30 year old designation, are legally protected by a prohibition on sidewalk bicycling. And, according to Sommer, good cyclists are “perverse” because they ride on the street like other traffic. Pedestrians who want to walk safely to work, the bus stop or neighborhood grocery are “ugly classis(ts)”. If Sommer wants to slur people like Goebbels did, then he should look at himself. The entitlement mentality of the rogues who ride the sidewalks regardless of the danger to pedestrians and often the presence of a bike lane and/or the absence of auto traffic are the real ugly classists. They are a minority of the cyclist community here but they stain the overall bike community.

Who hates whom here? I’ve been hit from behind without warning by a rogue biker when I moved slightly to the left on the sidewalk in front of my own apartment building on a Saturday morning. My shoulder is still not the same 2 years later. Of course he hit and ran. My neighbors, black,brown and white, young and old, can tell similar stories. We don’t hate. We’re scared. And to the people in Ward 8, bike lanes do not make things better. I live in Dupont Circle. We have bike lanes galore, but it seems to goad the rogues. They jump on the sidewalk if the bike lane’s going the wrong way or if a little side street has no bike lane even if there is zero auto traffic. It’s all about them, after all!

Still I support the good bicycle community and wish for more bike lanes and some sidewalks where there is real danger in the street to be specifically designated as allowing bicyclists, perhaps even the East Capitol Street Bridge. But for the rest of the sidewalks, let’s get out of Wonderland and join the Real World. IF YOU WANT TO USE THE SIDEWALK, WALK YOUR BIKE!

Well, that’s all for now. Have a great weekend. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival has just started and the feature country is Peru, one of my favorite countries, and where, by the way, countless Peruvians in cities ride rickety bikes in the streets. So Enjoy!

But remember STAY ALERT! DON”T GET HURT! With rogues like Sommer and Urban Scrawler Schneider (see 2014 post “I bike therefore I am”), you’ll need to be extra vigilant.

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.

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.

The Untold Story of Pedestrian Accidents

20 May

First, I want to thank Robert for his comment on my last post on Bike-to-work Day. If you didn’t read it, please do so. He comments that, even commuter bicyclists can be rogue bikers and gives an example of his encounter with one and the injury resulting from that encounter in which the bicyclist sped too fast and through a red light. Even without a collision, we vulnerable pedestrians can sustain injuries. And I would like to hear from more of you regarding your experiences and helpful thoughts because it makes for more interesting reading and a record of the problem as well.

Anyway, I had only time to approve Robert’s comment, but not to post a response since I was on the Saturday morning train up to NYC for a week of business with time with friends wherever I could squeeze it in. But Sunday morning I started reading the Sunday NYT and came across an interesting piece in the Metropolitan section, entitled “Struck on the Street: Four Survivors”, which turned out to be reader comments on an article printed the previous Sunday. Of course, I read it with interest, cut it out and thought I would read the earlier article when I got home and, if worthwhile, report on it to you.

Most of the letters were about accidents involving autos hitting pedestrians. And, as you know from this blog, it is illegal for bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk in NYC (and during my week-long stay, mostly spent in Midtown and on the Upper East Side, I only encountered one sidewalk bicyclist although there were plenty of bicyclists, men and women and food delivery persons all riding in the streets and on Central Park’s roads). BUT ONE READER COMMENT TO THE NYT ARTICLE caught my eye because it was so like Robert’s comment and shows why rogue bicyclists can destroy quality of life in the city. I’ll quote from the letter of Dory from Queens:

“Your Article about injuries to pedestrians omitted those resulting from assaults by cyclists. Seven and a half years ago, an impatient cyclists who wanted to avoid waiting for a red light in Midtown charged up on the sidewalk where I was walking, trapped next to a construction scaffold. Hugging the scaffolding and unable to move in any other direction, I tore a meniscus in my left knee as the cyclists sailed by across the corner of the busy sidewalk and then turned the corner, unidentifiable, failing to stop.
[Dory then related the series of operations on her knee and related developments, like plantar fasciitis and weight gain because she could no longer walk without pain. Finally total knee replacement. She concludes:]
I can’t walk fast, go up or down stairs, dance or do any of the things that used to bring me joy. I curse every bicycle I see. My life has been irrevocably changed.”

This Sunday I finally had time to unpack and find the article I’d cut out and locate the original article on the Internet. The point of the original article stressed the same theme as Dory’s letter did, that even pedestrians who survive accidents and recover are forever changed. The author wrote the article because this is the story that is rarely told. Yet she was able to personalize her own experience and that of 4 other NYT colleagues all of whom had been hit by vehicles while walking in the crosswalks with the light. I quote now from the original article:

“It is natural and right that the worst (and fatal) cases attract the headlines and public horror. But being hit by a vehicle changes the way a pedestrian experiences the city, even years after recovery. Every time I see a white delivery truck coming down the street, an almost daily sight, my thoughts revert to my accident. Some changes, like never stepping off the curb until the light has actually changed, or looking both ways before crossing (sometimes twice) are probably salutary. But you are never again sure that a vehicle that should stop will stop, and carefree pedestrian wonderings in the metropolitan area end abruptly and forever.”

And this is the answer I have to those who say that there hasn’t been a pedestrian fatality here in DC from a bicyclist in over three years. It’s not just the fatalities, but the injuries that count and the fact that the quality of life in the city we love is harmed when we constantly must jump out of the way, sometimes injuring ourselves, just to walk on the sidewalk or cross with the light in the crosswalk. For a city that got a Pedestrian Friendly award a couple of years ago, this is unacceptable.

Finally, one note on the author of the NYT article, which I had not noticed when I first read the followup. The author was none other than Jill Abramson, who later in the week was unceremoniously dumped as Exec Editor of the NYT. A classy lady who thankfully wrote an elegant plea for her fellow pedestrians everywhere before leaving. May she live long and prosper.

I’ll try to post again before Memorial Day. But meanwhile STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE.

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.