March marks the third anniversary of this blog. So I feel it is particularly important to post at least once this month. Plus maybe I have a little blog envy after PoPville’s creator was featured in the Washington City Paper, and I discovered he makes money at it. Who knew?
But, as you know this is not my full time job and it is a public service blog. When I started it was a desperation move to get attention for the growing problem of sidewalk biking, and other bad behavior like running red lights by a growing number of DC bicyclists. The blog got some initial publicity from an article in the Washington Post, which led to contact with the Logan Circle folk who were as frustrated as I was and used some of the info I collected to push for a resolution for DDOT to study extending the prohibition on sidewalk biking beyond the Central Business District and later to get a pilot sign project cautioning against sidewalk bicycling. Every so often I see one of those signs still standing and think wistfully “If only…”
Sadly there’s been little new to report. And, especially for you regular readers, I don’t want to bother you with the same old things. But, to keep you up-to-date, there’s been no response yet from Mr. Zimbabwe of DDOT to my letter asking to signage in the CBD to help enforcement of the prohibition on sidewalk bicycling there. And now that I temporarily have regular meetings in the CBD, I can tell you those signs need to be there. Even when police see a sidewalk biker forcing pedestrians to yield on crowded K Street, they are unsure were the border is. I know because I’ve talked to a couple of them recently, especially when I almost got slammed from behind by a sidewalk biker while walking to the Farragut North Metro.
And that brings me to….
BOSTON SIDEWALK BIKING LAWS
I’m taking a trip to Boston in June and since this will be my first trip there in a number of years, I thought it was a good time to check their laws. To my surprise, I found that, unlike other cities, they had no separate code. Boston relies on Massachusetts law, which says only that it is prohibited to ride bikes on the sidewalks in “business districts or where specifically prohibited.” My Google search also brought up the confusion that bicyclists who want to do the right thing have as to what is a “business district” in Boston. If you want to read that too, Google the question of what is a business district in Boston re: sidewalk bicycling and look for the Reddit Boston site.
I ended up calling Boston City Hall, where I spoke to the representative of Boston Bikes, Najah, who provided at least a reasonable explanation. Turns out there are no official business districts in Boston. And the reason: unlike other cities (she cited NYC and Philly) Boston is intercut throughout by smaller cities, e.g. Cambridge, which look just like Boston in housing, business buildings and roads. So people cannot easily tell when one jurisdiction begins and another ends. But cyclists must be sure where they are because, unlike Boston, a lot of the smaller cities have very clear codes. Cambridge, for instance, lists several business districts where the prohibition exists. Harvard Yard is one(got to protect those future presidents and Supreme Court justices!) The Cambridge code also makes specific that where bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk they can only ride “at walking speed.” (Boy, would that cramp the style of DC’s rogue bikers!).
As a result a number of the Boston Reddit commenters essentially concluded cyclists should treat the entire city as a business district and stay off the sidewalks. A great idea!
Finally, I promise that if anything noteworthy happens, I’ll certainly post it. Here’s hoping Metro’s Wednesday shutdown didn’t inconvenience you too much and that you had a great St. Pat’s Day. And this weekend is the first day of Spring—so happy spring. But remember–with spring and the cherry blossoms come more sidewalk bikers and red-light runners. So, until next time–
STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!