Tag Archives: Bicycle Safety

The Wheels on the Sidewalks go round and round

24 Jul

Now that I’m getting out a bit again, I’m noticing there are still the old wheeled hazards on the sidewalk, bicycles and the occasional Segway.  But new ones have arrived to give pedestrians more to worry about when they walk on what was designed for them and named for their mode of transport–two feet walking.

Last week at 10:30 in the morning I was walking with a friend from the JCC on 16th and Q to my apartment building on 16th, which is only about a half-block away across the street.  In that short span we first saw a guy pedaling something I’d never seen before.  I would call it a unicycle, but it was unlike any I’d ever seen.  It looked like a huge dish–fit for a mythical giant’s table.  The guy was pedaling fast and had both hands free.  I didn’t see any controls.  Of course, he was using the sidewalk for this strange ride and, at the rate he was going, would have had zero chance to avoid a collision with a pedestrian just rounding the corner he was heading toward.  Luckily that didn’t happen and he was out of our sight in a flash continuing on the next block of sidewalk.

By the time we got to my building we had also dodged a sidewalk biker in the crosswalk.  While we stood, still on the main sidewalk leading to the sidewalk of my building, another sidewalk biker whipped past us with no warning and only an inch to spare from hitting my friend.  If my friend had stepped back at that moment he would have been hit.  A couple minutes later another sidewalk biker came from the opposite direction, but still on the same stretch of sidewalk.  I saw him out of the corner of my eye and moved my friend in toward me to avoid his being hit.  Although we would have liked to talk longer like sociable humans, we decided it was time to leave the danger zone of the main sidewalk.  Remember this is after rush hour and while there were cars on the street, there were not that many and they were all going slower than these bikers.

I’ve also noticed from my window and occasionally when I’m on the street a new hazard–delivery robots.  The one I see looks like a big beer cooler on wheels and has a small red flag(about the size of a folded pocket handkerchief) attached on a thin rod up about 4 feet.  So far the one I’ve seen only comes out with an attendant walking behind it.  But I’ve hear from news sources that these delivery robots are intended to delivery items to the door of people who order the items.  If that happens regularly I can foresee a real danger to pedestrians.  The robot, although traveling  only 4 miles an hour is so low that, even with the tiny flag, a person walking around the corner would be unlikely to see it and could easily trip over it.  Interestingly the first complaint I’ve seen about these was from a bicyclist writing to Gear Prudence in the Washington City Paper.  While I didn’t like Gear’s answer because, although he rightly told the bicyclist to proceed with caution and give it a wide berth, he also stated that the robots take up “limited space allotted to cyclists and pedestrians” without noting that the cyclist has an option of riding in the street while the pedestrian has no recourse.  Generally I like his columns but he doesn’t caution cyclists, his audience, enough about the dangers not just to pedestrians but to cyclists themselves of riding on the sidewalks.

CORRECTION:  Finally, toward the end of my last blog, I made a couple of  errors in my haste to get the post done.  One was at least humorous.  I referred to the need for “stranger” laws rather than “stronger” laws and enforcement to reign in reckless bicyclists.  I’m sure my dedicated and intelligent readers caught that mistake.  But just for the record:  We need stronger laws not stranger ones.  We already have stranger laws than other cities in that we allow bicyclists to ride on the sidewalks in the first place.

So, enjoy the better summer weather coming this week.  But watch out for delivery robots, big rolling dishes, Segways and reckless sidewalk bicyclists.  STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!



A Challenge for Bike to Work Day–This Friday May 15

13 May

Well, I was out of town the last few days and the coming of Bike to Work Day snuck up on me this year. For those of you interested in participating, you can get full info at

As in past years if you register you are entered into a bicycle raffle and can visit any of the over 70 “pit stops: for food, drink and free T-shirts. The weather’s supposed to be fine for a ride, so if you can bike to work, try it out.

Last year I did an extensive post on Preparing for Bike-to-Work Day, and I urge you to read it, or re-read it if you read it last year, as a short primer on things to know before you go.

I don’t have prizes or free T-shirts to give you, but this year I’d like to challenge all the bicyclists riding on Friday, whether you register formally or not, to obey all the rules all during their rides, especially three we so often talk about in this blog:

1. Stop at all red lights and stop signs.

2. Remember you are traffic and dont ride the wrong way on oneway streets.

3. Dont ride on the sidewalks. Remember it is illegal to ride on sidewalks in the Central Business District (see my prior post for the boundaries) and, while you can ride on sidewalks elsewhere, you must yield to pedestrians. And it is always a bad idea. This is what the WABA booklet on Safe Bicycling in the Washington Area says:

Sidewalks and Pedestrians: Sidewalks are not suitable places to ride bicycles; sidewalks are designed for the slower speeds of pedestrians, not the faster speeds of bicyclists. In fact, sidewalk riding is illegal in many areas–so check local laws. If you ride on a sidewalk, yield to pedestrians; where there are lots of people, walk your bike. Pedestrians don’t like to be surprised by bicyclists passing from behind, so you should warn them of your approach. For example, call out “Passing on your left.” When approaching corners, alleys, and driveways, slow down and make noise.

Post a comment here after Friday and tell me how you did.

Let’s make this a safe Bike to Work day for everyone, bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. And remember STAY ALERT; DON’T GET HURT.

Some good news for both pedestrians and cyclists

30 Jan

If you haven’t seen the Washington City Paper yet, do so.  For both pedestrians and cyclists there’s a very helpful article in the District Line, City Desk, entitled “Struck DC”.  here’s the sense of it:

There appears to be a Twitter account Struck in D.C. (@StruckDC) that compiles information on the number times drivers of vehicles struck pedestrians and cyclists.  The City Paper article notes that in 2014 there were more than 500 such incidents and, the note the following– A few of the incidents in 2014, it should be noted, involved cyclists striking pedestrians–OF COURSE, I SAY, BECAUSE BICYCLES ARE VEHICLES TOO.

At any rate,  @StruckDC continues to report.  And there are 29 incidents this year already.  The City Paper article notes that DC Fire and EMS tweet incidents as well but not every incident reported to an official agency is reported about and not every collision is reported to police, which we knew already.  I see collisions between cyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalks frequently and have even been involved in one but had no way to report.

NOW THANKS TO THE WASHINGTON CITY PAPER, there will be not only @StruckDC but an additional way to give this info. Per the article

“City Paper will seek information about pedestrian and cyclist incidents, both reported officially and unreported and compile it into a map.  Visit washingtoncitypaper.com/go/struck to view the map or submit an incident.”(Emphasis added)

I haven’t go to the site yet to see how incidents are reported, but I encourage you—especially pedestrians because there is no lobbying organization looking after us—to report whenever an incident that you are involved in or witness to occurs.  Be certain to be accurate.  Only this way will we begin to get a better picture of the real dangers out there.  And in case the site doesn’t activate through the above, try it this way


and, if you have a Twitter account try


Have a great Super Bowl weekend and STAY ALERT; DON’T GET HURT.

Tips for Pedestrians

23 May

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, let’s talk about laws and commonsense behavior for pedestrians. Walking is the best exercise countless health articles will tell you. It is way better than bicycling by the way. But, whether you’re walking for exercise, to get to work or to stimulate creative thinking, you need to be careful because pedestrians are also the most vulnerable because of the reckless behavior of persons using other modes of transportation. So let’s review.


I discussed basic tips that will help keep pedestrians safe in an early post (the 7th post–Safety Tips Update). The only laws that apply to pedestrians in DC are the requirement that one must cross the street in the crosswalk and with the light if there is one. With the light means with the pedestrian signal. But since so many bicyclists ride on the sidewalks even where they are prohibited (in the Central Business District), it’s important that pedestrians adopt mindful habits that will keep them safe on the sidewalks as well as crossing the street.

A brief review of that early post follows:

Walking on the Sidewalk

1. Walk as far to the right as possible;
2. When coming to a corner, look both ways on the street you are turning into before turning into that street;
3. if you stop to pick something up, or need to move to the left for any reason, look behind you first.

Crossing the Street

1. Cross only in the crosswalk;
2. wait for the pedestrian signal before crossing (A Note here: There are crossings that are deceptive in that you may see traffic stopped at the red light on one side, but the other side is green, like one in my neighborhood New Hampshire and Q, or traffic crossing is still allowed to turn. That is why the pedestrian light is the only one you should follow–because it takes into account when all other vehicle traffic must be stopped);
3. As you cross still look both ways, even on one way streets, both when you first start out and about halfway across. That way you will avoid any bicyclist weaving between the stopped autos and running the red light.

A Final Note Inspired by my NYC TRIP

I was on a bus uptown and saw a sign on the bus. While I don’t know why it was on the bus since it was directed at cyclists (one guess–it might have been for young cyclists traveling with their parents or to school). But I thought to myself this is equally applicable to pedestrians, at least many I see on my walks to work and elsewhere. With typical NYC directness and panache, it rhymes and is in 5 languages:

Stay alert. Don’t get hurt. Wearing headphones, talking or reading while cycling? Watch out–Don’t tune out!

I say the same to my fellow pedestrians and ADD: Stay off your cellphone! When you’re walking, enjoy the walk. Don’t be distracted by your music, a cellphone conversation or anything but the walk. You’ll be in better shape when you get where you’re going. THEN you can call that person or listen to your music. If you must make or take a call on your way, stop first, get to a safe place, e.g. behind a lamppost or trash can, and deal with the call.

So, adapting NYC’s Motto: STAY ALERT. DON’T GET HURT. And have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend.

Preparing for Bike-to-Work Day (May 16)

9 May

In my last post I promised to review basic law, rules and common sense behavior for both pedestrians and bicyclists. And since Bike-to-Work Day is next Friday, I thought I’d start with bicyclists. Warning: This might be a long post, but stick with it.


1. If you want to be a part of Bike-to-Work (BTW) officially check the WABA site, waba.org, for info, TODAY(May 9) is the last day to register.

2. Whether or not you register to get the t-shirt, special goodies, and location of “pit stops” on May 16, you might just want to commute to work. If you do, you will be joining a growing group. ABC News reported last night that biking to work has increased by 60% in the past 10 years.

3. But, regardless of why you want to bike to work, for the fun of next Friday or for a regular routine, BE PREPARED TO DO IT RIGHT. I can tell you from experience that the true commuter bicyclists during DC’s normal rush hours know the law and follow it. And they ride on the streets not the sidewalks (more about this later). I know I feel safer walking to work earlier, before 9:00 than coming out for lunch because commuter bicyclists know what they’re doing and are aware of the traffic and pedestrians around them, not just themselves.

But even if you haven’t commuted to work before, you too can ride as well as they do, whether on your own bike or a Bikeshare bike, if you use the knowledge set out below whenever you ride, even on weekends and nights.


Don’t assume that, because you learned to ride a bike as a kid, you know it all. Learning to mount a bike and ride it is not enough to ride safely and lawfully.

Much of what I say below is taken from the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) booklet “Safe Bicycling in the Washington Area”(WABA SB). While only part of this info is on the WABA Website, and I’ll note when it is, you can and should get a free copy of WABA SB from WABA because it covers every area of bicycling well and is an easy read.

So here we go:

1.Ride Predictably: On a bike you are riding a vehicle. So YOU ARE TRAFFIC on the streets and roads just as autos are. While you might think of maneuvering around the autos and running red lights, DON’T. “This is how most bicyclists get into crashes…Being predictable (i.e., following the same rules the autos do)is the key to safe bicycling in traffic.” (WABA SB, p. 11, with italicized portion added for clarification).

2. Follow Traffic Rules for Cyclists

Here WABA has on its website
a link to DC regs and laws as well as a section called “Selected Bicycle Guidelines”, which features a grid noting the laws in DC, MD and VA most essential for bicyclists to know. I am just going to highlight a couple below.

a. “Bicyclists traveling on roadways have all the general rights and duties of drivers of vehicles.” You are a vehicle–go with, not against, the flow of traffic (even on one-way streets); stop at red lights, and stop signs; stop behind the pedestrian crosswalk, etc.

b. Cycling on Sidewalks: You may think a good way to avoid being considered a vehicle is to ride on the sidewalk. But know this:

1. In DC you are prohibited from riding on the sidewalks downtown. Biking on the sidewalk is “Prohibited in the central business district (bounded by Massachusetts Ave., NW, 2nd St. NE-SE, D St. SE/SW, 14th St., NW, Constitution Ave. and 23rd St., NW)” As Dr. Gridlock mentioned (see last week’s post) signs should be posted. BUT TO BE A RESPONSIBLE AND SAFE BICYCLIST, WITH OR WITHOUT SIGNS, YOU MUST KNOW AND OBEY THE LAW.
2. Beyond the Central Business District, at present, bicyclists can ride on the sidewalks BUT–
EVERYWHERE: CYCLISTS MUST YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS. You aren’t yielding if you ride without concern and just barely miss pedestrains. You’re just lucky. A pedestrian, thinking himself safe on the sidewalk and not seeing you coming from behind, might stop suddenly to pick something up, or move to the left to get a newspaper.
DC RULES (which you can also access on the WABA link provided above, ALSO PROVIDE that, in addition to yielding the right of way to pedestrians, a cyclist:
a. Shall not travel at a speed greater than the posted limit of the adjacent roadway; provided that such speed is safe for the conditions then existing on the sidewalk (DC Reg. 18 1201.10) [Ask yourself if you’re riding at 20 mph can you stop in time if a mother with a child in a stroller suddenly turns a sidewalk corner or comes out of an apartment building?]

b. When propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or while crossing a roadway in a crosswalk, [a cyclist] shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, except that the bicyclist must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk (DC Reg 18 1201.12) [Ask yourself if you are zipping down one handicapped cut into the crosswalk and a group of pre-schoolers is bunched at the other side, what are you going to do?]

I have just mentioned a couple of the rules that are more commonly broken when biking on sidewalk. There are more rules. Know them.

And if you don’t want to ride on a sidewalk anywhere–good for you. The best bicyclists don’t, not just because they’re riding responsibly, but because they know it’s safer for them. Here’s a passage from WABA SB, p 12:

“Sidewalks & Pedestrians: Sidewalks are not suitable places to ride bicycles; sidewalks are designed for the slower speeds of pedestrians, not the faster speeds of bicyclists. In fact, sidewalk riding is illegal in many areas–so check local laws. If you ride on a sidewalk, yield to pedestrians; where there are lots of people, walk your bike. Pedestrians don’t like to be surprised by bicyclists passing them from behind, so you should warn them of your approach. For example, call out “Passing on your left.” When approaching corners, alleys, and driveways, slow down and make noise.”(Italicized emphasis added)

TOO MUCH INFORMATION? Think of when you learned to drive a car. Riding a bicycle responsibly requires knowledge. But it is fun; it’s good exercise and a cheap environmentally friendly way to get to work. And once you know what you’re doing and why, it’s like any other good habit–easy and second nature.

So enjoy Bike to Work Day and every other day. BUT remember, as I tell pedestrians STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE

In case you missed these in the Post or Express

25 Oct

Hi again. Your blogger is still in the busiest season of work at her nonprofit while trying to accomplish some freelance work as well. And so I was unsure how I would put together a worthwhile post for you this week.

And Then…

Both before and after one of our lectures I encountered reckless sidewalk bicyclist on Corcoran. [You may remember that Corcoran is a small side street with a narrow sidewalk and trees and steps of row houses jutting out to make it yet more difficult for even a pedestrian to navigate. It is also between between Q and R, both of which have bike lanes, one going one way east and the other going west]. Thus why anyone would ride a bicycle on such a sidewalk, especially at night, when there is no auto traffic on the street remains a mystery to me, but I have to deal with it because I have the “perk”, finally, after years of commuting long distances, of working in my own neighborhood. At any rate, the more dangerous of these bicyclists was the one who came up silently from behind and brushed me, since I had to move around a fence surrounding a tree. he did not stop to apologize so I yelled after him as he sped away–“Say something when you’re coming from behind” And without turning back he was still able to yell a curse. I looked and, of course, not a car to be seen on Corcoran between NH and 17th. The other was easy to avoid, except it came as a surprise. I’d just crossed 17th, headed toward 16th, on the really narrow south side of Corcoran, when out of the shadows came a biker in a real hurry. Since I was at the corner and his plan appeared to me to be to get to the corner and turn up over the handicap cut to the 17th street sidewalk, I was a sitting duck. But because I saw him I could move behind the shop on the corner Prego Again.

So With that motivation…

Here are a couple of things in the little file I’ve been keeping to get to when things die down.

1.Did you see the Post Magazine’s Sept. 15 Design Issue?

I had thought to comment on this here at some point, merely to make a point that, for all the articles on Design, including a big one on DC’s bike friendly status, there was nothing in that article or in any of the other articles on making DC more “walk-friendly.” But I didn’t have the time with both work and partial work travel intervening(the rest of that travel was fun–more about the situation for pedestrians in the cities I visited another time). However, I was surprised to find in the Post Magazine a couple of Sundays later, this Reader Reaction, which I quote in its entirety:

Regarding the Sept. 15 article “How D.C. blazed the path, by Leah Binkowitz.

Arthur Mason, Washington: Leah Binkowitz’s article was one of the most biased I have ever read. Let’s start with the picture on Page 20 captioned “Bikers wait for a green light.” How long did you have to look for bikers waiting for a green light? They never wait for a green light. Anytime I talk to a D.C. driver, the subject always gets around to the lawless biking community. Red lights, one-way signs, do-not-enter signs mean nothing to them. They act like they are entitled to go anywhere on any street or sidewalk at any time. No wonder they get into accidents. They have the politicians’ ear and get laws passed making it an offense for cars to annoy them in any way.

MY COMMENT: Personally I think Mr. Mason probably represents an increasing number of people in DC and certainly makes good points about a number of bicyclists. But, as your blogger has pointed out before, there are lot of good bicyclists out there. Still they are tarred with the same brush. And when, inevitably, if the laws aren’t changed and enforced to cut down that reckless entitled biker mentality of some, a tragedy occurs,all bicyclists, even the many good ones–like the Gentleman Bicyclist of 17th Street, about whom I wrote in an earlier post, will be negatively affected. This is why I am trying to work with WABA and other responsible people in the biking and pedestrian community to move things in the right direction before we reach the point where we’re shaking our heads and saying, “If only, we’d done something earlier.”

2. Did you happen to read the Express Oct. 17 Best of issue?

If not, on the DC life page, they had, first, the most popular neighborhood blog: PoPville.com, with which you will be familiar from a previous post here. I think the honor is well-deserved from what I’ve been able to read.

The Express also had a most popular Bike Lane award (sorry, fellow pedestrians, no “most popular place to walk” category)

The bike lane award went to “Pennsylvania Avenue NW” (the one mile stretch of protected pavement that opened in 2010, with reflective barriers and special traffic signals for cyclists). Coming in second, was 15th St. NW and third, L St. NW.

So here’s a question or two for you bicyclists out there: Would you rank these bike lanes at the top? Why? Do you have other selections? And again why?
And finally–What in your mind would be the best kind of bike lane that could be realistically implemented here in DC?

It really helps for me and those who follow this blog to know what you think. So weigh in on this, or other issues raised in this blog. Thanks.

Well that’s all for now. Have a great weekend and STAY ALERT AND STAY ALIVE.

A really quick post to all visitors and followers

27 Sep

As I posted my most recent post, I noticed a strange box at the bottom. It appears that Word Press might start putting an add at the bottom of my posts. To make money, of course. But I personally apologize for this and will investigate more when I return from travel.