Tag Archives: citizen action

Navigating DC’s Bureaucratic Swamp

29 Apr

Two weeks ago I followed up my January 20 letter to Sam Zimbabwe, DDOT’s Associate Director of Policy, Planning and Sustainability Administration.  I wrote a brief email reminding him of the letter and the requests to be addressed, most notably installing signage in the Central Business District noting that sidewalk bicycling is prohibited there.  At the conclusion I added a note of personal experience:

Since I wrote you the problem is only getting worse.  Just three weeks ago in the CBD, I was injured when I tripped trying to get out of the way of a speeding sidewalk biker.  Of course, he just kept going, endangering others on the crowded sidewalk.  People from the bus stop to which I was heading helped me up and as we waited in the safety of the bus shelter, others shared their stories.  One woman had been actually hit and injured by hit-and-run sidewalk bikers twice in recent months.  If you have never been hit by one of them, you don’t know that it can cause lasting injuries. A couple of years ago I was hit from behind and it took months of therapy to get my shoulder back in good working order.  And, should a person fall and hit his head on the sidewalk, it can cause death.  If there are no witnesses or the person just thinks he has a mild concussion and moves on after regaining consciousness, he can still die from that hit because of internal bleeding on the brain.

In concluding I asked only that he tell me what, if anything, DDOT is doing on this issue and, if he were not the appropriate person to contact, to refer me to the appropriate person.  Needless to say, I have yet to receive even an acknowledgment of the email.

So what good does it do to write to the Mayor (who IS responsive) if she must delegate to others to do the followup?  The same good it did to write to Chief Lanier about enforcement in the CBD, who responded by delegating to Sgt. Terry Thorne, who provided only a general link to the Street Smart program and said I could contact him with any questions.  It is now over two years since I asked the simple question of him–How do you judge the success of the Street Smart program?  I have yet to receive an answer.  In the meantime the self-same Sgt. Thorne told a Washington Post reporter she would have to do a FOIA request to get info on enforcement statistics.  Good luck with that.

So long as petty bureaucrats stonewall the public both through failure to answer FOIA requests and through failure even to respond to reasonable questions, nothing will improve.  These people are paid by our tax dollars.  They are public servants.  That means they are to serve us, not ignore us.  Frankly I feel sympathy for both Mayor Bowser and Chief Lanier that, with all the important issues they have to deal with and decisions they have to make, they cannot rely on some of their employees to do the right thing in responding to the public.

Well, down off the soapbox–I wish you a good and safe spring weekend and remember–STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!




Anniversary Waltz

18 Mar

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….


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–





One step forward, three steps back

9 Feb

Between end of year reports at my job, medical appointments I foolishly scheduled all in January when things should have been slow, and my Resident Snow Team service, things got a little out of hand.

But, as promised, I did write my followup letter to DDOT to see how they were responding to my request to Mayor Bowser for proper signage and enforcement of the law prohibiting sidewalk bicycling in the CBD and for a DDOT study to see if the prohibition should be extended to neighborhoods with significant pedestrian traffic.  I addressed my letter to Sam Zimbabwe, the DDOT associate director who seemed most appropriate to deal with this request.  No response yet but I was encouraged that, when he was interviewed this weekend at a hearing on protected bike lanes, he mentioned as one of  the reasons for the DDOT plan for such lanes in the Shaw neighborhood, getting bicyclists off the sidewalks there.  SO–at least he is thinking sidewalk bicycling is a problem.  [BUT the best solution is just to prohibit sidewalk biking, with rare designated exceptions, like other cities do rather than linking it to the need for protected bike lanes.  There is a need for both]

That little step forward was offset by other events:

1. Post snow return of rogue bikers.  After a blissful week during the snow storm when I and my little coal shovel cleared curb cuts and fire hydrants and helped neighbors clear parts of the sidewalk not cleared and walked to work without worry, seeing only a few hardy bicyclists in the street once it was fully cleared, on Sunday, January 30, I started out for my Sunday papers and provisions and was almost run down by a sidewalk biker racing from behind without warning.  Nine a.m. Sunday morning with virtually no street traffic.  That afternoon, coming back from a matinee at the Keegan Theatre, I noticed something on the clean sidewalk in front of my building that might have been a bottle that someone might trip over.  I was just about to move left to pick it up when another rogue sidewalk biker almost got me from behind and then almost got the couple walking in front of me. The fact there were many more pedestrians on the sidewalks than cars on the street meant nothing to this biker with an entitlement mentality.  After all if he rode in the street he might have to ride in the correct lane or stop for a red light!

2. No sidewalk biking task force in Dupont yet. Then I learned from my friend in the Dupont Citizens Association that the promised task force had been changed to a commitment to developing an overall transportation plan for the area.  So, knowing how even citizen bureaucracies work, I don’t expect anything productive on sidewalk biking for years, if then.  But I did ask to be kept informed so if I can make a difference, I will.

3.  16th Street bus lane.  Finally, it appears that our ANC is set to support DDOT’s 16th Street transit corridor plans.  Our Citizens Association appears to have some reservations on historic preservation and pedestrian safety.  And, the day before the big snow, I attended a public hearing on the issue and saw some real problems.  For one thing DDOT plans to eliminate some critical bus stops, including one in front of the DCJCC in my neighborhood.  But also plenty of people were there protesting an elimination in front of a school and one in front of a nursing home.  The DDOT rep explaining their rationale explained that the people will only have to walk an extra block.  Try that with a toddler in tow or if you are disabled or at night in the rain.  And the longer queues at the remaining stops will make things more difficult for all.  All to save six minutes in time.  Why not just get to the stop a few minutes earlier?

For more info, here’s the cite to the plan:


and here’s the cite to a very good Washington Post article on the hearing:


and if you want to sign a petition against the elimination of stops:


Sorry this was so long.  But at least you know what I know.  And, as always, STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!







Holidays are coming–and so is snow

11 Nov


Now, my apologies again to my readers for posting so infrequently. I’ve had an unexpectedly busy year, not only with a lot of family and friends trips for weddings, births, big anniversaries, etc., but also more business trips than planned and a changing of the guard at the main non-profit I work with, which has caused a lot of extra work during the changeover. So that’s my excuse for not regularly posting–and I’m sticking to it!

But it’s also true that there hasn’t been much of import to report and, with the holidays almost upon us, there’s likely to be even less to report since governments at all levels tend to hit the snooze button during this season too. Still there are a couple of things important to pedestrians to note:

1. DC Snow Team: One good thing that will surely help us is that Mayor Bowser has established an enhanced Snow Plan. Since forecasts now say we could get 20-25 inches of snow over the winter, the new snow plan comes none too soon. And there’s an opportunity for us to help–While the Mayor’s office promises enhanced enforcement of the law that requires property owners(residential and commercial) to clear sidewalks surrounding their properties within 8 hours after a snowfall, the Mayor has also formed an action plan to help those who are seniors and residents with disabilities. Snow teams are being formed with those of us who can volunteer to help our neighbors.

If you would like for join, go to:


Right now through December they’re offering free orientations in each Ward on the Do’s and Don’ts of Shoveling Snow.

NOTE: When I got notice of this program, I joined up, but told them I would not be at an orientation because, besides being busy then, as a former Northern Ohioan, I know how to shovel snow and know to shovel it early before it ices over. They agreed. But I also mentioned that they should add to their list the shoveling of curb cuts so people can get across the street.

If you can, I urge you to join the Snow Team formally, or just help a neighbor on your own. And adopt a curb cut or two as well. I’ll be out at Q and 16th again this year with my little shovel. I met so many nice grateful people and a couple of helpers last year.

2. My 2015 Resolutions: Because the holiday season is almost upon us, I am holding off my followup to the new DDOT Administrator on what action they might be taking in response to Mayor Bowser’s promise to me after my letter that things would improve for pedestrians in the CBD at least. But I’ll be writing the letter and have it ready to send out first thing in January.

I will also check with Dupont Circle Citizens Association on the creation of that task force their President mentioned to me to deal with controlling sidewalk biking in the neighborhood.

That’s all I have time for now. I’ll try to get in another post in the next month since I do have some diary tidbits you might enjoy.

Meanwhile, have a good start to the holiday season, and remember STAY ALERT! DON”T GET HURT!

Linking In

9 Oct

In my recent reading I came across these two interesting indications of attitudes of cyclists here in the DC Metro area, which, of course, differ from those in the Real World:

The first, a Dr. Gridlock piece about police in Alexandria stepping up enforcement of traffic laws for bicyclists. Note the whiny attitude of the cyclist as to the size of the fine. Thankfully, like most of the rest of the the world, Alexandria does not allow biking on the sidewalk.


And speaking of not biking on the sidewalk, what happens if DC joggers use a bike lane instead of the sidewalk for their exercise? Well, that is against the law, of course. Joggers are just faster moving pedestrians and have to suffer the same indignities as walkers, risking being cut down by bikers on the sidewalk.
Anyway here’s the link to an article about that issue:


And here’s the opening of my response:

The short answer to your survey question is: No, joggers shouldn’t jog in bike lanes. But I understand why they might want to–to avoid bicyclists using the sidewalks as their personal “alternate” lane without any regard for the people for whom sideWALKS were intended.

I agree with the lady from Philadelphia Magazine. But then she lives in the real world where bicyclists are never allowed to ride on the sidewalks except in rare well-marked sections of particular sidewalks. Here in DC, alone among major cities, it’s just the opposite. [ I go on to briefly describe the dangers and plead for the Post to make this a consistent campaign instead of just an occasional afterthought.]

And, finally, a citizen action link for those of you living or commuting along 16th street. Whether you are a bus rider, auto driver or cyclists, let your voice be heard. There are still DDOT hearings next week on the issue of a dedicated bike lane there.


Well, that’s all for now. Happy Columbus Day Weekend and remember to STAY ALERT. DON’T GET HURT!

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:


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.


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!

New Year’s Resolutions

13 Jan

At the end of 2014 Word Press sent me an annual report of my blog activity. It seems my blog was visited 420 times. Trying to be too cute, Word Press informed me that was over six SF cable cars worth of people. Taking out my regular readers, I’d say the number was more like 200. BUT, outside of Harriet and Bob, YOU’RE ALL SO SILENT! I really want to hear from you! So, if you have any comment or info on sidewalk bicycling or pedestrian safety in light of that activity, or an incident you have been involved in, let me know. Also, if there’s something not too difficult for a tech dummy like me to add to my blog to attract more traffic, let me know.
As time permits, I will:
1. contact and meet with my new ANC commissioner to talk about the dangers of sidewalk bicycling in the Dupont neighborhood and see what he is willing to do about it, including following up on the sign project;
2. follow up with MPD on getting info on enforcement of the ban on sidewalk bicycling in the CBD;
3. Now that Jack Evans is on the Transportation and Environment Committee, make one more attempt at getting him to act on behalf of the Dupont citizens he represents to make walking on the sidewalks here more safe;
4. carefully read the new MoveDC plan and see what, if anything, is planned to make pedestrians life safer;
5. contact whomever is appointed by Mayor Bowser to head DDOT about this issue;
6. Contact the Washington Post reporter who was told last summer to make a FOIA request to get actual incident info on biker infractions to see if that has happened and the result;
7. Continue this blog when I have something to report on any of the above or new info from other cities.

I urge you also to at least get involved with your own council person and ANC commissioner and public safety committee on this issue. Together we can make a difference in 2015.