Tag Archives: DC Government

Two Lives Lost to Reckless Bicycling

23 Jun

While I was dealing with doctors, chemo and its aftereffects, I still kept up on news as best I could.  As readers of this blog know, one of the prime dangers to pedestrians, in addition to bicyclists using the sidewalk as their personal expressways, is bicyclists running red lights.  Although running red lights is against the law throughout DC for bicyclists as well as autos, this law is virtually never enforced against bicyclists.  Yet every day I walked to work I had to be especially alert for bicyclists running the red lights, often after appearing from behind stopped cars to fly through the light.  This behavior is a daily occurrence and many pedestrians have been injured either by being hit a glancing blow or by falling trying to get out of the way to avoid being hit.   Still no enforcement.  But this spring two deaths pointed to the need for MPD to take this problem more seriously.

Pedestrian, Jane Bennett Clark

The first event was the death of Kiplinger editor, Jane Bennett Clark.  On March 9, at evening rush hour, she was going home from her office when she stepped off the curb into the pedestrian crosswalk with the walk signal and all cars stopped.  She had every right to expect she would get safely to the other side where the Metro Station was.  Instead she was hit by a bicyclist running the red light.  While the Post article was not specific regarding her injuries, I am pretty sure that her head hit the concrete street, which is a virtual death sentence particularly for older people.  Despite being rushed to the hospital by DC Fire and EMS, she died the next day.  So far the 27-year old male bicyclist has only been charged with “disobeying a traffic control device” according to a Post report in April.  While the article I read indicated the investigation was ongoing, I have read nothing further since April.

Nor have I read any comment by Mr. “do nothing for the people” Ward 2 council member Jack Evans. When I was first campaigning to keep bicyclists from riding on the sidewalks, I was told by his office that I needed a group behind me before he would pay any attention and a member of my own Dupont Circle Citizens Association cautioned me that “some one important” needed to be hurt before anyone in office would pay attention.  And I’m sure Ms. Bennett Clark’s death got more press because she was well-known, unlike the Asian man a couple of years before who was hit by a hit and run bicyclist on Capitol Hill on a Thanksgiving Day weekend.  I remember hunting for news of his death a couple of days later and finding only a one-liner in regional news.  To me every person is important and one death is one too many.  Still I see little evidence that this daily danger to pedestrians is being taken seriously by the MPD or City Council.

I was encouraged by the comment responses to the article on the charge brought against the bicyclist in Ms. Bennett Clark’s case.  Although I read and printed out only the first 20 comments of 233, every comment, most from responsible bicyclists, showed that ordinary people know how wrong the current situation is.  These comments were representative:

Dan Schiff:  I am a cyclist and I am often more fearful of other cyclists than I am of drivers.  I blame lack of enforcement of cycling laws, as well as inadequate bike infrastructure, which makes some cyclists feel like they have to be rogue ninjas to navigate the streets.

Cyclists should follow the same safety rules as everyone else:  Be aware of what’s in front of you, to your sides, and behind you.  Yield to pedestrians.  Make yourself seen and heard.

Mike Pcf1:  Like some of the posts below, I work in DC and bicyclists never stop at read lights or obey most traffic laws.  If you don’t get out of their way crossing the street they give you the dirty look when they should be the one yielding.  I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents like these.  Police need to crack down on cyclists who run red lights.

Bialk:  As a life-long bicyclist, I am the first to say something has to be done about bicyclists in DC.  There are apparently no laws and certainly no enforcement governing their apparently free-for-all use of roads and sidewalks.  While some oblige, most completely disregard traffic laws.  The police need to get off their phones and actually do something.

Other commenters, bicyclists themselves, brought up the need for licensing bicyclists and tests to get them as other states require.  And one commenter brought up the sidewalk bicycling issue:

Starling1:  Earlier this week, I was walking, just before sunset, on the sidewalk.  A bicyclist passed me, just barely missing me.  I had no idea he was there until he was beside me.  If I had moved even 6 inches to my left, he would have hit me, and I would have been fortunate to avoid the hospital or morgue.  Virginia law requires bicyclists to ride in the street and observe the same laws as motorists.  This bicyclists should be charged wit manslaughter or vehicular homicide.

Ordinary people understand the need for stranger laws and enforcement of the ones that exist.  How long before the Powers-That-Be wake up and do something?

Bicyclist, Dan Neidhardt

Sadly, when bicyclists disobey traffic laws that are their for everyone’s safety, sometimes the bicyclist is the victim.  That is what happened to Dan Neidhardt when on April 28 he rode through a red light and collided with a pickup truck at First Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The Post also wrote more than one story about him because he was part of a small artist community in Brookland.  According to the May 13 article, Mr. Neidhardt had taken up cycling as part of his exercise regimen as he turned 70.  Four years later he’s obviously become as serious cyclist, takin on 20 mile rides and riding a $5000 carbon road bicycle.  But sadly he never learned the rules of the road.  His death could have been avoided if he had and the Brookland artist community wouldn’t have lost a friend.  This tragedy is yet another argument for licensing bicyclists as we do auto drivers.  At lead they will know the rules when they set out instead of just watching others who may be intentionally ignoring them.  Whether cyclists follow the rules or not is their choice.  But more enforcement of existing laws would help them make the right choice.

This has been a long post.  So I will just end by saying, to pedestrians, bicyclists and auto drivers alike–BE ALERT; DON’T GET HURT.

 

Danger in the Crosswalk

6 Sep

Hope you all had a Happy Labor Day weekend.  I did. the weather was good for outdoor fun.  And yesterday was amazing in that unlike other holidays bicyclists in my Dupont Circle area took advantage of the empty streets to actually ride there instead of piling on to the sidewalks.  And I even a bicyclist walking his bike on the sidewalk!

But not all is well.  First thing Monday morning I turned on WTOP and heard a story that traffic light cameras had picked up in the last year 1,500 bicyclists running red lights.  Of course, as the announcer pointed out, since bikes are not required to have licenses, there’s no way to ticket them from this evidence.  The MPD spokesman said that police have to actually sight them in person to ticket.  A friend I met while walking told me that this story had been in the Washington Post as well.  I must have missed it.  But the number is staggering when you think about it.  And point up again why we pedestrians have to be constantly alert even when all cars are stopped behind the line and we are walking in the crosswalk with the pedestrian light.

Saturday I finally received a letter from DDOT purporting to answer my January letter to Sam Zimbabwe.  This after I finally had involved the Mayor’s office.  Unfortunately the letter was boilerplate about all the things I already knew–where it is legal to bide bikes on the sidewalk,the CBD boundaries, the Street Smart program, etc.  So I will have to follow up again.  Over a year now just to campaign for signage in the CBD and suggesting a study to expand the prohibited zone.

That’s all I know right now.  Enjoy the short work week.  And remember, even in the crosswalk. BE ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!

Summertime and the living is not so easy

9 Aug

This morning on the way to work I saw something that made me laugh although I was happy that neither sidewalk biker was injured.  As usual I had barely got out of my building, looked both ways before entering the main sidewalk, and then started walking south to the corner of 16th and Q.  I’d barely got 50 feet when a sidewalk biker sped by me from behind without a word of warning.  What made me laugh was still to come.  She got to the corner to cross Q and, because she was a little unsure of what to do next,  slowed to get around and finally stopped behind a group of pedestrians waiting for the light to change so they could enter the crosswalk.  Stopping behind was a bad idea because from the side came another sidewalk biker, in a suit and tie no less, on a racing bike came flying across the pedestrian crossing on 16th and almost hit the back of her bike.  Considering the speed he was going this would have been a bad crash, but she saw him at the last minute and managed to push further into the crowd of pedestrians to avoid a crash that probably would have injured the poor standing targets, the pedestrians, as well.  But this is the second time in as many months I’ve seen two bikers almost hit each other because of their reckless riding.

So much for  my experience.  I have no good news to tell you.  I have finally written to the Mayor and enclosed a copy of my post about the bureaucratic swamp we find ourselves in when we dare to ask questions of DDOT and other agencies.  Since the Mayor assigned someone last year to look into my questions, I hope she gets after them.

Finally, I tend to pick up free papers when I’m going to the gym.  And last week the monthly Beacon was among them.  The Beacon is a paper geared toward seniors.  And there I found in the Letters to the Editor a letter from a woman who wished to remain anonymous but had  a story to tell that was perfect for this blog:

Dear Editor:

Bicycles on sidewalks are a huge problem.  If I had a dollar for each time I’ve come close to getting hit, I’d be rich.  The D.C. Mayor’s office said they are allowed on sidewalks except in midtown D.C.

This must change.  The bicyclists come on the sidewalk at the speed of light.  One young man knocked my husband to the ground.  No concern, no apology.  All he said is, “Oh mister.  Do you think my bike’s damaged?” I swear!

Why can’t a law be passed to make bicyclists stay in streets?  Many pedestrians are at risk! Every day I walk along Wisconsin Avenue I have to look all around me every second.  It’s a war zone, thanks to bicyclists.

All I can say is, I agree.  I have written a letter to the Beacon responding to this letter and suggesting they might want to take up the cause.  But until the law is changed so pedestrians can walk safely–Enjoy the rest of the summer as best you can 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….

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!

 

 

 

Holidays are coming–and so is snow

11 Nov

FIRST–HAPPY VETERANS’ DAY to all you vets out there. AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.

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:

snowteam.dc.gov

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!

Curb Your Enthusiasm BUT NOT Your Effort

18 Nov

In my last post I wrote about the bill introduced by Councilmember Jim Graham to prohibit the riding of bicycles and Segways wherever a bicycle lange going in the same directions is available. At the time I did not remember that this is Councilmember Graham’s last term, which effectively means even this tiny step toward protecting pedestrians on the sidewalk has a limited shelf life.

The bill has been assigned to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, which is chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh. It is her choice whether or not to hold hearings. If she does nothing before the end of this session the bill “dies in committee” and would have to be re-introduced next session. Since Graham will no longer be in Council, a member of the new Council would have to introduce it.

Citizen Action Needed Again

Yet another time for heavy lifting by we, the people, even though we elect representatives and give them outrageous salaries to do the right things to protect us. But we can do it! To move the bill forward this session and have at least hearings, write Councilmember Cheh at mcheh@dccouncil.us and copy the committee director, Drew Newman, at anewman@dccouncil.us. Those of you living in Ward 3 have extra clout since Cheh is your representative. And, even in the new session, you can e-mail the same persons, who I am virtually certain will still be involved with the same committee, to take a serious legislative approach to the problems of sidewalk bicycling both by new legislation extending the ban on sidewalk bicycling beyond the Central Business District to other downtown neighborhoods like Logan, Dupont, and Adams Morgan, and indeed any neighborhood where there is significant pedestrian traffic because of the vast changes in DC since the original CBD was outlined some 30 plus years ago. The Committee should also direct MPD to strictly enforce existing laws and rules in the CBD and other neighborhoods, where it is already against the law not to yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk and not to ride at excessive speeds or to run red lights.

Here are other actions that can be taken:

Ask Jim Sebastian of DOT what DDOT is doing to make certain pedestrians are not endangered by bicyclists riding on the sidewalks. jim.sebastian@dc.gov

Ask Sgt. Terry Thorne, who is the head of the MPD’s Street Smart program, how MPD judges the success of that campaign in getting bicyclists off the sidewalks in the CBD and getting them to yield to pedestrians when they ride the sidewalks elsewhere. terry.thorne@dc.gov

Write Dr. Gridlock and now Luz Lazo at the Post about the problem, with examples. And, while you’re at it, ask whether the Post has made the FOIA request Sgt. Thorne suggested in nonresponse last summer, and whether they have any answer yet.

Write your councilmember and, once she gets in, our new mayor, about the problem. Every e-mail, every letter, helps keep the pressure on.

And if you need more incentive…

On November 6, two days after the election, I just going back to the office after lunch at home, around 12:30, when I stopped to compliment the workers in the garden area outside the front of our building at the appearance of the new landscaping they had just completed. When I reached the main sidewalk, two women with two toddlers each had stopped to admire the new flowers and plants as well. We started talking. All of a sudden I saw out of the corner of my eye, since I was not facing their direction, two bicyclists riding on the sidewalk, SIDE BY SIDE. As they came closer I wondered what they would do. There was space for a pedestrian to walk through the middle of our little group, perhaps saying “excuse me”. BUT THESE YAHOOS KEPT COMING. THEY DIDN”T THINK OF DISMOUNTING, BRAKING, OR EVEN GOING SINGLE FILE. In the couple of seconds it took for me to make an assessment that they were not going to do any reasonable or civil thing, they were within 3 feet of us. At that point, I flattened myself against the fence and warned the women to pull the toddlers back. Thankfully not one of us was injured. BUT ONLY BECAUSE WE–THE PEDESTRIANS–HAD YIELDED. The two rogue bicyclists said not a word as they passed us, still riding side by side, no doubt expecting anyone in their way to yield. They continued that way to the busy corner of Q and 16th and beyond. I glanced at 16th Street where at that time of day there was minimal traffic and none of it going as fast as the bikers were. Guess what was the topic of conversation AFTER the bikers came through? A pleasant neighborly event turned into an angry fearful one in a minute. IS THIS THE WAY OUR GOVERNMENT EXPECTS US TO LIVE?

Well, that’s all for now and all for the holiday season unless I have some hard news to report. In the meantime, for all the holidays to come–have a warm and blessed time with family and friends. See you in 2015. Meanwhile Please–STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!

If you’re a D, VOTE TODAY plus an anniversary

1 Apr

Good morning, and if you’re a Democrat, please vote today if you haven’t already. This is an especially important election for all of us in DC and Dems must pick the best possible candidate for Mayor so between now and November, we can have a real discussion of how to move DC to that next level of becoming a better city for everyone to live in.

But don’t forget the other races. Remember a Mayor without a responsible Council can do only so much. By now you know my gold standard is responsibility AND responsiveness. People who will be true public servants, not public officials.

There’s a lot to be done and not just on the issue of this blog. But last week the trial project to wean bicyclists off the sidewalk hit another bureaucratic snag. Looks like the ordinary citizens who started this and got everyone together will have to carry it across the finish line themselves. I hope to tell you more as they work beyond the DDOT roadblock to the goal.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

Finally, I realized that yesterday was the first anniversary of this blog, something I would have never guessed I would be doing except that it wasn”t enough to be attending government hearings, writing letters and emails and helping the Dupont Circle businessmen get their letter to the Mayor, Council Chair and our Ward 2 council person ready and personally delivered to their offices. (Still no response!)

Writing this blog, like the ordinary citizen work on the trial project above, is not how representative democracy should work. When the citizens have to do everything themselves without compensation and mayors and councils get paid, have paid staffs and a whole bureaucracy to do their bidding, something’s wrong. IF YOU HAVE CONTACTED ANY ONE OF THE COUNCIL PERSONS RUNNING FOR MAYOR OR COUNCIL ON ANY ISSUE AND THAT PERSON HAS RESPONDED TO YOU, VOTE FOR THAT PERSON. We all will be grateful.

SO TO CELEBRATE THE BLOG, A DAY LATE: I’m writing this 50th post.

We’ll soldier on later this week, hopefully with good news. Meanwhile, as the weather gets better, STAY ESPECIALLY ALERT and STAY ALIVE.