Tag Archives: DC Laws

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!

 

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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.

 

Shutdown v. Shutout

18 Oct

Well, the Federal Government Shutdown is over. Whew!

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DC GOVERNMENT SHUTOUT? THAT APPEARS TO BE PERMANENT.

Earlier this week, I had my regular hair appointment at Diego’s Hair Salon and also stopped by couple other of the business people who signed the letter to the DC Mayor and Council chair and had also contacted Jack Evans office on the issue of sidewalk bicycling. Although their letter was hand carried and stamped in in early February, they have no answer yet. This, despite a followup by Diego, who has a portion of Q street named after him as an honorific. During that followup, in March, he actually went downtown to the Wilson building and met with individual council people, who assured him they would “do something.” What that “something” is, is still unknown. But, speaking for myself only, I’d say that something appears to be nothing. Diego’s discouraged. At least one of the other business people said to me “We give money to their campaigns and help them get elected, then we never heard from them again even when we call”

The support letters we citizens have sent have also not been answered. And the FOIA request I made in late June has also still not been answered and is now a month over even their deadline. Nor has a very simple questions of clarification I asked someone in DDOT, although every time I remind him, he says he’ll get to it.

SO WILL THE SHUTOUT BE PERMANENT?

I love DC and for many reasons this is the perfect place for me to live. But I do have to say that the people in DC are extremely patient with the people they elected. After all, they are supposed to be working for us. And the least any one of them should do is–answer their mail. I worked in Congress for my NY rep while I was in grad school. And we answered every letter. Whenever, as a NY citizen or OH citizen, I wrote to my Congresspeople I got an answer. When I worked for governmental entities, I always answered my mail and returned phone calls. In fact, in every job I’ve ever had where I was working with the public, especially when I was in government, responding timely was a requirement.

What makes DC Government, especially the elected ones, different? They don’t have to agree with the citizen’s sentiment, just acknowledge it and, if they really want to show they’re thinking about it, tell what they would do. How hard is that? And as the FOIA request, it’s part of the job description.

Note that above, I call these council members and Mayor, elected “ones” not “officials”. To me, “officials” is what such people are in Dictatorships and Autocracies and Monarchies. In our democratic republic, those we elect, and those they hire, are PUBLIC SERVANTS. The sooner they understand that the better. BUT UNLESS WE HOLD THEM TO THAT STANDARD, THINGS WILL NOT CHANGE. So, think about that the next time you’re voting.

And please comment if you’ve written a letter or sent a petition to DC government personnel in recent years, especially if you’ve received a response. Perhaps there’s something I and the businesspeople are missing.

Enjoy the weekend, especially you federal workers who are back on the job, And STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE.