Tag Archives: other cities laws against sidewalk bicycling

Bravo Boston Bicyclists!

21 Jun

Well, I made that trip to Boston I told you about in March (see “Anniversary Waltz” post).  You may remember that Boston relies on Massachusetts law on bicycling issues because of the number of smaller cities that intersect with it.  But you may also remember that, in a Boston Reddit conversation over the question of what is a business district in Boston where sidewalk bicycling is prohibited, most commenters reached the same conclusion–treat the entire city as a business district and stay off the sidewalk!

Once I got to Boston I found that Boston bicyclists do what they say.  I was especially impressed when our group was transported into downtown Boston on Saturday night to the Atlantic Fish Company restaurant.  We were in a minibus so I had plenty of time to observe.  And I saw many cyclists in the streets riding along with the auto traffic, stopping at red lights, signalling, knowing they were part of the traffic flow. Some streets we went through had bike lanes; some didn’t.  All persons riding bikes were riding them in the street, like adults who knew what they were doing.

The only bicycle I saw on the sidewalk with a person attached was one woman who came from  the street, dismounted as soon as she got on the sidewalk and walked her bike the rest of the way to a bike stand.  The only people I saw who were careless and clueless were a couple of pedestrians who had hailed a cab and when it stopped a half a block ahead of them, stepped into the bike lane and walked the rest of the way in that lane to the cab.  But that also gave me a chance to see how a Boston bicyclist coming up in that lane handled the situation–He saw them, gave a left hand signal, to cars behind in the next lane over and then moved safely into that lane and around the offending pedestrians.  All accomplished without any yelling, honking by any party.  A wonderful display of city biking and auto awareness as well.

Boston on a Saturday night at least is crowded with traffic on the streets and pedestrians on the sidewalk, not unlike our downtown Central Business District and even my Dupont Circle neighborhood.  But everyone gets along by obeying the rules and watching out for each other.

A final note:  I found out this weekend that one of the neighbors on my floor had worked in Boston for a while (she was wearing a Boston Lumber t-shirt).  So we talked Boston biking for a while.  She said she used to bike in Boston and, of course, biked on the streets, just as I did in NYC.  And then she said that when she first came here she was amazed at how wide the streets in DC were and the huge number of bike lanes, making it much easier to bike in the streets without incident.  SO DC Bicyclists, what’s your excuse for not riding in the streets instead of terrorizing pedestrians on the sidewalks! (Note:  My apologies again to those  DC cyclists who do the right thing.  But unfortunately your good name is being sullied by an increasing number of rogues who don’t.  And your bike association, like the NRA, won’t give an inch to make things better.)

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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!

 

 

 

Holiday Potpourri

22 Dec

First, I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.  This post contains a few bits of info and even a movie review that I didn’t have time for this year.

But, first, be sure to read the comment to my last post (Holidays are coming…) from one of this blog’s faithful readers who tells a story that’s all to familiar to DC pedestrians.  He’s walking with the pedestrian light in the crosswalk but has to do so really carefully because cyclists are running the red light.  Not just the first one, whom he yelled at to watch the light, but five or six behind that guy!

Interestingly, after I got that comment and approved it I heard about a bicyclist in DC near the MD border who ran a red light and got hit by a car.  A couple days later he died and the Post article confirmed that he had been running the red light.  A sad way to go when it can be so easily avoided by just following the law.

New MPD Enforcement Initiative

And speaking of the law, I saw a piece two weeks ago on NBC4 News that the police are going to start enforcing the law against bikers riding in the street, forcing them to obey the same laws as other traffic–no running red lights, talking on your cell phone while riding, etc.  And MPD should do this because cyclists in the street are traffic, whether they like it or not.  Only problem I see is it will force more onto the sidewalks, where traffic laws don’t apply, only a few ambiguous rules and, of course, common courtesy, which the rogue bikers ignore.

City Paper’s Best Place to get hit while riding a Bike

Every spring the City Paper comes out with their “best” awards.  And this one caught my attention because the winner was Connecticut Avenue NW, which runs through my neighborhood and where I used to do more shopping than I do now, in part because even on a lazy weekend you will find reckless cyclists riding on the narrow sidewalks hitting pedestrians who dare to stop to look at a shop window.  The author of the City Paper piece notes that riding from Chevy Chase Circle to Farragut Square is a problem–no bike lanes, potholes,  and MD drivers, etc.  His solution, of course, is to ride on the sidewalk any place outside of the CBD.  But he does add: Sidewalk riding is still a bad decision since even the sleepiest portions of Connecticut Avenue are filled with pedestrians, even more so around Dupont Circle and the National Zoo.  Oh, pedestrians, we’re such pests, walking on the only place we’re allowed to walk, filling up the space so the bikes can’t speed by easily.

Best Movie of the Year for Readers of this Blog

Finally, earlier this year I saw a Noah Bambach  film, “While We’re Young”.  Good movie about a 40ish couple who meet a young couple in their twenties who seem to have a lot of the same likes and dislikes, and introduce them to experiences that have them reliving their youth.  The whole film takes place in NYC so, when Ben Stiller, the 40ish guy, and Adam Driver, the millenial, are biking in Manhattan, amid much more serious auto traffic than MD drivers and world class potholes, they are biking in the street, of course, and I think not just because it’s against the law to bike on the sidewalks but because they’re real men, not these wimpy big kids we have here.  But, about 2/3 of the way through the film came a line I didn’t expect, but definitely made my day.  Ben and Adam are walking on the sidewalk in downtown Manhattan when a rogue biker speeds by them.  And it’s Adam, the young guy, who yells at him:  Ride in the street, Man!

With that, I say belated Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza and Happy New Year to all.  But, remember, STAY ALERT!  DON’T GET HURT!  Because I want you back here reading and commenting in 2016.

 

 

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.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2015/09/21/no-more-whizzing-through-stop-signs-for-bicyclists-in-alexandria-police-step-up-enforcement

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:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/9/30/should-people-jog-in-d-c-s-bike-lanes

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.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2015/10/01/dedicated-bus-lane-a-possibility-for-16th-stree-corridor-study-says

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

Sidewalk Biking Scofflaw Whines and Slurs others

26 Jun

Good Morning! I had planned to use my next post to give the many good DC bicyclists and their advocates info on protected bike lanes to help in their campaign for more here. But that will have to wait because, once again the rogue sidewalk biker apologists have struck. Their new advocate, Will Sommer in the Washington City Paper. If you didn’t read his rant, here’s the link:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2015/06/18/riding-a-bike-on-the-sidewalk-makes-sense-why-the-hate/

I’m happy I didn’t find a City Paper before I left Thursday afternoon to attend a family wedding in Toledo, or I might have had a less peaceful trip there thinking of responses especially since my last sight of DC as I started my journey on Metrobus was of a sidewalk biker speeding down the 16th street sidewalk toward Corcoran and coming within an inch of hitting a baby in a stroller being pushed by its mom who was just coming out of Corcoran to the pedestrian crosswalk across 16th at that point. Luckily the mother did what I tell all my pedestrian friends to do: she looked both ways on the sidewalk before entering the curb cut and, when she saw him barreling toward her, she quickly pulled the stroller and herself back, bumping into other family members who were following close behind. Another pedestrian forced to yield, although the law says the bikers must yield. And, of course, it being 2:00 pm there was little traffic on the street.

With that incident still in mind, softened by my wonderful trip, seeing family, and where I didn’t have to worry about rogue bikers on sidewalks, when I got a City Paper Tuesday after work and read Sommer’s lead article, I was more shocked than usual but tried to draft a response that had some chance of being read and excerpted. I couldn’t cover all the misstatements and incendiary slurs on good people (I might do that in a future post), but here’s my reply:

I didn’t read this misanthropic anti-pedestrian rant until last night when I returned from a trip to attend a wedding in the Real World. In the Real World, which is most every place outside of DC borders, they know the meaning of “sideWALK’. In the US, from NYC to San Francisco, and most everywhere in between, adult bicyclists are NEVER ALLOWED to ride on sidewalks except in rare well marked instances of real danger for cycling on the street.

But here in Wonderland DC, everything is backwards and upside down. And so, only the politicians and lobbyists in the Central Business District, an over 30 year old designation, are legally protected by a prohibition on sidewalk bicycling. And, according to Sommer, good cyclists are “perverse” because they ride on the street like other traffic. Pedestrians who want to walk safely to work, the bus stop or neighborhood grocery are “ugly classis(ts)”. If Sommer wants to slur people like Goebbels did, then he should look at himself. The entitlement mentality of the rogues who ride the sidewalks regardless of the danger to pedestrians and often the presence of a bike lane and/or the absence of auto traffic are the real ugly classists. They are a minority of the cyclist community here but they stain the overall bike community.

Who hates whom here? I’ve been hit from behind without warning by a rogue biker when I moved slightly to the left on the sidewalk in front of my own apartment building on a Saturday morning. My shoulder is still not the same 2 years later. Of course he hit and ran. My neighbors, black,brown and white, young and old, can tell similar stories. We don’t hate. We’re scared. And to the people in Ward 8, bike lanes do not make things better. I live in Dupont Circle. We have bike lanes galore, but it seems to goad the rogues. They jump on the sidewalk if the bike lane’s going the wrong way or if a little side street has no bike lane even if there is zero auto traffic. It’s all about them, after all!

Still I support the good bicycle community and wish for more bike lanes and some sidewalks where there is real danger in the street to be specifically designated as allowing bicyclists, perhaps even the East Capitol Street Bridge. But for the rest of the sidewalks, let’s get out of Wonderland and join the Real World. IF YOU WANT TO USE THE SIDEWALK, WALK YOUR BIKE!

Well, that’s all for now. Have a great weekend. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival has just started and the feature country is Peru, one of my favorite countries, and where, by the way, countless Peruvians in cities ride rickety bikes in the streets. So Enjoy!

But remember STAY ALERT! DON”T GET HURT! With rogues like Sommer and Urban Scrawler Schneider (see 2014 post “I bike therefore I am”), you’ll need to be extra vigilant.

Back to Work Week

5 Sep

Hello again! Did you miss me? Judging from the resounding non-response to the question in my last post, I’m guessing not. But we soldier on in our efforts to help keep pedestrians, and bicyclists too, safe.

My August, like yours I’m guessing, included vacation. But mine was hard fought for as I had several work projects that suddenly reared their ugly heads as I was trying to get ready to go. Nonetheless I made it out close by to mini-vacations with family and friends in Maryland, first at Frederick and then Westminster. Then last weekend in Annapolis. And I saw hundreds of bicyclists and, in the cities’ downtowns even more pedestrians. Every one obeying the law, which in Maryland, does not allow sidewalk bicycling in general. I was struck by the large number of bicyclists, particularly in Annapolis, the downtown of which has no bike lanes and narrow streets and circles crowded with auto traffic. But there they were, men, women and even children, happily biking in the streets, with helmets on, following all the rules of traffic, stopping at read lights, signaling. That made this vacation by the Bay particularly fun. I even borrowed a friend’s bike and helmet and went for a spin, mostly on one of the bike trails that intersect at Annapolis. Even on the bike trails, I noticed the different and welcome culture. Everyone was riding to the right in the direction they were going, which made it easy for cyclists coming the other way.

When I got back, I googled Annapolis in particular because of the huge number of good bicyclists I’d seen. I discovered this on their website:

As the only municipal hub in the United States where two national trails (the East Coast Greenway Trail and the American Discovery Trail) converge, and as the finish line for the Race Across America, and as a key link to international destinations via the B&O Trail, the BWI Trail, the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, AMTRAK and Greyhound/Trailways, Annapolis seeks to be a world-renowned bicycle destination where safe bicycling is an accepted form of transportation.

http://www.annapolis.gov/government/city-departments/transportation/bike-annapolis

As I read further, I checked the bike laws and indeed Annapolis follows MD state law on not permitting bicycling on sidewalks. I then checked the Mayor’s plans to make Annapolis a world-renowned bicycle destination. Again I happily noted that in a quick skim I saw nothing that indicated any plan to allow bicycling on sidewalks. Ah, but there’s a reason! Annapolis wants to become a world-renowned destination for “safe bicycling” not the capital of Bikes Rule, Screw You entitlement bicycling we have here in DC.

A Small Step Forward

I’ll close by announcing a small victory. There are now a few signs in Dupont Circle along Q and R that carry the message of the Logan Circle signs that all safer when cyclists ride on the street not the sidewalk. Since we had no organizational funding like Logan, it was up to people to buy their own signs. And a few stalwart citizens did so. And a couple more people have asked for them. If you are one of those in Dupont who have seen the signs and want one, let me know. The signs cost less if we buy them in groups, and I’d like to put together another group if possible. You can’t keep good people down when their quality of life is at stake.

More next week about future plans in this area and other ways to put pressure on the powers that be.

Meanwhile, STAY ALERT; DON’T GET HURT.

Updates to help you celebrate Independence Day

3 Jul

On this eve of July 4, which we should never forget is really the celebration of our country’s declaration of independence and the beginning of a marvelous experiment in building a democratic republic the likes of which the world had never seen, I have only a few updates to offer. But they are encouraging ones in this country where every citizen has a right to be heard and listened to by their elected representatives.
FOIA Update
First, on my FOIA request about enforcement in the CBD, the one place here where bicycling on the sidewalk is illegal: Having failed through normal channels, I finally wrote Chief Lanier and, within two weeks, received an response from the a sergeant in the Traffic Safety Enforcement Branch of the MPD (TSSEB). Not a complete answer, but nonetheless a response. He says the following: TSSSEB has been “conducting quarterly street smart campaigns for pedestrian/bicycle enforcement and education. Officers do target enforcement in the downtown area writing notices of infractions and handing out educational flyers as well as law cards. TSSEB deploy(sic) units to ensure safety and to enforce laws. TSSEB initiated an educational enforcement campaign to support bicycle/pedestrian infrastructures. The campaign was an attempt to decrease the bicycle accidents that are caused by both the bicycles and the vehicles. TSSEB periodically places overtime enforcement initiatives in the areas that have had a specific problem that can be addressed with focused and targeted enforcement. MPD continues to take steps that officers are appropriately investigating bicycle related incidents and following our guidelines as it relates to bicycle enforcement.

He goes on to say they realize the increase in population and are evaluating the issues arising on a daily basis. But sadly he gave no figures or more specifics. I responded with two simple questions: 1. could I use his name and 2. How does he judge the success of the street smart campaigns, i.e. did he have statistics on numbers of notices of infractions or did they have another means of judging? Although I wrote him a day after he emailed me, I have two months later no response. But since he said they were conducting these campaigns quarterly, I will check with him again now that this quarter is ended. At least I have a contact. One step forward.

Thoughts on the responses to the Logan signs

At the end of the post “Pedestrians: Let Your Voices be Heard” I gave you links to the popville site and to a pingback to my blog. My own thoughts:

1. The Prince of Petworth incited a really lively discussion on the popville site by just posting pics of the signs and a sidewalk bicyclist ignoring one of them. All sides were pretty well represented, with some as usual more intelligently expressed than others. Now that I’ve had time to go through all the comments (waiting in airports will do that!) I noticed that 5 pedestrians reported being hit with injuries, luckily none too serious, and 2 close calls. Others also reported the bicyclists yelling at them to get out of the way. (That’s yielding to pedestrians, as the law, even here, requires?) One of the last comments was one of two that mentioned moving here from elsewhere and, because, with one exception, it parallels my experience, I thought I’d repeat it here:

Anonymous: When I first moved to DC, I was shocked when walking and cyclists would come up fast behind me on the sidewalk (ringing or calling out, or not) because of the five cities I’ve lived in, this is the first one I’ve lived in where it is actually legal to bike on the sidewalk. I was surprised when I first read that. I used to yell at the cyclists to ride in the street before that. A perfectly logical assumption, given the laws and/or customs in other cities in this country (including the largest city, and formerly second largest city, where people never ride on the sidewalk). I don’t think it is safe to have bicyclists on the sidewalk.

That said, I rode my bike in those other cities , and I don’t here–I ride only outside the city. I find this city really scary to bike in. And that’s saying a lot, given that I’ve ridden in the largest city, and formerly second largest city, and the smaller city known far and wide to have the worst motorists anywhere in this country (where making a turn from 3 or 5 lanes over to the other side of the road is common). Riding in the street in DC should be made safer for cyclists.

The only part where my experience is different is that I can and have biked in DC, but I’ve always chosen my times and routes judiciously and that has helped. Some other commenters mentioned doing that too and it seems the best way to handle any situation (I do the same when driving or walking). That said, I do think that riding in the street in DC should be made safer for cyclists, but pedestrians shouldn’t have to wait until that is accomplished completely to the satisfaction of cyclists and their WABA lobby before the laws are changed to keep pedestrians safe on the sidewalks.

2. Well, since I see this post is already longer than I intended, I won’t address the pingback from the crotchety biker until next time.

And I’ll close with another step forward for pedestrians. We are one step closer to getting signs for Dupont. Thanks, Nick.

And to all Happy Independence Day and remember: STAY ALERT; DON’T GET HURT.