Tag Archives: pedestrian safety

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Summertime Blues

26 May

Well, now that the Memorial Day holiday is over, the unofficial start of summer is here.  If you’re going anywhere out of town for the summer, you have no worries, except the expense.  But if you’re staying here, it’s already shaping up to be another summer of dodging those rogue bikers on the sidewalk!

First, Bike-to-Work Day started out pleasantly enough for me.  From my door and during my walk to to work over the first couple of blocks, not a single sidewalk biker.  And, as I crossed 17th and Q, every cyclist was stopped at the red light behind the pedestrian crosswalk, just like the rest of the traffic.  But it couldn’t last forever–As I turned from 17th on to little side street Corcoran, I had to flatten myself against Cairo Liquor’s side wall to avoid being hit by a rogue biker speeding on the narrow sidewalk.  In case I haven’t made it clear before, Corcoran is a one-way street between Q and R that virtually no through auto traffic uses.  And, on this morning, as usual, there was zero auto traffic on the much broader street.  So what was this guy’s excuse?  Only his entitlement mentality.  He’d probably been riding the sidewalk on New Hampshire where there are bike lanes going both ways but some auto traffic and didn’t want to switch off the sidewalk to the unused street.  He’d rather rattle the pedestrians.

As you know, one of my biggest concerns is the number of these rogue bikers on the sidewalks on the weekends, when they have even less auto traffic to deal with.  Every day this weekend I had to wait for a sidewalk biker to speed by before stepping from my apartment sidewalk to the main sidewalk.  It kind of ruins your day when that’s the first thing you have to contend with.  But I got even more upset on Sunday evening when, after a concert and  and really enjoyable dinner with friends and the concert’s soloist, we were saying our goodbye’s outside the restaurant on P Street.  There were many other people out enjoying the evening strolling along and others, like us, gathered in groups, like sociable people tend to do.  Right after I excused myself from the group and started toward Dupont Circle, I encountered a speeding sidewalk biker, weaving in an out of the crowds.  I turned back toward my group and yelled “Watch out for the sidewalk biker” I was probably a bit too far for them to hear among the general din.  But I thought to myself as I saw the biker brush one person close enough that he was knocked off balance, what if he hits the talented pianist?  A person’s career can be ruined by just one seemingly small injury to the hand.

Well, that’s all for now.  STAY ALERT.  DON’T GET HURT!  And enjoy the summer.

Pedestrians Beware!

27 Feb

Hello again!  the last two weeks have been particularly grim because of the snows and worse the icy mess left behind.  When our first 4 inches hit, I woke up the next morning to find my place of work was closed because the feds were closed, even though most of us live within walking distance of our work.  But the day was bright and sunny. Since I was raised in Northwest Ohio and also lived in Cleveland, Columbus, Chicago, and New York City in winters past, I wanted to be out and about.  But, although my apartment building maintenance had cleaned our walk and the sidewalk in front and some others had done the same, I soon found that as usual no one had cleaned the curb cuts at the corners.  And, when the the street snow removal started they became even more clogged.

One thing I know from my own experience is if you don’t get at the curb cuts early, one overnight freeze and it’s too late and anyone who actually wants to cross a street had better be ready to jump across or get help crossing.  And sometimes, when there’s just enough warmth for a minor melt, you have to be prepared to put your feet in icy slush. So, this time, after telling people to no avail, including my own apartment managers  and the DCJCC maintenance, that, if they didn’t get after these curb cuts, no one would be able to safely cross, I decided to walk to the hardware store on 17th and get my own shovel.  I got a scoop shovel, not a big snow shovel, and came back and started shoveling out the ones at Q and 16th.  It was great exercise for me and I met some good people, including a guy who took a turn shoveling out one cut. Turned out he was from SE Michigan.  After this experience, I have adopted the curb cuts there an went out again on Sunday after our Saturday storm.

Why am I telling you all this?  

First, to encourage those of you who live close to corners and have to shovel anyway, to consider adopting a curb cut or two of your own.

Second, to warn all pedestrians to take the time to find a safe place to cross at or as close to the light of the street you are crossing.  Often there is still some pristine snow on the grass strip close by.  you can get to the street at that point safely but don’t cross the entire street there or you might be run down by traffic.  Instead, follow the curb in the street to the pedestrian crossing at the light and cross there to as close as you can get to the curb on the other side and step up to a safe spot over the curb on the other side.

ICE–The Pedestrian Nightmare

Even when the initial snow is past and the walks appear to be relatively clean it is important for all pedestrians to look ahead of them wherever they walk.  Don’t be in a hurry even if a walk looks clean!  There are still spots of ice.  And I just learned today of a sad event where the woman who does my hair slipped and fell on the ice during our first snow/ice event.  She hit her head and got a serious concussion. If a person slips and falls on the ice, the worst thing that can happen is if you hit your head.  The head is coming down fast on the sidewalk or the pavement, both of which are unrelenting.  So watch out at all times.  If you fall and hit your head, it can kill older people and seriously disable younger ones.

POTPOURRI NOTES

I learned recently from one of my readers who is also a friend that those you you who automatically get my posts do not automatically get the comments on them when I approve them.  So if you like a post, come back to it a day or two later and see if there are comments.  I say this because reader Bob recently commented on my last post about the Washington City Paper’s effort to map incidents where pedestrians and bicyclists are struck.  Bob went to the site and notes that the site is set up to only record new incidents, which makes sense.  Be aware of this and still report if you have or witness and incident.

And, I’m pleased to report that I met last night with my new ANC2B commissioner, the first of my New Year’s resolutions, and gave him some background on the need for action on the sidewalk bicycling issue in our neighborhood.  I am hopeful that this will move things another step forward.

Have a good weekend, and watch out for remaining icy spots.  STAY ALERT!  DON’T GET HURT!