Tag Archives: pedestrian traffic

Back in the Saddle

16 Jun

As my regular readers know, I had to put this blog on hiatus last October as I entered the hospital for a serious operation. I didn’t mention that if was for Endometrial Cancer Stage IVB because I didn’t want to bum everyone out.  And, having no prior experience in my whole family with any form o cancer, I foolishly thought I would be back to my old self earlier.  But it was not to be.  I have since learned that my cancer, which gives no early symptoms, is a a particularly virulent form that the late PBS anchor Gwen Ifill also had.

But, although I’m not in remission, I am on a “drug holiday” and have the strength to return to part-time work and writing this blog.  Before posting new insights on the dangers to pedestrians of sidewalk bicycling and other reckless behavior, I do want to thank regular readers Bob and Harriet for checking in on me during my absence.  And to welcome new regular reader, Emily, who joined us in May.

Retirement of a friend to all travelers

Unfortunately, one of the things that happened while I was laid up was that Robert Thomson, Dr. Gridlock of the Washington Post, retired in April from writing his regular column.  As you know if you read his column or this blog where he was often quoted, he always had sensible things to say.  And he printed letters that I wrote as well.  His wisdom will be missed.  So I will close this post with his closing words:    “My wish for the future is that people stop dividing themselves into categories based on how they get around and just look out for each other..  We’re all in this together.

Safe travels everyone.”

As readers of this blog know, I agree with that statement and ride a bike myself and drive a car as well.  And I have praised good bicyclists for their riding.  I am against sidewalk bicycling because it is dangerous both for pedestrians and bicyclists and for that reason is not allowed in most cities.  and so I’ll close this post as I usually do.

Especially in summer with many more people in town and not always following traffic rules or paying attention:  STAY ALERT! DON’T GET HURT!

 

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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.

 

 

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!

The Untold Story of Pedestrian Accidents

20 May

First, I want to thank Robert for his comment on my last post on Bike-to-work Day. If you didn’t read it, please do so. He comments that, even commuter bicyclists can be rogue bikers and gives an example of his encounter with one and the injury resulting from that encounter in which the bicyclist sped too fast and through a red light. Even without a collision, we vulnerable pedestrians can sustain injuries. And I would like to hear from more of you regarding your experiences and helpful thoughts because it makes for more interesting reading and a record of the problem as well.

Anyway, I had only time to approve Robert’s comment, but not to post a response since I was on the Saturday morning train up to NYC for a week of business with time with friends wherever I could squeeze it in. But Sunday morning I started reading the Sunday NYT and came across an interesting piece in the Metropolitan section, entitled “Struck on the Street: Four Survivors”, which turned out to be reader comments on an article printed the previous Sunday. Of course, I read it with interest, cut it out and thought I would read the earlier article when I got home and, if worthwhile, report on it to you.

Most of the letters were about accidents involving autos hitting pedestrians. And, as you know from this blog, it is illegal for bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk in NYC (and during my week-long stay, mostly spent in Midtown and on the Upper East Side, I only encountered one sidewalk bicyclist although there were plenty of bicyclists, men and women and food delivery persons all riding in the streets and on Central Park’s roads). BUT ONE READER COMMENT TO THE NYT ARTICLE caught my eye because it was so like Robert’s comment and shows why rogue bicyclists can destroy quality of life in the city. I’ll quote from the letter of Dory from Queens:

“Your Article about injuries to pedestrians omitted those resulting from assaults by cyclists. Seven and a half years ago, an impatient cyclists who wanted to avoid waiting for a red light in Midtown charged up on the sidewalk where I was walking, trapped next to a construction scaffold. Hugging the scaffolding and unable to move in any other direction, I tore a meniscus in my left knee as the cyclists sailed by across the corner of the busy sidewalk and then turned the corner, unidentifiable, failing to stop.
[Dory then related the series of operations on her knee and related developments, like plantar fasciitis and weight gain because she could no longer walk without pain. Finally total knee replacement. She concludes:]
I can’t walk fast, go up or down stairs, dance or do any of the things that used to bring me joy. I curse every bicycle I see. My life has been irrevocably changed.”

This Sunday I finally had time to unpack and find the article I’d cut out and locate the original article on the Internet. The point of the original article stressed the same theme as Dory’s letter did, that even pedestrians who survive accidents and recover are forever changed. The author wrote the article because this is the story that is rarely told. Yet she was able to personalize her own experience and that of 4 other NYT colleagues all of whom had been hit by vehicles while walking in the crosswalks with the light. I quote now from the original article:

“It is natural and right that the worst (and fatal) cases attract the headlines and public horror. But being hit by a vehicle changes the way a pedestrian experiences the city, even years after recovery. Every time I see a white delivery truck coming down the street, an almost daily sight, my thoughts revert to my accident. Some changes, like never stepping off the curb until the light has actually changed, or looking both ways before crossing (sometimes twice) are probably salutary. But you are never again sure that a vehicle that should stop will stop, and carefree pedestrian wonderings in the metropolitan area end abruptly and forever.”

And this is the answer I have to those who say that there hasn’t been a pedestrian fatality here in DC from a bicyclist in over three years. It’s not just the fatalities, but the injuries that count and the fact that the quality of life in the city we love is harmed when we constantly must jump out of the way, sometimes injuring ourselves, just to walk on the sidewalk or cross with the light in the crosswalk. For a city that got a Pedestrian Friendly award a couple of years ago, this is unacceptable.

Finally, one note on the author of the NYT article, which I had not noticed when I first read the followup. The author was none other than Jill Abramson, who later in the week was unceremoniously dumped as Exec Editor of the NYT. A classy lady who thankfully wrote an elegant plea for her fellow pedestrians everywhere before leaving. May she live long and prosper.

I’ll try to post again before Memorial Day. But meanwhile STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE.

What’s Your Hurry?

25 Mar

Diary Entries

Well, I started this “snow day” off going to the bank. And while I was waiting for the light to change at 18th and Q, a sidewalk bicyclist came up silently behind me and brushed me in his single-minded desire to use the handicap cut to propel himself into the street before the light changed. That is probably the scariest thing for me because an inch closer and he would have knocked me off balance at least and maybe more.

On Sunday morning a biker with a Safeway grocery bag in one hand came from behind me, as usual without a word, and then continued without slowing down on this sidewalk which holds three people walking side by side if that. He didn’t even slow down as he approached a woman and her toddler with another person inches behind them taking up the rest of the walk. That person had probably moved left knowing he would soon pass the woman and toddler. An accident was averted only when the woman pushed her toddler behind her. But why should that have to happen? On a Sunday morning? And, if you don’t know Q Street, there is a bike lane on that street but it’s going the opposite way of what the biker wanted. BUT, since he was coming from Safeway, he could have simply gone up to R and used the bike lane going his direction. Clearly he didn’t want to go a minute out of his way since the sidewalk was right there for the taking.

AND THAT LEADS US BACK TO TODAY— as I walked along toward and into Dupont Cirle, I saw pedestrians, as well as bicyclists, ignoring the lights and walking into traffic when they saw what they thought was an opening. Since it was after 9 a.m. I couldn’t imagine that that many of these people were late for work. In fact, I notice this behavior even on Sunday mornings when I’m sure 90% of the pedestrians and bicyclists are not going to work. And I notice the timing of the lights, in Dupont Circle, most of the walk/don’t walk lights are 30-40 seconds long, some only 20 seconds. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen one longer that 60 seconds at any time. So here’s the question: What’s your hurry? Isn’t your life worth 30 seconds? I never did get this and never will.

Paris Je T’aime encore

As promised, I located the Post Travel article, which was written by Dennis Gaffney, and entitled “Ah, Paris, and its freewheeling ways” Taking a bike tour around Paris, he thought at first that “biking through downtown Paris would be a death-defying pleasure” But he then discovered why people love Paris, even bicyclists. It’s “one of the friendliest bicycling cities I’ve ever pedaled.” The key, beyond no hills, is that all modes of transportation are “respectfully negotiating the slowed-down etiquette of the shared road.” What a concept! Maybe we can learn something from the French after all!

That’s all for now. STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE! AND EVERYONE, PEDS AS WELL AS BICYCLISTS AND AUTOS, CONSIDER SLOWING DOWN AND OBEYING TRAFFIC SIGNALS. You’ll live longer happier lives.

A Quick Update and promise for more early next week

21 Mar

Well, this was another bad week for your blogger and, like the last one, it started off with a “snow” event on Monday. Once again, my work place was closed because, for reasons unknown to me, they were closed because it is a firm rule that, when the feds are closed, they are even though a critical mass of us live within walking distance. Nothing like being behind at work the first day of the week.

Then I got a notice from the new owners of our building that they were going to deal with water issues on Tuesday and Wednesday, which involve me only because I’m on the line they had to fix. I prayed they would do a better job than they did with the last two major projects they had and left for work on Tuesday because I already had two days of work to do. Came home to find my door left unlocked with no one in it. Clearly workers had been there but didn’t think of the safety of the tenants. So, of course, I stayed home on Wednesday and could get nothing done because they made so much noise and were constantly talking to each other between floors on their “cell” phones. Yelling into it is the preferred mode.

But through it all, I did manage to draft the letter to Chief Lanier about the enforcement, or lack of same, of the prohibition of sidewalk bicycling in the Central Business District. I’ll definitely let you know what response I get.

Paris Je T’aime and a thought

I had hoped to bring you some quotes from an interesting Washington Post Article I read in the Sunday Travel section in mid-February on a bicycle tour the writer took in Paris. But the gremlins got me again and I can’t locate the article. What I do remember is that Paris, the home of the original City Bike, has many bike lanes and even some painted on certain sidewalks. This reminded me that last summer I learned that there are some areas of DC where a bike lane is on a sidewalk. When I tried to find out more from DDOT I met the usual bureaucratic brick wall even though I knew the person I was writing to. He did allow that there are only 3 or 4 of them in areas where heavy street traffic make it dangerous for bicyclists to ride in the street. He also said they were marked with signs. But where they are, he’d have to look up (i.e. actually do some work for the public). So I haven’t any idea where they are.

But now some questions for you, dear readers: Do you know of any of these marked bike lane sidewalks? If so, please comment on this post and let us all know where they are.

And another question: In Paris, these lanes are painted on the sidewalks and are used where it would be too dangerous to ride in the street. Do you think this would be a good idea here, provided we could get a trade-off that bicyclists were prohibited from riding on other sidewalks?

Let me know what you think. I promise to do better next week with more info on the Paris experience as well as a little history lesson on legislative changes in general. It takes a long time but if you hang in there, eventually you are rewarded. Like Mercer beating Duke today. Glad I saw the end of that one.

And, since it’s supposed to be a nice warm weekend, there’ll be a lot of bike activity out there and more than a few pedestrians who will also be ignoring common sense when crossing streets. So STAY ALERT and STAY SAFE.

Diary Entries: They’re Ba-a-ck!

12 Sep

Well, Summer time came to an end really quickly this year, at least for your blogger. With family coming in and school starting and religious holidays, I also had to pack in the first lecture at the non-profit I work with and the last Nats game for which I had a ticket. Labor Day was truly full of labor. As well as the entire week beyond. But Labor Day week, being a short week, with a lot of people still squeezing in a last vacation and congressional staffs not back yet, the sidewalks were not nearly so full of rogue bicyclists, at least in my Dupont Circle area.

BUT THIS WEEK–another story.

Monday on the way to work, I barely turned the corner at 16th and Q, when a bicyclist whizzed by me without any warning. And I hate to say it but it was a woman bicyclist. As she went further on the north side of Q headed toward 17th, she came up behind a couple and their child who had just come out of out of the Cairo and were also heading toward 17th. She gave them no notice either and swerved around them. And then she was very lucky–because she would have run right into the young businessman walking the other direction if he hadn’t alertly pulled the full bag he was carrying out of the way to his chest and stepped even further to his right. Clearly she didn’t read the part of the law that says “yield to pedestrians.”

While that was the most obviously dangerous event I witnessed this week, there were others I witnessed that I should mention. I had meetings that took me around Dupont Circle itself, both north and south. And the action there reminded me of something I’ve noticed increasingly while going to the Dupont Market on Sunday, or to the Metro entrance on Q Street anytime. And now I know the southern Metro entrance there is even worse.

So what am I talking about?—some bicyclists are so wedded to never getting off their bikes once they are on them that they insist on riding even when any sane person would dismount. If you know Dupont Circle, you know that there are a number of short strips of sidewalk so pedestrians can safely cross around the intersection of Connecticut and other streets that surround the Circle. Sidewalk bikers, however, feel this is their roadway around the Circle. They can’t go very fast, of course, but the ones I’ve seen are intent on not stopping at any point. So, for instance, at the south end of the Circle, as I was walking from the Metro stop at 19th across one strip to the next on my way to Mass Ave, I fell in behind two women with two strollers. We all waited for the light to change. Then, as they started pushing them across the pedestrian crosswalk up the next handicap cut to the next strip of sidewalk, there was a sidewalk bicyclist coming their way. The one woman pushed her stroller behind the other to avoid him. But my only choice was to stay in the street in the crosswalk (to my peril since the light had changed by then) as he picked up speed and barreled down the handicap cut, using it as a speed ramp. Then he went up the next handicap cut to separate more pedestrians on the other sidewalk.

The next day I was also on the south end, going toward the Metro this time when a silent sidewalk bicyclist with a basket on his bike came up behind and brushed me while I was waiting for the light to change so he could speed down the ramp and onto the street at that point. Luckily I wasn’t knocked into the street myself.

My thought about these incidents around the Circle, as well as others I’ve seen, is that if MPD just set up a random enforcement around the Circle, as they have for pedestrians from time to time, they could at least force these guys to yield. Oh, but, wait, what’s the penalty? Nothing! So all they can really do is get them to think about it! This is the kind of thing that really irks me about our law. It really gives the police no incentive to deal with this. Outside of serious injury or death to a famous person or two, it’s only the average citizen’s quality of life that’s damaged. But, for me, that is more than enough because quality of life was one reason I’ve made DC my home. And let’s not call this a pedestrian friendly city, Mr. Mayor, until the city makes it so.

Stray Notes

Just before Labor Day I heard a news report that Ralph Nader had written the Mayor about problems with vehicles turning left on to Connecticut from Florida Avenue. And he got an answer! The Mayor said he would get DDOT to look at the issue. This is way more than the Dupont Circle businesspersons have got from their petition on sidewalk bicycling, even though they are all longstanding business owners who contribute to local campaigns and one even has a portion of Q Street named after him. It’s nine months and counting since they sent their letter to Mayor Gray and Phil Mendelsohn, with a courtesy copy to Jack Evans. And Nada. Those of us who wrote letters in support have no answer either. This is democracy?

I didn’t hear or read more about Mr. Nader’s plea so I cannot tell all of the details. But I do know that area since I frequent both the post office a little down the block and the Rite Aid right at the corner. I happened to be going to Rite Aid the next week so I inspected the area a bit and sat down near the guy who always seems to be sitting outside on the raised area in front of the store at Florida. First thing I noticed was that there are big bold can’t miss signs (bigger than normal traffic signs) clearly indicating that left turns are not allowed.) I asked the guy sitting there (who is very friendly and well-spoken, by the way) if he noticed people making illegal left turns. He could not say that it happened often, but he had seen it. I decided to see if any of that activity happened while I was there, allowing about five minutes rest time to watch and talk with him about football and politics. There were no illegal left turns at that point, midday on a Tuesday. But in the five minutes–You guessed it— there were 7 sidewalk bicyclists! Nonetheless, it appears the problem Mr. Nader is pointing out is only an enforcement problem since it is already illegal with penalty. And I do wish Mr. Nader success in getting proper enforcement. If only the sidewalk bicycling problem were that simply solved!

That’s all for now. Have a good rest of the week and weekend. And, REMEMBER, NOW THAT EVERYONE’S BACK AT WORK–STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE.