Tag Archives: Q St. and 16th sidewalk bike dangers

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!



Biker Grinches Spoil Christmas

6 Jan

As I’m writing this, it’s our first snow of the season and looks more like Christmas than the actual day.  Maybe, if we’d had a nice Christmas snow, I wouldn’t be telling this story now.  But I doubt it because by 10 am today I spotted my first sidewalk biker, who almost ran down the person shoveling snow in front of our building.

Christmas Day 2014 in Whoville, Dupont

In Whoville this last Christmas morning dawned bright and beautiful.  With the sun shining and just a bit of chill in the air, after church, unwrapping presents and a bite to eat, many Who families in Dupont took advantage of the fine weather to walk around the neighborhood, greeting other Whos warmly with a cheery “Merry Christmas!”  I joined them around 2 pm, walking up 16th Street near the Church of the Holy City to see the big Christmas display of the house next door and the small crèche on the church side. Nary an auto could be seen driving on the streets.  As happens every year on Thanksgiving and Christmas in this part of Whoville, the Whos leave cars behind to enjoy the peaceful camaraderie of walking and talking to neighbors.

BUT THEN THEY CAME–BIKER GRINCHES–First, one, whom I could almost understand, a man biking down the sidewalk with a cart attached to the rear of his bike in which sat a small child.  But the cart was wide enough to block the entire sidewalk from any pedestrian traffic.  And I wondered how he would stop safely in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian coming around the corner or out of a building.  Not only they would be injured but he and, most importantly, the innocent child in the cart, could be hurt as well.  Still I assumed he would take extra care since he had his child in tow.  And he was riding on the sidewalk opposite of where I was walking.

Within 2 minutes I had just got north of R and saw two more sidewalk bikers–also on the opposite sidewalk, one riding with after the other, each clearly racing his bike, and just missing the Who walkers.

As I continued my stroll and exchanged greetings with fellow Whos, I began to wonder whether this had been such a good idea as I saw yet another biker Grinch speeding on the other sidewalk.  Luckily I turned around at that point because I was immediately confronted with a really reckless Biker Grinch on our sidewalk.  Riding his bike in a “look Ma, no hands” posture, although clearly more than old enough to know better, this Biker Grinch raced through the crosswalk scattering a Who family right in front of me and continued on in an irregular riding pattern.  I barely had time to step on a grass patch to avoid him. He continued up the sidewalk flapping his free hands like some demented bird.

Finally, a Biker Grinch scored a hit.  While walking back toward the crosswalk at 16th and Q, I glanced across the street and saw two Who teenaged boys I’d seen earlier leaving my apartment building.  A half block north I saw yet another Biker Grinch riding a bike with unusually fat tires.  But he was racing it and appeared to be of adult age.  The teenagers barely got to the main sidewalk and turned south, walking side by side talking to each other, when the Biker Grinch came up behind and hit the outside boy in the shoulder, just as I’d been hit on the same stretch of sidewalk last year.  The boy staggered but didn’t fall.  Fat Tire Biker Grinch’s ride was momentarily unsteady.  But he didn’t fall either. And sped on without a look behind him looking for new Whos to endanger.  The Who boys stood still and shaken, the one inspecting the other’s arm before continuing on, their Christmas less merry after that.

Happily I got back safely to my door and then realized my stroll had lasted not more than 10 minutes.


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!

Special alert for Bicyclists and Pedestrians

6 Sep

Hello again. I hadn’t planned on posting this week but I just received an important message that you all should be aware of. DDOT will be resurfacing the 15th St. Cycletrack starting today. According to their press release there will be Temporary Parking Lane Restrictions on 15th St. NW Starting September 6, 2013 They hope to be done by October 11, weather permitting.

The release also advises bicyclists to use alternate routes, and it specifies 14th St. and 16th Street NW. Realistically, this likely means a whole lot more sidewalk bicycling on 14th and 16th NW. My plea to bicyclists: If you choose to use the sidewalks, try walking your bike. It’s better exercise for you and safer too. And if you choose to ride anyway, please tell pedestrians you’re there when you’re coming from behind. A friendly “BIKE COMING ON LEFT” will be greatly appreciated.

And , for pedestrians, especially those of you using 14th and 16th: Realize that there may be many more sidewalk bicyclists during this month. stay to the right; look all ways including behind you, every time you move out of the straight line or when you turn the corner.

and, to all:

Everyone act like the other persons sharing the sidewalks are your neighbors, not some foreign obstruction to your path or to your enjoyment of the trip.

STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE. STAY ALIVE. I want you all back reading this blog next week!

Diary Entries: June 16-July 6 (Do the Math!)

9 Jul

I decided to give these entries a title because most of them shed serious doubt on things I heard and read during the week of June 16, all of which revolved around numbers and data. So maybe my thoughts ran more that way than usual.

Friday, June 21 Taking advantage of excellent weather, I moved my work outside to my apartment building’s garden, which fronts on 16th Street. For once I wished I didn’t have such good peripheral vision. From 3 pm to 3:30 pm alone, 10 sidewalk bikers going both directions on my side of the street at the same time as mothers were taking their kids in strollers for a ride or bringing them back from day care; others were walking dogs; and one man with a cane was struggling with two shopping bags. Three of the bikers were on their cell phones. None gave any warning as they sped past. I looked out further each time I noticed one and saw at least 7 bicyclists riding in the street with no problem. This included the only Bikeshare bicyclist I saw.

When I work outside around mid-afternoon before rush hour, the above is the norm, not the exception. So when I read the Greater Greater Washington post by Dave Alpert that a friend sent me the same day, it strained credulity to read that he called sidewalk bicyclists “a rude minority” Not in my neighborhood, sir! On any midday or weekend, they’re the majority. DO THE MATH!

Saturday, June 22 A young friend living near National Cathedral mentioned to me that the problem with sidewalk bicycling was getting worse since Capital Bikeshare located a couple of places in the neighborhood. So I started keeping my eyes open because, although I wouldn’t say casual bicyclists should ride on Wisconsin, some of the sidewalks there are not good for riding either. For example the portion of the Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk that runs from Fulton to Garfield on the Temple Micah side. In that single block there is, first, a narrow sidewalk the whole block and there is a parking entrance for the temple and two entrances for pedestrians to enter the temple. And there is greenery that overhangs the sidewalk from a private house.

But, Saturday morning, about 10 a.m., I walked up Garfield to Wisconsin. Just as I turned on to Wisconsin and headed south toward the temple’s pedestrian handicapped ramp entrance, I saw a sidewalk bicyclist (not a Bikeshare bike) riding north toward me. At that point I thought I could make it the 50 feet or so to that entrance since the biker had still to negotiate the parking lot. But the biker was too fast, and too lucky with auto traffic pulling in, and was soon almost upon me. Since the sidewalk was so narrow and the only alternative was for me to step into the muddy ground trim next to the curb, I thought for once I would not yield until I had to. The biker kept coming, looking straight at me, only wobbling a bit but neither dismounting or slowing down. There was no way for it to go to my left because trees and bushes were leaning over the sidewalk at that point. So the biker came straight at me until, with a couple of inches to go, I yielded and stepped into the mud. In that case I did say as the person whizzed by, “You’re supposed to yield to pedestrians” Like that did any good! [ BTW I wouldn’t recommend you try this. I watched all the way and knew I had an escape route. I also still have some of my former tennis player’s quickness.]

Later I decided to actually measure the sidewalk to see if anyone in their right mind would even assume the sidewalk was good for riding. Without considering the overhanging greenery that sidewalk side to side is at max 48 inches across. The handlebars of a Schwinn bike are 25 inches across. With my arms at my sides I’m 20 inches across. If either of us had our arms out at all or were carrying something, we could not both have stayed on the sidewalk without hitting each other with injury. DO THE MATH! A worse thought, what if the biker had been coming up from behind me?

Later the same day I was back in my neighborhood, about 5 pm, coming out of the DCJCC. As I entered the main sidewalk for a quick walk to the corner of 16th and Q, I looked both ways and, seeing no one, stepped forth. But before I got to the corner a sidewalk biker sped by my from behind without giving warning. But since he had to stop at the corner because of the auto traffic and perhaps because of the incident earlier in the day, I called out “Say something when you’re passing, jackass!” In reply, he said–among other things–“I was nowhere near you.” I told him the truth: if I’d moved just a bit to my left or stumbled he would’ve hit me. An older lady, also standing at the corner, joined in with me. She and I ended up crossing together when the light changed, just in time to be almost run over by another biker coming the opposite way, on the other side of the Q St. sidewalk. This one was on his cell phone and whipping around the corner up the 16th St. sidewalk.

The first biker’s comment about his being “nowhere near me” stayed in my head. A couple of days later when I next went that way, I carried my measuring tape. And, if you count only the part of the sidewalk not obstructed by tree plantings or concrete , there would be 22 inches, less than two feet between us max– if we were both going in a straight line at the edge of the unobstructed walk. Nowhere near? Actually, no room for error on either of our parts. DO THE MATH!

Finally, a couple of incidents requiring no math at all, but reminding us to ALWAYS STAY ALERT:

Wednesday, July 3 A little after noon I headed out of Safeway at Corcoran and 17th. In front of me was a blind man being guided by a Safeway employee across the pedestrian crosswalk. Cars in all lanes were stopped waiting for him to cross. I started walking behind him, but immediately stepped back to the curb, when I saw a bicyclist talking on her cell phone speeding down the bike lane. She flew past, not even slowing at the crosswalk where all the cars were stopped. She would have hit anyone in her path because she completely ignored both that crosswalk and the one just south of it.

Friday, July 5 Something happened to my knee this morning that made me walk unsteadily. I even took a cab to Rite Aid at Florida and Connecticut, where I would normally walk. But I thought by being very careful and hugging the buildings, I could make it as far as the post office, which is at the other end of the same block on Florida before taking a cab home. About halfway down the block, a bicyclist raced by me on the sidewalk from behind, without warning. Given my unsteadiness, for the first time I realized what people who always have problems walking, whether because of age or disability, must feel every time they walk on these DC sidewalks. I was really fearful. So once again I say, this time pleading: IT’S A SIDE-WALK!

Stayin’ Alive!

13 May


I’ll be traveling most of this week beyond the Potomac and even the Blue Ridge Mts. And while I know that I won’t be bothered even in the cities I visit by sidewalk bicyclists, I am putting a note on my smartphone to remind myself to start being alert the minute I get out of the airport and the Metro when I come back home. I’m doing this because of something that happened Saturday early afternoon, which just shows me how easy it is to forget the danger on our sidewalks and how easy it is to get hurt.

I spent Saturday morning in the Central Business District, which you may remember is the one place in DC that bicyclists are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk, although even there the law is not always enforced. Anyway I spent the morning doing one errand after another and, although there was plenty of auto and bicycle traffic, they were all where they were supposed to be, in the street. And all the bicyclists were stopping at red lights, following the proper direction of traffic. So, after a morning there, when I took the bus back to my Dupont neighborhood, I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security because, as usual on a weekend, there was less traffic on 16th and Q and with rain-threatening skies,fewer bikers. What could go wrong?

I decided that, after dropping my briefcase and package off in my apartment, I’d go back out to pick up something at Safeway. When I got to the main 16th Street sidewalk, I remembered to look both ways, and saw only a couple of guys walking together coming my way so I turned left on the main sidewalk toward Corcoran, but not 25 feet into my walk, I saw a car, which looked like it was going to come up the driveway that serves the apartment building there. So I stopped, but then realized the driver was just using that bit of drive to turn his car around to go south on 16th. By then the two guys I had seen walking were almost next to me and I began to move around the car to continue my walk. But I FORGOT TO LOOK BEHIND ME ONCE MORE. In that brief time two sidewalk bicyclists had come up behind us all and, without a word to any of us, raced in the small space between us and nicked me with an elbow (I think, since it happened so fast). They continued up 16th on the sidewalk, rejoining in a side by side formation, which would prevent anyone walking from entering that sidewalk until they were past. One more step and I would’ve been more than nicked. And what if the auto driver had been coming up the driveway instead? At the speeds they were going they never could have stopped.

And yet, I blame myself for getting nicked. I know better. But, for all I write for you and say to myself, I was lulled into a false sense of security. And so, I conclude by saying once again, as stressful as it may be. STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE. and STAY ALIVE.

DiaryEntries(April 15-May 9) Part II– Nightmare on Q St.

9 May

I have seen a number of rogue bicyclists on 16th St sidewalks, right between R and Q, as well as a close call on a Sunday afternoon when one plowed into a crowd of pedestrians waiting for the light to change where no one was seriously injured only because one of them noticed him coming and all of them parted quickly so that only a brushback or two was the result. And this has given me a recurring nightmare because I know that a lot of pre-school children go out walking with their caretakers from the DCJCC, which is just east of the corner of 16th and Q. My nightmare has been that one day a sidewalk bicyclist will run into them causing the kind of tragedy that might get people to demand action, but at a terrible cost.

Well yesterday my nightmare almost came true. I decided at about 11:30 a.m. to exercise at the DCJCC Fitness Center. When I stopped on the Northwest side of Q and 16th, waiting for my ped light, I made my usual check, looking both ways, street and sidewalk, on Q even though it is a one-way street with a bike lane going east, because you never know. I saw only one sidewalk bicyclist on the SW corner but he was stopped leaning against the PETA house fence. So I thought he might be resting and not be a sidewalk bicyclist at all but returning to the bike lane. When I crossed to his side he also did not move, so my concern lessened. Then I saw two DCJCC counselors with a group of twelve of the cutest little kids you could imagine, all holding on to their rope line like they were supposed to. They moved to the corner to and were going my direction. I figured with them in back of me I was in no danger. So when my light came on I started out immediately.
Then within a second the bicyclist sped up behind me using the same ped crosswalk. Luckily my habit is already to walk to the right of that crosswalk too. As he passed me without a word and sped, not to the bike lane going his direction but up to the Q street sidewalk, I finally looked behind me: How had he managed to get around the kids? And why did he decide to use that moment to start up? Was he waiting for a crowd to terrorize? Or did he just not consider the danger? Little kids, especially the energetic ones can dance out of line, or get pushed playfully, or just decide to sit down suddenly. I asked the counsellor how he had gotten around them and had he given any warning. She said no warning and she didn’t see how he got around them. He had to have gone out into the street and suddenly just as the light changed. He was lucky there was no traffic at the light just waiting to turn right. But once in the street, why not use the bike lane that was right there?
We, I suppose, were lucky that he was just starting up and not already in speed mode.

Q and 16th, which looks pretty peaceful, especially in the middle of the day, is actually quietly dangerous because sidewalk bicyclists come from all directions and if you are crossing at one ped crosswalk, 16th is just broad enough as a street that by the time you get to the other side you may be hit by a sidewalk bicyclist coming from either direction on the other side. That almost happened to me last Friday afternoon around 6 when I had come back from the S2 Bus stop on the DCJCC side of Q and 16th, and stopped briefly when I got to my home side to do a good deed and take down the last remaining political sign. In the minute it took me to do that, a sidewalk bicyclist had come up from the south side of Q and one more step by me would have been disaster. He, of course, gave no warning. And in this case, if I had moved that extra step he wouldn’t have been able to react. His attention was not on the sidewalk because HE WAS TALKING ON HIS CELLPHONE!

And one more Q and 16th St. story, from last fall. Remember the day of Hurricane Sandy when the Mayor closed down the city in case we got a direct hit. Even the buses weren’t running until 2 PM if there hadn’t been a direct hit. But in the morning with ZERO street traffic, after WTOP said that there was wind and rain but we’d missed the brunt of the storm, I decided to venture out ever so slightly just across 16th Street. I noted that there was zero street traffic, or people anywhere around. It was a little Twilight Zone post nuclear bomb ish. But the lights were still working so I waiting for the light to cross. And that was almost my undoing—because, you guessed it—out of nowhere came a sidewalk bicyclist speeding up my 16th sidewalk. Him I did yell at–stating the obvious—“you idiot, there’s ZERO traffic on the street”

That’s all for now. STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE!