Tag Archives: sidewalk dangers for bikers

DC Bicyclists: Beware of Sidewalk Riding

28 Jun

SIDEWALK CYCLING TRAGEDY

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the Post and a small article in the Local Digest caught my attention: “Cyclists, 16, fatally struck during a ride.”  When I read further I found that, according to police, the young man had been riding on the sidewalk in Gaithersburg and fell from his bicycle, landing in the adjacent street where he was hit by oncoming traffic.  A real tragedy.  I don’t know Gaithersburg sidewalks, especially in the area of North Summit Avenue where he fell into the street and was hit.  But I can’t help but wonder if he would be alive today if he’d learned to ride properly in the street and walk his bike on the sidewalks like I did when I was younger than he.

Athough this tragedy is an an extreme example, it reinforced the point that it is more dangerous for bicyclists to ride on the sidewalks than on the streets (provided they obey traffic rules there).  You may remember an early post I did entitled “Ode to Adam” in which my neighbor broke his leg when he was riding on the sidewalk, turned a corner and met an immovable obstacle he hadn’t planned on.  Other bicyclists have been injured in similar ways because sidewalks are not designed for bike riding as The Guide for Development of Bicycle Facilities, published by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Facilities, explains:

Sidewalks are typically designed for pedestrian speeds and maneuverability and are not safe for higher speed bicycle use.  Conflicts  [meaning “accidents”]    are common between pedestrians traveling at low speeds (exiting stores, parked cars, etc.) and bicyclists, as are conflicts with fixed objects (e.g. parking meters, utility poles, sign posts, bus benches, trees, fire hydrants, mail boxes, etc.). [in addition] pedestrians often have difficulty predicting the directions an oncoming bicyclist will take.”

WABA IS NOT BEING STRAIGHT WITH DC BICYCLISTS

WABA, the bicyclists’ lobby, used to have a similar warning as above in its booklet, Safe Bicycling in the Washington Area.  Under the heading “Sidewalks and Pedestrians” in the chapter “Traffic Basics” the paragraph opened with:

Sidewalks are not suitable places to ride bicycles; sidewalks are designed for the slower speeds of pedestrians, not the faster speeds of bicyclists.  In fact sidewalk riding is illegal in many areas…

Unfortunately, as WABA became more and more a lobby for more bike lanes and more rules favoring bicyclists, it became less the helpful member of the community giving good advice to bicyclists, especially new bicyclists.  So they did not upload that manual to their website or offer any similar warnings.  When I commented to then director Shane Farthing, he answered that they did not have the publisher’s permission, which, of course, would not have stopped WABA from writing up its own warning as part of a brief statement of do’s and don’ts for bicyclists.

Before writing this post, I checked the WABA site again, to see if things had improved.  I found instead they’d only got worse.  There is on that website a new(Sept. 2015) “Pocket Guide to DC Bike Laws”, co-sponsored amazingly by the MPD and DDOT.  Neither of these government agencies must have read or thought through the implications of their endorsement.  (More on this in a future post)  Don’t get me wrong, there is some good info, like emphasizing in the Q and A’s on Traffic Law that bicyclists have to ride with traffic not against it and must stop at red lights and stop signs.

BUT this “Pocket Guide” does not emphasize bicyclists’ responsibility to yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk and in crosswalks.  That responsibility is buried at the end of sections.  For example, the answer to the question “Who has the right-of-way in a crosswalk?” begins ” According to DC code Section 1201.11, a bicyclist in a crosswalk has all the rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian in a crosswalk, though cyclists must yield right-of-way to pedestrians…”

As to whether it is legal to ride on the sidewalk , all of the cautionary language regarding dangers from the earlier pamphlet is gone.  Instead the answer begins with non-bolded language:  “While not recommended safe cycling practice in most instances”  The the answer continues with what the entitled group of rogue bicyclists really want to hear: “DC Code states that cyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk as long as they are outside the central business district.”  There followed a description of CBD boundaries and the added plum that, even within the CBD, bicycling is allowed on lands under National Park Service jurisdiction like Lafayette Park, Farragut Square Park, the National Mall and Dupont Circle.  Finally the last sentence of this long paragraph mentions those pesky pedestrians by saying “However, if cyclists do ride on the sidewalk they must yield to pedestrians.”  Nothing in the paragraph or elsewhere is there any explanation of the very real dangers to cyclists of riding on the sidewalk.

This new “Pocket Guide” , emphasizing more bicyclists’ rights than their responsibility for themselves as well as others, misleads bicyclists who rely on it and it alone to judge how dangerous certain behaviors might be, especially riding on the sidewalks.  As a person who is both a cyclists and a pedestrian and who usually walks to work, I say to  bicyclists: Avoid riding on the sidewalks at all costs. Every day that I walk to work, I notice uneven sidewalks, big foot-sized holes in concrete and numerous obstructions that would be a real danger to me if I were riding a bicycle rather than walking because even going slowly, I would be riding too fast to easily avoid these pitfalls–if I saw them in time.

SO, PLEASE, FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY, RIDE YOUR BIKE ONLY ON THE STREET AND WALK YOUR BIKE WHEN YOU MUST USE THE SIDEWALK.

And to all–Have a Happy Fourth of July.  And, remember, STAY ALERT, DON’T GET HURT!

 

 

 

 

Pedestrian Alert and more

10 Jul

Good morning! We are about to enter another weekend and I thought I would make you aware of something I’ve been noticing in my walks around town, especially in my own neighborhood, Dupont Circle. WALK LIGHTS with numbers counting down to the red hand seem to be out of sync. I’ve noticed when I’m coming up to a light where I think I have plenty of time to get there and across, suddenly the countdown numbers change dramatically. For example, the light starts counting down from 60, gets to 17, then the next number is 5. Or a 30 second light will get to 15 and then the next number is 4. This doesn’t seem to have any consistency to it. One day the light will act this way. The next day, it will be back to counting down normally. Then a day later, out of sync again. I’m thinking that, if I don’t get to a crossing with at least 20 seconds to go, I’d better be quick or wait for the next light. At any rate, to be safe you still want to cross with the light and not against it. The longest you wait is 60 seconds for the next light, easily better than getting mangled or killed by traffic.

Report if you or another is hit by a car or a bike

On that note I should mention again the Washington City Paper’s effort to catalog situations where pedestrians (and bicyclists) have been hit in DC. I’ve been in communication with the editor who is conducting this effort, Sarah Hughes. If you go to their site


http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/go/struck

you’ll find an alarming number of pedestrians hit already this year. If you click on a dot on the map, you can tell how it was reported and when and where. All the ones I opened were reported from police reports. The only problem with this is that, as Ms. Hughes tells me, MPD will not release police reports on struck peds/cyclists until the case is closed, which can take a good deal of time. So unless she’s able to find the person, she’s not able to determine whether they were hit on the sidewalk or in the street. So I remind you that, whether you get hit, or you see another person get hit, especially if they are on the sidewalk, it’s important to go to the site and report.

Ms. Hughes also mentioned that they do have the 2014 data and plan to publish that in the fall. So stay tuned.

A couple of good takeaways from the infamous Sommer article

When I re-read the Will Sommer rant for sidewalk bicycling, I noticed a couple of things that give we pedestrians hope:

1. Sommer opens with “My latest run-in with the law happened last August.” This means to me that at least some police are enforcing the current law. It would help them if there were better signage in the CBD and to mark the boundaries. But clearly some officers recognize the danger.
2. There appears to be a techblogger, one Anthony Sodd, at DC Inno, who is a cyclist like I am and other good cyclists throughout the city are. Of course, Sommer hates him because Sodd tells the truth, like an adult cyclist on a sidewalk being “simultaneously revolting and pitiful.” I’ll try to find his blog and see what more he has to say.
3. Sommer is evidence of what we all know about sidewalk bikers when he mentions among the reasons for sidewalk biking “avoiding going the wrong way on a one-way street” and “when traffic is backedup and the cars are too close to the curbs to filter past.” Guess what you’re traffic too! You go in your lane, and, like other traffic, if you have to go a block out of your way to get a street going the way you’re going, you do it! Oh, and he also mentions, in the “inconvenient” part of sidewalk biking, “you have to watch out for pedestrians… and, if you’re really scrupulous, you’ll have to ring a bell every time you pass a pedestrian.” No, the law says YIELD to pedestrians!

Ah, well, it’s summer and it’s supposed to be nicer weather than last weekend. So enjoy. But 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.

NEXT TIME NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS.

Preparing for Bike-to-Work Day (May 16)

9 May

In my last post I promised to review basic law, rules and common sense behavior for both pedestrians and bicyclists. And since Bike-to-Work Day is next Friday, I thought I’d start with bicyclists. Warning: This might be a long post, but stick with it.

INTRO

1. If you want to be a part of Bike-to-Work (BTW) officially check the WABA site, waba.org, for info, TODAY(May 9) is the last day to register.

2. Whether or not you register to get the t-shirt, special goodies, and location of “pit stops” on May 16, you might just want to commute to work. If you do, you will be joining a growing group. ABC News reported last night that biking to work has increased by 60% in the past 10 years.

3. But, regardless of why you want to bike to work, for the fun of next Friday or for a regular routine, BE PREPARED TO DO IT RIGHT. I can tell you from experience that the true commuter bicyclists during DC’s normal rush hours know the law and follow it. And they ride on the streets not the sidewalks (more about this later). I know I feel safer walking to work earlier, before 9:00 than coming out for lunch because commuter bicyclists know what they’re doing and are aware of the traffic and pedestrians around them, not just themselves.

But even if you haven’t commuted to work before, you too can ride as well as they do, whether on your own bike or a Bikeshare bike, if you use the knowledge set out below whenever you ride, even on weekends and nights.

PREPARE TO RIDE

Don’t assume that, because you learned to ride a bike as a kid, you know it all. Learning to mount a bike and ride it is not enough to ride safely and lawfully.

Much of what I say below is taken from the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) booklet “Safe Bicycling in the Washington Area”(WABA SB). While only part of this info is on the WABA Website, and I’ll note when it is, you can and should get a free copy of WABA SB from WABA because it covers every area of bicycling well and is an easy read.

So here we go:

1.Ride Predictably: On a bike you are riding a vehicle. So YOU ARE TRAFFIC on the streets and roads just as autos are. While you might think of maneuvering around the autos and running red lights, DON’T. “This is how most bicyclists get into crashes…Being predictable (i.e., following the same rules the autos do)is the key to safe bicycling in traffic.” (WABA SB, p. 11, with italicized portion added for clarification).

2. Follow Traffic Rules for Cyclists

Here WABA has on its website
http://waba.org/resources/laws.php
a link to DC regs and laws as well as a section called “Selected Bicycle Guidelines”, which features a grid noting the laws in DC, MD and VA most essential for bicyclists to know. I am just going to highlight a couple below.

a. “Bicyclists traveling on roadways have all the general rights and duties of drivers of vehicles.” You are a vehicle–go with, not against, the flow of traffic (even on one-way streets); stop at red lights, and stop signs; stop behind the pedestrian crosswalk, etc.

b. Cycling on Sidewalks: You may think a good way to avoid being considered a vehicle is to ride on the sidewalk. But know this:

1. In DC you are prohibited from riding on the sidewalks downtown. Biking on the sidewalk is “Prohibited in the central business district (bounded by Massachusetts Ave., NW, 2nd St. NE-SE, D St. SE/SW, 14th St., NW, Constitution Ave. and 23rd St., NW)” As Dr. Gridlock mentioned (see last week’s post) signs should be posted. BUT TO BE A RESPONSIBLE AND SAFE BICYCLIST, WITH OR WITHOUT SIGNS, YOU MUST KNOW AND OBEY THE LAW.
2. Beyond the Central Business District, at present, bicyclists can ride on the sidewalks BUT–
EVERYWHERE: CYCLISTS MUST YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS. You aren’t yielding if you ride without concern and just barely miss pedestrains. You’re just lucky. A pedestrian, thinking himself safe on the sidewalk and not seeing you coming from behind, might stop suddenly to pick something up, or move to the left to get a newspaper.
DC RULES (which you can also access on the WABA link provided above, ALSO PROVIDE that, in addition to yielding the right of way to pedestrians, a cyclist:
a. Shall not travel at a speed greater than the posted limit of the adjacent roadway; provided that such speed is safe for the conditions then existing on the sidewalk (DC Reg. 18 1201.10) [Ask yourself if you’re riding at 20 mph can you stop in time if a mother with a child in a stroller suddenly turns a sidewalk corner or comes out of an apartment building?]

b. When propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or while crossing a roadway in a crosswalk, [a cyclist] shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, except that the bicyclist must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk (DC Reg 18 1201.12) [Ask yourself if you are zipping down one handicapped cut into the crosswalk and a group of pre-schoolers is bunched at the other side, what are you going to do?]

I have just mentioned a couple of the rules that are more commonly broken when biking on sidewalk. There are more rules. Know them.

And if you don’t want to ride on a sidewalk anywhere–good for you. The best bicyclists don’t, not just because they’re riding responsibly, but because they know it’s safer for them. Here’s a passage from WABA SB, p 12:

“Sidewalks & Pedestrians: Sidewalks are not suitable places to ride bicycles; sidewalks are designed for the slower speeds of pedestrians, not the faster speeds of bicyclists. In fact, sidewalk riding is illegal in many areas–so check local laws. If you ride on a sidewalk, yield to pedestrians; where there are lots of people, walk your bike. Pedestrians don’t like to be surprised by bicyclists passing them from behind, so you should warn them of your approach. For example, call out “Passing on your left.” When approaching corners, alleys, and driveways, slow down and make noise.”(Italicized emphasis added)

TOO MUCH INFORMATION? Think of when you learned to drive a car. Riding a bicycle responsibly requires knowledge. But it is fun; it’s good exercise and a cheap environmentally friendly way to get to work. And once you know what you’re doing and why, it’s like any other good habit–easy and second nature.

So enjoy Bike to Work Day and every other day. BUT remember, as I tell pedestrians STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE

Bravo to the Gentleman Bicyclist of 17th St.

27 Sep

Hello all. I did not post last week because, with the Washington Navy Yard tragedy at the beginning of the week, I thought that whatever I had to say could wait a week while we all sorted out in our minds how this awful thing happened. And for those of us who had friends and relatives at the Navy Yard or possibly at the Navy Yard, it was an anxious couple of days until we learned of their safety.

But I had learned of new sidewalk bicycling incidents in my neighborhood as early as Sunday of that week that I wanted to report. It seems that a lot of people who actually know me report these incidents directly to me and hope that I will use them but, despite my suggestion, do not take the time to put them on the site themselves because their work and family responsibilities take up all their time. I can understand that. Still to keep this at least some record of particularly outrageous incidents I will report what I was told because I’ve seen similar incidents and I know these people and what they are talking about.

BUT BEFORE I GET TO THOSE INCIDENTS–I WANT TO GIVE A SPECIAL SHOUT OUT AND THANK YOU TO A MAN I AM CALLING “The gentleman Bicyclist of 17th Street.” I saw him on my way to work this morning and wanted to run right in here and write about it. But I had to wait for a break. Here was the situation. I walked out of my building this morning with a young couple who had their first child in a baby carriage with them. We turned on to Q from 16th to 17th and there parted company. They went south across Q with the ped light and then waited to cross 17th as I did on the north side. The light changed in our favor and we started crossing, me a little slower because with this knee problem I still have to carry a cane on some days. But that is a long light so I still had 20 seconds. I do as I advise you to do–look both ways even though 17th is one way going south at that point. I saw everyone stopped even the single bicyclist, who I noted was wearing a helmet and safety jacket. But I also kept my eyes out for others as I crossed and, sure enough, I saw a bicyclist coming up behind the stopped bicyclist at a speed that made me think he wasn’t going to stop. I put up my cane as I went the last few steps to the sidewalk because I saw him coming around the other guy who was stopped and heading right toward me. My cane barrier made him wobble a bit and I wasn’t hit. But there was no way he was going to stop UNTIL–

THE OTHER BICYCLIST TOLD HIM TO STOP. “Just put your foot down and stop.” The guy did so, but must’ve asked why in a surly way, because the other bicyclist said to him clearly and firmly “Because that’s a red light. You’re a vehicle. You HAVE TO STOP.”

Already on the sidewalk, I turned around and said “Thank you, sir.” I don’t know if he heard me but I do thank him and all bicyclists who make sure that the others who are giving them a bad name do the right thing, or at least realize they are doing the wrong thing. And I hope the bicyclist who was riding right through the crosswalk and the light took the other’s comments to heart. Because besides helping us pedestrians safely cross the street, The Gentleman Bicyclist of 17th Street could have saved the other guy’s life. SO BRAVO AGAIN TO THE GENTLEMAN BICYCLIST OF 17th ST.

NOW ON TO THE TWO SIDEWALK BICYCLING INCIDENTS AND A Third that happened while one of the other two was being discussed:

For bicyclists these incidents are particularly important because they point out dangers to you as well

1. Sunday Morning, 7:45 a.m., Corcoran St., NW, between 17th and 16th: A friend who works at the DCJCC was leaving McDonald’s on her way to work by the side door, which is on Corcoran. As she opened the door, a sidewalk bicyclist came careening around the corner. She said if she’d opened the door any faster he would’ve run right into it. As it was, he had to quickly move around it, which put him at risk of going over the curb on that slim sidewalk.

The amazing thing about this incident or any incident on Corcoran, on that block or the block between 17th and New Hampshire is that there is virtually NO STREET TRAFFIC. Corcoran is a small side street, with narrow sidewalks and stairs, trees and other obstructions, between Q and R, and it goes one way. So autos are unlikely to take if unless they are actually stopping there or trying to find a parking place. And on Sunday Morning, there is NO street traffic. I walk to the Safeway along Corcoran every Sunday morning around 8 a.m. to get my Sunday papers and breakfast things and only rarely see a moving auto. And, since I am a pedestrian, when I see the McDonalds side door opening I have plenty of time to stop. GIVEN ALL OF THIS, WHY WOULD ANYONE RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK THERE? HE’S ENDANGERING HIMSELF!

2. Saturday Night, Vapiano, 18th and M: A friend had dinner there and as he walked out, he was almost cut down by a sidewalk bicyclist. Being young and athletic, he was able to jump out of the way just in time. But this incident points out two things: first, since this location is within the area where sidewalk bicycling is prohibited, this biker was breaking the law. But, second, bicyclists everywhere, but especially on the sidewalk, have to be constantly alert for unplanned events, like a person innocently walking out of a restaurant.

Also of interest is that, while I was listening to this latter story, at, you guessed it, the corner of Corcoran and 16th at midday on Sunday, a sidewalk bicyclist came speeding down 16th from just north of Corcoran, down the handicap ramp, up the other, with eyes looking straight ahead. My friend said–look at that. 20 miles per hour. I said, and if either of us had moved even slightly on to the 16th Street sidewalk as we finished talking, we would’ve been hit straight on.”

Well, that’s all for now. And I’ll be on travel all next week, so no posts. But feel free to comment. I can approve from my smartphone. Until I write next. FOR BOTH BICYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS: STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE. AND STAY ALIVE.

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.

Diary Entry: Ode to Adam

7 Jun

Instead of writing about yet another close call with a sidewalk rogue bicyclist, of which I had more in the last few days, I’ll be writing about a neighbor of mine who once was, but is no more, a sidewalk bicyclist.

When you live in an apartment building, as I do, you don’t often get to know many neighbors, even those on your own floor. Every one is coming and going at different times and, unless your schedule is the same or you meet in the laundry room, there’s often little time to even say a few words. I always try to get to know the people around me, but in a busy city with busy people, that’s not always possible. But it’s a shame nonetheless.

Adam was my neighbor for over two years and we did speak occasionally at the elevator— about the weather or, when he had a broken leg, I commiserated. I also brought up his Sunday New York Times, as I did for others on my floor, since I’m usually the first person out the door on Sundays and I know from past experience how the Sunday Times in particular gets “appropriated” by persons other than the subscriber if left out downstairs too long.

But I never really got to know Adam as a person until two weeks ago when I came back from an evening meeting and found him and a bunch of boxes piled in our hall. He was moving out. I said I was sorry to see him go and asked where he was moving. San Francisco, he said. And since I knew he rode a bicycle (although I did not know if he rode on the sidewalk) and I’d just done research for this blog on sidewalk bike laws there, I said “You know they don’t allow sidewalk bicycling there.” And he responded: “Yeh, I know. That’s fine with me.” I complimented him on that attitude and it was then he learned about my activities on this issue and then I learned how he had broken his leg. Turns out he had been bicycling on the sidewalk when he met an obstacle he hadn’t planned on—a car door. This was not the “dooring” type of incident in the street you hear about occasionally when someone opens a car door into the street side without properly looking for oncoming traffic, including bikes. No, this was on the sidewalk. Car parked properly at curb and person exiting on the sidewalk side. Any person walking on the sidewalk would not have been affected because they would have just walked around. But, for a bicyclist coming at 30 mph, that was not an option. Especially coming around a corner.

I didn’t ask for more details, but I know that in our half block alone we also have two vehicle turnarounds serving the buildings just north and just south of us. So this could have been a factor as well. But, unlike in the street, persons exiting cars onto the sidewalk have no expectation of traffic coming at them at high speeds or reason to look for it, when they exit.To Adam’s credit he knew this. While it was too late to avoid a long painful recovery, he knew he was at fault. And so, he said to me after completing his story: I’ve never biked on the sidewalk since. He’ll be happy in San Francisco.

Two days later I went down to the laundry room and found something Adam had left behind in his move. (We often leave things on the table there that we don’t want to trash and hope someone else will find a use for). Adam had left for takers a portfolio case full of CD’s. And now I wish I’d know him better when he was still here. Any man who listens to Beethoven, Debussy, Gershwin Piano Rolls, Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, as well as Adele, the Dave Matthews Band, and Aretha Franklin, is a man worth knowing. Despite the difference in our ages, Adam being the younger, I’m sure we would have had a lot to talk about musically. But I’ll be playing his music and I wish him well and at least I know he’ll be riding safely as he pedals through life.

And, now I’ll be out of town for a few days and so wish you all a good safe weekend. STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE.