From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Congregants of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church (1518 M Street NW) led the citizens who came out in force last night (Wednesday), May 15, to urge that development of the planned M Street bicycle lane be stopped. The meeting was held at the West End Library, 1101 24th Street, by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).
Church members were joined in their objections by local businessmen concerned that the bike lanes would reduce their business, and citizens who felt that the project was a waste of taxpayer money. Supporters of the bike lane, although present, seemed smaller in number and less vocal at the meeting.
The strong community feeling seemed to take Mike Goodno, Jim Sebastian, and Sam Zimbabwe, DDOT’s three presenters, by surprise. The audience sat quietly through most of the initial sideshow presentation, which described several studies about the traffic on the existing L Street bike lane and projected design of the M Street lane. Project Manager Goodno said that the installation of the bike segment would be installed over three weeks in August.
Eventually someone interrupted to ask: “Am I to understand that this is a done deal?”
Sam Zimbabwe answered, “In some ways yes, in some ways no.”
After that, the meeting was dedicated to defending the M Street bike lane from suggestions that it be scrapped altogether.
On Wednesday morning, Metropolitan AME Church issued a “call to action” on its Facebook page. It read, in part: “The city is proposing to install bike lanes on M Street from 14th Street to 28th Street. This action will affect parking for church services, especially funerals and Sunday angle parking. We (as a church body) need to submit testimony during the public response period.”
As a result, at least 20 of the 80 people attending the meeting seemed to be members or supporters of the Metropolitan AME Church. They said that the church had not been contacted. DDOT said that they had contacted someone at the church that morning. A claim that DDOT representatives had been to the church years previously to solicit comment were met with incredulity.
One person asked, “Is it open for discussion that you will avoid the 1500 block [of M Street]?” DDOT indicated that it would be difficult or impossible to divert the bike lane around one particular block.
A local businessman also spoke against the bike lanes.
“If you’re talking about eliminating [traffic] lanes, you’re going to have gridlock,” he said. “Every merchant on the block is very concerned. I respectfully think this will be a disaster.”
Another attendee told the businessman he was mistaken.
“Bike trails will increase your business,” he said.
One woman who identified herself as a bike rider and a DC resident said the community was frustrated but a compromise might be reached.
“I don’t know what the urgency is,” she said. “You have not done your due diligence.”
At times the conversation was less the civil. DDOT was always polite to audience members, but sometimes audience members were not polite to each other. On three separate occasions, Zimbabwe had to threaten to stop the meeting altogether.
After the meeting, one pro-bike audience member said that many pro-bike audience members had attended the meeting but had not contributed. She minimized the importance of the protest.
“There are always people like that at these meetings,” she said.
From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT]borderstan.com and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.
If you noticed more bikers out and about last Friday morning, the cause may have been more than just the beautiful spring weather.
The Washington Examiner notes that Friday marked annual Bike to Work Day, and DC officials estimate that 12,700 people participated. This number sets a new record for the event, with twice as many riders as it had five years ago.
“The dramatic growth of this event is an indicator that area commuters view bicycling as a viable commute alternative that can fit into their daily routine,” said Nicholas Ramfos, of sponsor Commuter Connections (do you think he actually talks like that?).
The popularity of biking in the District should come as no surprise to our readers, who have seen use of Capital Bikeshare surge in the two years since its launch. According to TBD.com, Capital Bikeshare has logged a grand total of two million total trips to date.
As long as they stay off the sidewalks, bike away!
By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]borderstan.com.
TBD investigated what is and is not allowed for a church funeral. The official policy indicates that parking in the bike lane is not permissible; tweets from some irritated cyclists, however, testify to the policy on the street being compassionate “parking permissiveness.”
If the cars were double-parked and causing traffic on 15th Street NW for motorists, would the situation have been different? It’s worth noting that the DC Department of Transportation responded to the cyclists’ complaints, but the cars were gone by the time the unit showed up at the church (St. Luke’s Episcopal at 15th and P NW, by the way).
This is not the first time residents have voiced concerns over a church’s parking; in 2006 and then again in 2008, Sunday morning double-parking sparked a lot of heat and anger in Logan Circle. Since the issues have been raised (then and now in the comments), as to whether is this simply a preferential play for cars… or do Christian churches, or African-American Christian churches, get spared more tickets than area temples?
Or is ticketing just infinitely more lax on Sunday, which has little to do with some people thinking that it’s God’s day?
This piece from the Washington City Paper has something for everyone.
If you think bikers needs to do a better job of following the rules, you’ll be cheered by news of the Ride for Responsibility.
If you yearn for the days where bike messengers ruled Lucky Bar, then you’ll want to join in the Fixt of Fury alleycat races in the future.
The alley race sounds ridiculously awesome, with checkpoints all over the city and a kegger at the conclusion of the race. But the work done by the Washington Area Bicycle Association is worthwhile, if a bit more mundane. After all, that’s the point.
As far as transportation goes, DC often gets a bad rap. Sure, we have the country’s worst drivers, and we may be approaching “metrogeddon” with the 8-month closure of the Dupont Circle southern escalators.
But there’s good news. We also rank among the top U.S. cities in terms of our bicycle and pedestrian programs, according to a study out this week from the Alliance for Biking & Walking.
Of the 51 largest U.S. cities, the District boasts the highest per-capita funding for cycle and pedestrian facilities and education. The report, Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report, says DC spends approximately $9.82 per resident to promote biking and walking. Nationwide, states spent on average just $2.17.
Not surprisingly, the report identified a virtuous cycle of infrastructure investment, improved safety and increased bike and pedestrian commuting. Among those 51 cities, DC also had:
- the second highest share of commuters who walk to work (after Boston).
- the seventh highest share of commuters who bike to work.
- the second lowest rate of car ownership (after New York).
- The sixth lowest rate of bike/ped fatalities.
In a press release, Mayor Vincent Gray celebrated the news:
I have made it clear I want the District of Columbia to be the most sustainable, walkable city in the nation. It’s great to see where we stand among our peers and that we are making real progress toward that goal.
This report gave me quite a bit to think about. We often hear about drivers acting aggressively towards bikers, or of problems with pedestrians and cars. Getting around in DC is far from perfect, but think about how much worse it must be in other cities. If we are sixth in bike/ped safety (and I still can’t get a car to stop for me at the crosswalk at 14th Street and Wallach Place NW), then what’s it like in Fort Worth, Texas, which ranks 51, or Phoenix (#48) or even San Diego (#23)?
Another thing I found particularly interesting in the data was that the share of commuters biking and walking seemed to have nothing to do with the weather. The number one state for biking and walking was Alaska! Number two was Vermont. Eight of the 10 top states have snow on the ground pretty much all the time, while states like Florida and Texas ranked dismally. So as I bundle up to walk to work tomorrow, at least I’ll have my pride to keep me warm.
Don’t get mad at me, I’m just reporting what TBD found when they analyzed Capital Bikeshare‘s demographic data. The data indicates most Bikeshare cyclists have no helmets, are mostly white and are in their mid-30s. If you take that and compare it to a Washington City Paper piece that evaluated if there was truth beyond the stereotype, you may see an archetype emerge.
Then again, the majority of rental cyclists are women, which doesn’t match up with the perceived gender gap. So while there may be something to the idea that all Bikeshare-ers are of Courtland Milloy’s “myopic little twit” category, it’s far from an accurate portrayal of the cyclist population.
Cheers to Capital Bikeshare for their amazing numbers, and to enduring political correctness.
From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at [email protected].
If you live in Borderstan (or anywhere in DC, for that matter) I know this has happened to you: you’re strolling down the sidewalk, maybe on your way home from the farmers’ market, or chatting with a friend, when all of a sudden and with no sound of warning, someone brushes past you on a bicycle, startling you. They zip past, weaving in and out among pedestrians, leaving a trail of surprised, startled and often irritated folks (and pets) in their wake.
I think my friend Julie put it beautifully when this happened to us some time ago. She yelled after the biker: “It’s a sidewalk, not a sideride!”
Bikers, and I’m one of you, keep your turning wheels in the traffic lanes and leave the sidewalks to those of us walking, jogging, pushing strollers or shopping carts, guiding our children or pets.
The city has been increasing its miles of bike lanes, so use them! If, for whatever reason, you insist on riding on the sidewalk, then at least give the pedestrians you are approaching a clue that you are on their heels, OK?! Ping your bell, or shout “bike on your left/right” as the case may be.
I look at it this way: if you’re riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, you’re in a bigger size and speed category than the pedestrians. Therefore, you’re not supposed to be there. So, the least you can do, when you decide to use the sidewalk inappropriately, is to give everyone fair warning, giving folks a chance to work around you. (Editor’s note: It is legal to ride on sidewalks north of Massachusetts Avenue NW.)
Oh, and thanks for stepping up to be the nuisance du jour, it takes a special kind of courage.
More Tickets for Blocking Bike Lanes
With new bike lanes (hopefully) on their way, it looks like Policy Chief Cathy Lanier is on board to support them. “We’ve quadrupled the number of tickets we’ve issued for people who block bike lanes,” she told WTOP in an interview last Thursday. Lanier says that they issued 2000 tickets in 2011, but “it’s going to take a while for the culture [shift] to kick in.”
Look Metro, No Pants!
I avoided Metro all weekend due to the single tracking, only to realize that I also missed the 5th annual “No Pants Metro Ride DC.” For those of you unfamiliar with this yearly occasion, run by Capitol Improv, the name is fairly self-explanatory. On Sunday afternoon, several hundred Metro riders boarded trains and rode around without pants on (though PG-13 underwear is encouraged).
During this season of protest, organizers on the event’s Facebook page were quick to remind people that the No Pants Metro Ride is not political. The page says, helpfully, “the point of the day is not to ‘protest pants.'” Good to know. The event came full circle to our neighborhood with an afterparty at Nellie’s.
DC Historic Preservation Review Board Lacks Members
As a history major, I get excited whenever I read about history professionals being in demand. Last year Mayor Vince Gray dragged his feet on nominations for the Historic Preservation Review Board, and it looks like those delays are about to cause some big headaches. According to City Paper, two of Gray’s nominees have said they don’t want the position.
With other members’ terms expired or expiring, the nine-member board might be left with only one current representative. In a recent letter to the Mayor, Councilmember Tommy Wells reminded him that by law, the board must have experts in history, architectural history, and archeology, or risk losing its federal funding. “With our significant number of landmarks and historic districts, the critical role of the HPRB cannot be overemphasized,” Wells wrote.
Oh, New Year’s. The hype of a birthday party but with the results usually reserved for hometown reunions; too much to drink in unfamiliar places with tons of strangers. That aside, I had a wonderful new years break all over Route I-95 from Camden, New Jersey to NYC and Boston — and was thankful that it fell on a weekend giving us a short week back to the grind.
But, as the weather turns frigid (it’s snowing as I write this), what can we look forward to next year? What can DC hope to accomplish in 20-dozen?
Make Navy Yard Matter
I mean this in two ways. First, there is a rumor floating around (and these things do change often), that monster slugger Prince Fielder is in talks with the Nationals. This is a game changer for a team that showed signs of life last year, and is desperately seeking a bat to help them compete with the Phillies. This would automatically give the Nats a serious attendance boost in 2012, and a shot at the NL East (okay, maybe not, but I know I’d go just to watch Prince).
Second, even though the area around Navy Yard is getting better, we have to keep up the momentum. Hopefully soon, developers and nightlife investors will be able to patch together some fun bars and good restaurants in that area. Then we can replace Georgetown’s waterfront and M street areas with a spot more Metro accessible.
Don’t Let Bikers Run DC (But Do Use BikeShare)
I am somewhat ambivalent to the biking cause in DC, as some of you may recall from a previous column — I still think bike lanes could be a great place for joggers. (As for utilizing bike lane lanes, DC politicians do it with their cars.) However, I do recommend using Capital Bikeshare more when it gets warmer. This is a pretty amazing and still under-utilized piece of infrastructure in DC. Biking is a great alternative to get to more places in the city without a car — and without depending on the inconsistent subway and bus system.
If You Want to See Winners, Go Caps!
The Caps are the best team in DC, hockey or otherwise. The Redskins did their predictable late season swan dive while lying about fan attendance. The Wizards have yet to win a game (I will be attending their Friday game vs. the Knicks, review to come). The Caps may have to fight hard for a playoff spot, but their fans are passionate and their games are always exciting. Even nosebleed seats are great and right on the red line so “Rock the Red,” as they say.
Vote for Barack Obama Again
Way better than whatever Iowa decides.
Of course there are more, but it’s a start to what I think should make a 2012 great (that and we need a diner in Borderstan, a real 24-hour diner). Hope everyone had a great New Year celebration, finished strong in their fantasy leagues (for me, two 4th Place finishes and one 10th Place, not great), and starts off the year well in all ways.
Thought of the Week
Links! Links! Ice Cold Links!
New bike lanes and other improvements could be coming to Borderstan, according to proposals from the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT). @TBDonFoot reports on the bike infrastructure improvements coming to the District in 2012, based on last week’s meeting between DDOT and the DC Bicycle Advisory Council. Several of the major changes are in the U Street corridor area.
The new map, above right, shows proposals for infrastructure (blue), plans DDOT had for 2011 that will spill over into 2012 (red) and improvements proposed by users (green), which include repainting lines and filling holes.
In the Borderstan Area
- DDOT-proposed infrastructure on 11th Street NW between Q Street and Florida Avenue – looks like it won’t be a full bike lane but rather “sharrows,” which are painted arrows meant to remind cars that it’s a shared road;
- DDOT-proposed infrastructure on 14th Street NW north of U Street, in the form of a climbing lane or “road diet” – lane configurations that give slow traffic bikes more space to be slow;
- User-proposed improvements to 14th Street NW south of U Street, creating better connectivity to other bike lanes;
- User-proposed improvements on 15th Street NW from V Street to Fuller Street to improve signage and keep drivers in their lanes (see a video here taken by Eve Henessa showing the potential hazards).
Other Major Changes
Other major changes around the District include new east-west corridors of segregated bike lanes (“cycletracks”) on L and M Streets between Pennsylvania Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue NW. DDOT’s proposal here is a shift for the department, as DDOT director Terry Bellamy said in June that the plans for L and M Streets were “on hold” and at risk of being scrapped entirely. (TBD points out that the plans for L and M Streets are still pending an ongoing DDOT study, but that the agency hopes to have them up by the end of 2012).
It’s not clear how DDOT will prioritize the user-proposed improvements. Also keep in mind that these are proposals DDOT could implement in 2012, so no promises.
But I’m thrilled with the possibility of bike improvements to 14th Street north of Florida Avenue. With more buffer room, I’ll be able to focus attention where it is most needed: on not passing out as I pedal up the DC equivalent of K2.
Do you bike in Borderstan? Let us know what you’d like to see from DDOT.
Mary Burgan has column today on D.C.’s laws regarding bikes on sidewalks: Bikes and Sidewalks: Time to Update D.C.’s Laws? The current law allows them outside the downtown business corridor — which begins south of Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Should the laws be updated to prohibit bikes on all sidewalks in the Dupont, Logan and U Street neighborhoods? Or should bikes be banned only from commercial corridors, such as 17th, 14th, U and P Streets NW? Another option: no bikes on sidewalks where there is a bike lane on the street. For example, Q, R and 14th Streets NW have bike lanes — but they are not two-way lanes next to curb like the one on 15th.
Or should the current set of rules for bikes on sidewalks be maintained?
Has the neighborhood changed so much, with additional residents and foot traffic, that it’s time to rethink bikes on sidewalks in the area?
Editor’s note: Mary Burgan writes for Borderstan as the Borderstan Movie Fan and has lived in the Dupont-Logan area since 1995. For the record, she is a strong supporter of bike lanes, public transportation and a myriad of environmental causes that will make our city and planet a better, cleaner place to live. She and her husband do not own a car and walk most everywhere. Borderstan would love to hear from you on any number of subjects related to the Dupont-Logan-U Street area, including bike lanes and laws. Got an idea for a column? Email us at [email protected]
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From Mary Burgan. Leave a comment or email her at [email protected]
Biking laws in the District need updating. The language of the District law seems designed to apply to special populations such as courier services, but there are not many rules for growing population of ordinary bike riders. The city has tried to meet the needs of ordinary riders by constructing bike lanes and establishing the Bike Share program but, while these measures have increased bike riding, they haven’t established better rules for the road.
For example, the north/south lane on 15th Street NW has created confusion for all parties. This is especially true at the intersection of 15th and P Streets, where the left turn lane signal for northbound cars is unexpected. Some cars ignore it. Others obey, only to be assaulted by loud honks from behind. Nevertheless the bike riders in that bike lane rely on cars, and pedestrians, obeying that signal.
The dramatic increase in bicycle traffic in the past two years is a wonderful contribution to the neighborhood and its environment, nobody doubts that. But the increase also calls for some changes in the old laws as well as new attitudes.
By Michelle Lancaster. Got a hot tip? Tell her on Twitter @MichLancaster.
Police Respond to Mt. Pleasant Barricade Situation
This is so bizarre — sharpshooters and cops arrived Tuesday afternoon in Mt. Pleasant responding to a possible barricade situation. Why do I think it is so odd? Well, he’s apparently barricaded with a “screwdriver” and is not believed to have a gun. Check out the pictures in Washington City Paper to see how the police responded to the distraught man. Hope everyone stays safe.
DC Flag Tattoos a Hit on Flag Day
To bring attention to the still-conspicuously-absent lack of a D.C. vote in Congress, D.C. Flag Tattoo Day was organized last night in Dupont Circle. I have seen some awesome ones, notably on some tasty chefs around the city. District Love organized, and has some great pics already up on their site. Add your own to our Flickr pool!