From Mary El Pearce. Follow her on Twitter@CupcakesDC and email her at maryelp[At]borderstan.com.
Bicyclers… we need to talk.
I know everyone and their tourist mother (including other Borderstan writers) have complained about people riding their bikes on sidewalk, but I want my voice to be heard as well. As a fellow bicycler, as well as pedestrian and driver, I feel I have a unique point of view on the topic.
I’ll admit, when I first moved to D.C., I rode my bike on sidewalks. Ever the goodie goodie, I did my due diligence and researched bike laws, which state that I can legally ride my bike on the sidewalk outside of the central business district, defined as 2nd Street NE and SE, D Street SE and SW, 14th Street SW and NW, Constitution Avenue NW, 23rd Street NW and Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Since it was legal in most places, I thought the responsible thing to do was ride on the sidewalk, the safer place to be versus the scary streets with the road ragers and hardcore cyclists whose shoes clip into their pedals. I ignored the scowls from pedestrians and rang my bell happily to let them know I was behind them and that they should get out of the way.
I was wrong (and not just about that annoying bell).
Turns out the streets are the much safer place to be when you’re on something with wheels — except a wheelchair, people in wheelchairs can go wherever they want and the rest of us can deal with it. Drivers are used to going around slow or stopped vehicles, and enough people ride bicycles that drivers have learned to share the roads.
When I’m driving it’s an inconvenience, for sure, to get stuck behind a cyclist, but I much prefer that to being a cyclist stuck behind pedestrians. It’s the safer and easier alternative, and you will avoid having random people develop rage anger against you, as I did the other day when a cyclist almost hit me on the sidewalk and I shouted behind him, “Watch where you’re going!”
Of course he was gone before I could do anything more than shake my fist at him, which is why I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you not to be inconsiderate and keep your bike on the street.
That also goes for Segways… don’t even get me started.
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.
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.