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DC Allows bikes on all of H Street, keeps rush hour streetcar bike ban

DC released an updated set of streetcar regulations that removes the provision that prohibited riding a bicycle within a streetcar guideway. But they did not remove the provision that bans passengers from bringing bicycles onboard during rush hour. Presumably, passengers can still bring pool rafts, surfboards and refrigerators onboard. This is also totally cool.  

Here's more on the change.

In response to public comments received, the proposed rulemaking was revised to strike the provision that prohibited riding a bicycle within a streetcar guideway.  Additional comments were received to revise the definition of a streetcar guideway, but DDOT determined that the definition is sufficiently clear.

Final rulemaking action to adopt these amendments shall be taken in not less than fifteen (15) days after the date of publication of this notice in the D.C. Register.  Pursuant to D.C. Official Code § 2-505 (2012 Repl.), final rulemaking action may be made less than thirty (30) days from publication of proposed rulemaking upon a showing of good cause.  The full comment period is not necessary because DDOT has already held meetings with stakeholders and addressed the issues raised in the previous round of comments.  DDOT does not anticipate any new comments to the rulemaking as the only changes made since it was last published on August 16, 2013 is the removal of the prohibition of bicycles on the streetcar guideway.

Funny thing is, the regulations do not restrict bringing a moped or even a motorcycle on the streetcar. 

Bike Hack Events

If you like bikes and technology, check out Bike Hack Night
(http://www.meetup.com/Transportation-Techies/events/200015252/)

November 6, 2014,

and CaBi Hack Night
(http://www.meetup.com/Transportation-Techies/events/200661602/)

December 4, 2014.

Driver in Tonys Reaves hit-and-run charged with murder

Story is here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/driver-charged-with-murder-for-hit-and-run-that-killed-bicyclist/2014/10/23/a0dedbd2-5b0e-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html

Fresh of my review of every fatal bike crash since 1987, this is the first time a driver has been charged with "murder" since 1991, and that driver admitted to intentionally running down cyclists from behind. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Markets in Everything - The Bike Fitter

From the Washington Post

He’s old-school, using a protractor, levels and plumb bobs to diagnose problems and devise solutions, tweaking until he transforms ill-fitting two-wheelers into comfortable speed machines. His concession to the digital age is an iPad, which he uses to video each rider to analyze body position on the bike before and after adjustments.

11th Street Bridge Park Video

Le Tour d’Alexandria Library

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, Alexandria Library is hosting its second annual bicycle tour of all Alexandria Library locations. Bring your bike and join library staff for a leisurely 2-hour loop starting and ending at Duncan Branch Library, 2501 Commonwealth Ave. Registration is required. Visit bit.ly/alexlibrarybiketourfor more information and to register online.

(see, it's not all craziness in Alexandria)

Bikes on Some MARC Trains Seems Imminent

You may recall that the Maryland Transportation Authority has been seriously thinking about allowing standard bikes on some MARC trains, but asked advocates not to talk about the details.  Now MDOT is talking about the details.  In a statement cleared for release to the public, Michael Jackson described an October 9 show-and-tell with advocates at Frederick, Maryland, at the October 10 meeting of the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee:

Attendees included representatives from Bike Maryland, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, the Virginia Bicycle Federation and staff from MDOT as well as staff from MARC and their consultants. The meeting was held at their Frederick rail yard. Attendees were invited to bring bicycles to carry on-board a modified rail car with half of the seats removed. A bicycle rack and luggage rack had been installed. Invitees assessed the modifications and gave feedback to MARC staff.

MARC intends to outfit the car with enough racks to carry 25 bicycles and to identify the outside of the bike cars with prominent graphics. Service is expected to be limited initially to weekend service on the Penn line and begin by the end of the year.

Jim Titus represents Prince George's County on the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and is on the board of WABA. The comments here do not represent the official views of either organization.

Jim Graham proposes banning sidewalk cycling along streets with bike lanes

You can read all about it at GGW.  Here's my thoughts about it.

The DC code allowing cyclist on the sidewalk goes back to DC's original traffic regulations from 1972 and 1974 and has it's roots in the Uniform Vehicle Code, which in 1968 added a stipulation that cars were not allowed on the sidewalk.  I'm not sure what DC's traffic laws were like before then, but even back then it included the ban within the CBD. The primary reason for the CBD ban, as I understand it, was to deal with the problem of bike messengers on the sidewalks. The ban on sidewalk cycling (if back issues of Dr. Gridlock are any indication) was not enforced and was never successful, even when messengers were required to have license plates on their bikes. The problem was such that in the late 1980's Ward 6 Councilmember Nadine Winters proposed regulations for the bike messengers, including requiring them to be licensed, pass a safety course and wear visible ID numbers. But with the decline of bike messengers in DC, the perceived need for such regulations has largely disappeared. But the CBD sidewalk ban remains.

The only way to make a ban work is to have more enforcement, but If more enforcement is planned, then this law isn't needed. That's because the kind of behavior that supporters of this ban wish to make illegal is already illegal. Current law says that cyclists may use the sidewalk "so long as the rider does not create a hazard." Ergo, hazardous sidewalk cycling is already illegal. What this law does is make non-hazardous sidewalk cycling illegal.
 
The only reason for this would be the pretense that enforcement would be easier. But the logic behind making non-hazardous sidewalk cycling illegal because it would be easier to enforce is questionable to say the least. It reminds of the old vaudeville joke where one man is looking for his wallet and another offers to help. After some time, the second asks "Where did you lose it?" and the first says "Over there in the woods." "Well then why are we looking for it over here" the second asks angrily. "Because the lighting is better." Why are we going to ticket non-hazardous cycling? Because the lighting is better.
 
Furthermore, there is already a process to ban sidewalk cycling on streets where it makes sense.  The Mayor can ban sidewalk cycling on any street with a simple order. And he can do so with input from DDOT and MPD. Instead of creating a blanket rule that may or may not work in every situation. Under current law, the default is no ban, with the Mayor able to overrule that. The new law changes it to a ban, with the Mayor able to overrule that. 
 
Sidewalk cycling is not ideal, but for some cyclists and at some times it is a totally adequate option, and possibly even the best one. Rather than changing behavior by forcing less confident cyclists off the sidewalk (even as young as 13 years old), we should be enticing cyclists off the sidewalk with better facilities.  This law replaces an individual cyclist's judgement about the safety, their comfort and the current conditions on the road with that of the Council's who has no insight into any of those things. It forces cyclists to either break the law, do something that makes them uncomfortable or not bike. Which of these is an appealing outcome?
 
Bans do not get cyclists off the sidewalks, but bike lanes, and to a much larger extent, cycletracks do. That's where efforts should be focused.
 
Graham's bill is unlikely to achieve the goals he seeks. The 4 year old example of a bad outcome that he cites isn't even applicable. That happened in an alley, not a sidewalk. And it didn't happen next to a bike lane. And it isn't even clear that the cyclist was at fault in the crash (though they did flee the scene afterward). There's no data to back up the need for this - just the fact that Graham has received a lot of complaints. How many bike crashes are there on DC sidewalks? Where are they occurring? Next to bike lanes? Don't know. Don't care. But a study carried about by DDOT from 1997-99 showed a total of 29 bicycle-pedestrian crashes over a two year period. A follow up study from 2000-2002 also showed 29 bike-ped crashes involving 30 pedestrians (and one bike-bus-pedestrian crash). Many of these were not on the sidewalk.  
 
Not only will this do little to reduce sidewalk cycling, I doubt such a bill will "help to encourage the construction of even more bicycle lanes for the safety of all" but if that's something he's interested in (and it would be a new interest for him) then there are better ways to get that outcome. 
 
The most dangerous part of his press release, and the part that makes me glad he's leaving office is this part "I think it’s time that rather than riding on sidewalks, bicyclists and others be required to use bike lanes" Oh no, no. no. Mandatory bike lane laws are a very bad idea. Even worse than the law Graham has proposed. 
 
Just to add fuel to the fire, in a very timely post Streetsblog has a report on how sidewalk bans in NYC have been disproportionately enforced on black and latino cyclists.  

 

6th Annual Tweed Ride is November 2

From the promotional email

Dandies! Quaintrelles. After much deliberation, our adventures in tweed are set to continue! Last year's ride was one of our best. The bash that followed was our wildest! I'm arranging some of the elements that have made this thing sort of a legend. 2014 will be no different. Autumn leaves are already falling and it's time to get excited about another beautiful experience.

If you haven't been secretly planning your tweed ensemble in anticipation of this year's ride, there's plenty of time to hunt down the things you'll need.

1. Retro clothing. It's everywhere now because classic style is back!
2. Bike. Pretty much everyone in this city rides one. Right? We are everywhere.
3. Your dancing feet. Remember those?

Alexandrians and the Bike Reich

There's quite a back and forth going on the LTTE section of the Alexandria Times.

It started in August with a letter from someone who saw many cyclists running stop signs on Union Street and wrote a letter demanding an end to the cycling anarachy

In response, bike advocate Jonathan Krall, wrote to criticize the promotion of "an offensive stereotype."

The idea that cyclists are somehow less law-abiding than others on our roads is a stereotype that has no basis in fact. Studies show that people who ride actually react to the “danger” of cycling (another myth) by being more cautious rather than reckless. For example, a years-long study of alcohol-related crashes showed that non-cyclists were twice as likely to be drunk as cyclists in car-bicycle or cyclist-pedestrian collisions.
Sadly, this stereotype is so pervasive that even many cyclists believe it. Nevertheless, when it is repeated by the media or by our elected leaders, this shameful stereotyping reflects badly on us all.

Another writer the same week asked why Alexandria was spending money on bike facilities when the city has been "in a tight fiscal environment for the last six years." She advocates spending time figuring out how to lower property taxes and also wishes the city would spend more on fire equipment and public employee salaries. She also has noticed that cyclists run stop signs and stop lights. I think the fiscal answer to her question is that spending money on new bike facilities - especially where they replace extra-wide roads or curb-side parking - increases mobility and capacity on area roads at a rather low cost, while also improving health and the environment. All the alternatives of achieving these goals are likely more expensive, as is the cost of doing nothing. 

The next week a pair of letters also criticized cyclists. One person took a hard-line "follow the law" approach and called for heightened enforcement of all road users - but mostly cyclists, and for cyclists to be issued points on their license so that they can no longer drive, which would result in more cycling. I think that 100% enforcement of the law (tickets for 1mph over the limit, 3-foot passing violations, etc...) for all users would likely be a net win for cyclists, so I'm not going to stand in the way of complete and equitable enforcement. But really, that's not what this is about. 

The final letter compares Alexandria's proposal to create bike lanes on Cameron and Prince Streets to the Nazi party's use of the Riechstag fire to create Nazi Germany (no, I'm not kidding). The claim is that the stated need for the bike lanes is to get cyclists off the sidewalks, a problem Alexandria created by legalizing sidewalk cycling. The analogy fails in many ways (the Nazis didn't start the fire, for example), but the main criticism is that the city's decision to build bike lanes on these streets does not represent a power grab. It has always had that power. The writer asks

Why would they legalize riding bicycles on the sidewalk unless City Hall considered it safe and desirable?

In part because VDOT may have required it, but also to serve young and less confident cyclists. Sidewalk cycling can be safe - though not at the same speed as riding in the road - , and while more desirable than driving, is not as desirable as biking in the road.  So the other reason for the change in law was to support young and less confident cyclists. 

And why would City Hall use discouraging cyclists from using sidewalks as a justification for more bicycle lanes so soon after they allowed said cyclists on sidewalks?

I don't think the goal is to discourage sidewalk cycling, it's to encourage cycling in the roadway. And surely that is only part of the justification of the law. It is not unusual for places to allow sidewalk cycling while also trying to encourage people not to do it. In fact we allow all kinds of activities (smoking, drinking, watching Dance Moms, etc...) that we might simultaneously want to discourage people from doing.

Update: And there's more.

Following this article about how WABA and the BPAC have been doing outreach to encourage better behavior among cyclists, and this letter about how we're all scofflaws, there was another flurry of letters.  One argued that he saw more bad behavior from cyclists on Union Street than from drivers. 

Our old friend, Capital Bikeshare slayer and bike registration fan Kathryn Papp, wrote a letter that called into question the validity of the count data the city is relying on, because by publishing the time and place of counts through requests for volunteers, they are encouraging cyclists to inflate the county by riding in those places at those times. I'm not sure cyclists are that interested in inflating the counts.

Another writer makes the argument that applying to cyclists laws written for drivers may not always make sense. 

And Krall again writes in, this time to support the public process and criticize those who try to subvert it by spreading false rumors. 

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