Archive for December, 2010
WashCycle and others have done an excellent job covering the Stan Miller tragedy. The case is nearing completion, and members of the community now have the opportunity to submit “Community Impact Statements.” These will, presumably, be reviewed by the sentencing judge so that he may weigh their merits prior to sentencing on January 14.
WABA’s statement is below.
You can send your own statement to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Thanks to George for tracking down the submission information.)
Today, the Washington Examiner published an article about 15th Street merchants “protesting” the 15th Street “bike lanes.”
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- In our view, it has a few problems:
- It never uses the term “cycle track” or explains the sort of facility it discusses.
- It quotes one manager saying bikes should ride on the sidewalk, which is illegal there.
- It quotes another business owner saying she wishes the cyclists would not use her street (which is not technically incorrect, but a strange customer attraction policy).
- It clumsily brings in anger over the parking meter rate increases to let an employee of another business call bike lanes a “‘deterrent’ to customers.”
- It never asks these business interests why they did not raise these concerns with DDOT during the extensive planning of the bike facility, or with downtown commercial property owners and the Downtown DC BID, who “helped plan the lanes.”
- It lets objectors make incorrect statements and unsupported assertions without correcting or challenging them, while giving them a free pass on their failure to express these concerns during the actual design process when they could have been constructive.
- Finally, it implicitly reinforces the view that all downtown public space planning should be evaluated based on how it impacts cars, their movement, and their short-term storage.
So in sum: We disagree. Our letter to the Examiner is below.
15th Street ‘Protest’ Examiner Response
We do not yet have all the details, but Councilmember Mendelson’s staff today committed to holding a hearing on bicyclist and pedestrian safety–likely in early February. Councilmember Mendelson is Chair of the DC Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, and therefore has oversight of MPD and many traffic enforcement issues.
If you are a cyclist with a story that you believe would be relevant to such a hearing, we encourage you to begin preparing your testimony. Even if you cannot attend a hearing in person, you can still submit testimony in written form.
We get calls every week from cyclists who have been injured in a crash, but are unable to recover due to enforcement/reporting errors. I hope that those who have shared their stories with us will now take the opportunity to share the story with the Committee and Chairman Mendelson.
We will announce the hearing date, time, and place as soon as it is set.
For those who missed it amidst the holiday hubbub, the Bicycle Commuter and Parking Expansion Act of 2010 passed this week. Thank you to the 300+ WABA members and supporters who joined us in drafting letters to the DC Council urging passage, and to DC Bicycle Advisory Council Chair Meredith Begin, who provided strong hearing testimony on behalf of the cycling community.
Now, we look forward to seeing the regulations implementing these rules.
A question for our readers:
The fiscal impact statement assumes that enforcement will require specific building inspectors averaging $54,867 each. Doesn’t this seem like a place for individual cyclists to help at much lower costs, assuming a good reporting system is put in place? If you could be assured that someone would act on it, would you report facilities without the required parking to 311 or some dedicated hotline?
Let us know what you think in the comments, and we’ll look forward to seeing (and commenting on) those regulations.
Earlier this week, WABA kicked off its “Resolve to Ride Responsibly” campaign, asking cyclists to pledge to ride more responsibly in 2011. Somewhat predictably, this kicked off a bit of controversy within our membership. While many WABA members have been supportive and signed, others have responded with strong counter-arguments focused on the idea that if the laws regulating our roadways fail to adequately account for or protect cyclists, we should not resolve to follow them.
And that’s absolutely fine.
Nothing in being a WABA member ties anyone to a particular strategy for improving the laws regulating cyclists. But as an organization, we do have a choice to make. We hear time and time again the perception that WABA should be doing more to ensure that cyclists follow laws and ride safely. And currently, that perception of cyclists as scofflaws presents a barrier to the sort of political action that could successfully improve the safety of cyclists in the area.
Fundamentally, our goal is to change those improper laws and achieve those safety improvements, and to take the necessary steps to do so. I do believe that cyclists should ride responsibly, and I disagree with anyone who says that resolving to do so implies an apology for cycling or a backing away from that core goal.
It is true that by asking riders to pledge to improve, there is an implicit acknowledgment of imperfection and a commitment to do better. And it seems that this acknowledgment of imperfection has been the source of a fair bit of the negative feedback. Perhaps this was a mistake in tone for the pledge, but given the number of signatures already reached, we are not going to change the language and start over now. So I’ll ask cyclists to take this as an admission among the drafters that we individually have room for improvement. And if you (like us) have room for improvement, this should not prevent you from signing.
- If you disagree with riding responsibly or, the more controversial point, following the applicable laws: Don’t sign the pledge.
- If you have no need for improvement: Don’t sign the pledge.
We can accept that some dedicated cyclists who support our mission of advocating for better, safer cycling in the region may not support this specific tactic for combating the scofflaw cyclist perception and generating movement toward legal change. We appreciate the feedback. And fortunately, we pursue multiple strategies simultaneously, so we hope that others better suit you and that we’ll be back on the same strategic page soon. But simply ignoring the scofflaw cyclist perception (or debunking it endlessly on websites and blogs that only we cyclists read) is not effective.
Bottom line: The scofflaw perception is getting in the way of needed changes, and we need some mechanism to combat it. This pledge is meant to do that in order to set the stage for the next round of advocacy. With a new year, new leadership in several local jurisdictions, and a growing number of cyclists in the area, this pledge is meant to help us address the scofflaw issue and move past it to real advocacy on behalf of our members and the community of cyclists.
If you don’t like it, don’t sign it.
It’s your choice.
We think it will help make our advocacy efforts more effective, but we’ll be making the efforts to the best of our ability regardless.
Here’s to a strong 2011.
Keep riding (whether you sign a pledge or not),
This morning, as I was riding to the office, I hit a red light. And I stopped and waited for it to turn green. As WABA’s DC Bike Ambassador, I do this a lot. What’s more, it’s part of my job to try and get everybody else to do it too. Even among WABA members, encouraging cyclists to obey the law can be a challenging task. So, it was both a pleasant surprise and an unfortunate indicator of how much work I have left to do when a motorist pulled up alongside of me at that red light and rolled down his window to say:
“You’re the first cyclist I’ve ever seen follow the laws!”
And then he gave me a thumb’s up and drove away. This is exactly what WABA has long been working towards: making the streets a safer and more enjoyable place for bicyclists, and consequently, all other road users too. Safe bicycling is not just about keeping bicyclists safe, it’s also about respecting the safety of others.
So this winter, WABA is announcing our Resolution to Ride Responsibly, an online New Year’s resolution that we encourage all cyclists in DC, Maryland and Virginia to take. The arrival of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past and to change bad habits, make personal improvements and lay the foundation for the next twelve months. We want people who ride bicycles–whether for fun, for work, or for transportation to either one–to think about what it means to ride safely and responsibly and to make these things their priority for 2011.
WABA’s Resolution to Ride Responsibly
…I resolve to be a more responsible bicyclist.
…I resolve to better respect the rights of other road users.
…I resolve to make a good faith effort to better follow the law.
…I resolve to yield to pedestrians.
…I resolve to help make bicycling safer and easier for all of us.
Please click here to sign the Resolution! Help WABA and everybody on a bicycle by being a responsible rider.
Plus, it turns out that being responsible out on the road isn’t particularly difficult or burdensome, and it will actually make you a better cyclist. But that’s not all!
It will also:
- Make you thinner – Stopping at red lights and stop signs burns more calories.
- Make you more attentive – Headphones and cell phones while cycling are a bad idea.
- Make you a role model – Other cyclists will emulate you, honest.
- Make your husband/wife/parents/children/girlfriend/boyfriend/boss happier – Because they won’t have to worry about you being irresponsible.
- Change drivers’ attitudes – Following the law makes you more predictable, which makes it easier for drivers to anticipate you, avoid you and go on their way without aggravation.
- Help the bicycle community – Like it or not, all cyclists are often tarred with the same brush, and lawbreaking cyclists make us all look bad.
- Help WABA – Bicycle-specific traffic laws may be out of reach for now (think: Idaho stop), but being able to say “look at all the cyclists out there following existing laws” would be a huge help!
Remember, click here to sign the Resolution to Ride Responsibly and click here to read our press release. We’ll be collecting signatures throughout January (for all you late resolution-makers), and to kick off the year in the responsible gear, we’re having a New Year’s Resolution Ride on Saturday, January 8th.
For many local business, providing adequate parking for bikes is a serious issue. Customers struggle to find safe, secure and convenient locations to park their bike while they patronize the business. This was the case for Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar on 20th St. NW in the Dupont Circle area which was in constant need of more bike parking.
Through a new partnership with DDOT called BikeBrand Your Biz, DDOT and WABA installed two custom bike racks in front of Filter to accommodate the large number of customer bikes. Of the two custom racks installed, one rack was in the shape of a hot cup of coffee with the other rack in the shape of a French coffee press. Both racks were painted bright orange for high visibility and to match the Filter branding.
The custom racks are paid for by the business and installed for free. Costs for custom racks range between $500 and $1500 depending on the design. Businesses interested in having a custom rack installed should contact WABA at email@example.com to discuss details.
WABA will be installing additional U-style bike racks throughout the District of Columbia through a grant from DDOT. Please visit the WABA website for more information about our bike parking program.
Want an excuse to buy a new bike helmet or cycling jacket? Here your excuse, City Sports is opening a new store in Georgetown at 3338 M Street NW. The doors open on December 14th at 10am. There is the usual $10,000 in gift bag giveaways, $3,000 in shopping spree giveaways, and hourly in-store raffles that goes along with store openings. In addition to the giveaways, City Sports will be donating $1 per shopper to one of three local charities including WABA! So, bike on down to Georgetown, buy yourself (or someone else) something nice for the holidays and help WABA too! At the end of your transaction, you’ll receive a token to place in one of three jars. Make sure to place yours in the WABA jar.
The redesigned 15th Street NW Cycletracks are quickly nearing completion in downtown DC. When the project is finished, the two-way cycletracks will connect the new Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes to V St. NW, adding roughly 1.7 miles of physically separated bicycle facilities to the DC network.
The pilot project began last year with a single contra-flow (or counterflow) lane for southbound bicycles separated from motor vehicle traffic by a parking lane. Northbound cyclists were encouraged to utilize the rightmost travel lane with sharrows, pavement markings that direct drivers to be more aware of cyclists sharing the lane. A study of usage patterns by DDOT found 14 percent of traffic in the contraflow lane was in the wrong direction and 81 percent of riders favored a two-way cycletrack configuration.
Updated plans for the cycletrack were drawn up and made public this summer. Curiously, the northbound sharrows in the rightmost travel lane were removed as part of the project. We understand that this was because DDOT wants to encourage cyclists to use the new facilities rather than riding with traffic in the rightmost lane. However, DC law does not require cyclists to use bike lanes, paths, cycletracks or trails where they are provided, and cyclists should feel free to ride northbound by whichever method–travel lanes or cycletrack–they prefer.
During an exploratory ride by WABA staffers last week, the painting or striping of the project seemed nearly complete, while much of the details–such as signage–still needed to be added. The northernmost section (V St. NW) was the most complete and had new, shorter bollards. As we headed south, the bollards disappeared (as of Tuesday 12/6) but lane markings continued to the original cycletrack’s endpoint at Massachusetts Ave. NW. Between there and Lafayette Park (at H St. NW) was a brand new cycletrack along 15th St. NW and a block of Vermont Ave. NW, though it too lacked bollards. There was also a significant number of cars parked in the cycletrack and it seemed as though the parking meters were still operating. Parking signage was also still in place, no doubt adding to the confusion for both drivers and cyclists.
East of Lafayette Park, the cycletrack reappeared on the west side of 15th St. NW opposite New York Ave. NW and continued south past the Federal Reserve. Again, the lane markings looked great (but still no bollards). The final block of the planned cycletrack on 15th St. NW between Pennsylvania Ave. NW and E St. NW had yet to be striped. Lastly, the “missing” block where the Pennsylvania Ave. NW bike lane would have extended onto E ST. NW between 14th and 15th Streets NW has been completed!
Our observations were made on Tuesday, December 6th and we realize that more work has been done in the past week. On the Washington Area Bike Forums there was an update today about more work from the past weekend.
There are of course some issues that still need to be worked out. We are hopeful that DDOT and parking enforcement will help us with cars, trucks and postal workers who insist on illegally using the cycletracks for parking. Another issue will be the routing bicyclists through Lafayette Park. There are currently no signs or pavement markings to help cyclists navigate through the park to the rest of the cycletrack. There is one lonely turn arrow. More bicycle wayfinding–to direct cyclists to the E St. NW or G St. NW bike lanes, for instance–would also greatly improve the experience of riding in the new cycletrack
Originally, the project was slated to be finished by the “end of the fall”. With the fall officially ending next week, we are hopeful the end of construction is imminent, and will post here and on our facebook page as soon as the official opening is announced. On a brighter note, the cycletracks will almost certainly be finished and ready for the spring 2011 riding season, with plenty of time for “discovery” by casual riders. Of course, we’ll do our part to let bicyclists know about this addition to the city’s bicycle infrastructure. Now, how about those L & M Street NW cycletracks…
The story continues from Winter Riding Part I: How to Ride
Hello, and welcome back. We hope you all enjoyed yesterday’s article about what to watch out for out there on winter roads. Today, we want to talk about what to do before you even get on the bike. Winter riding is all about preparation, and a big part of that is knowing how to dress correctly.
The key lies in layers. When it comes to clothing your body, you want (at least) three of them, and they all start with “W”:
Also called the “base layer,” this is the innermost layer, against your skin. The idea behind the wicking layer is to use a fabric that will absorb sweat from your skin through capillary action, or wicking, and transport it through the material to the space in between the wicking layer and the warmth layer (or all the way out to the open air), where it will evaporate. Since evaporation cools the skin, getting moisture away from the skin before it evaporates will keep you warmer and more comfortable.
Merino wool is a good natural fiber that is very warm, has excellent wicking properties, insulates even when wet and is naturally odor-resistant. SmartWool makes amazing socks and other garments, most of which are 100% wool, and is available at REI, among other places. Many synthetic materials and blends like Patagonia’s capilene will also wick very well, and are generally cheaper than the wool garments. Silk is not as warm as wool, but wicks decently and is supremely comfortable. Cotton is commonly used, but it does not regulate temperature or wick, and it will not insulate at all when wet (in fact, it will suck the heat from your body when wet). So, stay away from cotton as a base layer.
Just like the name says, this layer is all about keeping you warm, but one of the key ways it does that is simply by trapping air between it and the wicking layer underneath (or between multiple warmth layers). That air acts as an excellent insulator all by itself. The key to the warmth layer is flexibility. You don’t want it to be too tight or it will reduce air circulation. Too loose and the wicking process will be interrupted. Multiple thin warmth layers often work better than one thick warmth layer, and you have the added benefit of being able to remove one layer if you are overheating.
Again, here, wool is one of the best options out there, but you can also consider down fabrics and any of the wide variety of fleece and fleece-type synthetic fabrics on the market. If you have to use cotton, use it here, but only when its lousy insulation ability won’t be a big drawback.
Finally, on the outside you’ll want to wear something that can stand up to whatever winter is dishing out. Waterproof fabrics come in two major varieties: waterproof and waterproof breathable. Basic waterproof shells are cheap and are typically made of some variety of plastic and will do an amazing job of keeping you dry, so long as the water is coming from the sky. The downside is that they are just as good at keeping sweat from escaping. Many waterproof shells have vents under the arms or on the back to help with this problem, but on a longer ride (or if it’s really coming down hard), they may not be enough.
Waterproof breathable fabrics, on the other hand, are designed to block liquid water (rain/sleet/snow) from getting through while allowing water vapor (evaporated sweat) to escape. The most famous of these fabrics is Gore-Tex. They tend to be quite expensive. Oh, and don’t forget the pants.
Head & Neck
For your head, try a helmet liner–a thin cap that fits under your helmet to keep your head warm. If your helmet is the type with lots of vents designed to keep your head cool in the summer, you could buy a less-drafty one, or you can just cover the holes with a helmet cover (or even a shower cap). Try not to use a hood, as many of them will impede your peripheral vision.
For your ears, a 180s is a great choice if the helmet liner doesn’t quite cover your lobes, but be aware of how it affects your hearing.
Or, if you’re more of an “all-in-one” type of person, go for the windproof-fleece balaclava.
For your eyes, sunglasses are a must-have. They’ll stop the snow-glare, of course, but they’ll also keep you from tearing up at the wind and will keep grit, sand and salt away from your sensitive peepers. Get a pair with clear lenses (or safety glasses) for after dark.
Hands & Feet
Gloves are a no-brainer, and there are lots of options to choose from. For the budget-minded, you can slip your fingerless summer bike gloves over a pair of thin winter gloves or even glove liners and be mostly fine. For your feet, good socks are key.
We like SmartWool socks–they’re amazingly warm, your feet won’t get clammy and they come in a huge range of styles and colors. For shoes, you have three options. You can buy winter cycling shoes, many of which will work with whatever pedal technology you favor. Or you can use your regular shoes and cover them up with something like these cycling gaiters. Or you can try some combination of doubling up on socks, keeping spare socks/shoes at your destination, using waterproof hiking boots, or the old “plastic bag over your socks” trick. Keeping your feet dry is an inexact science, but wool socks will at least keep them warm.
Know Your Body
Unless you just started cycling, you probably know how quickly you can heat up while on your bike. Learn how to adjust your layers to make sure that you stay warm and stay cool. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make when they start winter riding is actually overheating!
- A good rule of thumb is that you should be a little cold when you first hop on your bike.
That way, as you ride, you will work your way up to a comfortable temperature that you can maintain for the entire duration of your trip. If you’re already toasty warm when you start pedaling, you’ll be way too hot in ten minutes or so (and sweating your base layer wet). This can take some trial and error to get right, so go slow and maybe do a few test rides with different combinations of clothing.
Extra tips from the WABA Staff
From Chantal, Events Manager – Tuck a couple of tissues into your gloves to help with the inevitable runny nose. Oh, and while you’re tucking things, remember to tuck your base layer into your pants! Nothing says “good morning” like that first draft on your lower back.
From Greg, Outreach Coordinator – Grow a beard! It’ll protect your face from the wind and give you a little extra insulation in the process.
From Henry, Bicycle Education Coordinator – Perfect your snot-rocket technique. Avoid the whole runny nose thing and impress people at the same time!