Washington Post Article on Black Women Bicyclists references “East of the Anacostia” Program

In its excellent article on the uptick in the number of black women cycling in DC, Washington Post reporter Vanessa Williams mentions some of WABA’s work in wards 7 and 8 that is part of our East of the Anacostia program.  Again, thanks to those who have donated their time and money to this program.

We know there are some who bristle at articles that draw demographic distinctions rather than focusing on bicyclists more generally, but we are proud to have our efforts included in such a positive article on DC cyclists, and prouder still of the actual growth of cycling among so many groups in the region.

Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, was worried, too, when the rhetoric lingered after the election and residents showed up at hearings to protest bike lanes and trails planned for areas east of the river.

“Some of the political conversation during the election seemed to try to paint cycling as a one-demographic activity,” Farthing said recently. “We wanted to show that people of all races and all economic backgrounds do bike and can benefit from bicycling.”

In the spring, WABA started holding classes in neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8 to teach people to ride, and the group also offers free bike repair clinics.

A clinic was held a few weeks ago at the Skyland Shopping Center, near where Davis lives, and she rode over on her bike to report on it for her blog, Life in the Village.

Please take a moment to read the full article.

WABA Proposal for Alabama Ave., SE Health Impact Assessment Clears First Funding Hurdle

(For a description of the HIA project, CLICK HERE.)

On July 1, WABA received the exciting news that we have been chosen to move forward to the next round of the Pew Trust/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Impact Project.  Out of nearly 250 applications nationwide, only 40 were asked to submit a full proposal.   If chosen, this grant will fund a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment on WABA’s push to add an on-road bike facility on Alabama Avenue SE, from Martin Luther King Avenue to the Suitland Parkway.  Ultimately, the Pew Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will choose and fund just ten HIA proposals for this coming year.

The HIA is another piece of our outreach efforts in Wards 7 and 8, an area of the city underserved by bicycling infrastructure.  WABA assisted in the completion of a “rapid” HIA with our partner Dr. Keshia Pollack at Johns Hopkins University and her HIA graduate students this spring, and those results formed the base of our Pew trust HIA proposal. The graduate students’ work provided a tantalizing glimpse into what could be discovered if a full HIA can be completed. More research to fully inform future bicycle policies and plans for Wards 7 and 8 is desperately needed.

This past weekend a teen bicyclist was struck and critically injured by a hit-and-run driver while attempting to cross Alabama Avenue in the immediate HIA area of study. With more cyclists taking to the streets daily, our road infrastructure has to do a better job of protecting them, throughout the city and in every ward.

Our full proposal is due to the Pew Trust on September 15th and they plan to announce the winning projects by the end of the year. If chosen, we will begin work immediately in January of 2012.

Take Action to Save Biking, Walking Funds–Including Safe Routes to School Funding

Safe Routes to School Beneficiaries

Since 2006 the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has educated over 26,000 children in the District of Columbia in safe bicycling and pedestrian habits.  In the Washington DC region, we are nearing our 100,000th student reached via our mobile bike rodeo trailers, in-service training sessions for teachers, hands on bike lessons, in class pedestrian and bicycle safety lessons, helmet giveaways, and more.

All of this has been made possible through the federal Safe Routes to School program, which Rep. John Mica’s transportation plan eviscerates–along with other key funding mechanisms for bike-friendly projects. Contact your federal representative(s) today asking them to stand up for bike and pedestrian funding.

In the last transportation bill the federal government made it a priority to encourage children to get active every day by walking or bicycling to school. They set up the Safe Routes to School program to provide encouragement, education and infrastructure improvements to eliminate many concerns parents have about walking to school.  In addition to the education component exemplified by WABA’s efforts,  this money pays for in-depth traffic studies around schools, the repair or installation of sidewalks, flashing traffic beacons, traffic calming around schools, raised crosswalks, pedestrian safety signs as well as hundreds of other measures all geared at making it safer and easier for children to walk or bicycle to school, like they used to decades ago.

Unfortunately, a new draft of the federal transportation bill released Thursday by Representative John Mica, Chair of the House Transportation Committee, cuts funding by 30% for all our nation’s transportation needs, and it lands a knock-out punch on the Safe Routes to School program by eliminating it entirely. All bike and pedestrian projects are essentially shut down thanks to this draft’s focus on auto-centric road projects and a mere suggestion, not a minimum baseline, that transportation dollars be spent on bike and pedestrian projects as set in the previous transportation bill.

So now, in one fell swoop, Safe Routes to School, a successful, popular program, is out and car-centric policies are back.

If you care about safe biking and walking, call or email your representatives in Congress today. And if you live in Maryland or Virginia, call an extra time on behalf of the many District-based WABA members and cyclists who have no voting representative to call.


WABA Pushing Anti-Harassment/Assault of Bicyclists Bill

When we first read it, WABA had no intention of responding to Justine Whelan’s anti-cyclist rant, published by the Ballston Patch.  For the most part, the article’s content is so similar to the random blog comments we cyclists see regularly, it hardly seemed worth responding to.  But there was one interesting thing that I’d like to highlight–not for the content itself, but for what it shows about the mental state of certain bike haters.

Whelan writes:

I am SO sick of being behind some rando who thinks he’s the next Lance Armstrong in all of his official biking gear with the weird butt pants and neon outfits traveling at five miles an hour in a 35 zone.  I drive a stick shift, jerk, that too slow even for first gear.  How do I handle the situation?  I rev my engine in hopes of scaring the sheets out of the offensive biker.

The emphasis is mine, and it’s added to highlight that this behavior is assault.  Assault is, by definition, threatening or attempting to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person that puts the person in immediate danger of, or in apprehension of, such harm or contact.  Trying to “scare the sheets” out of a cyclist by revving the engine from behind clearly counts as intentionally putting the cyclist in apprehension of harm.

Now, this isn’t about Justine Whelan’s behavior per se.  But it does provide some insight into a level of cyclist hate that most people are not willing to type up, sign, and publish.  It shows that there are motorists–seemingly normal people going about their daily business–who have such hatred for cyclists as a class of roadway users that they assault us as general practice.  Given the added power of a vehicle and an engine, Justine and those of similar mindset intentionally seek to intimidate the more vulnerable cyclist.

Sometimes it goes even further, however.

Those who follow area cycling blogs and forums have likely come across a story from “A Girl and Her Bike” about being struck repeatedly from behind while riding a Capital Bikeshare bike.  The driver struck her twice, then tried to run her over when he learned that he had picked the wrong CaBi rider to attack.

In her assessment of the driver’s rationale, she states:

I know what the driver was doing. He saw a young woman on a bicycle and thought it was be HILARIOUS to be a dick with his car. He did this because he thought there would be no consequences.

And she’s right.  Given the obvious physical differences between automobiles and bicycles, there is ample opportunity for bullying in the form of harassment, assault, and battery.  That opportunity should be curtailed by consequences for roadway bullies, but to date the imposition of consequences has been rare.

Yes, there are criminal laws against roadway assault.  But the criminal burden of proof is high, available witnesses are often scarce, and police are reluctant or unable to follow up if they did not witness the act themselves.

There is also a civil tort of assault, and a cyclist could, technically, bring a civil suit for assault.  However, bringing such a suit is likely to require an attorney and a fair bit of that attorney’s work.  But because intimidation, assault, and harassment do not often lead to big monetary damages (unless the cyclist is significantly injured or killed as a result), most victims cannot afford to pursue such cases.

The result, currently, is a situation in which harassment and assault of bicyclists goes undeterred through the legal system.  The “A Girl and Her Bike” case mentioned above is a truly rare instance in which the motorist is prosecuted–but still there will be no sentencing for his repeated, intentional assault. Thus, we need some mechanism to impose consequences on roadway bullies who harass and assault cyclists simply because those cyclists are more vulnerable.

Because we cannot change the criminal burden of proof, we need a law creating a civil right of action for assault that also provides for attorneys’ fees in order to ensure that cases can effectively be brought.  Below is a draft based on a similar bill in the City of Los Angeles.  We are at the very beginning stages of working to pass this law in the District and appreciate all support.

WABA Anti-Harassment Law (draft)

So while we cannot agree with much, if anything, in Justine Whelan’s cyclist-assault rant/admission, we can appreciate her honesty and use this as an opportunity to discuss the extent of the problem and propose a solution.

If you support this draft bill and are willing to help us work toward its passage, please SIGN HERE.  And please remember that only your generosity enables us to continue advocating for you, so please consider joining WABA or donating to support these efforts.

(Ms. Whelan’s full article can be found at http://ballston.patch.com/blog_posts/bikers-and-why-you-irk-me if you wish to bring traffic to such things.  If you don’t, you might just want to drop the editor of the Ballston Patch a line (Abigail@patch.com) and ask them to be more responsible in giving a platform to voices that treat the lives of others as a mere inconvenience.)