Quick Release: WABA Blog Front Page

Archive for July, 2011

Reminder: What to do After a Crash Discussion on Tuesday

WABA’s discussion of “What to do After a Crash” will be held Tuesday, July 19 at 6pm.  Please consider attending this discussion so that you will have the knowledge to protect your rights, or those of a fellow cyclist, in the event of a crash.

You will have the opportunity to ask questions to WABA staff and to local attorneys experienced in representing bicyclists after crashes.

Please RSVP here if you plan to attend.

The Ward 2 Bike Tour with Jack Evans

As mentioned on Greater Greater Washington, WABA routed and participated in a bike tour of Jack Evans throughout Ward 2.  The ride was designed to visit key infrastructure elements that affect bicyclists–both positively and negatively–within the the councilmember’s ward.

We appreciate Councilmember Evans taking a morning to experience his ward from the bicyclist’s perspective and to learn more about the existing and proposed facilities that make the area safer for cyclists.

If you want to try your own Ward 2 Bike Tour, a route similar to the one taken with the councilmember is below:
Ward 2 Cue Sheet-public

Marya McQuirter’s Cycling Journey

I have Marylou Jackson, Velva Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson, and Constance White to thank for propelling me into the cycling world. I found these New York cyclists more than 10 years ago in a Washington Tribune newspaper photograph. They were posing atop their bicycles after riding more than 250 miles in three days in April 1928. Yes, 1928!

5 cyclists

Once in DC, they started their sightseeing tour with the cherry blossoms, explored the usual Mall sights, rode north to Howard University, and then a few blocks west to the Phillis Wheatley YWCA, where they spent the night. The next day they hopped on a train, with their bikes in tow, for New York.

Two years ago, I went to New York for the day on Acela and I thought of the cyclists. I got home, pulled out the photograph, and started researching. As a historian, I’m accustomed to online research, reading books and articles, and sitting for hours in libraries and archives.

But for this story, that wasn’t enough. I needed to fully experience cycling.  I have been cycling on and off since I was a child. I was very comfortable on a bike and enjoyed riding for pleasure. But being comfortable and enjoying riding didn’t seem quite enough to fully grasp the knowledge and skills that these five cyclists had to have.

So I went online and found WABA’s classes. I signed up for CCC1, where we did basic drills like scanning, signaling, and turning. The instructor also showed us how to fix a flat, which I loved. A few weeks later, I took the CCC2 class, where we did more elaborate drills and a group ride. It was great! I learned the thrills and challenges of riding in a group. The next class, CCC3, was the 3-day certification seminar. I decided to go for it. It was quite intense! And well worth it.

The CCC1 & CCC2 classes (as well as the Learn2Ride class) that I took as a student I now teach for WABA as an independent contractor. I have also started teaching individuals on my own. As a Licensed Cycling Instructor (LCI), I am certified and fully supported by the League of American Bicyclists.

In addition to taking the cycling classes, I also learned how to fix my bike at Bike House, a bicycle repair co-op, conveniently located five minutes from my house. I took one of their Saturday series classes and I was also a teaching assistant at one of their Sunday series classes.

So what’s next? Riding my first century! I have no choice. The five cyclists challenged women 21+ years and older to beat their time. And even though I’m WAY older than 21, I’m not intimidated. Next April, I will take on the challenge with four other cyclists.

I am also researching their personal lives, friendship, and cycling adventure in order to share their stories through visual & textual media.  I hope to have a 5-minute short done by the end of the summer. I envision this as a collaborative project and welcome ideas, volunteers, and donations.

You can learn more about the 5 cyclists project by liking the FB page http://www.facebook.com/5cyclistsproject and checking out the blog http://www.5cyclistsproject.blogspot.com/.

Feel free to contact me directly:  5cyclistsproject@gmail.com or 202.372.5804.

(Marya McQuirter, mentioned in this article from the Washington Post, teaches safe cycling for WABA and is the creator and organizer of the 5 cyclists project.  WABA is proud to be part of Marya’s Cycling Journey and excited to see where it leads.)

WABA Welcomes Councilmember Cheh as Transportation Chair

Early this morning, WABA alerted its members and supporters to a sudden decision by DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown to strip Councilmember Wells of his leadership of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation.  Fundamentally, we were concerned that a change in leadership might mean (1) a stalling of certain proposals and initiatives that WABA and the the bicycling community have been working with Wells and the Committee to push forward, and/or (2) a new leader that would not share our view of the importance of bicycling as a core element of the District’s transportation network.

With the announcement of Councilmember Mary Cheh as Chair, those concerns are greatly eased.  Councilmember Cheh is a cyclist who has demonstrated her support for bicycling during her time on the Council.  So while we are disappointed in the discontinuity itself, we are happy to welcome Councilmember Cheh as Chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation and will make it a top priority to work with her, on behalf of our members and the cycling community, to ensure that momentum is not lost in expanding safe cycling in the District.

Congratulations, Councilmember Cheh, and welcome.  We look forward to working with you, your staff, and the Committee staff under your leadership.

Updated Advocacy Section on the WABA Website

We have been mighty busy here at WABA with our core mission of bicycle advocacy over the past few years.  So busy, in fact, that the advocacy section of our website had been allowed to accumulate a bit of outdated information.   We have recently taken the time to update our advocacy section of the WABA website.  You can see the updates online here: www.waba.org/advocacy

In the future we will try our hardest to keep this section of our website current and updated.  (But we’re unlikely to delay pushing the improvements in order to update the website about the need to push for them.)

We will continue to keep you updated on our most current advocacy issues through our new blog: Quick Release.  We post almost daily about our advocacy, education and outreach initiatives, and events.  Take a moment and set your RSS or Google Reader to follow our blog feed.

The advocacy priorities outlined for each of our local jurisdictions (Mongomery, Prince George’s, Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington Counties and the District of Columbia) and the greater Washington region represent many years of on-going work and include a listing of overall priorities for future work. If you have thoughts about our priorities, we would be glad to hear your thoughts.

In November, WABA will be hosting a regional Call to Action Summit to set local and regional advocacy priorities.  The process will begin in September with local stakeholder meetings in our various political jurisdictions.  The region-wide Call to Action Summit will be held on November 3rd.  We are still working out some of the logistics, so stay tuned for more information coming in the next few weeks.

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.

CLICK HERE TO SEND A DIRECT EMAIL TO YOUR FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES.

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.)

ANC 1C Tables Vote on Columbia Road Bike Lanes

Street striping plans for the Columbia Rd., NW bike lanes (click to download PDF version)

Last night at the July meeting of the DC Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C tabled its vote on the  proposed Columbia Rd., NW bike lanes.  These proposed bike lanes would extend from Connecticut Ave. NW to Harvard Rd. NW.

This 1 mile section of bike lanes creates a continuous on-street bicycle facility through Adams Morgan and it connect various disconnected sections of bike lanes along Columbia Rd.  Furthermore, the Columbia Rd. bike lanes would complete the connection to bike lanes / sharrows on Adams Mill Rd to Woodley Park and the sharrow bike route on the new 18th Street (once the Adams Morgan Streetscape Project is completed).

Representatives from the DDOT bicycle program were on hand for the meeting with the most up-to-date street striping plans (pdf) for the Columbia Rd., NW bike lanes.  The plans reflect multiple, minor changes after two meetings with the ANC’s Planning, Zoning and Transportation subcommittee over the past few months.

Kristen Barden, Executive Director of the Adams Morgan Partnership, voiced support for bicycling by mentioning the Partnership’s sponsorship of a Bike to Work Day pit stop.  However, this support was tempered over concerns of lost of parking spaces–especially in the 1700 block of Columbia Rd in front of Safeway–and the inconvenience and disruption of traffic for the construction of the bike lanes.

Some parking space (total exact number unknown, best guess was near four) will need to be removed to create loading zones for delivery trucks on the 1700 block of Columbia Rd. for Safeway.  Currently, delivery trucks illegally park in the center median.  To legally accommodate trucks, the new loading zone must be created which require the removal of parking spots.  The connection of a loss of business with the loss of car parking was made many times.  However according to DDOT, bike counts on Columbia Rd. often exceed 150 bikes per hour making one of the busiest bike corridors in the city which brings high numbers of customers to Adams Morgan’s businesses.

The other major concern of the bike lane project was centered around the inconvenience of the construction while the 18th St. streetscape project is underway.  DDOT estimates the 1 mile section of bike lane striping will take only a few days.  They have an outside contractor lined up for the work with a larger crew than the city’s striping crew.   The inconvenience should be minimal.

ANC1C’s subcommittee on Planning, Zoning and Transportation will most likely discuss the bike lane project at their August 1st meeting at 7 p.m. at the Kalorama Recreation Center.

WABA will continue to track this project and keep you up-to-date on it’s progress. But please remember that WABA’s presence at community meetings is not a full substitute for the cycling community’s presence.

(And in the interest of full disclosure: Yes, this bike lane would run past our office.  And our office is located where it is largely because of the high concentration of cyclists in the area.)


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