200 Bikes Repaired at Anacostia Library: Thanks DCPL, The Bike House

It’s been a busy summer, but on the final Saturday of July the Anacostia Library hosted the final mobile bike repair clinic of the season, and we’re pleased to report over fifty bikes were repaired. That brings our season total to over 200  bikes repaired through this season’s partnership among DCPL, The Bike House, and WABA.

It has been a great season of outreach and wrenching, and we want to again express our appreciation to The Bike House for providing mechanical support and DCPL for hosting and assisting with the cost of supplies.

Throughout the season we were also joined by representatives of Capitol Hill Bikes, the Metropolitan Police Department, and numerous community groups.  We appreciate the support of the community as we try to provide programming of this sort to encourage ridership in a part of the city lacking easy access to local bike shops and the supplies and expertise we rely on to keep rolling.

Thanks to everyone who came out this season to volunteer, wrench, flyer, celebrate, and have your bike repaired.

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Setting the Record Straight re: Milloy’s “Bullies”

We still have that sign. We still mean it. Thanks for not hitting us because the newspaper says it’s OK.

Yesterday, The Washington Post published a column by Courtland Milloy that attempts to justify the violent assault of bicyclists by motorists, writing: “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” The “egregious” behavior Milloy cites is simply slowing his car’s progress between stoplights.

This piece of rhetoric is both irresponsible and incorrect. Encouraging, or at least condoning, acts of violence has no place in civil discourse, and I am appalled that our hometown paper has published such a statement. We have, of course, grown accustomed to journalists and columnists who resort to bike-versus-car tropes to fill column space. However, this attempt to justify assault as a mere cost of doing business for motorists is well beyond the pale.

Those who might take Milloy’s counsel and share his sick calculation that bicyclists’ temporary slowing of motorists is worth attacking those bicyclists should know that his facts are wrong. Intentionally assaulting a bicyclist carries a much stiffer penalty than the $500 he cites. So even his readers who lack the moral judgment to recognize that assaulting a bicyclist with a motor vehicle is a barbaric, criminal act should know that his advice is flawed.

Throughout this column, Milloy does his best to avoid resorting to facts and data in favor of regurgitating simplistic, inaccurate, and pejorative stereotypes. Those who bike are labeled “bullies” and “terrorists” without explanation, and Milloy intentionally mischaracterizes and maligns programs that WABA has undertaken in our efforts to minimize the conflicts between drivers and cyclists on the roadways.

Rather than attempt to debate Milloy’s specious mental construction of the new-white-millenial-bully-terrorist-pedicabber laughing maniacally as he simultaneously displaces elderly churchgoers, threatens downtown pedestrians, and terrorizes motorists, I will focus on setting the record straight on the work that the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) actually does to make our roadways, sidewalks, and trails safer. (For those looking for the point-by-point rebuttal, I refer you to Aaron Wiener’s City Paper article and Washcycle’s response.)

Milloy is correct that much of our work is focused on improving roadway infrastructure to accommodate more than automobiles. That includes changes to our roadways that provide dedicated space for people who bike, including bike lanes and protected bikeways. Bicyclists are neither cars nor pedestrians, and in the District the number of people biking has moved the conversation well beyond the question of whether there needs to be space for people who bike, and on to how to provide it in a safe manner. At one time, Milloy seemed to recognize the need for this dedicated space for bicyclists, as his own 1998 account of biking after his license was suspended for excessive speeding included being caught in the common bicyclist’s catch-22 in which you are welcome on neither the roadway nor the sidewalk, and there is no third option. WABA unapologetically works to get that third option built into our public space.

Infrastructure is not the only key to integrating the growing number of bicyclists safely into the District’s transportation network, however. For things to function properly, rules and laws must be written appropriately for each mode of travel, and people must be encouraged or compelled to follow those laws. As biking grows, WABA advocates for laws that clarify the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists where physical differences justify departure from standard vehicular rules. However, our greater role is in encouraging safe and lawful behavior on the roadways through our education programming and Bike Ambassador program. This year alone, WABA has taught safe cycling to over 3,000 bicyclists, with a curriculum that emphasizes riding predictably and lawfully.

Meanwhile, our Bike Ambassador program works to engage with those who are not inclined to attend WABA’s education program on the streets. The program uses mobile signage, light and bell giveaways, explanatory flyers detailing bike laws and safety tips, and other forms of quick communication to encourage bicyclists to ride safely and motorists to respect that right. In his column, Milloy focuses on the words “bike ninja,” which is slang for a bicyclist who wears dark clothes and no lights while riding at night, and uses it as a catch-all for all sorts of belligerent, but irrelevant, behavior. What Milloy pillories in his column is an effort by the team of Bike Ambassadors who volunteer their time to give out lights to cyclists who would otherwise ride home after an evening movie without any.

Finally, I want to directly address Milloy’s scattered but consistent efforts to cast bicycling as the realm of “newly arrived white millenials” and somehow not for the longtime residents, black residents, Ward 8 residents, etc. Apparently “bikes versus cars” is not the only “us versus them” conflict worth trotting back out in print.

Milloy cites the fact that in the past, black juveniles on bikes were routinely stopped by police for trifling bike infractions in order to detain them, search them, or harass them. What Milloy neglects to mention is that the laws used to justify those stops are no longer on the books. They were successfully challenged by WABA and repealed nearly a decade ago, with the strong support of Councilmember Mendelson.

He also fails to note that WABA’s first formal outreach program was one designed to improve bicycling conditions and grow ridership east of the Anacostia River, with efforts centered squarely in Ward 8. In recent years, in that ward alone, WABA has held over a dozen classes, countless rides and events, and nearly thirty free bike repair clinics at which we have repaired several hundred bikes and led their owners on fun, casual, community rides. Undoubtedly, there are barriers to bicycling in Ward 8 that we must work together to overcome. WABA is working to overcome them and make the streets safer—especially in Ward 8 where the need for affordable mobility is perhaps most acute.

To Milloy, the facts seem not to matter, as his arguments are constructed to tear down a cartoon bicycling “terrorist” that bears little resemblance to real people who ride their bikes in the District: black, white, Latino, or otherwise. Certainly, one can build a composite of the worst behaviors encountered over time and attribute those behaviors to every person who rides a bike—but that is not journalism or even fair characterization. It is lazy stereotyping.

At no point does Mr. Milloy engage with the human side of biking or speak to any people who actually bike. By engaging only with his conceptual cartoon bike-terrorist, Milloy can excuse and justify violence against real people on bikes. He does not fear for his safety, the safety of his spouse, the safety of his children. He does not know the fear that stays with you for days after being threatened on the roadway by the angry driver of a machine weighing a ton. He does not know the fear that creeps into your throat when a bike-commuting family member is a half-hour late arriving home.

Every day, I talk to bicyclists who have been in crashes and try to help them deal with the experience. Less often, I speak to the families of those who have been in more serious crashes and are not able to speak for themselves. I have painted ghost bike memorials for cyclists black and white alike. I have placed them across the region and on both sides of the river, from Germantown to Southern Avenue. I have prayed at the vigils with churches and families, black and white alike.

In those moments, everyone is able to focus on the human tragedy and join together to call for the improvements that might keep the next human tragedy from occurring. In those moments it seems so silly that we cannot reconfigure simple pavement and white lines in a way that serves the safety of people, not just the speed of cars. The choice is not an abstract one.

Mr. Milloy: I encourage you to reflect upon your attempt to justify violence against your fellow citizens simply because they choose to travel by bike. In taking this stance, you adopt the cause of the comparatively strong against the comparatively weak and encourage them to use that strength to commit violence against the weak.

If that is the sort of man you are, I understand why you might have difficulty understanding programs like the ones that we run to broaden the appeal of bicycling, make every bicyclist safer, and encourage a safer roadway culture. From your position of strength this all seems silly. For us, all these programs and initiatives and attempts to calm the rhetoric—even the existence of a collective group of bicyclists like WABA—is a form self defense against roads, laws, and an enforcement system that do not yet protect us, and against people who share your views and will take your encouragement literally.

 

New Frederick Douglass Bridge Won’t Connect to Suitland Parkway Trail

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The District Department of Transportation is proposing a new Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge that will not connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail through Anacostia. The Suitland Parkway Trail’s trailhead is only one mile from the proposed bridge.

DDOT will invest $600 million in a new South Capitol Street / Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge across the Anacostia River. This is the largest capital investment project  in the DDOT’s history and represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the design right for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Bridge engineers have been listening to the concerns of bicycling community over the last two years, and DDOT has made improvements to the bridge design for bicyclists and pedestrians. The new span will have two 18-foot-wide multi-use trails, one of each side of the roadway. The sidepath space will be divided into an 8-foot sidewalk and a 10-foot-wide bicycle path. There will be direct connections from the bridge, around the traffic circles, to the street grid and existing or planned trail networks.

But there is a glaring exception: There is no direct connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail from the bridge. The Suitland Parkway Trail is a multi-use path that extends two miles east from Anacostia to the District’s border with Maryland. Prince George’s County is beginning plans to extend the trail another 3.5 miles east to the Branch Ave Metro Station. It is a preferred route for bicyclists because the trail is steady uphill grade ; many nearby residential streets have very quick and steep climbs.

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Bicyclists wishing to travel from the bridge to the trail will follow one of two routes. The first is on the south side of the trail, follows the traffic circle around counterclockwise, underneath I-295, and ends at the intersection of Firth Sterling and the Suitland Parkway. This route crosses roads eight times including two high speed interstate ramps. The second route begins on the north side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around clockwise and ends on Howard Road. Engineers would then paint bike lanes on Howard Road. Neither route ends anywhere near the Suitland Parkway Trail.

Residents who live just up the Anacostia River experience a similar roadway design every day. The unpleasant walk or bike ride from the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge underneath the freeway to Minnesota Avenue SE is nearly the same layout. Pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a sea of crosswalks, high speed interstate highway ramps and numerous traffic lights. It’s unsafe, unpleasant and intimidating. DDOT should not repeat the same mistake.

DDOT engineers need to propose a direct connection from the new bridge to the trail. This connection should aim to keep pedestrians and bicyclists separated from car traffic, minimize crosswalks and prioritize grade separated trail crossings. Trail user should not have to cross high speed freeway ramps. The design should prioritize the experience of bicyclists and pedestrians. Most importantly, the trail connection should keep kids, adults, and seniors safe and be a direct, safe, and convenient connection of communities.

Sign the petition asking DDOT to design and build a safe trail connection from the South Capitol Street Bridge to the Suitland Parkway Trail

The Cap City Bike Expo, in Photos

2013 Cap City Bike Expo

On Nov. 16, 2013, WABA concluded the third year of its seasonal East of the River grant program with the inaugural Cap City Bike Expo.

Held at the Anacostia Arts Center, the Expo brought entertainment, activities, and conversations about what it’s like to bike east of the river to the grant zone, which includes Anacostia, Congress Heights, and St. Elizabeths. The Expo was intended to foster dialogue about riding in wards 7 and 8 and help residents of nearby neighborhoods have a better understanding of how bike advocacy and outreach works.

Workshops addressed topics such as biking with children—during which Kidical Mass D.C.’s Megan Odett talked parents through some of the obstacles and barriers to biking with their kids—and provided an introduction to advocacy—which saw WABA Advocacy Coordinator Greg Billing and the League of American Bicyclists Policy Director Darren Flusche describe local and national transportation initiatives that will affect biking in and around wards 7 and 8.

2013 Cap City Bike Expo

Additionally, the Cap City Bike Expo convened a group of local bike shop owners to discuss how to improve access to bike facilities east of the river. Capitol Hill Bikes, Phoenix Bikes, Velocity Co-Op, the Bike House, Maryland Park Bikes, City Bikes, and the Daily Rider met with WABA staff to get the ball rolling for the Black Thumbs Collective, a group that will work to provide resources, outreach, and education on how to fix bikes in what’s currently an amenities desert.

The highlight of the Expo was the revealing of a Dero Fixit station, graciously funded by employees of CH2M Hill. The Fixit station is the first to be installed outside of a building that’s not a bike shop. It lives outside the Anacostia Arts Center and is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for passerby to use to repair their bikes.

2013 Cap City Bike Expo

WABA staffers, volunteers, and those involved with making the Expo happen had ample time to chat with people who dropped into the Anacostia Arts Center. We heard from a number of residents that they bike or are interested in biking, because it’s a low-cost, easy way to get around. And attendees of the panels and workshops came away from the Expo with a larger knowledge base of what it takes to make biking better, especially east of the river.

The Cap City Bike Expo was the final activity funded under this year’s East of the River grant. Many thanks to the employees of CH2M Hill for donating the Fixit station and to BicycleSpace, Capitol Hill Bikes, and Velocity Co-Op for donating bikes as raffle prizes. Maryland Park Bikes, the Bike House, City Bikes, Capitol Hill Bikes, Velocity Co-Op, Bicycle Space, Phoenix Bikes, the Daily Rider, Honfleur Gallery, ARCH, Congress Heights on the Rise, and the Anacostia Arts Center contributed their staff’s time and expertise to the Expo (including by fixing bikes!). Our awesome volunteers helped make the event run perfectly.

See more photos of the Expo below the jump, and continue to read our blog for updates on the East of the River program. Continue reading

Announcing the Cap City Bike Expo

Cap City Bike Expo

WABA’s East of the River grant will wrap up its season with the first-ever Cap City Bike Expo on Sat., Nov. 16 at the Anacostia Arts Center (1231 Good Hope Road SE). The expo will include a bike-vendor marketplace, musical acts DJ Underdog and DJ Native Sun, games, a photobooth, a raffle, crafts, bike art, and panels discussing bike mobility in and around wards 7 and 8. It will also mark the official launch of the Black Thumbs Collective, a grassroots effort to empower east of the river residents with basic bike repair skills.

Local bike shops will be at the Expo showing off their products and providing mechanical expertise to attendees. Come ready to talk about the role of bikes and bike shops in your community! Childcare will be provided. The Cap City Bike Expo is free! RSVP here.

Read below the jump for more information. Interested in volunteering? Sign up here. Continue reading

The Lion Ride, in Photos

On Sept. 28, WABA led the second annual Lion Ride, a slow, beginner-friendly ride that meandered from Anacostia Park to the Frederick Douglass historic site in Anacostia.

Ride participants enjoyed Anacostia’s low-traffic, residential roads and learned how to access bike-friendly connections between the neighborhood and the park. See more photos below the jump.

2013 Lion Ride

Continue reading

How to Get to the Suitland Parkway Bike Trail

The bike trail following the Suitland Parkway Trail itself has a number of problems, most of them outlined by Geoff Hatchard earlier this year. Thanks to the outstanding volunteers at the Trail Ranger cleanup two weeks ago, the trail corridor is in better shape. However, its potential is not simply limited by the physical condition of the trail but also by how difficult it is to get to the trail. In ten years time when the Frederick Douglass Bridge (South Capitol St.) has been redone, connections to the Suitland Parkway Trail will be redone with clear, direct navigation. But seeing as a decade is a rather long time, without further ado, here is how to get to the Suitland Parkway Trail now. Continue reading