Sunday, May 19, 2013

Red cups?

On Bike to Work Day 2013, a few people at the Freedom Plaza pit stop were treated to a red carpet of sorts in the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, from 11th to 14th NW. I took these pictures at about 6 AM, shortly after putting the last cups in place.

The cups on the left were crushed while I placed others a block away

These cups had been crushed and re-filled

Heading off to work
This wasn't something I thought of on my own, and wasn't completely random. The same idea worked wonders in Brooklyn, while a similar project in Manhattan also had good effect, and even in notoriously bike-unfriendly Toronto advocates successfully used found trash to protect a space for cyclists.

Not so in DC. As you can see in my pictures, even with light traffic some of the cups were already crushed by drivers who simply couldn't give space for the bike lanes. I was unable to stay, but it was reported that many more of the cups were smashed within an hour, and by 7:30 a cleaning crew was seen vacuuming them up, long before most of DC's Bike to Work Day crowd assembled.

To rehash some of the history here, DDOT had originally installed protective posts near intersections, and the mid-block gaps between them contributed to the misunderstanding about U-turns across the bike lanes. Mayor Gray issued an executive order prohibiting those turns in December - by which time DDOT was removing the posts in order to repave and beautify Pennsylvania Avenue for the inaugural procession in January. Cyclists were assured that the posts would be installed as soon as possible after the procession, allowing for weather and other concerns, but as February and March elapsed without any work some people began to speculate that perhaps an even better solution could be in the works.

Something like this would help
Hope springs eternal, especially in spring in DC, but as April and now most of May have elapsed with no further progress it has become clear that there's some other obstacle involved. The flex-posts that had been providing minimal protection until the inauguration had been left in a pile near the eastern end of the cycletrack, but they have now been removed. Focus has shifted to the M Street cycletrack project (slated for completion in August, God and his followers willing), and work toward protecting the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack seems all but forgotten.

I had hoped that the presence of a couple hundred cups on top of the painted lines would have a calming effect on traffic around the central Bike to Work Day pit stop. That perhaps one of the two announced mayoral candidates expected to lead a convoy through that area (or even our current mayor) might be inspired to pledge for better protection for all of DC's ~50 miles of bike infrastructure even as that network continues to expand. Instead, DC proved that even though they can't accomplish the hard parts on any reasonable schedule, they can at least sweep statements of protest and dissent out of the way in a hurry. (I'll save my speculation about who made that happen to myself - for now. If my hunch is right, it would be a doozy, but it's just a hunch so far.)

I have some cups left over. A lot, really. Maybe putting out more symbolic temporary bike lanes made of red cups would bring more attention to places like 11th or 14th where the official lanes start and stop from block to block. Maybe surrounding vehicles illegally parked in bike lanes with red cups would make a different sort of statement - it would definitely go through a lot of cups. Maybe, because it's a symbolic effort anyway, simply taking a picture of a red cup in front of a bike lane problem would be a good and simple way for each of us to illustrate places where things could be better for DC's cyclists.

I'll even provide the cups, if you need any.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Doing better, thanks!

As of about two hours ago it's really, truly, officially illegal to make U-turns across the median bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue! (I had hoped to have the actual rule available for reference, but it didn't make some deadline or another. I've been assured that the mayor's announcement is enough for now.)

Of course, it was already illegal two days ago, two months ago, and even two years ago. Everyone from the people making U-turns on up to DDOT and MPD agreed about this, but it seems there was a technical glitch that prevented the tickets given for it from sticking.

Who ever could have guessed that something so seemingly simple would have required a specific regulation change to fix?

I have more to say about how we got here and how I think we can avoid going through it again as the District's bike network continues to grow, but for now I want to just spread some gratitude:

Thanks to Nicole Donnelly for being at least as passionate for making DC a great place to ride a bike as I am, and twice as well spoken about it.

Thanks to DC's 37th most influential bike blog, Tales from the Sharrows, for giving the problem a name, #StopUTurnsOnPenn, and for sharing it with a wide audience.

Thanks to Bicycle Space, The District of Columbia Civic Cycling Association, and Phil Koopman for bringing the issue into focus and getting people on bikes in DC together to show their power. I see many great things growing from their efforts.

Thanks to Shane Farthing and WABA for standing with DC's cyclists, keeping their pressure on folks at the Wilson building, and keeping everyone updated on the issues. WABA is the model of what local bicycle advocacy can accomplish.

Thanks to Mayor Gray for cutting through the BS and just getting this done.

Thanks to several people I can't mention by name for various personal and professional reasons, who still played huge roles in getting this effort noticed by the right people at the right time.

Thanks most of all to the people who didn't even take part in making this change, but instead just love using their bikes and DC's streets to get from one place to another. Because of people like you, riding a bike around town isn't a fringe activity anymore, it isn't a sport, it isn't a battle, and it isn't a cause. It's just something that happens between other things, and that's the core reason having safer and saner routes matters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Advocacy Action on Pa Ave

What: Safety awareness bike ride
Where: The Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes at and around Freedom Plaza.
When: 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM on Friday, 26 October 2012
Who: Anyone

The D.C. Civic Cycling Assembly (aka The Assembly, an advocacy outreach program of the local bike shop BicycleSPACE) has coordinated with concerned local cyclists, cycling advocacy organizations, and members of the city council to hold an Advocacy Action event on Friday October 26, 2012 from 7AM-9AM.  We plan to gather at Freedom Plaza and safely and legally ride the bike lanes up and down Penn. Ave. to give visibility to the issue, distribute safety information geared at both motorists and non-motorized users of the roadway, and collect signatures on a petition requesting action on the above goals.  Monitors will be stationed at key intersections to encourage safe behavior from the cycling public and to hand out the safety information sheets.  If anyone would like to be a part of this Advocacy Action event, they may come join us at Freedom Plaza that morning; those willing to be part of the group riding in the lanes just need to come with a bike and we will coordinate the timing of the riders and provide printed collateral highlighting the issue for individuals to attach to their bike &/or person.  We look forward to a FUN & SAFE morning creating a better understanding of the genuine safety concerns on this important stretch of the “nation’s Main Street”- hope to see YOU there!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Close call

Standing in front of JAWB today to document the promised additional police presence. I heard skidding bike tires and a shout of "hey, no, stop stop stop!" so I swung my camera over just in time to see what had happened. Nobody was hit, thank goodness, but it was a close call for four cyclists. I jogged over to document the car's license plate as he parked.

He came to me to apologize, and we had a nice chat. He seemed truly surprised when I showed him this picture - he hadn't noticed ANY cyclists were so close, let alone four.

Again, I saw no MPD presence in 30 minutes.

Pennsylvania Avenue WITHOUT U-turns

One less minivan.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pennsylvania Avenue U-turns

On 10/16, starting at 8:30 AM, I stood on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 12th and 13th streets to count illegal U-turns, and to capture some in pictures. I stayed in the same half-block, but had to move a bit to see around buses and trucks.

By the time I left just after 9 AM, I had witnessed 25 U-turns from this block. About 80% were executed by taxis. I also was harassed by one person, a passenger in one of the U-turning vehicles, and further harassed by a security guard from the passenger's office over the legality of the pictures I was taking. Those pictures, and a bit more commentary, after the jump...


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring is near!

Schools all across DC need better bike parking.  Here are pictures from last year at Watkins Elementary.