The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Posts by David Alpert

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

History


An 1886 plan would have built atop Rock Creek

An 1886 Washington Post article outlines a plan to put Rock Creek in a tunnel from about M Street to just north of R Street, fill in the ravine, and create city blocks between Georgetown and Dupont.


Photo by ep_jhu on Flickr.

Proponents estimated it would create 50 "squares" (generally city blocks) of space, for a cost of about $600,000 to $650,000, or about $15-16 million in today's dollars.

By keeping Rock Creek, DC has not only a surface waterway but a number of park spaces on the banks, such as Rose Park. Unfortunately, a different plan ultimately greatly marred the creek: Rock Creek Parkway, which dominates this section of the creek valley.

At any spot, someone trying to enjoy the edge parks or trail has to contend with a large freeway creating most of the noise and taking up much of the ravine floor. National Park Service management practice in this part of Rock Creek prioritizes motor vehicle traffic over any other user. Features in the park, like signs that tell trail users to yield to cars when crossing the on- and off-ramps, further make clear that nature and recreation come last here.

Here is the map from the article:

Tom from Ghosts of DC also posted an excerpt from the story:

"From what I have seen in the papers," said Capt. Symonds, when asked by a POST reporter for his opinion regarding the cost and practicability of the proposed Rock Creek tunnel, "I should consider it a perfectly practicable and feasible scheme, and I should think that the benefits resulting would fully justify the outlay necessary."

"How long would be the tunnel?"

"From the location as described it would require a tunnel about 2,000 feet long with some open cut work at the ends."

"What would be the cost?"

"Its cost would depend largely on the nature of the rock encountered. It would probably be necessary to arch it over throughout its length and if the excavated rock were suitable in quality it could be used for this purpose. In this case I should estimate the cost of the tunnel, with a sufficient water-way for all floods, to be about $250 per lineal foot. This would make the 2,000 feet of tunnel cost $500,000. Another $100,000 would cover all the open work at the ends, and all engineering expenses, etc. If it was found necessary to use brick for arching the cost would be about $50,000 more. This would make the cost from $600,000 to $650,000, which I believe would cover all expenses for the work proper without including any question of right of way. The excavated material would be used for arching in the form of rubble masonry, not in the form of concrete. The bed of the creek could not be used for a dumping ground. It could not be filled up directly with the excavated material, for it would have to be kept open for the passage of water until the tunnel was completed.

"It is not at all improbably," continued Capt. Symonds, "that a sufficient amount of good material would be excavated to arch the creek over from the lower terminus of the tunnel to the outlet of the canal. In this way the improvement could be made more far-reaching and beneficial. The creek would be blotted out of sight from Lyons' Mill to the mouth of the canal. I should think that the best use for the excavated material, beyond that used for curbing the tunnel, would be in building embankments across the valley of the creek connecting the streets of Washington and Georgetown, thus doing away with bridges and uniting the two cities. The spaces between the embankments could gradually be filled in. If properly managed it would be a splendid improvement.

We originally ran this post in 2013, but since the history hasn't changed, we wanted to share it with you again!

Transit


Metro proposes ending late-night service PERMANENTLY. That's a terrible idea.

Metro may never again be open after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and would close at 10 pm every Sunday, under a plan General Manager Paul Wiedefeld will propose to the WMATA Board this Thursday. Please ask the board to reject moving this proposal forward right now.


Photo by nevermindtheend on Flickr.

What is Wiedefeld proposing?

Metro closed at midnight every night before 1999, when it extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays to 1 am and midnight Sundays. The Friday and Saturday close extended further to 3 am in 2007.

The current SafeTrack rebuilding program moved closing times back to midnight temporarily. Now, Wiedefeld is proposing making that permanent, and further closing at 10 pm every Sunday, earlier than Metro has regularly closed in decades.

Any closing time is effectively earlier than the posted time, since the last trains leave core stations (where most late-night rides originate) with enough time to finish their runs at the closing time.

What are arguments for this?

The press release says,

Under the proposed schedule, the Metrorail system would be open 127 out of 168 hours in a week. Prior to SafeTrack, the system was open 135 hours per week. The additional track time increases safety and reliability by giving workers the time and space they need to keep Metro's infrastructure in a state of good repair.
I've spoken to transit experts who agree that Metro was not making enough time for maintenance. They say late night hours squeezed the repair work. Not only are there few hours, but it takes time to set up for maintenance, go through safety protocols to prepare the site, etc. and then again on the other end.

When SafeTrack was announced, Dan Stessel told me, "the need for late night service is lower since people are using [ride hailing] services" like Uber and Lyft, unlike before 2007. He said Metro serves only about 6,000 trips a night, and that number is declining.

Stessel argued that this service only helps "the nightlife crowd," because workers need service that's available 24 hours a day. (I'd say, except for workers in the nightlife sector, and there are many of those.)


Photo by Ian Britton on Flickr.

Our contributors say, terrible idea

Matt Johnson said:

I understand the need for maintenance windows, however, I can't support additional service span reductions.

Metro already opens late on Saturdays and Sundays (at 7 am) and closes (at 12 midnight) earlier than basically all of its peer systems. In Atlanta, for example, train service starts at 5 am every day and the last trains leave the terminals no earlier than 1 am every day (not just Fridays and Saturdays).

It would be far better for WMATA to do targeted closings (or perhaps close parts) of the system. For example, if a particular area of track needed additional work time, to close that section earlier, but not close the entire system early.

Dan Reed:
This plan is unacceptable. Late-night transit is a lifeline for thousands of workers, from bartenders to security guards to caretakers—and of course everyone who goes out and supports our region's thriving nightlife. Early closing times were fine for SafeTrack but need to be rolled back as soon as possible. Wiedefeld is doing a great job, but this proposal is a bad idea.
Bradley Heard:
This is a horrible idea! Any long-term maintenance strategy should incorporate the idea of late-night service, particularly on weekends. Full-stop. Trains travel much less frequently on weekends. ... We can still have a "safety-first" culture while also maintaining a service level acceptable of a major urban region.
Pete Tomao:
These service reductions will only hinder WMATA's ability to attract more riders, and further it's fiscal problems. As the TransitCenter study pointed out last week, riders want frequent and reliable service above all else. By limiting hours we are limiting what riders want most. This also just penalizes folks without a car (like myself).
Gray Kimbrough:
Just about every system in the world (almost all of them only 2 tracks throughout) is open for longer hours than Metro—often many more hours per week. If they can't find a way to maintain regular service levels with those hours and scheduled larger disruptions where needed, there has got to be something uniquely wrong with Metro's maintenance processes.
Patrick Kennedy, ANC 2A commissioner, wrote in via email:
And before any change is made, they need to have a plan in place for late-night buses that cross jurisdictional boundaries. ... Without a satisfactory answer ... I think this is a horrible plan. Safety and maintenance activities can't be a blank check excuse for a continued degradation in service.
Finally, Travis Maiers:
In a larger sense, this proposal is just downright depressing because it represents an unbelievably pessimistic outlook. Instead of putting out a bold 3 year plan to really bring Metro up to the standards of a world class system, we're instead talking about cuts and permanent 10 pm closings! Where's the vision, the drive, the sense of making the system BETTER? Why is it we keep reducing standards instead of increasing them?

Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

The board should ask for more information before moving forward

Besides the poor logic of this move, Metro decision-making and communication is still in a similar rut from the past: The staff internally make a decision about what to do, then present it as the only possible choice.

When Metro proposed closing an entrance at Van Ness, officials said it was necessary without explaining why other options weren't as good. Maybe that's true, but the public needed to know more.

There are many questions still out there around SafeTrack, too. What will be different for riders at the end? Will Metro have fewer fires? Fewer cracked rails? How many fewer? Will there need to be fewer single-tracking maintenance windows after? These questions were surely considered internally, but not answered to riders.

Everyone agrees that Metro needs significant maintenance, which is why SafeTrack had strong public support. And we hire Metro officials to make decisions. But when those decisions affect the public, it's reasonable to ask them to show their work, to justify why this is better than other options. We don't think it is.

The board can ask these questions. It should. And members should not put any service cut on the docket at this time.

Wiedefeld said in the press release that any change to late-night closures would happen after a public engagement process in the fall—which is required under the WMATA Compact. That's fine, and maybe he'll do a really bang-up public engagement process. In the past, these have often been pro forma events which meet the legal requirements but not much more.

There's time to hear more about the idea before it's on a runaway Metro train moving toward an actual vote. Ask the WMATA Board to get information to riders before approving any formal hearing process. Ask them to insist on a menu of options from WMATA, not just one. Or just tell them you don't think this is a good idea, period.

If some change turns out to be necessary, it can always happen temporarily for an interim period. But we really don't think this is the right answer. It's a proposal that should not move forward.

Pedestrians


This may be DC's most ridiculous missing crosswalk

Walk through the heart of the GW campus, just a block from the Foggy Bottom Metro, and you might suddenly, bizarrely, run into an intersection where you aren't supposed to cross the street:


Photo by the author.

By DC law, any place where a street interrupts a sidewalk, there is a legal crosswalk. Even if there aren't any stripes marking it, there's still a crosswalk there. And the District Department of Transportation's official design manual requires marked crosswalks at all intersections. But that doesn't stop DDOT from sometimes designing intersections without crosswalks.

Often, the road's designers are putting the fast speed of traffic as their top priority and trading away the needs of people on foot. At Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue NE, for instance, engineers wanted a double left turn lane, and that's incompatible with a crosswalk. Then-director Gabe Klein intervened to insist on a crosswalk. That example turned out well, but many intersections get built without all of their crosswalks.

It's not right to force people to cross three times just to keep going straight. It adds a lot of time to each walker's trip and sends a clear message that people on foot are second-class citizens. Most often, this happens in complex intersections or in areas with low numbers of people walking, though even there that's not right (it just perpetuates the situation).

Most often, this situation crops up where diagonal streets meet the grid, like at 15th Street and Florida Avenue NW or 4th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Here, though, this is a regular corner of two typical DC grid streets (22nd and I NW), and it's in a heavily-walked area on a college campus near Metro. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A chair Patrick Kennedy explained in a series of tweets:

This intersection was controlled by a 4-way stop until about ¾ years ago, when a light was installed to handle increased traffic relating to the new development at Square 54. All crossings were possible with the 4-way stop.

When the light was installed, DDOT updated the ADA ramps but determined that they couldn't them at this crossing because of the WMATA emergency access grates positioned at the curb on either side of the street. My suggestion was that they install a bulb-out here to extend the sidewalk into the curb lane and give them the additional space needed to add a ramp since there's no rush-hour lane here and no parking near the intersection.

As of yet, that suggestion has not been taken. Meanwhile, as you can probably imagine, people cross here all the time anyways.

Pedestrian Advisory Council member Eileen McCarthy said, "It's not the intent of the ADA to make crossings more difficult." She further argues that DDOT doesn't even have the legal authority to close this crosswalk.

DDOT Pedestrian Program Coordinator George Branyan said that DDOT is working internally and with WMATA to devise a solution. While that's great, DDOT should have either waited on the signal until the solution was ready or put in crosswalks anyway (as McCarthy suggests is legal) in the interim instead of putting up this sign banning walkers.

After all, DDOT's own manual says:

29.7 Pedestrian Crossings

Marked Crosswalks will be required at all signalized intersections, school areas, and high pedestrian areas.

That doesn't say "except if it will inconvenience drivers too much," though in practice, DDOT often abrogates this in the name of traffic flow, and then often without public notice or discussion.

In the ensuing Twitter discussion, people pointed out similar missing crosswalks at 9th and D NW and at the "Starburst" intersection where H Street NE meets Benning Road, Bladensburg Road, 15th Street, Florida Avenue, and Maryland Avenue.

What other missing crosswalks are near you?

Public Safety


How do our cities' decisions perpetuate racial bias? How do the choices we advocate for?

America's struggles with gun violence and police relations with communities of color have burst, again, into the headlines over the last few weeks. Our contributors and editors have some thoughts about these issues and how they relate to the decisions our cities make around housing, transportation, and much more.


Aftermath of the Philando Castile shooting. Photo by Tony Webster on Flickr.

Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. These and so many more incidents have repeatedly underscored how our society still doesn't truly treat black Americans equally. Americans who don't experience this injustice personally have had their eyes opened. And then, the occasional person reacts with reprehensible violence against the police and drives further wedges between Americans (most recently in Baton Rouge, previously in Dallas).

Not every social problem is related to the way we build cities and better urban design can't single-handedly solve some of America's deepest social ills. Still, our society's struggles with racial bias, whether from police or others, actually is deeply connected with the way American cities work and the decisions their leaders make. Here are some of our contributors' thoughts.

Dan Reed said,

This is about who feels safe and who public spaces are created for. We haven't experienced the worst of this here, but we've had a tumultuous demographic shift in recent years. As a person of color who grew up here, I feel unwelcome sometimes in a place that was once familiar.

This isn't just about police brutality. It's about the pervasiveness of racial bias, however subtle or unintentional, that appears in all of the policy decisions we make in education, transportation, housing, health care, and so on. It's about making sure that everyone in our community the ability to live safe, dignified lives with access to the economic and social opportunities that many of us take for granted.

Gray Kimbrough discussed how public policy has explicitly created divisions:
The built environment has long been intertwined with racism in the US. Housing policy is a clear example, with the underlying racism ranging from completely blatant redlining or other policies that excluded non-whites (e.g. the postwar explosion in VA and FHA-backed loans).
And then there's infrastructure. Growing up in North Carolina, I noticed that things like sidewalks were much less likely to be provided in predominantly black parts of town. Transportation infrastructure and transit networks have often also been used to maintain the status quo rather than to mitigate the impact of institutional racism.

Limiting the housing options for people of color and underfunding infrastructure in those areas contribute directly to limiting opportunities for whole classes of people. As a side effect, racial segregation of housing limits people's experiences with members of other groups.

This tends not to be a problem for white people, who generally don't have to fear police officers unfamiliar with people like them acting in overly aggressive ways. It can absolutely have devastating effects for people of color when police officers are more likely to see them as criminals by default, at least in part because of a lack of basic interaction due to residential segregation.

Nick Keenan added some specific policy examples:
It ties into two things I've read about Ferguson [Missouri]. One is that people in Ferguson were reluctant to walk places, even short distances, because they were afraid of being hassled by the police if they did. The other is that the municipal budget in Ferguson was dependent upon fines and fees from motorists, and that a grievance of the residents was that you couldn't drive anywhere without risking getting pulled over and ticketed for a minor infraction.

Many experienced cyclists have stories of interactions with police officers where just the fact of operating a bicycle seemed to set the cops off. There was a blog post last summer that got a lot of coverage about how for many people riding a bicycle is the closest they will ever come to not having white privilege.

Tracy Hadden Loh added,
It's all about who has access to what planning processes - whose outcomes are measured, voices are heard, values represented, needs prioritized, etc. Planning is all about navigating tradeoffs to maximize access and efficiency of public goods in a world where most of the acreage/square footage is private. ...

We [all] have our own often unstated assumptions about *how* to achieve planning goals [and] I don't think [we] ask enough hard questions about who the winners and losers will be.

Let's try hard to think about who winners and losers will be as we discuss the many choices cities and counties in our region make. How do the events of the last few weeks, and few years, affect how you think about urban spaces and the issues we discuss?

Transit


It's your last chance to submit ideas for MetroGreater!

The time to submit ideas to MetroGreater is almost up. If you have an idea for a small way to improve Metro (rail, bus, or paratransit), submit it by Friday night!


Image from Patrick R.'s submission.

We've gotten over 1,300 ideas (wow!) And while 1,200 of them are all suggesting putting "walk left, stand right" signs on the escalators (kidding—that was only submitted 33 times), we've got a great diversity of ideas, from involving street artists to beautify stations to wayfinding signs on the ground to announcements about moving to the back on buses. And that's just from the last few days.

After submission ends, Greater Greater Washington, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and WMATA will filter the ideas to identify those that meet the contest criteria, including:

  • doable in 6 months or less
  • cost less than $100,000
  • not cost much on an ongoing basis
  • not affect operations, safety, or violate any rules
A jury will then pick ten finalists, and you'll all be able to vote in August on the winner. If your idea is a winner, finalist, or honorable mention, you'll get bragging rights and cool prizes.

Besides submitting ideas, you can help us better evaluate them by adding comments on ideas you think are great, terrible, or anywhere in between.

For ideas that don't meet the criteria or don't get selected for some reason, we'll also try to do some posts here talking about why they couldn't make the cut. (Maybe they're great ideas that cost too much or take too long, and perhaps Metro will even try to do them one day!)

So get those ideas and then check back here on Greater Greater Washington (and/or follow @metrogreater on Twitter) for updates of the next phases of the contest. Thanks for all your great ideas so far!

Bicycling


A unanimous vote to end DC's unjust insurance law for people walking and biking

On Tuesday, the DC Council unanimously approved a bill to end the extremely unjust "contributory negligence" rule which frequently forbids people who are hit when walking or biking from collecting medical costs from a driver's insurance.


Photo by Manfred Caruso on Flickr.

The bill still has to pass a second reading in the fall, but the fact that it sailed through without debate bodes very well. Two weeks ago, the council delayed action because Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (ward 5) wanted to introduce an amendment, but McDuffie ultimately decided not to. Mayor Muriel Bowser also praised the bill.

The council showed strong leadership to making the road fair to everyone and ensuring that people injured due to another's actions have a fair chance to get medical bills paid. The action came despite fierce lobbying from the insurance industry and AAA.

This is also thanks to many of you, who sent over 1,300 emails to councilmembers using our action tool. Many others contacted elected officials from action alerts from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association or others. Your emails made a difference—Councilmember Elissa Silverman (at large) mentioned getting "over a thousand" emails in a recent constituent newsletter. She was already a strong supporter, but other less confident ones got many emails too.

I emailed all 13 councilmembers for comments about the vote, and several replied in time.

Councilmember Charles Allen (ward 6), one of the bill's co-introducers, said, "Like many others, my family is a one-car household. Some days we bike, some days we drive, some days we Metro, and some days we simply walk. Like you, I want a city where I'm treated fairly no matter how I choose to—or need to—get around.

Silverman added, "I was excited to vote in favor of a bill that will make our insurance system more just for our most vulnerable road users. I thank Councilmember [Kenyan] McDuffie [Ward 5] and Councilmember [Mary] Cheh [Ward 3] for their leadership efforts on this common sense measure."

"I believe our contributory negligence standard most hurts our poor and low-income residents who cannot afford large medical bills or lost time at work following serious accidents," Silverman said. "For this reason, I'm particularly glad to see the Council move towards a more equitable approach that works in the interest of all District residents."

Brianne Nadeau, councilmember from Ward 1, wrote, "Ultimately, Tuesday's vote is about making the District safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. We must also continue expanding our network of bike lanes, protected when possible, so residents have safer transportation options."

Finally, David Grosso (at-large) said, "In 2014, I introduced [the predecessor of this bill] after learning that 483 cyclists had been injured in 2013 alone. ... After years of advocating for change, I am glad we're finally modernizing the District's approach. Fairness, equity and safety are the guiding principles behind this legislation and with the Council's unanimous vote and the Mayor's signal of approval, it seems we are one step closer to fully realizing these goals."

History


DC Home Rule almost had... the FBI picking the police chief

What if, instead of DC's mayor picking Chief Cathy Lanier to run the city's police department, we had a chief chosen by the FBI, or the Secret Service? Some members of Congress wanted it to be that way when they gave DC home rule in 1973.


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Before the Home Rule Act, Congress made all of DC's laws, and the executive branch ultimately reported to the President of the United States, as if DC were another agency of the federal government (basically, it was). But in 1973, Congress set up our current system of an elected mayor and council. Only they balked at giving DC full autonomy.

Some worried that giving up the police power to local officials would let them blockade the Capitol and force Congress to submit to the will of local residents. Others, amazingly, feared that a popularly elected leader representing the people of DC might not actually be in favor of law and order.

This goes back to 1783

Control of the police is, in fact, the reason there is a District of Columbia in the first place. In the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, 400 soldiers of the Continental Army briefly besieged the delegates of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, demanding payment for services during the Revolutionary War.

The Pennsylvania Executive Council, then the executive branch of the Pennsylvania state government, refused to guarantee it would protect the Congress from the protest, so the delegates moved the capital out of Philadelphia. That experience was the reason the Constitution's authors provided for a federal district, to which the federal capital eventually moved in 1800.

Members worry the Mayor would not want order

In 1973, memories of the 1968 riots were still very fresh. The President had used the National Guard to keep peace, and members of Congress worried that without federal control, this might not happen. But why? At least a few members actually worried that the Mayor would actually be unwilling to act.

Congressman Delbert "Del" Latta (R-OH) said,

Another matter that concerns me about this bill is the matter of who is going to take over this police force in times of revolt or revolution or riot, whatever you have, like we had in the city a couple of years ago.

If we have an elected Mayor who is going to be looking to his constituency in the District of Columbia to reelect him the next election, is he going to respond when the city is burning such as we saw from the Capitol steps a few years ago, as readily as if the President of the United States had the authority right now to sign an order and take over the police department of the city? (p.1764)

Rep. Charles "Charlie" Rangel (D-NY, and still in Congress today) said, "One ... rationale, commonly used by persons against home rule is that home rule will result in a drastic increase in the crime rate for the District. ... Opponents of self-determination for the District are implying that the local government of the city, specifically the Mayor and City Council, would act in bad faith. (1723-1724)

Then-Police Chief Jerry Wilson wrote a letter to Congress addressing some of the concerns:

I recognize, as I am sure you do also, that some of the concerns over home rule for the District of Columbia directly relate to fear that local control of the police may result in misuse or nonuse of the police power in a manner adverse to the interests of the city, either as a local community or as the national capital. ...

Personally, I feel that apprehension over local control of police power in the District is misplaced. My own sense of this community is the overwhelming majority are responsible citizens who want effective law enforcement just as much as residents do in any other city. If the city of Washington is to be treated substantially as a local community, albeit a special one, rather than a federal enclave, then there is no reason to deprive local citizens of control over that fundamental local service, the police force. (1699)

The bill's authors and other members of Congress also noted that the President would have the authority to take over the police in a true emergency. Rep. Charles Diggs (D-MI) replied to critics, saying, "The committee felt that the President has inherent power to invoke whatever police power is required in case of an emergency. We are prepared to put this in more explicit language." (1764)

A provision specifically emphasizing this power was then part of the committee print of the bill which went to the House floor.

Amendments try to take the police chief appointment away from the Mayor

Some Congressmen were still not satisfied. Ancher Nelsen (R-MN) tried to introduce amendments that would have given other people besides the mayor the power to appoint the police chief.

His first proposal was to set up a Board of Police Commissioners with 3 members: the head of the US Secret Service, the head of the FBI, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia. They would submit 3 candidates for police chief to the President, who would pick among them. (2406)

Nelsen notes there was a Police Board in the 1860s, DC's previous episode of home rule, but it was abolished when Congress took control of the District back.

Rep. Brock Adams (D-WA) pointed out that there are lots of federal police forces to protect the federal interest, such as the Capitol Police, Park Police, Secret Service, FBI and more. This was not the case in 1783, when the Continental Congress did not even control the military during peacetime and depended entirely on state militias.

Stewart McKinney (R-CT) also disagreed with Nelsen, saying, "With regard to the problems we have been having in urban centers a police chief has to be one of the strongest and most compatible figures in the community's relationship." (2409)

This was also not something the White House had asked for, and the House defeated Nelsen's amendment, 132-275 with 27 not voting.

Nelson tried again, this time having the board of 3 commissioners nominate individuals to the Mayor. (2424)

Diggs said, "I would just like to understand from the distinguished ranking minority member of the committee [Nelsen] just what is his rationale behind wanting to have this kind of insulation with respect to the Police Commissioner or Chief of Police for this community." (2425) The House rejected this amendment on a voice vote, and that was the end of the matter. (2426)

However, Congress did limit the District's power over its criminal justice system in other ways, which we'll discuss in coming installments of this series.

All numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in Home Rule for the District of Columbia, 1973-1974, Background and Legislative History of H.R. 9056, H.R. 9682, and Related Bills Culminating in the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, Approved December 24, 1973 (Public Law 93-198), Serial No, S-4, US Government Printing Office, December 31, 1974.

This post first ran back in 2012. Since the history hasn't changed, we thought we'd share it with you again!

Bicycling


DC could end its most unjust rule of the road now. Ask the DC Council to delay no longer.

A man named Kevin Washington was riding his bike on 19th Street NW toward M Street NW. As far as anyone knows, he was obeying every traffic law. He was in the street; he was in the right lane; he wasn't speeding.


Photo by Pedal_Power_Pete on Flickr.

A trash truck was in the middle lane, the one to his left. Suddenly, it turned across his path and hit him.

In a subsequent lawsuit, DC's highest court ruled that even with all of these facts, he still couldn't get any compensation from the truck driver's insurance, because he "was aware of the truck," and should have known that "when the truck reached M Street on a green light and proceeded into the intersection, it would either go straight ahead or turn onto M Street."

"The bicyclist, for his own safety, was obliged to pay close attention to the movements of the truck, and to anticipate the possibility that it might turn right, toward the bicycle."

In other words, it's person's fault if he gets hit while on a bike, even if he is doing nothing wrong, just because he should have realized that there was some chance another vehicle could have hit him.

This colossally unjust ruling was from the late 1980s, but insurance companies have been using the same principle in denying claims to this day. Shane Farthing posted a 2014 letter from Geico denying compensation to another person riding a bike for "failing to keep a proper lookout" when a driver veered into the bike lane.

This wouldn't matter in most states. But DC has a "contributory negligence" rule, along with only four states (including Maryland and Virginia). There, even the slightest fault from a person biking or walking (or driving) makes him or her absolutely ineligible to collect any money at all from the driver's insurance. And, as the court case above shows, courts have decided that even basically no fault is still at least a tiny bit of fault.

On Tuesday, the DC Council will consider a bill to end this phenomenally unjust law. Instead, if a person on a bike or on foot isn't more than 50% at fault, he or she can still get compensation.

Two weeks ago, the bill was supposed to come up for a vote, but a last-minute concern from Kenyan McDuffie (ward 5) derailed it (de-sidewalked it?) It's important for the DC Council to pass this bill now; an earlier version also fell apart at the last minute two years ago.

The insurance industry is fighting it—little surprise, since right now they have a law that lets them not actually do anything about some serious injuries. And AAA Mid-Atlantic is fighting it, too; it's an insurer as well as a driving lobby organization. And in contrast to many other AAAs around the country, our local chapter lacks the kind of humanity that would yield basic empathy toward those seriously injured and unable to get their medical bills paid.

Please ask the DC Council to change this law immediately using the form below. Thank you!



Public Safety


Today

In the last 72 hours, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Minneapolis a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, and then a sniper killed five police officers in Dallas. These tragic deaths, on the heels of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando last month, have left us reeling.


This space left blank.

At its core, Greater Greater Washington is about creating more livable communities and cities. Normally, we do this by discussing transportation, housing, development, public spaces, and other elements that make our cities better places to live.

Today, though we wanted to take a moment to pause and acknowledge that a basic prerequisite before we can even begin to talk about "livable cities" is to preserve human lives, and our society did not succeed for the victims of these events.

We invite you to take a moment, too. We don't want violence like this to go unmarked in our personal lives or in the communities we want to help make better.

Transit


Can you guess these Metro station names from their emoji?

Here are the names of 14 Metro stations written in emoji. Can you guess each one?

Michael Schade created this quiz to kick off the recent Metro Hack Night, where coders from around the region showed off fun and useful projects they'd done to integrate with Metro's publicly available data or otherwise aid riders.

How many can you get?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Note: This question uses a combination of new and old names for this station.)
 
 
 
 
 

Can you come up with some other Metro station emoji of your own?

Also, I'm excited to announce that on our new site, we will replace the map reading spam detector with emoji quizzes. (Kidding.)

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