This week's Washington City Paper cover story quoted AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend calling Greater Greater Washington editor David Alpert "retarded" and a "ninny," and comparing Greater Greater Washington to the Ku Klux Klan.
Many other reporters, people on Twitter, and residents generally have clearly stated in response what should of course go without saying, that such personal attacks are beyond the pale.
Some may get the sense that there is personal animosity between Townsend and the team here at Greater Greater Washington. At least on our end, nothing could be further from the truth. We simply disagree with many of his policy positions and his incendiary rhetoric.
Spirited argument is important in public policy, but it should not cross into insults. When it does, that has a chilling effect on open discourse. Fostering an inclusive conversation about the shape of our region is the purpose of this site, but discourse must be civil to be truly open. That's why our comment policy here on Greater Greater Washington prohibits invective like this. In our articles, we try hard to avoid crossing this line, and are disappointed when we or others do, intentionally or inadvertently.
The "war on cars" frame unnecessarily pits drivers against cyclists and pedestrians instead of working together for positive solutions. The City Paper article, by Aaron Wiener, does a good job of debunking that, and is worth reading for much more than the insults it quotes.
When pressed, Townsend told Wiener he wants to back away from the "war on cars."
"I regret the rhetoric sometimes," he says. "Because I think that when you use that type of language, it shuts down communication with people who disagree."
We hope Townsend, his colleagues, and their superiors also regret the things he said about David and Greater Greater Washington. We look forward to the day when AAA ceases using antagonistic language and begins working toward safety, mobility, and harmony among all road users.
In the meantime, residents do have a choice when purchasing towing, insurance, and travel discounts. Better World Club is one company that offers many of the same benefits as AAA, but without the disdain.
As I walked home from work last night, I saw a crowd gathered at the corner of 17th and L Streets, NW. On closer inspection, a woman was lying in the road. A bicyclist had been hit. Have you thought about what you would do in such a situation?
Photo by velobry on Flickr.
A few people were hunched over, talking to her, trying to keep her still and calm. The rest of the crowd watched, concerned but unsure of what to do. Since I'd learned about the bystander effect, which renders people immobile rather than helpful in a crowd, I'd mentally rehearsed how to deal with a crash.
I sized up the situation to see if I was needed. A man kneeling next to the victim was on the phone, so 911 had been called; she was talking and I didn't see any blood, so things probably weren't dire (though only trained medical personnel can decide for sure as some injuries aren't immediately visible).
It looked like the scene was under control, but the crowd was looking inward, away from traffic, so I jumped in to direct drivers and cyclists around the site. I also tried to flag down the police, but the 3 patrol cars that passed by ignored our waving and yelling.
The injured cyclist had been riding as far to the right as possible when she was struck. Ron Knox confirmed that she was so far to the right that she was lying with one of her legs in the storm drain.
While it's always safer to take the whole lane, which is a bicyclist's right, I can't say I blame her. The traffic on L was heavy and chaotic, with bicyclists and cars both weaving through or between lanes. The cycle track isn't complete on that block, and the incomplete portion still looks more like a hazard than a feature.
Two other people joined me to form a phalanx against traffic. I asked one of them how long they'd been waiting for an ambulance. About 6 minutes, he said, and it was at least another 2 until an FEMS SUV pulled up and an EMT took over.
With the FEMS vehicle blocking the right lane and an ambulance within earshot, my work was finished and I started home. I tweeted the incident with the #bikedc hashtag, which alerted advocates and traffic watchers in the press that something had happened, and wondered what lessons to take from the mess.
Tips to avoid a crash, or react to one once it happens
If you're bicycling, take the lane. If you're riding with traffic on downtown streets, ride a little bit left of the center of the lane to ensure drivers have to pass you like they would another vehicle. They might get upset, but you're safer there than in the gutter.
Drivers need to give bicyclists clearance when they don't take the lane. DC requires drivers to pass with at least 3 feet, to cut down on the odds of a side-swipe. Given how far over the crashed bicyclist was riding, it seems likely she wasn't afforded those 3 feet.
For anyone who might be a bystander, rehearse what to do in a crash. Just being mentally prepared for the situation can help keep you calm and in control. There's no need to command a situation if people are already acting, but just standing by to help as needed can be enough.
Lastly, tweet it, if you can, ideally with a picture. Mention @struckdc, a Twitter account that tracks crashes, and #bikedc if it's bicycle-related. Spreading the word lets other travelers know to avoid the area and lets advocates know to follow up. It's embarrassing to lie injured on the road with strangers standing around and tweeting, but crashes shouldn't happen to begin with. Advocates keep the narrative of those struck and injured alive, and people need to know when the street design and traffic patterns make them too dangerous.
I'd also like to know more about why the police didn't stop or respond to the crash. When the 911 call goes out for an ambulance, police ought to respond to the scene as well to take witness accounts, interview the driver, and take over the crowd while waiting for medical personnel. Police also typically stop when bystanders try to wave them down, so hopefully these particular cars were responding to another, even more urgent call, or had another reason not to stop.
Cyclists and advocates, motivated by crashes like this, have pushed for safer bike infrastructure like the L Street cycletrack. It, and its twin on M Street, can't come online soon enough.
Photo by SoulRider.222 on Flickr.
Yet another investigation:
Add the DC Lottery contract to the list of things under federal investigation
. The FBI has begun interviewing staff close to the contract negotiations, though the FBI has yet to acknowledge the probe. (City Paper)
End entitlement, end tickets:
A Post editorial suggests eliminating free sports tickets
and constituent service "slush funds" to start combating DC councilmembers' "sense of entitlement."
The occupation is over:
Occupy DC's last remaining tents in McPherson Square were knocked down
Sunday night, leaving only a few piles of debris and the muddy remains of a park. Occupy hasn't gone, though; they have an office just up 16th. (DCist)
Some parts of DC get whiter:
Three of the 25 ZIP codes which gained the most percentage of white residents are in DC
, basically all around the Green Line. Four were in Brooklyn, the others in cities that might surprise you. (Post)
Metro becoming paperless:
SmarTrip starts its two-year-long makeover
next month with new card dispensers and new passes, to be followed by automatic reloading in September and a card management app in June. (Examiner)
TBD Off Foot:
TBD On Foot blogger John Hendel, the last remaining TBD employee, is leaving
, likely spelling the end of the blog. Hendel did a great job covering transportation, especially taxi policy. TBD will remain only to publish WJLA content. (City Paper)
Time for a freeway's exit:
What does one do with a well-used, much-hated, massive elevated freeway
in downtown Baltimore? Developers and activists want the Jones Falls Expressway demolished, but city officials maintain a conspicuous silence. (Urbanite)
U Street's streetscape overhaul began yesterday
. Construction will go on for at least a year. (WTOP) ... DC's long-vacant library kiosks are finally up for licensing
by the private sector. (City Paper) ... An oversaturated convention center market is putting a strain
on our own convention center. (Atlantic Cities)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here
Photo by Rubber Dragon on Flickr.
Fish not in the 'hood:
The Fish in the Hood restaurant in Park View has changed its name
to Fish in the Neighborhood, reflecting the changing demographics along Georgia Avenue. (Post)
District can't afford planned taxi reform:
Even a new 50¢ surcharge won't be enough cover the costs
of planned taxi reforms to add credit card readers, hire more inspectors and more, says DC's CFO. (Examiner)
Growth has unequal effects:
Even if the increasing density of the Washington region is a good thing, it's important to acknowledge the negative effects
these changes bring to portions of the population. (Atlantic Cities)
What is suburbia?:
When suburbanites think of the city
, they think crime and noise, grit and crowds. When urbanites think of the suburbs, they think lawns and malls and freeways without end. But where do small, old cities fit in? Is Alexandria less a city than DC just because it's quiet? (Atlantic Cities)
"Dumbest column" hates CaBi:
Since Capital Bikeshare opened, astoundingly almost nobody has criticized it, but one Washington Times columnist manages to
in what Alan Suderman calls
"the dumbest column [he]'s ever read." Update:
You can avoid giving the Times click-through traffic and see most of it quoted in a rebutal on DCist
Mechanic hit, trapped under train:
A Metro mechanic accidentally walked in front of an out-of-service train which hit him and trapped him for an hour
. He was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. (Examiner)
Richmond's booming, too:
At least 1,200 apartments and condos are under construction
in downtown Richmond, where the vacancy rate is half that of the area. It's not as much as DC's 11,000 or so, but shows that DC is no fluke. (Times-Dispatch)
Subways take similar shapes:
Despite cities' varying geography, it turns out almost all large transit systems have basic commonalities
, like the ratio between the core and branches or proportion of transfer stations. (Scientific American, Bossi)
In defense of white Girls:
The new sitcom Girls has received highly-publicized criticism for the lack of diversity in its depiction of Brooklyn. But just because cities are diverse doesn't mean individuals' social networks are
. (Next American City)
Please welcome one of our 2 new links editors, Thaddeus Bell! And please help him out by submitting your tips
Photo by justgrimes on Flickr.
SmarTrip gets cheaper:
There are only 350,000
of the current model SmarTrip cards left, and the manufacturer stopped making them. This is a good thing, because this fall WMATA will switch to a cheaper card and charge riders less. (Examiner)
Teaching goes online:
Kramer Middle School will shift about half of its coursework online
this coming year, allowing for student-guided teaching and giving teachers a chance to work with students where they're struggling individually. (Examiner)
House lien sold without notice?:
A few homeowners say they never got notices
when DC's Office of Tax and Revenue put liens on their homes
or sold those liens. But officials insist everyone gets 2 final notices in the mail. (Post)
C'mon, exercise! Everyone's doing it!:
Peer pressure does not have to be bad; it can actually encourage children to exercise more
. A study found that kids' friends had the strongest effect on how much they exercised. (TIME)
Density resembles transit:
There is a strong correlation
between residential density and transit mode share, stronger even than job density in a city's central business district, but that may not be the whole story. (Old Urbanist)
What was zoning for?:
Urbanists, especially the libertarian ones, tend to criticize zoning for the way it artificially restricts urban development, but the original arguments in favor
of zoning codes were concerned with many of the issues urbanists would raise today: development externalities, squatting on a vacant parcel, and safety. (SCC)
How cars took over:
At first, people thought pedestrians had the right to use the road. That changed
thanks to public campaigns by car companies, AAA, and corporate-sponsored media. (Scientific American)
A few stories we've linked to in the past have come around in the press again and we've seen again in the tips, so we've included a few of these important stories for those readers who missed them or want to discuss them some more.
Speaking of tips, since we are starting to get some new links editors up to speed, it would be especially helpful to hear from all of you about what you'd like to see in the links. Please submit your suggestions on the tip form!
Photo by ★keaggy.com on Flickr.
DC has grown by attracting 20-somethings, an explicit strategy under Mayor Williams, but when they age and start families they may find that the amenities they want—playgrounds and kid-friendly restaurants—just aren't there. (Post) ... At least not yet; the downtown playground that frames the story got funding in this year's budget.
Such great heights:
An office building to replace the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, will not be allowed
a 9th floor. The HPRB said that even a floor nearly invisible from the street would violate of the historic district. (DCMud)
WMATA will invest $5 million
in minor bus improvements, including new MetroExtra service, timetable tweaks, and headway-based service on the 70 line. The changes are expected to add 250,000 trips per year. (NBC4)
The city as solar heater:
The urban heat island effect isn't all bad. By using water to transmit heat, cities could harness
the effect to provide hot water or lend itself to electrical generation. (Atlantic Cities)
The various channels WMATA uses to communicate with riders are inconsistent and often duplicative
. Between dead blogs, a reasonable Twitter feed, YouTube and Facebook, WMATA does as much right as it does wrong. (TBD)
A height limit broken:
The unspoken height limit in San Francisco, determined by the shadows buildings cast over city parks, has at last been broken
. The city's planning commission approved the tallest building west of the Mississippi, allowing it to preside over the new multi-modal high-speed rail hub. (SF Chronicle)
LA bans bags:
Los Angeles has banned plastic bags
, a plan that continues California's approach to the problem. Paper bags can still be free. (LA Times)
In a uniquely Indian urban problem, rhesus monkeys have become a serious nuisance
to the city of Delhi. They mug people for food and trash yards despite trapping efforts. As long as people feed them—a religious duty—it's unlikely officials will be able to stop the tide. (NYT)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here
Photo by downing.amanda on Flickr.
Cameras for money? People think so:
Most people believe traffic cameras are to make money
, not to improve safety, a new poll shows. The result means political problems ahead as DC adds to its camera network. (WTOP)
Marylanders now strongly for equality:
57% of Maryland voters now support marriage equality
according to a new poll; African-American support in particular has risen 12 points since President Obama endorsed it. (Maryland Juice)
Transit for the people:
Marylanders would be able to vote
for transit under a constitutional plan by two state legislators. In the wake of a timid legislature, should Marylanders have such a direct say in transportation issues? (WBJ)
Yuppified Union Market:
Grungy Florida Market could soon be a thing of the past. A new list of vendors
for the new Union Market include uptown staples like gelato and artisanal soda. (Washingtonian)
Green features vs. bigger sewers:
DC Water wants to encourage more green roofs and such
, and they hope that will decrease the size of new sewer tunnels they have to dig under a federal court settlement. Some environmental groups say the green features are great, but won't be enough to shrink the tunnels. (Post)
Google Maps for the ancients:
Ever wondered how much it cost to travel from Ephesus to Rome? Lugdunum to Alexandria? A Stanford team has developed a travel simulator
for the ancient Roman world to better understand travel patterns. (Planetizen)
Your name at the top:
Do you enjoy the links each morning? Want to see them continue? David Edmondson sadly has to step down from link editing, so we're looking for someone to curate the links 2-3 mornings a week. Can this be you?
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here
Photo by id-iom on Flickr.
Charges in Gray investigation:
The US Attorney has charged Thomas Gore
, the assistant treasurer on Mayor Gray's 2010 campaign, alleging he paid Sulaimon Brown using false names, then destroyed evidence. Gore will plead guilty
later today. Outstanding question: Did Gray himself know
about the misconduct? (City Paper, WJLA, Post)
Barry's improbable Monday:
After Marion Barry had a scare over a blood clot—he's fine now—the indefatigable councilmember said he was wrong for his comments about Filipino nurses. He still wants more District-grown nurses, but "truly didn't mean 2 hurt or offend." and "is truly sorry." (DCist)
Where the murders were:
A map All of DC's murders for the past 7 years have been mapped
to their locations. Rock Creek creates a very stark line. (DCist)
Keep your balance, CaBi:
A visualization shows where the most rebalancing happens
between CaBi stations. The station at 16th and Harvard on top of Meridian Hill needs 31 bikes a day delivered to it while other stations become overstocked. (Mystery Inc.)
4th best bike city:
DC ranks #4
among best cities for bicycling. It was #13 last year. Capital Bikeshare, new cycle tracks, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and Black Women Bike
contribute to the rise. (Bicycling Magazine)
Not loving the car:
America's "love affair with the automobile" has turned into a somewhat unhappy marriage
, and more and more residents are deciding to stay single and keep their transportation options open. (Post)
The Defense Department is trying to make its bases more walkable
by placing housing closer to shops, providing transit around the base, and including more trees. Bases now are generally very sprawling. (USA Today)
The cul-de-sac tower:
Miami has the densest neighborhoods south of New York, but everyone drives between towers
and neighbors hardly know each other. Are these just vertical cul-de-sacs? Density doesn't always make good communities. (Transit Miami)
Quality beats quantity in transit:
Broward County, Florida has rather low density but rather high transit usage thanks to a system
that tries to give the county high-quality service where it can, rather than low-quality service everywhere. (Atlantic Cities)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here
Photo by katypearce on Flickr.
Mixing cars created problem?:
Metro suspects coupling 1000 and 5000 series cars
, originally done for safety after the Red Line crash, contributed to doors recently opening on a moving train. They will now inspect all 5000 series cars. (Examiner)
Tech jobs growing:
The DC area had the most job growth
in high tech, math and science of any region. We now have the 2nd highest percentage of such jobs. (WBJ)
What billions buys:
Arlington's manager wants $2.45 billion
for the next decade's worth of capital projects, including road repair, the Columbia Pike streetcar, an aquatic center, and a host of other community upgrades and repairs. (Post)
Pay camera tickets:
If a car owner gets a DC traffic camera ticket today, they can tell the DMV who was driving, and DC has to collect from that person. A bill would end this practice
, and also reduce penalties for not paying camera tickets. (Examiner)
Pop under in Dupont:
The Dupont Underground has languished so long without a major financial backer that the steering board is considering short-term leases
of the space. Such pop-ups would raise visibility, but the board fears it would poorly brand the project and make it less attractive to institutional investment. (City Paper)
The Arizona DOT found that denser, mixed-use areas have lower traffic
, fewer cars per person, and shorter trips for errands. (Streetsblog) ... Walk Score correlates with higher
housing prices. (Market Urbanism)
Downtown Philadelphia is a bustling, walkable urban center thanks in part to transit-oriented development in years past. Alas, with more parking coming
to the city center, the neighborhood's charms are threatened. (Philly.com)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here
Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
They're (self) driven:
Mary Cheh And Tommy Wells took a ride in Google's self-driving car
. The trip went off without a hitch, adding to the 250,000 miles of crash-free driving for they system. But it can't handle, for instance, directions from a traffic control officer. (DCist)
Told you so:
Metro riders warned technicians
that doors were opening while a train was moving, but Metro thought it was isolated to a single car and kept the train in service until doors opened in a second car. Still no word on the cause. (Examiner)
Bike messengers are the boss:
"Freedom" is the watchword
of DC's small bike messenger community, which occupies a shrinking niche of the District's document delivery system. A short documentary profiles their gritty culture. (TBD)
Higher vs. better:
Amidst the debate about DC's height limit, it's easy to forget that some of the classiest, most cherished neighborhoods have relatively moderate density
. The argument is that walkability, not skyscrapers, makes a place great. (Atlantic Cities)
Hatch's unintended acts:
DC wants out from under the Hatch Act, and it's not just a matter of sovereignty
. Under current provisions, District employees, including the Attorney General, cannot run for office without first resigning. (Washington Times)
The warriors may serve:
Sikhs may now wear turbans and beards
on the job as police officers in MPD. It is the first police department in the US to allow adherents of the faith to do so. (AP via WSJ)
A Prince William mixed-use proposal failed to draw
a single bid, so it's back to the drawing board. (WBJ) ... Frequent biking can lead to problems
"down there" for men and women, depending on handlebar configuration. (Medical Daily, Xavier) ... The GOP may be willing
to part with the Keystone Pipeline in the transportation bill. (The Hill)
Have a tip for the links? Submit it here