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Breakfast links: Making the roads safer

Photo by MonkeyBoy69 on Flickr.
College Park camera upheld: Despite AAA's claim of inaccurate timestamps, a Maryland judge upheld speeding tickets from a camera in College Park; the city feels they've improved safety. (Examiner, Patch)

Biking getting safer: Bike crashes per rider have declined over time as the number of bike lane miles has increased. (WashCycle) ... You can reduce your chance of crashes with confident city cycling classes this fall. (WABA)

Not so deluxe: A Washington Deluxe bus from New York City crashed with a tractor trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike. "About a dozen" people suffered minor injuries. (Post)

Car insurance limits too low?: Even when a driver's at fault in a crash with a cyclist, low liability insurance minimums can mean the cyclist can't get full medial reimbursement. Perhaps there should be higher limits for non-motorist damages. (RPUS, WashCycle)

Whither the streetcar?: Delays and Amtrak's refusal to let DDOT run under the Hopscotch Bridge have dampened energy around the streetcar. It'll get built, but all 3 options to connect to Union Station are imperfect, and some worry DC might just temporarily end the line at 3rd and H NE. (City Paper)

Name that memorial: The MLK Memorial is getting a lot of attention, but DC actually has many lesser-known memorials. There's now an interactive map to explain them all, from Lincoln to the women of the Titanic. (NCPC)

First woman driver, 111 years ago: The "first woman driver," or at least the first with a license, is Anne French, who lived on Capitol Hill. She got her license in 1900, a year after DC started requiring them. (TBD)

Maryland may raise gas tax: Maryland may raise its gas tax to compensate for a fall-off in federal stimulus money. Last year the General Assembly refused even to index the current tax, set at 23.5¢ per gallon, to inflation. (Examiner)

And...: A Japanese cafe is designed to look like the street in front of it. (ArchDaily) ... Politicians blame DoD for BRAC moves that Congress originally approved. (Examiner) ... Repairing earthquake damage to the National Cathedral will run into the millions. (Post)

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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 


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I'm really curious to learn more about the Alaksa insurance case. Is the bicyclist going after the motorist for damages in excess of the $100k paid out by State Farm? It sounds like the motorist is suing state farm for not adequately protecting him and settling with the bicyclist in the case.

If the motorist has no assets (an assumption based on the limited insurance policy he was carrying), can the bicyclist legally garnish any future wages or assets from this person?

by Rob P on Aug 25, 2011 9:07 am • linkreport


The name of the Women's Titanic Memorial is misleading. The memorial was built by a group of surviving women in honor of the many men who famously were restrained from lifeboats so women and children could board.

by thedoc on Aug 25, 2011 9:08 am • linkreport

Has there been a study that creates a causal link between the number of bike lane miles and the decrease in bike crashes?

Far too often, people confuse correlation with causation.

by Question on Aug 25, 2011 9:42 am • linkreport

I don't see that the insurance issue is one specific to bicyclists. Most states don't require much in the way of insurance for injury to others. In DC it's only $50k. That may be bad policy, but it's bad policy with respect to other motorists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists.

The real problem is that if you are a bicyclist you likely don't have your own insurance to cover you. I can buy tons of medical insurance for myself through my auto insurance policy so that if I'm in a bad accident I get coverage regardless of the other car owner's coverage (and fault). Don't believe cyclists have such an option or that auto coverage would cover a person while on a bicycle.

by ah on Aug 25, 2011 9:45 am • linkreport

The policy in the case was 100K/300K, which is way above any state minimum.

The settlement in the case was 950,000, but with an agreement not to go after the defendant. Both were conspiring against the insurance company.

The moral hazard is making insurance mandatory. You don't pay for the costs of your bad driving -- the risks are spread out to a larger pool.

The real answer is mandating anyone who take a bike on the road is mandated to have liability insurance to cover being hit. Unworkable and unenforceable.

by charlie on Aug 25, 2011 10:09 am • linkreport

@ Charlie,

There is no such thing as "liability insurance to cover being hit." Liability insurance covers damages and injuries that you cause (and thus are liable for). Cyclist's liability insurance would, by definition, cover damages to a car if the cyclists causes an accident. That's all.

Oddly enough, I agree that mandating higher minimums is a poor way to manage risk. Insurance in general is a poor way to manage most risks. And yes, mandating insurance does exactly what you claim, it negates personal motivation to drive carefully. Of course, it also minimizes the possibility (risk) that individuals may not be able to pay for damages and/or injuries that they cause.

by CJ on Aug 25, 2011 10:19 am • linkreport

Don't know much about planning but how is it possible after so much streetcar planning that the city is only recently realizing that the right of ways would be an issue? Isn't this well after we've purchased and stored the existing streetcars?

by HogWash on Aug 25, 2011 10:47 am • linkreport

The real answer is mandating anyone who take a bike on the road is mandated to have liability insurance to cover being hit. Unworkable and unenforceable.

No need to mandate it. People just need to know what they are and are not insured for. Health care insurance potentially covers medical expenses. Disability insurance (offered through employers and otherwise) covers lost wages. Both cover all kinds of risks-being hit while on a bicycle. Hitting curb on a bicycle and suffering injuries. Going hiking and falling down a cliff. And so on.

by ah on Aug 25, 2011 10:50 am • linkreport

Why can't DC use eminent domain for Hopscotch Bridge?

by m on Aug 25, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

The cameras are programmed to photograph only those vehicles that are traveling 12 or more miles per hour above the speed limit, he said, so the fact that a photo was produced proves the vehicle was speeding.

Let's try this substitution
"The police are trained to pull over only those vehicles where there is probable cause, so the fact that police pulled someone over proved that the driver was doing something illegal"

Would anyone buy that?

(still shame on AAA for not funding its own expert, their and the guy's lawyer should have known better than that)

by Kolohe on Aug 25, 2011 11:14 am • linkreport

@Question -some people make the mistake of assuming there is a method besides obeserving an association for concluding causation in human health. Its not as simple as you make it sound. Please see this ppt for further explanation.

P.S. there is "only" an association between lung cancer and smoking. I'm not saying this study on bike infrastructure and bike crashes has the strength of the decades of studies showing an association between smoking and lung cancer. I'm saying; there is plausibility and if the goal of preventing bike crashes is deemed worthwhile then the question is worthy of further study based on this and previous outcomes of the association presented.

by Tina on Aug 25, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

The real answer is mandating anyone who take a bike on the road is mandated to have liability insurance to cover being hit.

This, by definition, is not liability insurance, as noted above. IF such a product were offered to cover personal injury, I imagine that the company providing that coverage would first pay out to the claimant, then try to collect from the liability coverage of the other party.

by Rob P on Aug 25, 2011 11:27 am • linkreport

@Question - and there's this from the author of that study (which I just now read): shows that DC is becoming safer for cyclists. It does NOT show that bike lanes are the cause of this. There could be any number of explanations. But bike lanes could be a reason or even the main one.

That bike lanes contribute to DC becoming safer for cuclists is plausible.

by Tina on Aug 25, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

@Question Has there been a study that creates a causal link between the number of bike lane miles and the decrease in bike crashes?

see "The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature"

by Tina on Aug 25, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

@m Why can't DC use eminent domain for Hopscotch Bridge?

Because it most likely doesn't have the power of eminent domain over the Amtrak area that's critical for this junction. (It probably resides with the feds for this area.) Additionally, eminent domain costs lots of money. Had the Fenty folks been far less arrogant and realized from the start that you can't simply impose your will on others, they might have accomplished far more through persuasion. Of course that might have involved NOT purchasing the cars pre-planning, not announcing the routespre-planning, and of course NOT proposing wired streetcars when the laws AND the organizations they need to play nice with, including the feds, said 'no wires permitted'.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens in CHI-town when they attempt that same attitude there. Chicago's a tougher town than here. They won't be as polite with these guys.

by Lance on Aug 25, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

AMTRAK operates with United States taxpayer subsidies...the idea they could say no to any plan for streetcar use is absurd. Why citizens stand for any of this bloated bureaucratic nonsense I will never know.

by Pelham1861 on Aug 25, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

Nice map. Too bad it stops are the District border and hence ignores a few rather important Greater DC memorials. You know, little unknown memorials like Arlington Cemetery, with JFK's grave and Gen Lee's house, the 9/11 memorial, the Marine, Navy and Air Force memorials.

by Jasper on Aug 25, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

Would anyone buy that?

Yes, if one buys the infallibility of computer programs.

But doesn't this camera, like most others, take two pictures at a set interval showing the distance the car traveled in the .25 seconds (or whatever the interval is), allowing interpolation of the speed?

by ah on Aug 25, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

This guy has a much more comprehensive list (with pictures) of memorials in and around the District:

by stitchbones on Aug 25, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport


Doesn't that also assume that the camera is calibrated perfectly to always take pictures at .25 second intervals? What if that interval slips to .35 or .45 then you have a very inaccurate secondary check as well. Computers and other electronics are susceptible to slow downs over time.

by DC Driver on Aug 25, 2011 12:23 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper:

"Here there be dragons".

by Catherine on Aug 25, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

@DC Driver - Sure, that could happen. But they have time stamps on them as well.

And yes the time stamp could be inaccurate. But if you want to pursue that reasoning you can't really give out speeding tickets at all, because the police officer's eyesight and sense of speed could also be inaccurate.

by ah on Aug 25, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

@ Catherine: "Here there be dragons".

True. Even in a place that used to be DC.

It's also awkward for politicians to be reminded about all those soldiers they sent to their deaths.

by Jasper on Aug 25, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

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