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Breakfast links: Inner city blues


Photo by Gerald L. Campbell on Flickr.
East of the river's self-fulfilling prophecy: After a meeting on the topic, "Is Congress Heights a ghetto?" community members walked outside to discover a fatal shooting. (CHOTR)

Howland can't use transportation the rest of us do: DPW Director Bill Howland says he needs a city-owned vehicle and driver because it's too hard to get to meetings by transit, and too hard to park near the Wilson Building. Tommy Wells was not impressed. (Examiner)

Right-to-Life Metro: Since start of 2009, 24 people have attempted to take their life within Metro. With less than 17% of front-line workers trained in prevention methods, officials recognize the need for intervention. (Examiner)

Driver assaults group of cyclists on parkway: A driver on the GW Parkway sped in front of a group of cyclists, then slammed on his brakes. One cyclist ended up under the car, but unhurt; the driver then sped away. (DCist)

Can we get streetscape relief right?: Same story: Streetscape improvements come to a neighborhood, disrupting businesses that then close. The improvements finish, but the businesses are no more. Can this change? (Housing Complex)

How long is your commute?: A new poll looks at the amount of time commuters spend in their cars. City residents have the shortest commute, Maryland residents travel longer distances, and Virginians spend more time on the road. (WTOP)

MD redistricting advances: Maryland's gerrymandered redistricting plan passed the state Senate over objections by Rep. Donna Edwards (D), good government, and community groups. Its fate could be decided in court. Governor O'Malley tries to focus on his proposal to raise the state gas tax instead. (Post)

Charm City removes bike lane; community asks why?: Baltimore' DOT has changed it's tune and is caving to demands by people who can't be bothered to not drive cars in a West Baltimore bike lane. A community group wants to know why they weren't warned? (Baltimore Brew)

And...: The fight between NVTC and VA Governor is over. (Examiner) ... Prince George's voters vote to replace Leslie Johnson. (Post) ... The only hospital east of the river is may have a surplus for first time in a decade. (WBJ)

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John Muller is an associate librarian, journalist and historian. He has written two books, Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC, Mark Twain in Washington, DC, and also writes at Death and Life of Old Anacostia

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... make we wanna holler!

(Throw up both my hands...)

by Jack Love on Oct 18, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

The only hospital east of the river is may have a surplus for first time in a decade.

Is United Medical Center really the only hospital east of the river? I thought it was the only hospital in the southeast quadrant, but that it shared east of the river status with SHW Hadley on MLK Avenue SW. I passed by Hadley earlier this week, and it sure looked open to me.

(Also, unnecessary "is" between "river" and "may", if you want to be picky.)

by cminus on Oct 18, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

@cminus

I am my own worst copy editor. Sorry for that typo.

With regards to Hadley "Hospital" up by Forrester Street SW & MLK Ave. it is not technically a hospital although it has that word in its name.

It is a long-term treatment/care facility. As hospitals go, it isn't technically one.

by John Muller on Oct 18, 2011 9:27 am • linkreport

Apparently, a cyclist was shot and killed last night at Truxton Circle.

With two seemingly random murders in a year (which is *exceedingly* rare in DC today), is it too much to ask MPD to put an officer at that intersection permanently?

by andrew on Oct 18, 2011 9:31 am • linkreport

A driver on the GW Parkway sped in front of a group of cyclists, then slammed on his brakes.

Interesting question: WTF were those cyclists doing on the GW Parkway?

No, that does not give a car driver the right to assault them. No, the bikers don't deserve being assaulted.
Yes, WABA is right when they point out that the NPS is full of it when they gave their reasons why you should not bike on the GW and Clara Barton Parkways.
But, aren't the GW and Clara Barton Parkways limited access highways? And is biking not forbidden on limited access highways? It is in Virginia. I don't know DC law, but I reckon it's similar.

Can someone clarify?

[Please avoid the senseless debate about entitlement feelings of bikers and drivers, let's focus on the legalities]

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 9:31 am • linkreport

@Jasper ...

I was wondering the same thing, but apparently, after reading through the comments @ DCist, the group of cyclists has been doing this for some time, and it occurred early on a Sunday morning, when traffic around town is light. Also, these cyclists are not your typical Trek-riding commuters, but a group of high speed peloton riders.

As for limited access, all states prohibit self-propelled vehicles on interstates; many of the signs are still in place on the entrance ramps. I don't think GW qualifies as a limited-access highway, and it is under federal jurisdiction, unlike the interstates. Also I don't think the distinction is limited-access, but overall roadway speed limit.

by Jack Love on Oct 18, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

@cminus, yes there is only one hospital EOTR. I never really think about it until someone else mentions it (maybe because my docs are all WOTR) but it is rather sad.

BTW, I'm not sure if walking outside and finding a slain body, after having a meeting (a silly one if you ask me) about whether your area is a "ghetto," is really an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe if it were a "we need to do better" or "who needs to be in afghanistan" kind of meeting.

by HogWash on Oct 18, 2011 9:41 am • linkreport

Let's not kid ourselves - Donna Edwards only opposes this plan because it makes her seat less secure. And I'll never understand why "good government" groups think it makes sense for one state to not gerrymander, while every other state does. If they want to end gerrymandering, they need to do it nationally - otherwise we're better off with every state doing it, at least it might somewhat balance out.

by M on Oct 18, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

Maybe Metro needs some anti-suicide signage, like the ones on the Delaware Memorial Bridge: "Need help? Call..."

by Ian on Oct 18, 2011 9:46 am • linkreport

Two things,

1. Am I apparently in the minority that streetscape projects don't deter me from visiting a particular business? It's crossed my mind that "oh that area is a mess right now and hard to get around" but if it has a business that I need to get to then I go there anyway. Granted it hasn't happened in my neighborhood with businesses I frequent most often (drug store/grocery store) but I doubt it would have an impact because I and most in my neighborhood walk there.

2. Bike lanes in Baltimore. How much community input is needed? They say they took out a vehicular lane but from the photos I fail to see how two cars rode abreast in the first place. If they started expanding the road in front of me I would be mad but on its merits not because the DOT didn't deign to tell me beforehand.

by Canaan on Oct 18, 2011 9:46 am • linkreport

I see cyclists -- usually lost -- on the Whitehurst quite a lot. Crazy and stupid. Or Oboe.

Putting a bike path on the side of the whitehurst, however, would be wonderful. And I don't mean a bike lane -- I mean a real addition to the exisitng viaduct.

But to Jasper's point, those cyclists should NOT have been on the GW Parkway.

by charlie on Oct 18, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

@ Jack Love:As for limited access, all states prohibit self-propelled vehicles on interstates; many of the signs are still in place on the entrance ramps. I don't think GW qualifies as a limited-access highway, and it is under federal jurisdiction, unlike the interstates. Also I don't think the distinction is limited-access, but overall roadway speed limit.

Interstate are limited access, but there are plenty of limited access highways that are no interstates. Lots of state highways are. One example that comes to mind is the US-29/Future 785 corridor in between Charlottesville and Greensboro.

You are correct that there are some signs. But not everywhere. Federal jurisdiction does not negate state law. It comes on top.

Speed limit is also not a limiting factor. For instance, the speed limit on US-50 west of VA-28 (Dulles) is 45-55, but biking is allowed because that road is by no means limited access, as it has strip mall after strip mall.

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

@ Jack Love:all states prohibit self-propelled vehicles on interstates

This is not true by the way. Out west you can bike on the emergency lane of interstates by lack of other roads.

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

Limited access or not, cyclists are prohibited from the GW Parkway by NPS http://www.nps.gov/gwmp/parkmgmt/upload/No-Bikes-on-Road.pdf

by Runner on Oct 18, 2011 10:13 am • linkreport

I hope they find the guy driving the gold caddy and lock him up.

I also hope the NPS revises their decision and tickets these riders as well. Those cyclists really have some gall admitting that they do this every week. I really hope the NPS, knowing when and where they always are start enforcing the law.

It is illegal to cycle on the the GW Parkway. Has been for 4 years. It is clearly marked. There is no question. Why is it? I don't know, but mixing two forms of transportation on a road where the speed limit is 50 and one of them can go half that, when there are no shoulders and a bike path nearby are all probably contributing factors.

And using excuses like (it is lightly trafficed then) are pointless. Sidewalks on K Street downtown are lightly used at that time of the day too, does it mean I can drive my car on them? The beltway is lightly used at 2am, does that mean you can bike on it then?

The rule is the rule. You may think it is stupid, just like I think it is stupid I can no longer fly my plane over the District, but I realize that it is the law and until I get the law changed, I have to abide by it.

by freely on Oct 18, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

Thanks Jasper did not know about biking the breakdown lanes on western interstates. Now thinking about a new cycle trip out west...

@charlie... It's easy to see how cyclists coming across the Key Bridge get waylaid by the ramp. Once you head down that thing onto the highway, it looks fun (and it is) until you realise you're trapped in a car-bicycle cage match.

by Jack Love on Oct 18, 2011 10:20 am • linkreport

First, and most importantly, I hope the Caddy a-hole is found, humiliated, and jailed. I urge everyone in Bethesda and Reston to examine the vehicles of grizzled white men in their neighborhoods. Lord knows that'll be like finding the proverbial needle, but it's worth a shot.

Second, the lycranauts who insist on cycling on the Parkway need to stop. They are doing cyclists in this city a great disservice and setting the movement back about 20 years with their selfishness and disregard for NPS policy.

That is all.

by aaa on Oct 18, 2011 10:22 am • linkreport

@JackLove; I actually see more of them start from the K st side. Get confused, go up the ramp onto the Whitehurst, then can't turn around.

@Freely; I don't know if you could ticket the GW riders based on their "confession". The police would need to see it.

by charlie on Oct 18, 2011 10:32 am • linkreport

GWP assault on cyclists: GGW says cyclists were unhurt. In fact, the Patch article says one cyclist was hospitalized with a fractured hip socket.

by crin on Oct 18, 2011 10:34 am • linkreport

1. GW Parkway and Clara Barton Pkwy - Up until a few years ago it was totally legal to bike on both of these roads. In general it is legal - and safe - to bike on any road with a speed limit of 45mph or below. But NPS decided that it wasn't safe any more, without citing any incidents or evidence to the contrary. Some continue to ride on the parkways despite their ruling - and WABA is opposing it. Some are unsure that NPS rules can supersede state law.

2. Whitehurst freeway - legal for cycling and a great shortcut for the confident. As far as I know, no one has ever been hit, injured or killed while riding on it, so I'm not sure how doing something with 100% success rate is crazy and stupid.

3. Gerrymandering - I'm with M. Republican-controlled states like Texas are gerrymandering the bejeezus out of their districts, so Democrats are forced into a situation where they're forced to either match that when possible or lose power. It's an inevitable race to the bottom. Ideally Maryland would cut a deal with an equally sized red state wherein neither of them would gerrymander - and both parties in both states would agree to the districts as drawn - but I think that is too kumbayah for our current structure. I don't think the federal government can do much to force states to stop the practice. It's frustrating as hell, but I don't know how to fix it.

4. Whether or not cyclists should not have been on the GW Parkway is irrelevant. It's attempted murder either way. You can't shoot someone because you saw them jaywalk. I suspect someo of these cyclists didn't have bells on their bikes, but no one is saying "The driver was wrong, but these cyclists should have state-mandated bells on their bikes." It makes as much sense as "The driver was wrong, but people must pay their sale taxes at the point of sale."

by David C on Oct 18, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

You're all correct. They should stop breaking the law, and the gold Caddy driver needs a long mandatory time-out.

The good thng that comes from this is scrutiny of NPS' ludicrous policy, topped off with its assertion that the multi-use trail is a safe and adequate alternative. It is not, and that situation is brought to blinding clarity in the case of road bikes that are capable of sustained speeds near 30 mph. At 10 a.m. on a sunny Saturday, a cyclist in training is infinitely safer on the Parkway than the trail.

by Crickey on Oct 18, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

@David C "Some continue to ride on the parkways despite their ruling - and WABA is opposing it. Some are unsure that NPS rules can supersede state law."

So I'm a little confused here: what is the extent of jurisdiction that NPS has over GWP, CBP, et al? And by jurisdiction, I don't just mean police powers and patrol rights; I mean the clout to make road management decisions such as speed limits. I thought MD and VA could not touch these roads?

Take the BW Parkway (please!). It's NPS controlled from Tuxedo to MD 175. In this stretch (a.k.a. Spellman Parkway), NPS prohibits truck traffic. North of MD 175 into Baltimore, it's a state highway with no such restrictions. The sign, ramp, and overpass standards in both sections are markedly different.

Can MD law be applied to the Spellman?

by Jack Love on Oct 18, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

@ Crikey:The good thng that comes from this is scrutiny of NPS' ludicrous policy, topped off with its assertion that the multi-use trail is a safe and adequate alternative.

This is actually an interesting point. The NPS says that you can't bike on the parkway because mixing high and low speed vehicles is bad. But the exact same goes for mixing groups of bikers with pedestrians on the Mt Vernon trial.

I guess the question now changed to whether the NPS has the authority to outlaw biking on its roads. It's not a blanket rule. I've seen plenty of bikers on the Skyline Dr, in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Even on the Rockefeller Parkway which connects the latter two.

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

Jack Love, I personally think that NPS probably can set rules on these roads, but I know others who don't. So I can't really make the case, but I would say that it is at least in question.

jasper, great point. If mixing drivers going twice as fast as cyclists is bad, wouldn't mixing cyclists going 15 times as fast as walkers be worse? And on the trail stopping is allowed.

by David C on Oct 18, 2011 11:00 am • linkreport

@Jasper and David C ....

If you look at the mixed-use problem from the standpoint of physics (force = mass x acceleration), car-bike is much worse than bike-ped.

Bikes conceivably can be stopped in much shorter distances, and when all else fails, can (usually) harmlessly run off the side of the trail to avoid kids, dogs, slow walkers, lovebirds, tourists, etc. Not so on the motorway.

Not sure that stopping is expressly permitted on the trails. Arlington has signage indicating folks should move off the trails when stopped. Alexandria has just such signs on the MVT. It's certainly commonsense good practice, but folks seem to get caught up in the rights thing before responsibility.

by Jack Love on Oct 18, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

@ Jack Love:If you look at the mixed-use problem from the standpoint of physics (force = mass x acceleration), car-bike is much worse than bike-ped.

Actually, force is not the relevant parameter here, it's momentum. Doesn't change the outcome or your argument, but if you wanna talk physics, then be correct.

Bikes conceivably can be stopped in much shorter distances, and when all else fails, can (usually) harmlessly run off the side of the trail to avoid kids, dogs, slow walkers, lovebirds, tourists, etc. Not so on the motorway.

Yeah. And that's the side of physics that I hate. The theoretical one. Absolutely useless without experiment. Why don't you come bike with me one day on the Mt Vernon trail and then reconsider your argument.

One option that your theoretical exercise overlooked is that exactly because the momentum of walkers (and especially dogs and kids) is so low, they can side-step without any problem, creating massive danger for a biker on a narrow path.

Bikes and cars can't really do this due to their higher momentum.

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

Maybe Metro needs some anti-suicide signage, like the ones on the Delaware Memorial Bridge: "Need help? Call..."

I felt really comfortable with my decision to leave New Jersey after realizing that the first two things one sees upon entering the state are a chemical factory, and a sign asking you not to kill yourself. Lovely place.

Bikes conceivably can be stopped in much shorter distances, and when all else fails, can (usually) harmlessly run off the side of the trail to avoid kids, dogs, slow walkers, lovebirds, tourists, etc. Not so on the motorway.

I support your argument, but bikes do not have great stopping distances unless they're equipped with disc brakes and fairly grippy tires. They are indeed a lot more maneuverable, but bicycle stopping distances are usually a good bit longer than a car at the same speed (which is why it's a really dickish move to slam on the brakes with a cyclist behind you).

by andrew on Oct 18, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

The MUP is functionally equivalent to a road with no shoulders and one narrow lane in each direction. To pass, you must go into the other lane. Further, trail users do not fully stick to one side of the trail--users (who may be people walking side-by-side--will at times occupy 30%, 50%, 75% in a fairly random fashion.

Finally, the speed mismatch is higher. On a road, if the bike is going 25 and the car is going 50, the driver has a fair amount of time to react. On a trail, a bike is legally allowed to go 15, and some users will be going at 1/5 of that speed, or for all practical purposes stopped.

by Tim on Oct 18, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

If mixing drivers going twice as fast as cyclists is bad, wouldn't mixing cyclists going 15 times as fast as walkers be worse?

And this is why a 15 mph speed limit on the Mt. Vernon should be enforced.

The MUP is functionally equivalent to a road with no shoulders and one narrow lane in each direction. To pass, you must go into the other lane.

I don't think that's true. You can easily fit two walkers and a biker three abreast for passing purposes if you slow down to a reasonable speed. I'd say it's reasonable to have bikers three across for passing purposes and still be perfectly safe. Also, if need be, I don't think it's unsafe to pass on the right using the grass as a shoulder as long as you keep a safe distance from the trail.

Overall, I don't find the mixed speeds on the MVT nearly as dangerous as mixed speeds on a freeway. And, based on usage, I'd say most people feel the same way.

I think the question on the GW Parkway comes down to whether it should primarily be a road for transportation or recreation. I'd say roads like Skyline Dr are clearly primarily recreational roads and it would truly be nonsense to disallow bicyclists. On the other hand, you could argue that the GWP should be for transportation (not sure how its funded -- through highway funds?) and that recreational uses should get much lower priority. If people had a legit desire/need to bike on the GWP to commute to work, that would be a different story.

by Falls Church on Oct 18, 2011 2:01 pm • linkreport

A. I do think people have legit need to bike on the GWP to commute to work.

B. If the GW Parkway is only for transportation than that means no Sunday drives to enjoy the leaves changing. One can only use the road to go some place.

The irony is that if you think it's only for transportation, why does the Park Service manage it? If it is to be a park facility, why disallow recreational cycling?

by David C on Oct 18, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church:

And this is why a 15 mph speed limit on the Mt. Vernon should be enforced.

Yes, remember: the 15 mph speed limit on a multi-use path must be enforced as ruthlessly as the law and technology permit. On the same token, cyclists cannot be allowed to ride on the Parkway, because it will interfere with drivers' ability to drive far in excess of the posted speed limit.

Oh, nevermind. I just realized it's unlikely you can hear me over the howling of the cognitive dissonance in your head.

by oboe on Oct 18, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

@ Tim:On a road, if the bike is going 25 and the car is going 50, the driver has a fair amount of time to react.

I think most of the GW Parkway is 40-45 mph. Parts of it are 35 and 25 mph. Only the western end goes up to 50.

[Please correct if I'm wrong]

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

@Jasper:

Sure, but requiring drivers to obey the law would be unreasonable. The freedom to drive 80-100% above the posted speed limit is one of our nation's most cherished freedoms.

Besides, we need that enforcement capacity to make sure that bicycles are kept off the Parkway, and to enforce the 15 mph speed limit on the multiuse path.

by oboe on Oct 18, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

@oboe

The reason to enforce speed limits on multi use trails is for the safety of their users. And as a user of the MVT I could care less what kind of enforcement is happenning on the GWP or any road for that matter. Yeah, it would be great if the GWP could have betttet traffic calming that made it safer but just because road users don't get that, why should trail users be deprived?

@David C
I find it unlikely that there is significant demand by bikers to use the GWP for commuting in its current configuration. Thats not to say that the GWP shouldn't be modified to make it safer for bikers but at present, its likely that the only people biking the GWP are rec users during offpeak times.

Also, I'm not saying that rec uses should be banned from the GWP but that transpo uses should be prioritized when they are in conflict with rec uses IF the road is mainly funded with transpo dollars. Also, if the road is funded by transpo dollars, there is little reason for NPS to (poorly) manage it.

by Falls Church on Oct 18, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

Falls Church, how many commuters constitute "significant" demand? If there are fewer commuters than your number, does that mean that none are allowed? If there are more, does that mean that all are allowed?

by David C on Oct 18, 2011 4:35 pm • linkreport

Falls Church, how many commuters constitute "significant" demand?

I drove the GWP on about 50% of rush hour commutes from 1999 to 2010. During that time, not once did I see a biker riding on the road. And, during much of that time, biking on the GWP was legal. Based on that anecdotal evidence, I would say that demand is not significant.

If there are fewer commuters than your number, does that mean that none are allowed? If there are more, does that mean that all are allowed?

The number of bike commuters needs to be substantial enough that it justifies the impact of opening up the GWP to all kinds of bikers (because you can't only allow bike transport users since they are impossible to segregate from recreational users). Obviously, that number is a matter of opinion but I think common ground on a range could be found among reasonable people.

by Falls Church on Oct 18, 2011 6:30 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church: And as a user of the MVT I could care less what kind of enforcement is happenning on the GWP or any road for that matter.

Good for you. I care what happens there. The trail gets pretty darn close to the GW Parkway at some spots and I'd like to survive those spots. Furthermore, there are plenty of crossings and I'd like to survive crossing those as well.

by Jasper on Oct 18, 2011 9:16 pm • linkreport

@David C: My own experience (and I live very near the GWP) is similar to Falls Church: the demand for bicycling on the GWP isn't from commuters...it's from recreational users.

by Froggie on Oct 18, 2011 9:22 pm • linkreport

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